English / The Character Of Bendick In Much Ado About Nothing

The Character Of Bendick In Much Ado About Nothing

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Autor:  anton  04 March 2011
Tags:  Character,  Bendick,  Nothing
Words: 1727   |   Pages: 7
Views: 299

Explore the Development of Benedick’s character throughout the play.

The character ‘Benedick’ changes dramatically throughout Shakespeare’s “Much Ado about Nothing”. It is the character ‘Beatrice’ who invokes these changes into Benedick. At the beginning of the play Benedick appears to be an aristocratic soldier who is witty and intelligent. It is clear Benedick has a reputation as a noble soldier and brave man merely from the messenger’s comments: “He hath done good service, lady, in these wars”. Benedick has a continuing “merry war” of wits with Beatrice, who sees him as chauvinistic and arrogant. However, the attraction is evident as both bring up the other out of the blue. Benedick rests largely on his own judgments rather than the social customs surrounding him, and is very much a dominant male figure, namely for his independence and leadership qualities. Although Benedick is highly respected and has loyal followers of men, by the end of the play, he has altered his loyalty from them to Beatrice.

The very first impressions we get of Benedick are that he is a very powerful soldier who is highly independent and opinionated. Benedick claims that he is a happy bachelor, who wishes to live the rest of his live unattached and free from

However, his frequent mention of ‘cuckolding’ allows the audience to sympathize with the common fear of rejection and being ‘cuckolded’ in the Elizabethan period. Benedick’s attitudes about love are evident even through others love lives. Claudio looks to Benedick for advice about Hero. Benedick mocks Claudio claiming he: “noted her not, but I looked upon her”. Benedick compares hero to Beatrice claiming Hero is no match for Beatrice, in intelligence, wit and beauty. This sudden affirmation of Beatrice makes it clear that there is an attraction between them; she too takes the opportunity to find out if he is alive, neither with no mention of the other.

The masked ball is yet another case of the ‘mistaken identity’ theme. Benedick asks Beatrice to dance with him, but refuses to reveal his identity. Beatrice begins to mock Benedick claiming: “he is the princes’ jester, a every dull fool”, this hurts Benedick and evokes sympathy from the audience for him. The fact he takes her comments ‘to heart’ is an indication of his true feelings for her. Benedick searches Don Pedro out and tells him of Beatrice’s comments, he claims her words were like “a whole army shooting” at him. Benedick then launches into a speech about his attitudes to love and Beatrice, he also brings marriage into his commentary as an insult against Beatrice saying: “I would not marry her”, and the fact he brings marrying her out of the blue is yet another implication that he has romantic feelings for her. This also allows the audience to know ‘where they stand’ as to their relationship. As soon as Beatrice comes over to them, Benedick asks Don Pedro for a command or an order, I believe this is so he can keep his pride in front of Beatrice but still leave to avoid her.

The dramatic change in Benedick is never as evident as in act 3, scene 2 (‘the gulling scene’). At the beginning of this scene he is mocking Claudio for his sudden affirmation of his love for Hero. However by the end of the scene his ideas and values have flipped to a very stereotypical and romantic Shakespearian character in love. At the beginning of the scene he claims that Claudio: “become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love.” However, it doesn’t take much for Leonato, Don Pedro and Claudio to convince him that Beatrice loves him. It is interesting how Benedick believes them once they have mentioned Hero and the fact it was her who told them Beatrice loves him, that Benedick believes the story, and that he is the only man to stand by her when she is socially ruined. By the end of the scene Benedick has launched into his soliloquy and is even preparing himself for marriage. This would be very comical for the audience, as he has just been mocking Claudio for the very type of ‘love’ he is committing. Benedick even admits to himself that there has been a dramatic change in him, saying: “I never did think to marry”… “I have railed so long against marriage”. There is a dramatic transformation in Benedick and he even admits he should amend his faults for her. Benedick would not have changed for a woman, especially Beatrice, at the beginning of the play. Because the men appealed to Benedick’s ‘hunter gatherer’ side, he believes that Beatrice should be pitied and loved. He begins to speak from prose to verse, which linguistically shows his transformation.

In act 4, in preparation for the wedding, the men arrive to find Benedick sadder than usual. Claudio claims this is because Benedick is in love, he does not deny these charges, although he claims his mood is due to: “a toothache”. He asks for a ‘private word’ with Leonato, which indicates to the audience that is more than just an attraction to her, and that he wants advice from a ‘worldly wise’ gentleman.

The change is Benedick is never so apparent as in Hero’s social ruin. He is one of the only men to stand by hero. Rather than go with the strong group of men, he decides to stick by Beatrice, which shows his growing commitment to her. However the fact he also choose to keep Hero’s secret, the audience could see this as Benedick turning into a typical ‘knight in shining amour’ character.

When Beatrice and Benedick admit their love for one another, they switch from their regular witty banter, to a very emotional and romantic portrayal of a Shakespearian couple, especially when he swears he: “will do anything” for her. This allows the audience to appreciate the level of dedication he has gained for Beatrice, the character we were introduced to at the beginning of the play would in no way have ‘done anything’ for a woman, none the less Beatrice. When Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio he is at first extremely hesitant, however, Beatrice convinces him to ‘challenge’ Claudio. The mere fact the Benedick listens to her, and almost acts on her behalf, shows that he rests upon his own principles rather than the social attitudes of his time, where men would not even listen to Beatrice’s plea let alone act upon it. This would also allow the audience of the Elizabethan period to ‘catch up’ on their relationship and fully understand the extent of the infatuation between the pair.

Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel, which demonstrates the love he has for her greater than expected at the beginning of the play, and he carries out his promise to her… he challenges Claudio. However, Don Pedro and Claudio do not believe him, which adds the final twist of miscommunication. Benedick is a very noble character and honors his promise to Beatrice by both challenging Claudio and keeping the secret of ‘Hero’s death’: “Do me right or I will protest your cowardice. You have killed a sweet lady, and her death shall fall heavy on you.” Benedick not only carries through with his promise to Beatrice, but takes it a step further by (at this stage) disassociating himself with Claudio and Don Pedro: “I must discontinue your company.”, he feels that Hero’s demise is as much their responsibility as it is Don Johns. However, he is very disturbed when he seemingly cannot return any witty comments or retorts to the others jests. Claudio says: “Here dwells Benedick, the married man?” to which Benedick can only reply with: “I will leave you now to your gossip like humor” which is comical for the audience as Benedick has been weakened by the very thing he claimed to never want…marriage.

Yet another verification that he is a continuingly developing character is the fact he writes Beatrice a sonnet. The happy interlude of banter between Benedick and Margaret shows he is still a flirtatious character, but his heart lies with Beatrice. However, he finds this very difficult claiming he: “cannot woo in festival terms”, evoking comical and sympathetic feelings towards Benedick, the fact he has tried to things ‘properly’ and correctly create sympathy, but the mere fact he cannot do this adds he comical element and shows he has not turned into a typical Shakespearian character. Beatrice and Benedick then exchange a very honest discussion as to why they love each other, but still have the imperative ingredient of wit, banter and intelligence. Benedick concludes that they are too intelligent and stubborn to ‘woo’ in the traditional manner claiming: “Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably”. This comment indicates that they are both too aware of what love and marriage involves, to be over-emotional about it. The continuing banter between them reassures the audience that it appears their relationship will continue how it started, with teasing, discussion and mocking, which are the factors that made them fall in love with each other in the first place. Some of Benedick’s departing words to her at this stage in their relationship are: “I will live in thy heart” which is very romantic and a very genuine emotional response for Benedick to say to Beatrice.

Even during the last scene Benedick mocks marriage: “to bind me, or undo me” which in modern day terms is the equivalent of the phrase ‘the old ball and chain’. However, the very emotional and dramatic bringing together of Beatrice and Benedick releases a sense of relief and serendipity for their relationship. They imitate each others pace and style of language, which could be them mocking the other, but could also represent the solidity of their relationship (that they ‘fit together’). Benedick claims that no one will stop him marrying Beatrice, and stops Beatrice’s ramblings by kissing her: “Peace! I will stop your mouth.” However, the audience could see this as just an excuse to kiss her. He claims that men are inconsistent and fickle in their decisions over love. His reconciliation with Claudio allows for a happy ending and his final words: “ill devise thee brave punishments for him” assure the audience that Don John will get his comeuppance, which almost brings Benedick back to his original figure as a soldier and a brave warrior.

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