Much Ado About Nothing - Analysing the extract

The question

How does Shakespeare present the character of Benedick?

For the first part of the question you should examine the language of the extract closely. Look at how Benedick is presented here.

Look again at the extract below and examine the highlighted points. Think about what Shakespeare is showing the audience about Benedick here.

BENEDICK
[(1) They say the lady is fair]; 'tis a
truth, [(2) I can bear them witness]; and virtuous; 'tis
so, I cannot reprove it; [(3) and wise, but for loving
me]; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor
no great argument of her folly, for [(4) I will be
horribly in love with her]. I may chance have some
odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me,
because I have railed so long against marriage: but
[(5) doth not the appetite alter?] a man loves the meat
in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.
Shall quips and sentences and [(6) these paper bullets of
the brain] awe a man from the career of his humour?
[(7) No, the world must be peopled.] When I said I would
die a bachelor, [(8) I did not think I should live till I
were married.] Here comes Beatrice. [(9) By this day!
she's a fair lady]: [(10) I do spy some marks of love in
her.]
Act 2 Scene 3

  • (1) "They say the lady is fair" - The pronoun 'they' shows that Benedick is persuaded by his friends.
  • (2) "I can bear them witness" - Benedick admits that he also finds Beatrice attractive.
  • (3) "and wise, but for loving / me" - The line break between 'loving' and 'me' might be used by an actor to pause between the words. This could imply that he thinks she is foolish for loving anyone, and then make Benedick seem to put himself down by showing that he thinks she is unwise for loving him.
  • (4) "I will be / horribly in love with her" - Benedick suggested earlier in the play that he could not love Beatrice, so his transformation here creates comedy. The adverb 'horribly' suggests that his love, like his earlier banter, will be over the top.
  • (5) "doth not the appetite alter?" - His rhetorical question seems directed both to himself and the audience, as if pleading for understanding. It also suggests that love is as nourishing as food.
  • (6) "these paper bullets of / the brain" - This metaphor suggests that his previous attacks on Beatrice had been harmless.
  • (7) "No, the world must be peopled." - He seems to see his love for Beatrice as a duty to the world.
  • (8) "I did not think I should live till I / were married." - The conflict in this line creates comedy.
  • (9) "By this day! / she's a fair lady" - An audience would see the comedy in this declaration that contrasts with Benedick’s earlier claims that he did not love Beatrice.
  • (10) "I do spy some marks of love in / her." - This echoes Beatrice's accusation in Act 1 Scene 1 when she suggests to Benedick that that "nobody marks you". The audience would find it funny that he has changed his mind so soon.