Benedick

Benedick, featuring labels that highlight him as witty, romantic and proud

Benedick is one of the main characters in this play and is initially presented as light-hearted and carefree. In his banter with Beatrice he seems quick-witted and arrogant. When talking to his friend Claudio, he scorns love and vows he will never marry. He is portrayed as mature and as having known Beatrice previously.

However, he appears hurt by Beatrice's sharp words about him at the masked ball and he is quick to give in to desire when he overhears his friends discussing Beatrice and her apparent love for him.

By the end of the play we see Benedick transformed from soldier to lover and he asks for Beatrice's hand in marriage. Their banter continues on less severe terms than at the start.

How is Benedick like this?EvidenceAnalysis
WittyLeonato explains to the messenger that Beatrice and Benedick are both witty."they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit / between them," (Act 1 Scene 1) A 'skirmish' suggests a tussle or a fight, which shows us that Benedick and Beatrice are well matched in their cleverness.
ProudAfter dancing with Beatrice at the masked ball he is offended by her comments about him."But that my Lady Beatrice should know me, and not / know me!" (Act 1 Scene 2)Beatrice called him the 'prince's fool' and this hurts Benedick's pride. His offence at her mistaking him shows how full of self he is.
ChangeableAfter eavesdropping on his friends in the orchard, Benedick is quick to admit his feelings have changed."When I said I would / die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I / were married." (Act 2 Scene 3) Despite his earlier claims that he would never marry, he softens and changes when he suspects Beatrice loves him.
PlayfulEven when he and Beatrice have agreed to marry, he continues to tease her."Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take / thee for pity." (Act 5 Scene 4) The love between Beatrice and Benedick seems honest and equal. They do not change their playful relationship after they have admitted their true feelings.

Social and historical context

Shakespeare's plays are generally organised into Comedy, Tragedy and History genres. Some of the conventions of Shakespeare's comedies are seen in this play. For example, there is plenty of misunderstanding and miscommunication that leads to comic moments. The characters of Dogberry and the Watch play the classic comic-fool role, and Benedick too can be seen as foolish at times.

However there are also elements of tragedy in Much Ado About Nothing. The way that Hero's death is faked is similar to the way Juliet takes a potion to make her appear lifeless in Romeo and Juliet.

Analysing the evidence

quote
O, she misused me past the endurance of a block! / an oak but with one green leaf on it would have / answered her; my very visor began to assume life and / scold with her. She told me, not thinking I had been / myself, that I was the prince's jester, that I was / duller than a great thaw; huddling jest upon jest / with such impossible conveyance upon me that I stood / like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at / me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs:(Act 2 Scene 1)
Question

How does Shakespeare show that Benedick is upset by Beatrice?

How to analyse the quote:

"O, she misused me past the endurance of a block! / an oak but with one green leaf on it would have / answered her; my very visor began to assume life and / scold with her. She told me, not thinking I had been / myself, that I was the prince's jester, that I was / duller than a great thaw; huddling jest upon jest / with such impossible conveyance upon me that I stood / like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at / me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs:"

  • "O, she misused me past the endurance of a block!" - this exclamation shows Benedick's frustration with Beatrice. He compares himself to a block, unable to put up with more abuse from her.
  • "my very visor began to assume life" - Benedick imagines that Beatrice was so objectionable that even the mask he is wearing almost comes to life. It is ironic that he refers to his mask in this way as we learn later that this 'merry war' between the two characters masks their true feelings of love.
  • "every word stabs" - we see how Benedick is hurt by Beatrice's words. The imagery of words that can 'stab' emphasises the pain he feels.