Much Ado About Nothing Benedick and Beatrice Essay

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Ayush Salgia 9T 12/02/12

Explore the ways in which Beatrice and Benedick are presented in the masked revellers scene, and elsewhere in the play, and in the performed version.

In 'Much Ado About Nothing,' William Shakespeare presents two very similar characters: Benedick of Padua and Beatrice of Messina in a variety of ways, from rancorous 'harpy' to machiavellian 'jester' after their suggested punitive break up to strong lovers who ens the play harmoniously engaged, with plenty of witticisms along the way. The play charts the major change in both of them and their relationship in their most comedic and romantic moments and their relationship is affectionately brought to life in Kenneth Branagh's 1993 version of the play. Firstly, in act II scene I of' 'Much Ado About Nothing' by William Shakespeare, Beatrice of Messina is portrayed as a women who is extremely satirical of men and in particular, Benedick of Padua, who she had a previous relationship with. This is clearly demonstrated by her pernicious jests aimed solely at men:

'Why, he is the Prince's jester, a very dull fool. Only his gift is devising impossible slanders.'

Beatrice's cunning and haughty barb to a masked Benedick shows her averseness to Benedick. In addition to this, she further insults Benedick by the words 'dull' and 'fool.' it impies that Benedick is gray, boring and imbecilic, contrary to what Benedick thinks about himself. The choice of words add further insult to Benedick as they are strong words, not used in their ordinary fights, showing Benedick the true hatred of him by Beatrice for a variety of reasons. The satirical paraphrase 'only his gift is devising impossible slanders' is particularly wounding to Benedick as it alludes to the fact that he is useless, and is not good at anything, from love to war, it's clearly sacritical as it amuses other people, while still affecting Benedick and her male victims exceptionally. This hurts Benedick particularly because Beatrice implies that their previous relationship was destroyed by Benedick being good for nothing, except slandering Beatrice. She hints that he was to blame for their relationship breaking up and them ending up like this. Her antagonism towards Benedick is also shown in earlier scenes, just before their first encounter where Beatrice cunningly asks 'I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from the wars, or no?' She cleverly coins the name 'Mountanto' with obvious sexual innuendo from a fencing term for an upward thrust, insulting Benedick once more.Her hatred of Benedick is shown from a slightly different perspective by the witticism 'stuffed man' in which she implies that he is a scarecrow ie something ugly and mocked which causes the birds, in this case ladies, to run away, just as Beatrice had. In Beatrice's barb: 'one is too like an image and says nothing,' her criticalness of all men is exposed. This is because she describes Don John, a quiet and reserved villain , unknown as notorious at the time, who had not insulted her previously and had not even talked to her, in an extremely antagonistic way. This clearly portrays that Beatrice is unwilling to marry, and that she detests all men, furthermore emphasized by her witty statement to her uncle, Leonato, in which she states 'he that hath no beard is less than a man, and he that hath no beard is less than a man' showing that she believes no man is perfect for her. Thus, Beatrice is shown as critical of men and especially Benedick with her satirical comments.

This is upheld in the 1993 film version of the 'Much Ado About Nothing', directed by Kenneth Branagh. Her satirical comments at once envelop the scene and, while amusing the audience both in the screen and out, hurt Benedick very deeply. Her jests are first of all aimed at Don John, where she states: 'I am heartburned an hour after' in a comedic way, causing Antonio to snigger. Here,...
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