The Character of Bendick in Much Ado About Nothing

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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...
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