Much Ado About Nothing



Beatrice is known for her wit and outspokenness, qualities that make her one of Shakespeare’s most delightful female characters. At the beginning of the play, Beatrice is quite vocal in her views about marriage, stating that she will not choose a husband until “God make men of some other metal than earth.” She has no wish to be “over-mastered with a piece of valiant dust.” Unlike her more traditional cousin, Hero, Beatrice values her independence and is determined to maintain it. Even when the prince himself proposes to Beatrice in Act 2—a proposal which Hero would have accepted in obedience to her father and in recognition of Don Pedro’s social status—Beatrice refuses him. She does so tactfully, stating that he is “too costly to wear every day”—in other words, that he is too good for her. At the same time, Beatrice’s words also suggest another interpretation: that the prince is simply not the correct match for her. Benedick, on the other hand, whose wit and temperament equal her own, proves to be the right match for her. When Beatrice is tricked into believing that Benedick is lovesick for her, she quickly changes her tune. Vowing to set aside her previous contempt and pride, Beatrice invites Benedick to “tam[e] my wild heart to thy loving hand.”

This does not mean that Beatrice has become more traditional or obedient, however. Her fiery, independent spirit is still quite evident. After openly confessing her love to Benedick, she asks him to avenge Hero’s honor by killing Claudio. Beatrice harshly criticizes the unfair, sexist culture that allows Claudio and the prince to destroy Hero’s reputation simply because they say she has been unfaithful. Beatrice says that if she were a man herself, she would see justice done: she would “eat [Claudio’s] heart in the market-place.” Since she is not a man, she asks Benedick to act as a man on her behalf. Benedick agrees to do so, begging the question as to who has “tamed” whom. 

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