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I am practising for my mock exam in December with the question, explore how Shakespeare presents the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick. I have conformed an answer and would love if anyone could give me constructive feedback. Thank you!


Shakespeare described Benedicks and Beatrice’s relationship as complicated and untypical in the Elizabethan Era through the use of oxymoron’s, religious references and adjectives in the play much ado. This demonstrates to the audience that the ‘easy’ option of choosing someone with no complications isn’t always the correct one as Beatrice and Benedick ended up a lot happier because they took on the challenge.
To begin with, when Benedick comes back from the war, their ‘merry war’ is demonstrated as his introductory line to Beatrice, ‘lady disdain’ is classed as a nasty insult and highly offensive. These are Benedicks first words to Beatrice showing that they have the common interest of insulting each other for entertainment. This one in particular also tells the audience straight away how Beatrice is perceived. The noun Lady represents the idealistic women of the Elizabethan century but this is the polar opposite to Beatrice. The adjective Disdain is to mean arrogant and snobby, untypical for an Elizabethan women. This can demonstrate the contrast between Hero and Beatrice in the play; Hero is known to be a typical Elizabethan women: Pure, innocent, and quiet around men. Beatrice on the other hand is very unusual, she is outgoing, mischievous and confident around males, including interrupting their sentences, even Princes! This could show how Beatrice’s and Benedicks relationship is an outcast to the era, Beatrice doesn’t fit the critea of a respected women and therefore she is the problem. Benedick even says ‘ I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted’ emphasising the idea that she is the issue; if she was more like Hero she would be all over him and there wouldn’t be a problem. The audience would agree with this statement, an Elizabethan women should act and be a certain way, not enjoying a ‘merry war’ with a respected soldier. However, a modern audience may respect her for standing up for her power against misogynistic men and find these comments comedic and empowering. Shakespeare has shown their complicated relationship to be the fault of the women in that time period. If women were how they were supposed to be, like Hero, perhaps they could live happily ever after.
However, this is contrasted later on in the play when Benedick is found to be the issue. Shakespeare hints at a past relationship between the complicated two. Beatrice’s points out that Benedick always ‘ends with a jades trick, {she} knows him of old’. This shows that she knows exactly how he behaves and what he does, nothing is new to her. However, the religious reference of ‘knowing’ means to have sex with, this shows that the pair have a history. By them having a history also demonstrates the amount of trust Beatrice had in Benedick, an Elizabethan women should be pure and innocent, if she had sex before marriage her whole reputation could be ruined. She wouldn’t be a noble women, she wouldn’t ever be able to be married to a respected man, and she wouldn’t be able to reproduce without being a prostitute or being the ‘other women’. This demonstrates how much Beatrice truly loved Benedick but something must have happened for them to end up in this war of conflict. The trust was broken. The sworn love is no longer there. She also further shows this in the play when she says ‘A double heart for a single one’ showing she loved Benedick far more than he ever loved her. He hurt her which explains why she represses her feelings towards him and why she puts a guard up to shield her emotions. She ‘suffer{ed} love’. This may be relatable to some people in the audience who may have also been deeply hurt by men. Many of the female audience would be married to a man they don’t truly love because the man they trusted most in the world wanted to keep a reputation up for their families. That ‘trust’ was broken with their father as they have just been handed of. Although it isn’t the same as Beatrice’s as she was hurt by someone she was in love with, they would know how it feels to be hurt by the opposite gender. This further demonstrates the recurring theme of gender roles as the women couldn’t really do much about their hurt or anger but would just have to repress their emotions, just like Beatrice is doing. This then contrasts with the idea of Beatrice being the only issue in their relationship as this proves that Benedick hurt her explaining her attitude towards men. Perhaps if Benedick thought about how he was treating Beatrice they could truly be happy as she wouldn’t be afraid to open up again to this idea of love.
The final piece to the puzzle for Beatrice and Benedick was the couple finally confessing their love for each other. Beatrice’s gives in to her emotions as she ‘love{s him} with so much of {her} heart that none is left to protest’. The verb ‘love’ demonstrates that Beatrice never stopped loving Benedick as love is an on growing emotion- love happens over time giving a sense of relief to the audience as she has stopped ‘protesting’ with her emotions. She can no longer argue with herself anymore, she is finally being open and letting that guard down. This therefore means Beatrice is finally fitting to the role of women, Beatrice finally admits to wanting to be married. This is further proved throughout the play when Beatrice sarcastically says ‘cry heigh-ho for a husband’ but then repeats ‘heigh-ho’ when Hero goes off to get married showing her jealously towards married women. A disappointing aspect to the audience would however be the fact that Beatrice goes quiet when she gets engaged, her lines stop as she now has to act like a female of the Elizabethan period. Her witty personality comes to an end as she has to be a maid, Beatrice no longer can let her bubbly and comedic characteristics come out to play, she has to hide them away. Unfortunately, this was the role of women and she no longer has the option. It’s a relief to the audience as Benedick and Beatrice can finally live a fulfilled life of love and happiness as they have admitted their feelings but it’s disappointing to see Beatrice’s well known characteristics hide away.
However, Beatrice when into an engagement with Benedick through pure love, not for Benedick to receive a dowry or through looks. They have shown to love each other through past, present and the future. On the other hand, Hero and Claudio ended up in an unhappy marriage. This was because Claudio viewed Hero as a property and an exchange between men. She was objectified as a ‘jewel’ and didn’t stand up for herself. All Claudio cared about was how much Hero was ‘worth’ – not for her personality traits, which weren’t shown in the play as she was silent the whole time, like a typical Elizabethan women. She was a boring and obedient character in the play much ado and ended up being shamed by Claudio losing this very important reputation. She therefore was obliged to marry Claudio as her only other option was prostitution and her own father would rather be handed a ‘dagger’ then have anything to do with her. Hero and Claudio took the easy option of ‘’love’’ and ended up in an unhappy marriage. Whereas Benedick and Beatrice did what made them happy, not caring about dowry or reputation and are going to live a life-long road of happiness.
Shakespeare has placed the unlikely couple together to show the audience love isn’t all about how much someone is worth but how much happiness they can bring you. He has demonstrated this well throughout the play using the prime examples of Beatrice and Benedick.
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