Benedick and Beatrice’s syntactic expression goes through several changes as they move from despising to loving each other. In the beginning and the end, their discussions are characterized by humor. Having known each other before the play’s action starts, they have decided they cannot stand each other. In their first scenes together, they engage in witty verbal sparring. Leonato calls this type of exchange a “skirmish of wits.” When they are not together but with their friends, they still insult the other one.
Claudio, Pedro, and Leonato then play a trick on Benedick which leads him to think that Beatrice is smitten with him. Ursula and Hero likewise fool Beatrice about his feelings. Once they fall in love and admit their feelings to each other, they can start behaving like themselves again. Humor is restored to their speech, but their word play is gentler.
The insults they trade in the first scenes show that they are evenly matched in terms of cleverness with words. They do not merely criticize each other but even reject love. She calls him a “pernicious suitor” and says she does not even want to hear about love.
“I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.”
When they are apart, their statements reveal that the words had more impact than they let on to each other. Benedick says she metaphorically “stabs” him with her “poniards,” or long daggers.
After both have been fooled by their friends into thinking the other one loves them, their speeches are romantic but not imaginative. Benedick says simply, “I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.”
Once they get together, they return to humorous speech, but their insults turn into teasing. For example, Beatrice jokes about his words and his breath both being “foul,” and so will not kiss him.
Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but
foul breath, and foul breath is noisome....