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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare
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Describe the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing.

The relationship between Beatrice and Benedick is pretty hostile when the play begins. They tease and mock one another, putting each other down. We soon learn that they were, at one time, romantically linked. Beatrice feels that she was deceived by Benedick in some way. This prior relationship seems to be the cause of their present enmity.

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The relationship between Beatrice and Benedick is antagonistic at best and volatile at worst, at least at the beginning and throughout the majority of the text. At the masquerade, Beatrice pretends not to know Benedick because of his mask. She mocks him, saying that Benedick is the "Prince's jester, a very dull / fool" (2.1.135-136). She makes fun of him and says that he amuses people and makes them laugh at him but that nobody really likes him. According to her, people think he lacks wit: only "libertines" appreciate his "villainy."

Benedick, with such great dislike of Beatrice, begs the Prince to send him on any tedious and far-flung errand so that he will not have to have even "three words' conference with this harpy" (2.1.266). He cannot stand to be around her! Thus, it is evident that they dislike one another very much. Beatrice soon explains, somewhat vaguely, to the Prince that Benedick "once before" won her heart with "false dice."

In this way, she implies that she and Benedick were romantically involved at some point in the past and that he somehow mistreated her or proved himself to be untrustworthy (2.1.275). For this reason, she goes on the attack when she is near him because she believes he would do the same to her, and she does not want to prove herself to be "the mother of fools" (2.1.281). In other words, she goes on the offense because she doesn't want to be fooled and get hurt by him again.

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