In act 1, scene 1 of Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare, lines 230–249 contribute to the overall development of themes in the literary work as a whole, which deals with love, betrayal, honor and falsehood, among other themes.
The scene begins with Benedick, who is committed to remaining a bachelor. In this passage, Benedick reaffirms that he will not fall in love, nor will he marry. He does not “know how she should be worthy.” In other words, he does not understand how a woman could be worthy of being loved by a man because women in general are so fickle, unworthy, and inferior, according to his thinking.
Don Pedro, Benedick’s friend and a big believer in love, is almost amused by Benedick’s declaration and responds by telling Benedick that he has always been an “obstinate heretic” in his vow to despise beauty or repudiate women. They are with their friend Claudio who, along with Don Pedro, will later play a key role in the romantic farce that ends happily but could have had tragic consequences.
Claudio agrees with Don Pedro and adds that Benedick has no intelligent reason behind his argument against love, but merely protests this declaration loudly and “by force of his will.” Claudio’s words foreshadow later events when Claudio and Don Pedro, believing that Benedick lacks substantive reason for spurning love, will team up to trick Benedick into falling in love.
Benedick then reiterates that he does not esteem women enough to love them. He acknowledges that his mother gave him life and raised him and for that, he thanks her. However, he will not “have a recheat winded” on his forehead. By this, he essentially casts aspersions upon women in general, indicating that they cannot be true to one man but have the potential to be perfidious. He will “trust none” and remain a bachelor his entire life.
Shakespeare sets the stage here for a farce of lovers meeting lovers, feeling cheated by lovers and ultimately unveiling the true villain of the play. Specifically, Don Pedro disguises himself as Claudio to gain Hero’s affection. Then he and Claudio trick Benedick into falling in love with Beatrice, who is his feminine alter ego, in many ways.
Shakespeare coyly plays with his characters, with the subplots and even stylistically with the language. Benedick is adamant that a woman will not trick him into falling in love. Yet, his two male friends are able to trick him into doing just that. He and Beatrice, alike in their thinking of the opposite sex, are both tricked and form an alliterative couple that shows the absurdity of their earlier reasoning to spurn love. Moreover, Hero is the heroic protagonist, despite the negative cast Don John tries to throw on her.