Much Ado About Nothing Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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How does the passage in act 4, scene 1, lines 302–321 contribute to the development of theme(s) in Much Ado About Nothing as a whole?

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These lines further the themes of true love versus mistrust and deception, gender relations, and loyalty. Beatrice wants the kind of loyalty from Benedick that she worries men are not able to give, as Claudio has shown.

In the latter part of act 4, scene 1, Beatrice and Benedick are conversing. By this point in the play, their earlier antipathy has disappeared. After their friends tricked Benedick into believing that Beatrice loved him, he started to woo her. By this point, they have realized their love for each other but continue to indulge in playful banter. However, their conversation in this scene is also about a serious matter. Claudio has publicly slandered Hero, Beatrice’s cousin, accusing her of sleeping with another man. In the part of the scene immediately preceding these lines, they were discussing with several friends and the Friar how to deal with Claudio.

After the others left, the couple is alone. During lines 290–300, they have declared their love for each other. When Benedick says he will do anything for her, she replies “Kill Claudio.” He seems to think she is joking and exclaims that he will not. She starts to leave, and he bids her stay.

In line 302, she says that he does not love her, and he should let her go. Now they are arguing, as she says they cannot be friends because he will not fight her enemy, the villain Claudio who has “slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman.” She mocks his manhood by saying that if she were a man, she would go after someone who had behaved so terribly toward this woman: “O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market place.”

Benedick cannot get a word in, as Beatrice continues to bemoan how Hero has been “wronged," "slandered," and "undone.” She continues wishing for a man who would help her—in this way, rather than directly asking Benedick again, she emphasizes that he is not a man.

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