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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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How do Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio trick Benedick into loving Beatrice?

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In Act II, Scene 3, of Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato successfully “trick” Benedick into falling in love with Beatrice. Benedick has “railed so long against marriage,” including marriage to Beatrice. However, his three friends quite easily make him fall for Beatrice by pretending that Beatrice is in love with him. They make sure that Benedick is around to hear their staged conversation, which they pretend to speak in secret.

The men claim that Beatrice pines for Benedick but will never show her affection for him because he is so critical of women and marriage. They insist on keeping the secret because Benedick would “make but a sport of it and torment the poor lady worse,” further convincing Benedick that this is a clandestine conversation. Don Pedro expresses his admiration for Beatrice, likely inspiring jealousy in Benedick. The men also attempt to explain why Beatrice treats Benedick so harshly:

… she says she will die, if he love her not, and she will die, ere she make her love known, and she will die, if he woo her, rather than she will bate one breath of her accustomed crossness.

Benedick very quickly decides to fall in love with Beatrice. Of course, there are some hints at an affection between the two. They are very familiar with each other, for Beatrice says to Benedick, “I know you of old.” He also randomly protests against marrying her when no one suggests it to him, indicating that it is somehow on his mind, and he finds her much more beautiful than Hero, the object of Claudio’s love. Therefore, the three men perhaps do not so much as trick Benedick into loving Beatrice as force him to admit his feelings for her.

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