What is Beatrice and Benedick's attitude towards love as expressed in Act 4, Scene 1 of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing ?
In Act 4, Scene 1, we see that both Benedick and Beatrice view love as an emotion that they both wanted to steer clear of, but also as a happy, relieving emotion. Beyond that, they also see love as a test of loyalty. Beatrice believes that if Benedick is not loyal to her in doing her bidding that it means that he does not truly love her, while Benedick believes that he should also be loyal to his friend Claudio, which makes it very difficult for him to do Beatrice's bidding.
In Act 4, Scene 1, we still see traces of Beatrice's and Benedick's earlier resistances to falling in love when we see them both use the term "protest" in their declarations of love. While the word protest can refer to a very serious, or "earnest declaration," it also means to object or to disapprove (Random House Dictionary). Hence, when Beatrice says, "You have stayed me in a happy hour. I was about to protest that I loved you," she is using protest with a double meaning (IV.i.292-293). She is thanking Benedick from stopping her from speaking because she was about to tell Benedick that she loves him, which she objects to, but she is also using "protest" to say that she was about to earnestly declare that she loves him. Benedick is also using "protest" to refer to earnest declaration when he says earlier, "I protest I love thee," but Beatrice is using her wit to interpret it to mean that he objects also (288). Hence, through this little play on words, we see that both are immensely happy and relieved that they have fallen in love, but both are freely expressing their past hesitations at falling in love.
Beyond this, we also see in this scene that both equate love with loyalty. As soon as Beatrice learns that Benedick loves her she tells him to kill Claudio. When Benedick refuses, she says that he does not love her after all, as we see in her line, "There is no love in you" (302-303). However, Benedick refuses because he does not believe that Claudio is ultimately to blame for his horrible treatment of Hero. Benedick believes that both Claudio and Don Pedro, who are both honorable men, have been tricked by the treacherous Don John, as we see in Benedick's earlier lines:
Two of them have the very bent of honour;
And in their wisdoms be misled in this,
The practice of it lives in Don John the bastard,
Whose spirits toil in frame of villainies. (194-197)
Hence, due to his love for Claudio as a friend, he believes that he must be loyal to Claudio as well, which is why he hesitates when Beatrice tells him to kill Claudio. However, Benedick soon becomes persuaded by Beatrice that Claudio is ultimately to blame for dishonoring Hero and promises to kill him.
Thus we see in Act 4, Scene 1 that both characters view love as a happy relief that previously they resisted and that love is shown through loyalty.
Beatrice and Benedick’s attitude towards love are both negative. They are both dismissive of the opposite sex, they hint at this whilst throwing insults at each other when they meet; “It is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted. And I would I could find it in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none”. Benedick portrays himself here as desirable yet unattainable.
Beatrice replies; “I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me,” this quote clearly shows that Beatrice is completely against ever falling in love and that it’s less exciting/interesting that watching a dog bark at a crow. She is very cynical of love and uses wit to show it.