Act III, Scene 1 Summary and Analysis
The scene takes place in the garden. Hero sets the trap for Beatrice by sending Margaret to tell Beatrice that she is the subject of Hero and Ursula's gossip. Beatrice appears instantly and follows them, hidden among the honeysuckle, to eavesdrop. Hero and Ursula speak of Benedick's unrequited love for Beatrice and Beatrice's disdainful scorn for Benedick. They speak of Benedick's virtues and Beatrice's faults, concluding that Beatrice is too self-endeared to be told of the matter. Hero, feigning exasperation, tells Ursula that she will devise some honest slander to poison Benedick's love for Beatrice and thereby save him from wasting away with love. Alone, reflecting on what she has just heard, Beatrice surrenders contempt and maiden pride, determined to accept Benedick's love.
A day has passed since the gulling of Benedick. This charming parallel scene is written wholly in verse, most of which is endstopped, and terminates with a 10-line stanza composed of quatrains and a couplet. We find the usually loquacious Beatrice quietly listening, and you can be sure that any skilled actress will find a variety of attitudes to express in this silence. Surprisingly, quiet and docile Hero mischievously leads the gull. Beatrice's soliloquy shows her lyric response to their conversation (107-16); it is short and to the point:
What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true? Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much? Contempt, farewell, and maiden pride, adieu! No glory lives behind the back of such. And Benedick, love on; I will requite thee, Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand. If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee To bind our loves up in a holy band; For others say thou dost deserve, and I Believe it better than reporting.
Through a series of parallels, Shakespeare has brought both Benedick and Beatrice from feigned antipathy to mutual romantic idealism. Beatrice's simple, humble, intuitive acceptance of her faults and her willingness to change foreshadows the intimacy of her next meeting with Benedick.
The scene is short but believable. There is no reason to extend this scene because we know from the first scene of the play that Beatrice's concern for Benedick is real, though guarded due to an earlier perceived rejection by him. Since we've witnessed Benedick's change, we readily accept her change.