Act V, Scene 2 Summary and Analysis
Benedick and Margaret meet outside Leonato's house. He bids her to call Beatrice to him and unsuccessfully attempts a sonnet. Beatrice complies with his request immediately. When Benedick toyfully marks (notes) that she comes when bidden, she bids him to tell her what has passed between he and Claudio. Benedick reports that Claudio undergoes his challenge. A witty interchange ensues as each seeks the other to tell the virtues for which they are loved and concludes with Benedick's declaration that they are "too wise to woo peaceably." Ursula appears to call them to Leonato's, with the news that Hero has been cleared, Don Pedro and Claudio were absolved, and Don John declared the villain.
The double entendres between Benedick and Margaret that open this short prose scene serve to entertain us. This charming scene is technically important as part of the falling action of the play and prepares us for its solution and denouement as we await the findings of Leonato's judicial examination. This is Benedick's first: breath of air since the chapel scene earlier in the morning, and his first opportunity to bask in the knowledge that his love for Beatrice is requited. He sings, no matter how pitifully, William Elderton's ditty, "The God of love/That: sits above/And knows me/ And knows me," which is sure to draw a chuckle from the audience as he attempts sonnet-writing and concludes (30-41):
in loving, Leander the good swimmer, Troilus the first employer of panders, and a whole bookful of these quondam carpetmongers, whose names yet run smoothly in the even road of a blank verse, why, they were never so truly turned over and over as my poor self in love .... No, I was not born under a rhyming planet, nor I cannot woo in festival terms.
Beatrice's entrance saves him from the attempt. His short experiment with institutionalized romance completed, he will love Beatrice honestly and in his own way.
It is obvious that he is more interested in wooing Beatrice than talking about his challenge to Claudio. As their good-natured dialogue continues in explorations of nimble wit, Benedick observes, "Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably."