Act V, Scene 4 Summary and Analysis
This scene takes place in the hall in Leonato's house. Musicians are seated in the gallery. Hero, the prince, and Claudio have been declared innocent, and Margaret in some fault for the slander. Benedick is relieved that he need no longer keep Claudio under his challenge. Leonato directs Hero and the other ladies to withdraw and return, masked, when he sends for them. He directs Antonio to play the father of the bride. When Benedick asks Leonato for Beatrice's hand in marriage and Leonato exposes the double gull, Benedick, though nonplussed at Leonato's answer, reaffirms his request and receives Leonato's blessing.
Prince Don Pedro and Claudio arrive with attendants. Claudio answers in the affirmative when asked by Leonato if he will marry his niece. While Antonio summons Hero and the ladies, Claudio attempts to tease Benedick. Benedick briskly dismisses Claudio with an insult to his heritage. Antonio returns with Hero and the ladies, who are masked. Claudio swears before the friar that he will marry Antonio's masked daughter. When Hero lifts her veil, he and Don Pedro are amazed. Leonato explains that she was dead only as long as her slander lived, which the friar promises to explain. Benedick asks the friar which of the ladies is Beatrice. Unmasking, she coyly steps forth from the line of women. Benedick asks Beatrice if she loves him and she responds "no more than reason," which he echoes, and when Beatrice asks Benedick if he loves her, they both detail the particulars of their separate gulls, at which point Claudio and Hero step forth with papers, written in their hands, which evidence their love for each other. Benedick stops the wordplay with a kiss. When Don Pedro attempts to mock Benedick as a married man, Benedick refuses the bait and declares that since he purposes to marry he will not entertain any thing against it, including his own past parodies of the state. Claudio and Benedick resume their friendship. Benedick spiritedly calls for music and dance to lighten their hearts and advises the matchmaker, Don Pedro, to "[g] et thee a wife, get thee a wife." A messenger arrives with news that Don John has been taken, and is being brought back to Messina. The play ends with Benedick's call to the pipers and an exuberant dance.
In the denouement and resolution of the play, Shakespeare ties its loose ends up amiably, rejoining the polarized plots with a reconciliation scene. He clearly indicates he will do this in Friar Francis' dialogue, "Well I'm glad all things sorts so well." He immediately tells us that the prince and Claudio have been absolved, that Margaret underwent Leonato's examination and escaped with slight censure, and that Benedick has released Claudio from his challenge. The first 90 lines of this scene are in verse, including speeches by Benedick and Beatrice, and the rest is in prose except for the messenger's two verse lines interjected at its end.
Leonato's confession of the double gull does not sway Benedick from his determination to marry Beatrice. Although he tells Leonato that his answer is "enigmatical," it is unlikely that anyone as alert as Benedick does not understand his meaning, and his comical remark serves not only to end any exploration of the matter at this time and to affirm his commitment, but also serves to advise us that Benedick has reached a new level of self-acceptance.
Both Leonato and Benedick continue their reserve with Don Pedro and Claudio until the penance is fulfilled and their dialogue is direct, shorn of ornamentation. Benedick ignores the prince's gibe about his "February face" and disposes of Claudio's crude rally with caustic severity. Claudio's insensitivity (basically a play for masculine approval and probably developed during the war), though he is well-bred, indicates the immaturity which caught him in the circumstances of the play to begin with. The inappropriateness of his remarks serve to maintain a comic element to counterpoint the other characters'...
(The entire section is 1,390 words.)