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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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Comparison of Beatrice and Benedick's relationship to Claudio and Hero's in Much Ado About Nothing

Summary:

Beatrice and Benedick's relationship in Much Ado About Nothing is characterized by witty banter and mutual respect, evolving from playful antagonism to genuine love. In contrast, Claudio and Hero's relationship is more traditional, starting with love at first sight but marred by misunderstandings and external manipulations. Ultimately, both couples find happiness, but their journeys reflect different dynamics and societal expectations.

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Compare the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick to Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

Overall, the two pairs have similar paths, but different dynamics within them. For both, their relationship is tested, and these tests are due to other people interfering. For Beatrice and Benedick, it is people trying to get them together, and for Claudio and Hero, it is people trying to separate them. Benedick and Beatrice thrive through the turmoil, and Claudio and Hero suffer and struggle.

Beatrice and Benedick, an older pair, have known each other for years before the play begins. They both share a distaste at the thought of being in love and of marriage, and have a harsh wit that they often aim at each other. Their friends, however, see otherwise: they see affection between them, and Don Pedro has a plan to get them together. He stages scenes between Claudio, Leonato, Hero, and a few servants to be overheard by Beatrice and Benedick. These scenes make Beatrice believe Benedick loves her and Benedick believe Beatrice loves him, which in turn makes Beatrice and Benedick realize their love for the other.

Meanwhile, the young and naïve Claudio and Hero fall madly for each other after meeting for the first time. They are ready (or believe they are ready) to wed as soon as they realize their love. Don Pedro promises Claudio that he will woo Hero on his behalf. But Don John, Don Pedro’s bastard brother, takes it upon himself to destroy any romance between them.

The two pairs go about their love in different ways. Claudio and Hero openly express it yet spend very little time onstage together. Beatrice and Benedick, however, do their best to hide their affections. They are contradicting their firm decision to never marry anyone, let alone each other. This results in scenes of callous banter and denial of every sort. But even as they stand and cleverly insult each other, when they part ways, they only desire each other more.

Tragedy strikes when Don John, with the help of Borachio and Conrade, acts on a plot to shame Hero. They claim she has been unfaithful, and Claudio and Leonato (Hero’s own father) believe them. The wedding is called off, and Hero is disgraced.

Benedick and Beatrice finally admit to their feelings, and Beatrice immediately puts Benedick to the test. She says that to prove his love, Benedick must kill Claudio on Hero’s behalf. Benedick agrees. Through the tragedy of Claudio and Hero’s love falling to pieces, Benedick and Beatrice’s love is proven.

There is, though, a happy ending for both couples: Hero’s innocence is proven, and Don John is arrested for his villainy. Hero and Claudio wed, and Beatrice and Benedick are engaged to be married later, finally admitting their love openly.

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Compare the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick to Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

I have simplified the wording of your question.  Comparing and contrasting characters and their relationships is a common essay assignment.  So that you might, with some suggestion from me, create your own comparisons between these couples, I have pasted a link at the bottom of this answer to the Enotes page on this topic.  You'll find the suggestions given here for creating a "Comparison/Contrast Essay" very helpful.

All character (and character relationship) analysis is subjective, which means that it is based upon a personal opinion that is supported with evidence of specific examples from the text.  I'll provide some suggestions for you of ways that these two couples are similar and different, then you can create your own comparison.  Be sure to support your observations with examples from the text.

Hero and Claudio:

  • Don't know each other well at the opening of the play.
  • Are openly in love (infatuated?) with each other from the beginning of the play;
  • undergo a huge test to the strength and potential longevity of their love when Claudio accuses and rejects Hero;
  • Spend very little of their onstage time in conversation together;
  • Proceed from engagement to marriage in very conventional ways that include Hero's father Leonato;
  • Are reconciled (despite the hardship of the middle section of the play) for marriage and a happy ending.

Beatrice and Benedick:

  • Have already known each other for a long time when the play opens;
  • Are determined not to be in love (with anyone), even though all the other characters see their affection for each other;
  • Spend alot of their onstage time together in witty and contentious conversations;
  • Are conventional in their course of engagement, as Benedick asks Leonato for Beatrice's hand;
  • Have their love strengthed by adversity, rather than weakened;
  • End the play, much to their own chagrin, prepared for marriage and a life of love.

Shakespeare commonly presented love relationships that contrasted greatly with each other in his comedies.   He would often present a young, somewhat naive conventional couple in contrast to a more witty, worldly and wise couple as he does here.  The Taming of the Shrew is an example of a play with similar pairs of lovers.

For more on writing a Comparison/Contrast essay and on the couples in Much Ado, please follow the links below.

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Compare the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick to Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

Hero and Beatrice are just about as opposite as night and day. Their one similarity is that both are witty and tease each other in their own way.

We first see Hero's modest wit portrayed in the first scene when Beatrice makes a pun referring to Signior Benedick's fighting skills by referring to him as Signior Mountanto and asking the messenger if has returned. Hero replies with her own subtle wit, and like a best girlfriend who is in on a private joke and knows that Beatrice admires Signior Benedick more than she is willing to admit, she explains to the company, "My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua" (I.i.30). Though the wit is subtle, we can most definitely hear the teasing tone that Hero is aiming at her beloved cousin. We can also hear her modest, flirtatious wit when at the masquerade, a man in a mask, whom she thinks is the prince, asks her to "walk about with him," meaning dance with him, and she flirtatiously replies that so long as he dances gracefully, is handsome, and says nothing she is his for the dance and her presence may even linger after the dance has ended and she has "walked away," as we see in her lines:

So you walk softly and look sweetly, and say nothing, I am yours for the walk; and especially when I walk away. (II.i.74-75)

Examples of Beatrice's wit are far more dramatic; she especially enjoys making fun of Benedick and of marriage in general. We see her wit being used to insult Benedick when she refers to him first as a man with "an excellent stomach" and then as a "stuffed man," like a dummy (I.i.42, 48). We also see one instance of her wit with respect to making fun of the act of marriage when she tells Hero that romance is like a dance. She relates the act of courtship to a "hot and hasty dance," the wedding to a ceremonial dance that would be performed before the state, or before the king, and she relates the act of regretting the marriage to a dance called the "cinquepace," which is a fast paste five step dance that goes faster and faster until the man Hero marries "sink into his grave" (II.i.62-68).

While Hero and Beatrice have wit in common, Hero is very gentle and submissive, while Beatrice is rebellious. We especially see Hero's submissiveness in contrast to Beatrice's rebelliousness with respect to their views on marriage. Hero is very submissive to her father and is willing to marry whom ever he asks her to. When Leonato eroneously discovers that Prince Don Pedro wishes to ask Hero to marry him, Leonato encourages Hero to accept as we see when he reminds her, "Daughter, remember what I told you. If the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer" and Hero very submissivly conscents (II.i.57-58). In contrast, Beatrice rebells against the entire idea of marriage, as we see in her proclamation, "[I]f he send me no husband; for the which blessing / I am at him upon my knees every morning and evening" (23-25).

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Compare the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick to Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

Despite its light-hearted title, Much Ado About Nothing has some of the darkest moments in any of William Shakespeare’s comedies. This somber note is primarily sounded by Claudio. The theme of true love carries through the entire play. Claudio and Hero stand for unchecked feelings and show the dangers that lurk beneath an overly romantic attitude toward love. Benedick and Beatrice, who represent the combination of intellect with emotion, offer an example of a couple who move toward each other to appreciate the other person’s good qualities.

Both couples are deceived repeatedly, but Claudio is hot-headed and prone to jealousy. Hero is presented in strict contrast as sweet and trusting. Benedick begins the play with a reputation as a light-hearted, carefree flirt but shows that he has greater depth. Beatrice has a superior attitude that includes contempt for his superficiality, but she learns the difference between his surface and the substance of his character.

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Compare the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick to Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

if we compared the two couples in the play, we would see that both couples share a problem with trust. However, for Benedick and Beatrice, the feelings of hate and distrust come first in their relationship, but then they grow to love each other. While on the other hand, Claudio and Hero experience love at first sight, but then Claudio develops an unwarranted distrust of Hero.

We see in the very first scene just how much Beatrice and Benedick dislike and distrust each other. One excellent example is that when Beatrice learns from the messenger that Benedick has closely befriended Count Claudio, Beatrice refers to Benedick as a contagious disease, as we see in her lines, "If he[Claudio] have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured" (I.i.74-76). We especially see how much Beatrice's dislike for Benedick has also turned into distrust when she refers to him as a playboy. When Benedick declares that he loves no woman, Beatrice rejoices in what a relief that is for all womankind, saying that they are spared from marrying an unfaithful man, as we see in her line, "They would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor" (108-109). Benedick equally shows his dislike for Beatrice when he greets her by referring to her as "Lady Disdain," meaning that he acknowledges her as a person who treats everyone with contempt and mocks them (101).

However, while Beatrice and Benedick appeared to dislike each other in the beginning of the play, they are easily tricked into falling in love with each other by being led to believe that the one loves the other. Their easy persuadability to fall in love shows us that while they appeared to dislike each other, they actually did see each other's merits. If they had not, they would not have so quickly agreed when they heard others speak of their merits.

In contrast, Claudio and Hero both fall in love at first sight. Claudio refers to Hero as "the sweetest lady" he ever "looked on" (I.i.160). Similarly, when Prince Don Pedro woos Hero in Claudio's name, Hero very quickly accepts and is seen whispering in his ear that she loves him, as Beatrice points out in her line, "My cousin tells him in his ear that he is in her heart" (II.i.278-279). However, despite how sweet, virtuous, and modest Claudio believed Hero to be, he is very easily tricked into believing that Hero is unfaithful by the morally questionable Don John. When Don John tells both Claudio and Don Pedro that he has seen Hero be unfaithful, Don Pedro has enough sense to instinctively disbelieve Don John and declare, "I will not think of it" (III.ii.100). However, neither Claudio nor Don Pedro continue to listen to their instincts and decide to disgrace Hero in the church before the congregation. Claudio even calls Hero an "approved wanton," meaning a "proved whore," showing us just how much he has grown to distrust Hero.

Hence, if we compare the two couples, we see how similar the two couples are but also that their situations exactly mirror each other's.

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Compare the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick to Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

Claudio and Hero are particularly young. Benedick refers to Claudio as “Lord Lackbeard,” possibly referring to his youth. Claudio was attracted to Hero before he went to war, looking “upon her with a soldier’s eye / That liked, but had a rougher task in hand.” This feeling develops into love, and Hero seems to return the affection. However, Claudio is too unsure of himself to woo her himself. First he asks for Benedick’s approval. Then he consults Don Pedro, who woos her for him. Don John even briefly tricks Claudio into thinking that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself.

When Don John successfully fools Claudio and Don Pedro into believing Hero has been unfaithful, Claudio does not handle the news with dignity. He shames the innocent Hero at their wedding. The meek Hero and insecure Claudio eventually reconcile. Still, their love was born of idealism rather than understanding.

Beatrice and Benedick, on the other hand, constantly fight. They have known one another “of old.” There is a “merry war” between them, and they are very much alike. Both forswear marriage and the opposite sex. However, when their friends trick them into believing they secretly pine for one another, Beatrice and Benedick instantly fall in love.

When Benedick’s best friends accuse Hero of infidelity, Benedick sides with Beatrice. He takes her word that Hero is innocent. More than that, Benedick agrees to duel Claudio to the death in order to defend Hero’s honor, all at Beatrice’s direction. Thankfully, their fight is averted, and the friends reunite.

To conclude, Claudio and Hero have a “pure” love for each other. They never argue, which means they do not truly know one another until it is almost too late. Beatrice and Benedick know each other too well, which ultimately leads to a spirited but strong relationship.

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Compare the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick to Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

In Much Ado about Nothing, William Shakespeare creates two love stories that each develops on its own terms but also intersects with that of the other couple. The play's happy ending shows a parallel between their situations, as both couples are wed.

Another parallel is shown through the trickery and deception that various characters apply to would-be or actual lovers. The theme shows two variants. In one case, the tricks are intended to be humorous. A group of friends plan to have fun by making Benedick and Beatrice think the other loves him or her. In the other instance, the deceit has a harmful intent. Don John plans to make trouble for Don Pedro, his half-brother and rival. John will make Pedro's friend Claudio miserable through causing Claudio to doubt the honor and fidelity of his beloved, Hero.

The contrast between the couple's paths to happiness and togetherness is clearly drawn. Benedick and Beatrice begin as skeptics about love and doubt that they will find their match. As they get to know each other, they find qualities to admire. Claudio, in particular, is far more romantic and impractical. He falls in love at first sight and then can be persuaded of Hero's inappropriate behavior because he does not really know her. He even agrees to marry another woman after he thinks she has died. Shakespeare shows a preference for love based in respect rather than infatuation.

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Compare the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick to Claudio and Hero in Much Ado About Nothing.

These two couples are very different.

It would seem that the relationship between Hero and Claudio is immature.  They are attracted to each other physically but they really don't know each other, otherwise Claudio could not be convinced that Hero was unfaithful.  It would appear that he trusts the word of Don John over his intended.  Don John has not proved to be very trustworthy, yet the men believe him.  Cleverly Don John plants the seed.  Claudio excepts it.  When he learns of the deception of Don John, he takes a journey where he grows and hopefully matures and becomes worthy of Hero's love at the end of the play. 

In contrast, Beatrice and Benedick don't want to rush into any commitment.  In fact they can't admit to themselves that they love each other.  They are each guarding their hearts.  They need their friends to help them realise that they, in fact, love each other.  In fact Benedick's love for Beatrice causes him to side with her over his best friend because he trusts her.  If she says Hero is innocent, she must be innocent.

In the end, it is a matter of trust.  Claudio does not trust Hero; Benedick does trust Beatrice.   

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How do Hero/Claudio and Beatrice/Benedick's love stories counterbalance in Much Ado About Nothing?

Much Ado About Nothing features two love stories: Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero.

When the play opens, we learn that Beatrice and Benedick are engaged in a battle of wits. They often jest with each other. Benedick arrives back from the war with Claudio, who immediately is smitten with Beatrice's cousin Hero. Don Pedro helps Claudio woo Hero, and within the first half of the play they are engaged to be married.

Hero and Claudio, with help from the others, decide to trick the master tricksters Benedick and Beatrice into falling for each other. The friends make sure our protagonists overhear them discussing how one has a crush on the other, and vice versa. Believing that the other loves them makes Benedick and Beatrice fall for each other.

Meanwhile, Don John concocts a plan that makes Claudio believe Hero is unfaithful. Claudio disgraces his fiancée at the altar. By the time he find out the truth, that the adultery was all a lie, a new scheme makes him think Hero is dead. He promises to wed an unknown niece of Leonato's in repentance, who turns out to be Hero in a disguise. The two happily reunite. Benedick and Beatrice publicly admit their feelings for each other, and the two couples end the play in love.

While the two couples end up happily together, their journey to get their is very different. Hero and Claudio fall for each other at first sight and quickly become engaged. On the other hand, Benedick and Beatrice have known each other for a while, but do not recognize their feelings until they are tricked by their friends. The way they talk to each other is very different from how Hero and Claudio talk to each other. Thus, the two couples counter balance each other.

However, while Hero and Claudio have a quick, easy path to falling in love, their relationship takes a turn for the worse. It is clear everyone understands the battle of wits between Beatrice and Benedick, so when they insult each other it is taken as jesting. Claudio, however, slings real insults at Hero on their wedding day. The story becomes very dark after the failed wedding. After Claudio spurns Hero, Beatrice and Benedick have a very honest and emotional conversation. Shakespeare especially contrasts the couples in that scene.

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How do Beatrice and Benedick's relationship and marriage differ from Hero and Claudio's in Much Ado About Nothing?

A common mistake! Beatrice and Benedick don't hate each other. When the announcement of the arrival of the soldiers is made, Beatrice makes some insults of Benedick. However, Leonato calls the relationship between the two a "merry war". A happy war, in other words. They enjoy their jokes. This is shown again later in the play, after they have confessed their love. Beatrice still teases Benedick, when he goes to kiss her:

Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but
foul breath, and foul breath is noisome; therefore I
will depart unkissed. (you spoke bad words, and therefore have bad breath, and can not kiss me)

Other factors show that these two have felt kind feelings for one another. Beatrice at the dance announces that she lent Benedick her heart for awhile, a "double one for his single". It appears there was love there in the past.

The difference between these two and Hero and Claudio are many. Beatrice and Benedick have obviously known each other for some time and, has been shown, most likely shared a relationship. Claudio only "looked" upon Hero before going to war, and nothing of their actual contact before their engagement is mentioned... indicating that there was very little contact. Also, Beatrice and Benedick speak for each other and to each other. Until the wedding scene, Hero and Claudio do not, speaking through others or only in each other's ears, so the audience doesn't hear. Their love seems more based on appearance, and is the work of the moment, while the love of Beatrice and Benedick is complex and has developed over time.

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