Illustration of Hero wearing a mask

Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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Describe Beatrice and Benedick's relationship in Much Ado About Nothing.

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The relationship between Beatrice and Benedick is pretty hostile when the play begins. They tease and mock one another, putting each other down. We soon learn that they were, at one time, romantically linked. Beatrice feels that she was deceived by Benedick in some way. This prior relationship seems to be the cause of their present enmity.

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The relationship between Beatrice and Benedick is antagonistic at best and volatile at worst, at least at the beginning and throughout the majority of the text. At the masquerade, Beatrice pretends not to know Benedick because of his mask. She mocks him, saying that Benedick is the "Prince's jester, a...

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very dull / fool" (2.1.135-136). She makes fun of him and says that he amuses people and makes them laugh at him but that nobody really likes him. According to her, people think he lacks wit: only "libertines" appreciate his "villainy."

Benedick, with such great dislike of Beatrice, begs the Prince to send him on any tedious and far-flung errand so that he will not have to have even "three words' conference with this harpy" (2.1.266). He cannot stand to be around her! Thus, it is evident that they dislike one another very much. Beatrice soon explains, somewhat vaguely, to the Prince that Benedick "once before" won her heart with "false dice."

In this way, she implies that she and Benedick were romantically involved at some point in the past and that he somehow mistreated her or proved himself to be untrustworthy (2.1.275). For this reason, she goes on the attack when she is near him because she believes he would do the same to her, and she does not want to prove herself to be "the mother of fools" (2.1.281). In other words, she goes on the offense because she doesn't want to be fooled and get hurt by him again.

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What is Beatrice and Benedick's relationship like?

Beatrice and Benedick are attracted to one another, but have a difficult time expressing that attraction. They are intellectual equals who enjoy matching wits. Shakespeare was the first playwrite to write love scenes as if they were war scenes (he is known for writing fast, furious, almost violent dialogue between lovers). This creates an undertone of romantic (sexual) tension that is almost palpable. Their wit, however, masks but does not protect them. Though they are the most intelligent characters in the play, they are also the most vulnerable and, consequently, the biggest fools. They are like children in their manner, and their speech is almost the verbal equivalent of a punch in the arm. They are innocents in love who do not know how to deal with the intense attraction they feel.

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What is Beatrice and Benedick's relationship like?

In addition to the sexual/romantic tension, there is also a power struggle that goes on between the two (and perhaps that is a facet of the romance, maybe any romance). It comes to a point when Beatrice asks--no tells--Benedick to "Kill Claudio" for what she thinks is his mistreatment of Hero.  This pits Benedick's loyalty to his friends (and there is lots of male camaraderie in this play) against his love for her. More than that, it puts him in a position to do as she says in order to show his love, suggesting a cuckoldry that all the men in this play fear. The play must resolve this tension to make the relationship work.

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