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Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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How does Beatrice's dialogue vary with different characters in Much Ado About Nothing?

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Beatrice has a different manner of speaking to all of the characters in this memorable comedy, each of which gives us a glimpse into her relationships. With Hero, Beatrice is the mildest and most affectionate. Her cousin obviously holds a dear place in Beatrice's heart, and this is reflected in the manner in which Beatrice speaks to her. She is extremely protective of Hero, which we see from her speech to Benedick after the disaster of Hero's wedding. Although she is still herself with Hero, witty and sardonic, her words always give the impression of an underlying tenderness.

Beatrice is at her most merry when she speaks to her uncle Leonato. This helps us understand the affection she has for him, as she is forever teasing and making witty remarks that always seem to amuse him but not trouble him. It is obvious that Leonato knows his niece well and has learned not to mind her jokes.

Leonato: Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.

Beatrice: Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmaster'd with a piece of valiant dust? to make an account to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none. Adam's sons are my brethren, and truly I hold it a sin to match in my kindred. (Act 2, scene 1)

Her manner is similar when she speaks with Antonio: humorous and without much real conversation beyond banter.

With Don Pedro she is both merry and respectful, preserving her usual humorous nature while still giving him the respect that he deserves because of his rank and because he's a stranger to her.

Don Pedro: Will you have me, lady?

Beatrice: No, my lord, unless I might have another for working days: your Grace is too costly to wear everyday. But I beseech your Grace pardon me. I was born to speak all mirth and no matter. (Act 2, scene 1)

In speaking to Claudio, she has something of the same mildness as when she speaks to Hero, keeping her tone merry but gentle. After he falsely accuses Hero, her tone to him changes to one of anger and disapproval. However, when Hero forgives him, Beatrice, for her cousin's sake, lets go of her resentment and treats him as she did before.

The majority of Beatrice's lines, though, are directed at Benedick, and they reveal much about her relationship with him. We are given a hint in the play that there might be some history between the two, in which Benedick wounded Beatrice, but no details are given. At once merry and acerbic, Beatrice speaks to him with more passion than she displays with any of the other characters, even when she is disparaging him.

Beatrice: I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick. Nobody marks you. (Act 1, scene 1)

However, towards the end of the play, her manner in speaking to him changes from bitter sarcasm to mild teasing. When she confesses that she loves him, she is still brittle, wary, but by the end of the play, we see an abrupt change in her manner of speaking, so that it is affectionate, lightly sardonic, and playful.

Benedick: Only foul words; and thereupon I will kiss thee.

Beatrice: Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but foul breath, and foul breath is noisome. Therefore I will depart unkiss'd. (Act 5, scene 2)


Benedick: A miracle! Here's our own hands against our hearts. Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take thee for pity.

Beatrice: I would not deny you; but, by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion, and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption. (Act 5, scene 4)

Beatrice is one of the most iconic and lovable characters from Shakespeare's plays. She is both sweet and feisty, and her strong and independent nature wins her the hearts of all readers. The plays gives us much insight into her character and into her relationships by the way she speaks to each of the other characters.

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Beatrice is very witty, and she uses her acid wit to verbally spar with all of the characters in the play. At the ball, she recognizes benedick (the man that she has feelings for) but still she says to him as they dance, "he is the prince's jester: a very dull fool" (II.i.137-38). Beatrice, however, is not completely blind to social niceties and practicality, and when these situations arise she can put her wit aside. (think about prompting of Claudio to be other than a mute in his engagement to Hero.)
At the end of the play, after the scene at the alter, and Hero fainting, Beatrice's wit is dulled towards Benedict, and she tells him that she loves him. This, of course, does not last long, and they go back to verbally sparring with their wit. As Benedik observes, ""Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably."
The other person in the play to whom Beatrice speaks to without her joking wit, is Hero. Although at times Beatrice does, because Hero tells her to stop being so critical, she is softer with her cousin Hero, than anyone else in the play. Although her wit and criticism certainly do come out at times.

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