Illustration of Hero wearing a mask

Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

Start Free Trial

In Much Ado About Nothing, what does Beatrice promise to do with the soldiers Benedick has killed?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Beatrice promises to eat the soldiers that Benedick has killed. Her words are outrageous, of course. Her uncle, Leonato, is a little shocked by Beatrice's words. He tries to explain her words away by stating that Beatrice and Benedick are always engaged in a war of wits.

When the messenger...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

contends that Benedick fought well in the war, Beatrice answers:

You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it. He is a
very valiant trencherman. He hath an excellent stomach.
Here, we see another comparison between soldiering and eating. The enemy is the "musty victual" and Benedick is the "valiant trencherman." War is equated with a sort of cannibalism. Basically, the war machine consumes men's lives, and Beatrice is saying that Benedick is part of that machine. Beatrice is also saying that Benedick has an excellent constitution for war.
But, what about her statement about "eating" the soldiers Benedick has killed? Here, Beatrice may also be saying that she is Benedick's equal when it comes to war of a different kind: a war of words. All in all, Beatrice's words in this opening act tell us that Benedick is in for a war of a different kind when he returns.
Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The answer to this question can be found in Act I Scene 1, when the audience learns about the "merry war" that exists between Beatrice and Benedick, and Beatrice tells the audience about Benedick by using a number of puns and humorous descriptions, showing her own wit and verbal ingenuity as well as painting a very funny picture of Benedick, whom the audience has not met yet. Note the question that she asks the Messenger and her reason for asking it:

But how many hath he killed? For indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.

Beatrice therefore promises to "eat" the soldiers that Benedick killed, which is a reference to the way that she diminishes his achievements and accomplishments through her mockery. Benedick is clearly coming back home again as a soldier who has distinguished himself in battle. Beatrice of course is not impressed by this, and determines to take him down a peg or two by making fun of him and reduce his achievements through metaphorically "eating" the men that give him that honour he earned in war.

Approved by eNotes Editorial