Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare

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Essential Quotes by Character: Beatrice

Essential Passage 1: Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 50-59

LEONATO:
You must not, my lord, mistake my niece. There is 
a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her.
They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between
them.
BEATRICE:
Alas! He gets nothing by that. In our last conflict
four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the 
whole man governed with one; so that if he have wit
enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference
between himself and his horse; for it is all the wealth
that he hath left to be known a reasonable creature.

Summary

Beatrice, niece to Leonato of Messina, is hearing news from a messenger of the approach of Don Pedro and Aragon and his company. Included in that group is Benedick, with whom Beatrice has a long-running battle of wits. Acting as though they despise each other, Beatrice and Benedick exchange continual barbs on every occasion that they meet. Each proclaims his or her contempt of the other, with each one proclaiming victory. In terms of "battle," and in conjunction with the return of the army after a military excursion involving the repression of a rebellion on the part of Don John (the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro), Beatrice describes for the messenger her last encounter with Benedick. He lost that battle but managed to survive with “one wit” left. Now, according to Beatrice, he is functioning with his one remaining wit, her point being that he is even less than a half-wit.

Essential Passage 2: Act 2, Scene 1, Lines 27-42

LEONATO:
You may light on a husband that hath no beard.
BEATRICE:
What should I do with him? dress him in my
apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman? He that
hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no 
beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth
is not for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not for
him. Therefore I will even take sixpence in earnest of the
bear-ward and lead his apes into hell.
LEONATO:
Well then, go you into hell?
BEATRICE:
No; but to the gate, and there will the devil meet me
like an old cuckold with horns on his head, and say ‘Get
you to heaven, Beatrice, get you to heaven. Here's no
place for you maids.’ So deliver I up my apes, and away
to Saint Peter—for the heavens. He shows me where the 
bachelors sit, and there live we as merry as the day is
long.

Summary

Leonato is holding a masked ball for the entertainment of his household guests. Beatrice and her uncle Leonato are engaging in a conversation about the guests, and the topic runs from Benedick to men in general. Beatrice states that she would not want to marry a man with a beard. She would rather sleep with a sheep. Her uncle suggests that she might marry a man who had no beard. This suggestion is met with Beatrice’s usual sarcasm. She would have no use for a beardless man, because that would mean he is not grown up. She may as well dress him up as a woman, perhaps meaning a court eunuch. Beatrice proclaims that a beardless man would be too young for her. Yet a man with a...

(The entire section is 3,326 words.)