One of Shakespeare’s last comedies is Much Ado About Nothing. It is filled with laughter, yet there are some dark aspects that make the play seem part tragedy. There is love at first sight with Hero and Claudio; there is love that develops with Benedick and Beatrice, evil scheming with Don John and his accomplices, Borachio and Conrad, and a very emotional and dramatic confusion that is the play’s namesake.
Something that is displayed greatly throughout the drama is the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice. It is foreshadowed that they would fall in love in the first act of the drama. A small battle of wits is ensued upon Benedick’s arrival at Leonato’s home.
BENEDICK: What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?
BEATRICE: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet
food to feed it as Signor Benedick? Courtesy itself must
convert to disdain if you come in her presence.
BENEDICK: Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of
all ladies, only you excepted. And would I could find in
my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.
BEATRICE: A dear happiness to women. They would else have been
troubled by a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold
blood I am of your humor for that. I had rather hear my dog
bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me (I.i. 95-105).
Yet that was not the end of this argument, nor was it the only they had. It is this relationship that many of the people who read the play or who watch and produce a performance enjoy.
In Act II Scene I, Beatrice describes what would be the perfect man. To summarize, he would have half of Don John’s seriousness and half of Benedick’s chatter, and he would have to be handsome and rich. Yet this could not be the man for her because any man with a beard, he is not for her, yet any man without a beard, she is not him. She says that the only way she would marry is if God creates men “out of some other metal than earth” (II.i. 50), which is an allusion to Genesis 2:7 saying, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground…”
Benedick also has his own description of the perfect woman. He says that a woman is smart, another is pretty, and another is virtuous, yet he does not fall in love with her. If all of these traits were in one woman, he may fall for her. Similar to Beatrice’s description of the perfect man, Benedick’s perfect woman has to be rich and beautiful, but she also has to be smart, virtuous, mild-mannered, noble, well-spoken, and an excellent musician. His, anyone can agree, is a bit more descriptive and far-fetching.
In the very same scene that Benedick makes this observation, Don John, Leonato, and Claudio all play out...