Much Ado About Nothing | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. "Much Ado About Nothing Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Dec. 2016. Web. 23 Sep. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Much-Ado-About-Nothing/>.

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Much Ado About Nothing | Act 2, Scene 1 | Summary

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Summary

Beatrice, Leonato, Antonio, and Hero discuss their mutual dislike of Don John, and Beatrice suggests the perfect man lies somewhere between Don John's speechlessness and Benedick's verbosity. Antonio tells Hero he hopes she, unlike her cousin, "will be ruled by your father." Leonato reiterates his hopes for Beatrice to wed, but she assures him such an occurrence will remain unlikely "till God make men of some other metal than earth."

The soldiers enter the room. They are all wearing masks befitting a masquerade ball. The men and women pair up: Don Pedro goes off with Hero, Benedick dances with Margaret, and Ursula dances with Antonio. Benedick ends up with Beatrice, who pretends not to recognize him behind his mask. She insists Benedick is "the Prince's jester, a very dull fool" while the be-masked Benedick pretends not to know about whom she is speaking. While the others dance, Don John and Borachio put their plan into motion. They tell Claudio—pretending to believe he is Benedick—Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself. Claudio is heartbroken. When Benedick fetches him for Hero and Don Pedro, Claudio insists the prince has done him wrong.

Benedick explains this to Don Pedro, who then nonchalantly brings up the subject of what Beatrice told her "gentleman" dance partner about Benedick. Benedick rails against Beatrice, and when she and Claudio reappear, he pleads with Don Pedro to send him on an assignment for "any service to the world's end" just so he doesn't have to be near her. He leaves in a huff, and Don Pedro tells Beatrice she has "lost the heart of Signior Benedick." She replies she once had it and gave him her own, which he won with "false dice."

Changing the subject Beatrice presents Claudio, who is still upset with Don Pedro. Don Pedro explains he has successfully wooed Hero for Claudio, and all is forgiven. Claudio and Hero whisper sweet nothings to one another while Beatrice jokingly laments her lack of a husband. Don Pedro offers to find her one, then suggests himself. She rejects him kindly, saying, "Your Grace is too costly to wear every day." She excuses herself for being full of "all mirth and no matter" and soon leaves the group.

Don Pedro and Leonato discuss what a good match Beatrice and Benedick would make, and the prince vows to unite them before Claudio and Hero's wedding, which will take place in a week. Don Pedro says, "If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer; his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love gods."

Analysis

Don Pedro isn't taking a huge chance when he decides to bring Beatrice and Benedick together. Their "merry war" indicates their mutual attraction, and Beatrice even admits she and Benedick had romantic feelings for one another in the past. The cause of the breakup isn't known. The only clue given is Beatrice's feeling Benedick won her heart with lies, which she refers to as "false dice." Based on Benedick's vehement feelings against marriage, he may have realized during the course of their relationship he wasn't ready to be a husband. Beatrice's ever-present ire with Benedick stems from this heartbreak, and her melancholy mood when discussing the situation with Don Pedro suggests she still loves Benedick.

Even if Beatrice does love Benedick, that's not the reason why she turns down Don Pedro's proposal. Without watching actors on the stage, it's hard to tell whether the prince is being serious or not. Based on the text alone, it appears Don Pedro's proposal is real. Beatrice has been joking about her own lack of romantic prospects in light of Claudio and Hero's engagement, and the prince tries to solve her problem in the manner of his father, who was good at "getting husbands." In Don Pedro's mind there's no better husband than himself. He thinks of himself as something of an expert at love ladies' man, as evidenced by his confidence that he could woo Hero for Claudio, and he greatly admires Beatrice's wit and spirit. Her noble background makes her a suitable match for a prince. Yet the best evidence about the seriousness of Don Pedro's question is Beatrice's reaction to it. She makes a flippant response—"No, my lord, unless I might have another for working days"—then immediately apologizes for it. This apology is the only one she makes in the entire play, and it's with good reason. She's terribly embarrassed to have refused the prince's genuine proposal with mirthful words instead of the respect he deserves. If he had been joking, she wouldn't have apologized. Beatrice's sharp wit is a source of her pride throughout the play, but it doesn't always reveal itself at the right time.

Pride proves to be the downfall of many characters in Much Ado About Nothing, particularly Claudio. His ego, combined with his youth and gullibility, make him an easy target for Don John's lie about Don Pedro wooing Hero for himself. In the grand scheme of things, this cruel trick doesn't cause much trouble for any of the characters, and the resulting fallout is short lived. It does, however, establish Claudio as someone who is willing to believe the worst about those he loves most, such as Don Pedro and Hero, even when it comes from a most unreliable source. Establishing his short temper and his tendency to accept everything he hears as fact makes his actions later in the play entirely believable.

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