Much Ado About Nothing | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Much Ado About Nothing | Act 5, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Benedick is looking for Beatrice but finds Margaret instead. They jest back and forth and Margaret makes a dirty joke. Benedick praises her wit, saying it "is as quick as the greyhound's mouth." She retorts Benedick's wit is "as blunt as the fencer's foils, which hit but hurt not." Benedick says his is a manly wit, which is not meant to hurt women. Margaret makes another dirty joke and fetches Beatrice while Benedick tries to find appropriate rhymes for a sonnet he's writing for her.

Beatrice enters. She jokingly tries to leave as soon as she arrives, then asks what happened between Benedick and Claudio. Benedick says only "foul words" passed between them. He tries to kiss Beatrice, but she wittily refuses him. Benedick capitulates and tells her the details before asking, "But for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?" She says she fell for all of them together, then asks the same of him. They banter back and forth and Benedick pronounces them both "too wise to woo peaceably." Their moods darken momentarily as they talk about Hero, then lighten again as Ursula brings news Hero has been proven innocent.

Analysis

Shakespeare loves a dirty joke, and so do the characters of Much Ado About Nothing. There are three in this short scene alone. Benedick says he'll write a sonnet about Margaret's beauty, which no other man "shall come over," or surpass. Margaret twists his words into "to have no man come over me?" joking no man will lie on top of her during intercourse. Benedick concedes to Margaret's superior wit with "I give thee the bucklers." A buckler is a small shield with a detachable spike in the center. "Buckler" is also slang for the vagina, and Margaret chooses to use that interpretation to make a pun about swords, which naturally represent the penis. Benedick retorts "they are dangerous weapons for maids." This back and forth between Margaret and Benedick shows how Margaret isn't nearly as proper of a lady as Hero, which doesn't bother Benedick. He enjoys a good sparring partner no matter their gender. He's even lewd with Beatrice, telling her "I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes." It sounds awfully romantic, but "dying" is a euphemism for having an orgasm.

Many Elizabethan women would be shocked by Benedick's language. Not Beatrice. She is more hesitant to speak truthfully of her love than to dish out dirty jokes of her own. Beatrice and Benedick's relationship is on uneven ground at this point in the play. Benedick has wholly committed himself to loving Beatrice, even breaking off his friendships with Claudio and Don Pedro as means of showing his devotion. Beatrice, on the other hand, still hides her feelings behind jokes and gentle teasing. She loves him, but she's afraid to trust him with her heart.

Beatrice is more comfortable in the familiar pattern of joking banter. Benedick, too, has trouble expressing himself in the traditional format of sonnets and love songs, and he decides to "woo peaceably" is a lost cause. His realizes since his and Beatrice's courtship is far from the norm of traditional Elizabethan standards, their marriage will be different, too. He and Beatrice will be equals in almost every sense of the word, which is a far cry from the male-dominated relationship of Claudio and Hero.

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