The Development of Benedick's Character in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing

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The Development of Benedick's Character in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing


At the beginning of the play, Benedick appears as almost a comic character, acting as if the most important part of his character is his wit. However, by the end of the play it becomes obvious that he is a clear-thinking character who is able to take action and keep his head in a crisis.

The change in Benedick's character is accompanied by the change in his relationship with Beatrice, as they move from 'merry war' and 'skirmish of wit' to become lovers, though Benedick does still protest that he 'love thee (Beatrice) against my will'.
Throughout the play, Benedick's relationship with Beatrice is an important mark of his character. In the first scene
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The fact that Benedick has feelings for Beatrice becomes clearer as the play progresses, despite his assertions to Claudio that he is 'a professed tyrant to their sex'. Benedick keeps this point of view while speaking to Don Pedro, making quite clear that he will never marry:

"I will live a bachelor."

This statement seems to signify Benedick's apparent state of mind and character at this stage in the play. He makes fun of Claudio for being in love and seeking to marry, which provides opportunity for irony later in the play: his jokes are turned on him by Claudio and Don Pedro when his true feelings for Beatrice are revealed.

Benedick's feelings for Beatrice become more obvious after the masqued ball, in Act 2 Scene 1. He reacts quite strongly to Beatrice' comments about him. Shakespeare uses the dramatic device of the masqued ball, and the inherent confusion of identity, to allow Benedick to believe that Beatrice intended to speak ill of him to another person, when all along Beatrice knows whom she is speaking to. The fact that Benedick reacts in the way he does to these comments shows he is hurt by the thought that Beatrice might feel this way about him. There is a suggestion that he does not mind such comments when directed at him in a 'skirmish of wit', but the idea that she may speak ill of him to another person is quite different, as he must have previously thought that she shared whatever secret feelings he had…