Much Ado About Nothing

by: William Shakespeare

Benedick

But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted. And I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none. (A1,S1)

Benedick claims that Beatrice is the only woman unaffected by his charms. Such outpourings of ego are a crucial part of Benedick’s projected identity, especially in response to Beatrice’s jabs. Claiming that he could have his pick of any woman gives him a sense of control that shields him from Beatrice’s targeted attacks, and the feelings those attacks dredge up.

Do you question me as an honest man should do, for my simple true judgment? Or would you have me speak after my custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex? (A1,S1)

Benedick asks Claudio what kind of romantic advice he’d prefer, implicitly acknowledging that his sarcastic disdain for love is partially an act. We see now that Benedick’s caustic remove is like a light switch he can flick on as needed. Benedick is fully capable of speaking earnestly, but only offers this earnest confidence to the closest of friends.

I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love—and such a man is Claudio. (A2,S3)

Benedick mocks Claudio for having fallen in love after calling love foolish for so long. This statement is very ironic coming from Benedick, and foreshadows his doing the same thing later in the story. Just like Beatrice, Benedick has a carefully constructed blind spot for himself in matters of romance.

Two of them have the very bent of honor, And if their wisdoms be misled in this, The practice of it lives in John the Bastard, Whose spirits toil in frame of villainies. (A4,S1)

Here, Benedick instantly and correctly guesses that Don John is behind the dissolution of Hero and Claudio’s union. While everyone else at the wedding is willing to believe whatever they are told about Hero’s infidelity, both Beatrice and Benedick sense deception. This flash of Benedick’s intelligence only strengthens the case that he and Beatrice are meant for each other.

I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is not that strange? (A4,S1)

Benedick at last confesses his deep love for Beatrice. In this moment, he doesn’t mock or tease or evade, but simply expresses his wonder at how much he loves her. Though neither of them quite understands their feelings, this moment of honesty breaks past the barriers of their constructed social images to form a real connection. Benedick’s ignorance of his feelings until now has clearly been purposeful.

A miracle! Here’s our own hands against our hearts. Come, I will have thee, but, by this light, I take thee for pity. (A5,S4)

When Beatrice and Benedick’s friends reveal drafts of love letters each wrote for the other, Benedick exclaims his relief. Before, he hesitated to reveal himself, but now, he declares his love for Beatrice without fear. Even now, Benedick’s mocking wit makes an appearance. However, this time the teasing feels good-natured rather than caustic, reminding readers that the couple’s bickering always disguised flirtation.