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Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare

Act III, scenes i–ii

Summary Act III, scenes i–ii

Of course, all of these complicated motivations in the friends’ plans to dupe Beatrice and Benedick into falling in love with one another relate to the same essential cause: their friends are trying to make Beatrice and Benedick realize that each, in his or her private heart, does have the potential to love the other profoundly. The tricks could hardly work otherwise—Beatrice and Benedick both seem too mature and intelligent to be deluded into thinking that they are in love. Their friends are simply trying to make them realize that they already love each other.

Beatrice’s speech at the end of the scene is much shorter than Benedick’s in the preceding one, but the gist of it is the same. Profoundly affected by what she has heard, she decides to allow herself to change her views about marriage in order to accept Benedick. She has learned how others perceive her—”Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much?”—and has decided to change these perceptions: “Contempt, farewell; and maiden pride, adieu. / No glory lives behind the back of such” (III.i.109–111). Now, she decides she will accept Benedick if he courts her, “[t]aming my wild heart to thy loving hand” (III.i.113).

In the next scene, however, the atmosphere grows dark. Don Pedro and Claudio’s merry teasing of the subdued Benedick amuses, but Don John’s shocking accusation against Hero suddenly changes the mood from one of rejoicing to one of foreboding. We also see Don Pedro and Claudio’s disturbingly quick acceptance of Don John’s word about Hero’s unfaithfulness—Don John has promised to show them “proof,” but it still seems strange that they so quickly believe evil about Claudio’s bride-to-be. Claudio earlier reveals his suspicious nature to the audience when he believes Don John’s lie in Act II, scene i that Don Pedro has betrayed him. His susceptibility to suspicion now returns to haunt him, this time with the support and encouragement of Don Pedro.