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Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing


by William Shakespeare

Beatrice Timeline and Summary

  • 1.1.30: Beatrice’s first line of the play is a question about whether Signior Mountanto has returned from the wars or not. He’s not recognized by this name, as of course she means Benedick, but the tone is thus set for her to be less than straight in her dealings about Benedick. He seems to occupy her thoughts, but she never directly addresses that fact, just as she is rarely direct in her dealings with him.
  • 1.1.39: Beatrice tells a weird story in which Benedick came to Messina and challenged Cupid. Beatrice says her "uncle’s fool" answered Benedick’s challenge in place of Cupid, and we can only assume she means she herself challenged Benedick in his contest against love. Beatrice leaves off further investigation of what this means (likely that they had a relationship before), and instead wonders how many men Benedick has killed, as she promised to eat his killings. (This lets us know that Beatrice told Benedick he’d likely not kill anyone. Either that or she’s a cannibal.)
  • 1.1.54: Beatrice teases the messenger, wrapping him up in words. Beatrice says that Benedick may be a good soldier to a lady, but he’s likely a bad soldier to a lord (alluding to perhaps her playboy notion of him). She thinks of him as "stuffed" or pompous man.
  • 1.1.65: Beatrice addresses Leonato’s claim that she and Benedick are constantly engaged in a war of the wits. She says he’s left with only one wit about him since their last little sparring match, so she hopes it keeps him warm, and smarter than his horse. She asks what companion he’s picked up in these battles, since he seems to be in the habit of always having a new BFF tagging along.
  • 1.1.75: Beatrice declares that of course Benedick has new BFF – he changes his hat with each fashion. (This likely refers to Benedick’s habit of changing friends, but also an allusion to Beatrice’s bitterness over however her previous relationship with Benedick ended.)
  • 1.1.86: Beatrice compares Benedick’s fast friendship to a disease – she hopes poor Claudio can be cured of it.
  • 1.1.94: Leonato declares Beatrice will never run mad (with love) and she confirms she’ll run mad in a hot January (which will never happen, because global warming didn’t yet exist).
  • 1.1.116: Beatrice cheerfully notes that no one is listening to Benedick, and wonders why he continues to talk.
  • 1.1.120: Beatrice responds to Benedick calling her "Lady Disdain." She says disdain can live easily when it has stuff like Benedick to keep it alive. Beatrice insists Benedick can transform even courtesy to disdain with his presence.
  • 1.1.128: Beatrice claims that Benedick’s inability to love a woman is a blessing to women, who would otherwise be more troubled by him. Beatrice thanks God that she shares Benedick’s bad taste for love – she’d rather hear a dog bark at a crow (huh?) than hear a man profess his love.
  • 1.1.136: Beatrice and Benedick engage in one of their classic wars of wit – she calls him ugly, and dim-witted, and as he backs away from the contest, she says he falls lame like an old horse in a race. She adds cryptically that she knows him "of old," meaning she’s used to seeing this kind of behavior from him, but we’re not sure in what context… Or are we?
  • 2.1.3: Beatrice notes Don John’s sour looks, which give her heartburn. She uses it as an occasion to talk about Benedick again, saying if one could blend Benedick’s silly prattling with Don John’s severity, he’d be a fine man indeed.
  • 2.1.14: Beatrice lists off the other qualities this ideal man would need to have, such as good looks and wealth, too. She says a man like that could get any woman in the world, if he could get her good will. (Remember it seems like no one can get Beatrice’s good will.)
  • 2.1.21: Beatrice jokes that she’s too ill-tempered for God to ever send her a husband. She goes on to say that she’s grateful and thanks God every day that she has no such man sent to her. She then lists off why she can have no man: she couldn’t endure a man with a wooly beard, but she couldn’t have a man with no beard at all (because he might as well be a woman). She’d rather have an advance payment for training and keeping bears and apes, and then lead the apes to hell (where old maids were thought to go).
  • 2.1.43: Beatrice assures everybody she won’t end up in hell, though, as once she got there, the devil would be sure to send her to heaven, saying "hell is no place for maids." There in heaven, Beatrice is sure St. Peter would send her to hang out with all the single people, and they’d be merry, like only single people can be.
  • 2.1.52: As Antonio tells Hero he’s sure she’ll be guided by her father’s will (to marry Don Pedro), Beatrice answers for her. Beatrice says Hero knows she must do her duty to her father, but she reminds Hero that if the man her father chooses isn’t handsome, Hero can also say she’d rather do what pleases her.
  • 2.1.59: Beatrice promises she won’t be married until men are made from some other substance than the earth itself. She holds the sons of the Biblical Adam to be her brothers in humankind, and thus getting with any of them would be incest, a sin, so she’ll hold off.
  • 2.1.69: Beatrice teases that if Hero isn’t wooed in time, the fault will be in the music. She describes the stages of courting – from the fast jig of falling in love, to the stately dance of wedding, all the way up to the frantic backtracking dance of trying to get out of a marriage by going to the grave.
  • 2.1.82: Leonato praises Beatrice for her keen powers of observation. She declares she can simply see a church by daylight – meaning she can see what’s there clearly, and doesn’t claim to be any more perceptive than your average bear. (Unless it’s a really tiny church.)
  • 2.1.137: Beatrice is at the masque dance with a man she may or may not know is Benedick, since he is disguised. She’s pretty peeved at some comments that her dance partner claims to have heard about her (and the comments weren’t too nice), so she naturally concludes that it was Benedick who said the nasty things. On this note, she goes into describing Benedick as a fool to her partner, who claims not to know him (though her partner is him). Beatrice says Benedick is the Prince’s jester, a dull fool who only makes bad men laugh, because bad men enjoy his villainy. Even those who laugh at him, Beatrice says, don’t really respect him, as they’re as prone to laugh at him as to beat him. Still, she says she’s sure Benedick is in "the fleet" and she wishes he had "boarded" her, perhaps because she’d like to mock him, perhaps because she secretly likes him.
  • 2.1.278: Don Pedro notes that Benedick ran away like the dickens as soon as Beatrice approached. Don Pedro chides Beatrice affectionately, saying she has lost the heart of Benedick. She responds cryptically and kind of sadly. She says he lent her his heart once, and she gave him twice as much, but he won it from her by false dice (meaning he played falsely for it). Though it seems Benedick was the initial one to give up his heart, Beatrice thinks she was on the raw end of the deal.
  • 2.1.285: Don Pedro teases that Beatrice has put Benedick down, but she points out that she’d rather Benedick not put her down as he’d be likely to make her the mother of fools.
  • 2.1.293: Beatrice has brought Claudio in, and kind of oversees his interaction with Hero. At first, Claudio, thinking Don Pedro has stolen Hero from him, is sulky. Beatrice lightens the mood by joking that the count is "civil as an orange," playing on the idea that bitter oranges came from Seville (which sounds like civil) and also that oranges were close to yellow in color, and yellow was the color associated with jealousy.
  • 2.1.305: As it gets cleared up that Hero belongs to Claudio after all, Beatrice encourages the young couple, teasing that if Hero can’t say anything, the least she can do is kiss poor Claudio, so he can’t speak either. Don Pedro compliments Beatrice for being so warm, and she says her heart is a poor fool that knows little of caring too much. As Beatrice watches Claudio and Hero play snugglebunnykins, she laughingly says it seems everyone in the world is getting a husband but her. She declares she’ll go off into the corner and shout out "Heigh-ho" to catch a husband.
  • 2.1.322: Beatrice teasingly leads on Don Pedro, saying she’d like to marry the kind of man that Don Pedro’s father made. She asks if Don Pedro has a brother. After leaving the door open for Don Pedro to flirt with her, he proposes marriage, and Beatrice shuts him down.
  • 2.1.327: She says he’s too fine an apparel to wear all the time; he’d make a great weekend husband, but she couldn’t handle all that finery. She then asks him to forgive her for being more full of jokes than serious stuff.
  • 2.1.334: Beatrice tells Don Pedro that she wasn’t born in a merry hour at all. In fact, her mother cried while she gave birth to Beatrice, but a star danced, and under that star Beatrice was born. She then wishes her cousin joy in her union, and heads off.
  • 2.3.247: Beatrice comes to the garden to call Benedick to dinner, but she makes a big show of the fact that she doesn’t enjoy the errand.
  • 2.3.249: Beatrice makes a mockery of Benedick’s attempts to thank her politely. She claims she didn’t take any pains to do it, not because she enjoys her task, but because if it gave her any actual pain, she wouldn’t have done it at all.
  • 3.1.107: Beatrice has just overheard Ursula and Hero converse in the garden. She is disturbed that she has been condemned by her friends as proud and scornful. She decides she’ll rid herself of these qualities. More importantly, she’ll accept Benedick’s love, and tame her wild heart to his hand. Then, if the two of them love each other so much, why don’t they marry each other? Also, other people say Benedick is a good guy, so she’ll believe it and think he deserves her.
  • 3.4.40: Beatrice is brought in as Hero readies for her wedding day. She’s less jovial than usual, and admits that she’s out of sorts.
  • 3.4.52: As Beatrice rushes Hero to get to church, she declares she is still feeling ill, and cries out "Heigh-ho." (If you remember, she told Don Pedro that's what she would say if she were looking for a husband. Foreshadowing?)
  • 3.4.56: Margaret teases her about whether she might be looking for a hawk, a horse, or a husband. But in response, Beatrice doesn’t have anything nasty to say about marriage, as she doesn’t deny that she might be on the man-market (though she doesn’t confirm it either).
  • 3.4.77: Margaret teases her some more, alluding to her crush on Benedick, and Beatrice is uncharacteristically unwitty. She again declares she’s sick, and then flips out when Margaret suggests she should have some holy thistle.
  • 4.1.109: Beatrice is shocked at the accusations against Hero, but rather than rail wittily at Hero’s accusers, Beatrice franticly tends to her cousin. She demands to know why Hero swoons, and calls out to Leonato, Benedick, and the Friar for help, seeming to think that Hero has died when the girl faints.
  • 4.1.146: Though Benedick says he can’t speak, he’s so struck with wonder at the proceeding of these accusations, Beatrice comes to an immediate conclusion: she cries out that her cousin has been slandered.
  • 4.1.148: Beatrice admits that she didn’t sleep in Hero’s room last night (the night in question) but she says she’s been Hero’s bedfellow for the last year (and there’s been no Borachio there).
  • 4.1.256: Benedick gets Beatrice alone after the entire would-be wedding hullabaloo, and Beatrice admits she has been weeping this whole time, and will continue to do it.
  • 4.1.261: Beatrice again repeats that her cousin has been slandered, and declares the man who would fix this wrong would gain much from Beatrice herself.
  • 4.1.264: Beatrice ominously states that she knows exactly what someone could do to show their friendship to her in this dark hour – she knows the task, but she doesn’t know a man (or friend) who would do it. Benedick, of course, offers himself up, but Beatrice says while it’s a man’s work to be done, Benedick isn’t the man for the job.
  • 4.1.269: Benedick takes this weird opportunity to declare his love to her, and Beatrice, for the first time, kind of trips over her words. She says it’s strange indeed that he should love her; she could say she loved him, but he shouldn’t believe her, though she isn’t lying. Basically, she says she confesses nothing, but she doesn’t deny anything either. She’s got bigger fish to fry, and simply says that she’s sorry for her cousin.
  • 4.1.275: Benedick has sworn that he loves Beatrice, and that any man can eat it if he says otherwise. Beatrice tells him not to eat his oaths.
  • 4.1.283: Beatrice says Benedick has cut her off at the pass: she was just about to "protest" (as in, to say) that she loved him. In fact, she loves him so much there’s none of her heart is left to protest (as in, to fight it). That’s cute.
  • 4.1.289: Beatrice is glad to have Benedick’s sworn love, because now he’ll kill Claudio for her, right?
  • 4.1.291: Beatrice gets up and is ready to leave when Benedick hesitates to kill his old friend. She declares there’s no love in him after all. He doesn’t even make a good friend if he prefers her enemy over her.
  • 4.1.301: Beatrice rails against Claudio when Benedick asks if Claudio is really her enemy. Beatrice notes that Claudio is responsible for scorning, slandering, and dishonoring her beloved cousin, Hero. She then passionately wishes she were a man, because then she would eat Claudio’s heart in full public view, just as he disgraced Hero publicly.
  • 4.1.309: Beatrice sputters on for a while, first pish-poshing at the accusation about the window, and then decrying the fact that Hero’s good name is ruined by slander. She mocks the titles of Prince and Count (meaning Don Pedro and Claudio) and again wishes she were a man. Finally, Beatrice laments that manhood no longer means acts of valor, but is defined by compliments and courtesies of gentlemanly niceties. To be Hercules nowadays, one only has to tell a lie and swear to it, instead of proving it. Beatrice declares that she can’t become a man by wishing, so she’ll die a woman by grieving.
  • 4.1.330: Beatrice again brings home the notion that Benedick can’t love her if he will only swear by her hand, and not do anything vile to Claudio with his own hands. Benedick finally gets a word in edgewise, and Beatrice confirms that she believes Claudio has wrongly accused Hero. She believes it with all her thoughts and soul, which ends up being enough proof for Benedick.
  • 5.2.46: Beatrice teases a little with Benedick in Leonato’s orchard, but she’s still got her eyes on the prize. She asks what went down between Claudio and Benedick.
  • 5.2.52: Hearing it was only words, Beatrice uses her cunning linguistic skills to say she won’t kiss Benedick, as he’s gotten foul breath from foul words, and who wants to make out with foul breath guy?
  • 5.2.62: Beatrice and Benedick then play a little game, and Beatrice declares she fell in love with all of Benedick’s bad parts together, because they were so purely bad. She asks when he first suffered love for her. Hearing that he loves her against his will, she teases that she too will hate his love for her, because she can’t love the love that her friend Benedick hates having.
  • 5.2.73: As Benedick realizes Beatrice is spinning circles around him with her wit, she teases him some more about his declaration that he’s wise. But she answers seriously when he asks after Hero. Beatrice says Hero is ill, and so Beatrice herself is ill too.
  • 5.2.101: Beatrice invites Benedick to come with her to hear the great news of how Hero has been absolved.
  • 5.4.73: Now that everything’s been cleared up, Beatrice stands forth in front of everyone when Benedick publicly asks if she loves him. She says she doesn’t love him, or rather, she doesn’t love him more than reason allows. She’s unseated when he says the same thing to her, and claims that Margaret, Ursula, and Hero told her otherwise, as they said Benedick was close to death with love for Beatrice.
  • 5.4.83: Pressured by this public display to admit her love, she says she loves Benedick in a friendly manner.
  • 5.4.94: Hero coughs up Beatrice’s letter that clearly shows her love for Benedick. As Beatrice accepts Benedick, she teases that she is only taking him because she’s being heavily persuaded, and also, she just means to save his life, as she heard he was sick with consumption (as in, consumed by love for her).

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