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Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing


by William Shakespeare

Benedick Timeline and Summary

  • 1.1.106: We meet Benedick with a silly response to a harmless question. Don Pedro asks if this Hero before him is Leonato’s daughter, and Leonato replies that her mother had told him so many times. Benedick, as he will often do, prolongs the joke. He asks Leonato whether Hero’s parentage was ever actually in doubt, which is also characteristic of Benedick being a little off-color sometimes.
  • 1.1.118: Benedick’s first words to Beatrice are "What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?"
  • 1.1.133: Benedick jests with Beatrice a bit more, but not as swiftly as she does, so he drops out of the contest of wits, simply saying he’s done.
  • 1.1.164: Claudio inquires whether Benedick noted Hero. Benedick replies that he looked on her, but he didn’t see anything of particular importance, so no, he didn’t really note her. (It’s either Benedick being inattentive, or a bit of a jab at Hero for being rather unremarkable in Benedick’s eyes.)
  • 1.1.166: Claudio asks Benedick’s opinion of Hero. Benedick points out that he can present different perspectives, depending on what’s wanted of him. Here, Benedick says he can answer Claudio’s question either as an honest man would, with his simple true judgment, or he can do his usual woman-bashing shtick.
  • 1.1.171: Benedick is asked to speak in sober judgment, so he says all sorts of mean stuff about her appearance, and concludes that he doesn’t find her very attractive. As Claudio continues to ask questions, Benedick realizes Claudio is sweet on the girl. He can’t seem to figure out whether this is really the case, or if perhaps Claudio is playing the fool.
  • 1.1.189: Claudio declares Hero to be the sweetest looking lady he’s ever seen, and Benedick says he simply doesn’t see it. Instead, Benedick lets out that he thinks Beatrice, if she weren’t so full of fury, would seem May to Hero’s December. Still, he’s like "Marriage, really Claudio?"
  • 1.1.197: Hearing Claudio affirm that he’d like to have Hero for his wife, Benedick moans. He worries that he’ll never see an old bachelor again, and compares marriage to putting one’s neck into a yoke.
  • 1.1.209: Benedick immediately reveals Claudio’s secret crush to Don Pedro, saying he does it out of allegiance (though it’s obviously over glee of ridiculing). Benedick teases that Claudio is in love with the short girl, Hero.
  • 1.1.230: Benedick has been listening with a few silly interjections, and he’s really shocked that talk of Hero turned to marriage so quickly. He quips that he doesn’t feel she should be loved, nor does he think she’s worthy.
  • 1.1.238: Benedick says he’s grateful to have been conceived and raised by a woman, but he’ll never have the cuckold’s horns hung on his forehead. He says he’d never do a woman the disfavor to mistrust her, but he will give himself the right to not trust any, so it’s best he doesn’t deal with women at all. Benedick is happily committed to being a bachelor.
  • 1.1.249: Benedick jokes that he’ll be made pale by anger, sickness, and hunger, but never by love. He intends to always live a bawdy life, losing blood to sighs can be made up for by gaining blood from drinking. He insists he’ll submit to being shot at like a cat in a wicker basket if he’s ever snared by love.
  • 1.1.262: Don Pedro warns that in time, even savage bulls are tamed. In response, Benedick quips that the bull might be yoked, but if ever he’s yoked, they can put the bull’s horns on him, and hang up a silly sign, etc. etc. marriage sucks, basically, and he refuses to ever do it.
  • 1.1.285: Don Pedro teases Benedick about his formal speech when Benedick tries to take his leave. (Benedick basically says something like "Sincerely yours" instead of "See you later" and they mock him by pretending to finish up the conversation like the closing of a formal letter.) Benedick makes an incisive comment here, masked in wit so it doesn’t seem like a criticism. Benedick says Don Pedro often dresses up his language with inanities (like covering a dressmaker’s dummy with ribbons and bows) so that people don’t know when he’s thinking about something serious. Benedick suggests that using formal language, or overly informal language, to cloak more serious thoughts is a problem both he and Don Pedro might share.
  • 2.1.126: Benedick is disguised at the masquerade ball and dancing with Beatrice. He’s clearly shared some awful criticisms of her that he says he "heard" from someone else. (Except that someone else is him. Tricky.) Benedick meant to aggravate Beatrice, but when she rails against Benedick to her unknown partner (who is Benedick), he does a surprising job of keeping it cool. Once again, he’s kind of waltzed into Beatrice’s web defiantly, and just lies there while she spins around him.
  • 2.1.187: Benedick not-so-sensitively teases Claudio – he announces to Claudio that Don Pedro has gotten Hero – and now Claudio can wear a garland of willows for unrequited love.
  • 2.1.194: Benedick heckles Claudio for giving up Hero so easily, like he’s selling cattle. Benedick wonders whether Claudio could’ve anticipated that Don Pedro would’ve done him wrong like this. When Claudio lashes out at Benedick, he essentially responds by saying that Claudio shouldn’t hate the messenger for his message.
  • 2.1.202: Left alone, Benedick muses that Claudio is like a wounded bird, who’ll go hide among the hedges. Then his thoughts turn to Beatrice’s criticisms. He rankles at being called the prince’s fool, and says he might get this title because he’s so merry all the time. He reminds himself though, that the criticism is only Beatrice’s, not the censure of the whole world.
  • 2.1.213: Don Pedro enters, and Benedick makes a series of jokes alluding to the idea that Don Pedro has stolen Hero. Benedick suggests that Claudio should be punished for being so foolish as to show off his good "find" to another, leaving it open to being stolen. Don Pedro catches on quickly to Benedick’s thinly veiled criticism: obviously if Don Pedro has stolen Hero, then Don Pedro, and not Claudio, is a criminal. Don Pedro smoothes it all over by making clear that he intends to give Hero to Claudio, and Benedick relents that hopefully this will work.
  • 2.1.239: Benedick responds to Don Pedro’s comment that Beatrice felt much abused by Claudio. Benedick complains of everything the woman told him about himself while he was disguised. He says she kills with the words she breathes, and that he’d never marry her. (Who was saying anything about marriage? Ah yes, Benedick.) Benedick declares that as long as Beatrice is on earth, hell is a peaceful place.
  • 2.1.263: As Beatrice approaches, Benedick begs to be given the smallest task to do at the ends of the earth, just so he can get away. He simply cannot endure her company.
  • 2.3.6: Benedick laments that yet another valiant soldier of his gender has fallen victim to love, and has been rendered worthless by it. Though Claudio had seen so many soldiers fall before him, he walked right into the trap, seemingly willing. Benedick wonders whether he’ll ever be snared, and lists off all the qualities a woman would have to have in order to catch his eye. He runs off to hide, seeing Don Pedro and Claudio approach with Leonato.
  • 2.3.118: Benedick is shocked to hear this secret revelation that Beatrice is in love with him. He says he’d think this whole thing was a trick, except that Leonato, who is elderly and not foolish, is part of this conversation.
  • 2.3.220: Benedick accepts the notion that Beatrice is in love with him, and promises her love will be returned. He rankles at his friends’ criticism that he’s proud, and says he’ll change that. After all, he reasons, the good thing about hearing your friends’ complaints is that it gives you an opportunity to change your bad habits. Benedick then goes on to talk about how Beatrice actually does have a lot of great qualities. He admits that he’ll endure some teasing for his sudden change in stance on marriage, but he argues that it’s only natural our opinions and preferences should change over time. Lastly, he adds the helpful note that someone has to help make babies, so it might as well be him. As Beatrice approaches, Benedick is convinced she has the look of love about her.
  • 2.3.249: In his interaction with Beatrice, Benedick is completely lame and kind of prone the same witless flattery that he accused Claudio of being victim to earlier. He interprets the simple conversation he has with Beatrice as some overarching confirmation of her love for him. This is a stupid assumption, but it’s clear he’s in love now, so he can be stupid.
  • 3.2.15: Benedick meets with Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato at Leonato’s house, but he admits he’s not his usual self. He claims he has a toothache (which may refer to the notion that toothaches were a lover’s disease, or maybe just means he has a toothache). They give him advice about how to get over what’s bothering him. Benedick, however, counters that it’s easy to know exactly what to do in a situation when you’re not in that situation. Still not so full of wit, Benedick runs off with Leonato to talk about something, but more likely to get out of the firing range of Claudio and Don Pedro.
  • 4.1.68: Benedick has been trying to make light of the wedding ceremony so far, which has been kind of twisted (what with it mostly consisting of the groom calling the bride a harlot). Benedick simply says "This looks like a not nuptial," or basically, "This isn’t how weddings are supposed to go."
  • 4.1.113: After Don Pedro, Claudio, and Don John leave the wedding, Benedick chooses to stay behind and asks whether Hero’s doing OK.
  • 4.1.143: Benedick hangs around and hears Leonato denounce his own daughter. Benedick cautions him to be patient, though he admits he doesn’t know what to say either.
  • 4.1.186: Benedick shows himself to be the only thinking man in the group, now that he’s finally given up on playing the fool. He realizes that if there’s any mischief afoot, and Claudio and Don Pedro were being misled, therefore Don John is surely to blame.
  • 4.1.244: Benedick speaks firmly to Leonato, and tells him to listen to the Friar. Benedick points out that though his allegiance and love is to Don Pedro and Claudio, he’ll keep Friar Francis’s plan a secret.
  • 4.1.255: Benedick gets Beatrice alone after the wedding disaster. Worried because she’s crying, he asks if there’s anything he can do for her to show his friendship. He finally admits out loud, and with no qualification, that he loves her.
  • 4.1.298: Benedick says he’ll do anything for Beatrice, but he recoils when she asks him to kill Claudio. As Beatrice tries to leave, Benedick stalls her a bit. He finally comes around to agreeing to challenge Claudio to a duel, as he’s convinced that Beatrice believes Claudio is at fault for Hero being wronged. He goes off to make the challenge, and to spread the rumor that Hero is dead.
  • 5.1.120: Benedick meets with Claudio and Don Pedro, and they go on for a bit with jokes before they realize that he’s having a very grumpypants day. He is pointedly cold and slightly threatening with them, and tells them to quit joking.
  • 5.1.145: Finally, Benedick pulls Claudio aside, and calls his friend a villain who has wrongfully accused Hero. Benedick then lays down the challenge to Claudio, and says he’ll call Claudio a coward if he hears no answer.
  • 5.1.185: Benedick listens to the two men goad him about marriage for some time, but he says nothing jovial or threatening in response. As he leaves, he tells them he’ll leave them in their cheery old maid humor, but he’s still pretty threatening. He tells Don Pedro he’s had a good time being associates, but their time together is over. He also fills Don Pedro in on the fact that Don John has run away from Messina. He openly accuses them – all three – of having a hand in innocent Hero’s death. After he reiterates his challenge to Claudio in sneering terms, he’s off.
  • 5.2.1: Benedick has a silly conversation with Margaret, who he asks to help him write a love sonnet to Beatrice. There’s some bantering between the two about whether women should be attacked with wit, or whether that’s ungentlemanly.
  • 5.2.25: Benedick, left alone, sings a really badly done verse to himself, and admits that he’s no poet; his words don’t do any justice to how he feels. He decides he is more of an actual lover than a Rico Suave.
  • 5.2.50: Benedick says only foul words have passed between he and Claudio (meaning no punching or stabbing), and then tries to kiss Beatrice. He admires her clever verbal dexterity with the word "foul." Finally he gets back to business and says that he should hear from Claudio really soon in response to the challenge, otherwise he’ll declare Claudio a coward. Then Benedick engages in some shmishling love talk, about how Beatrice first came to love him, and he first came to love her. Based on the banter that ensues, he decides they’re too witty to have any kind of normal, silly romance.
  • 5.2.76: Responding to Beatrice’s jab that only foolish men call themselves wise, Benedick declares that in the time they live in, a person has to declare his own virtues, because no one else is going to. He asks after Hero, and hearing that both Beatrice and Hero are unwell, commands Beatrice to serve God, love Benedick, and get better.
  • 5.2.102: Benedick says he’ll follow Beatrice to hear the good news of how Hero’s name was cleared. He also adds a loving and randy comment, and comes after Beatrice. (Snicker snicker.)
  • 5.4.8: Benedick says he’s glad of all the clarification and exoneration that’s recently come to pass, as otherwise he would’ve had to beat Claudio into a fine pulp.
  • 5.4.18: Benedick pulls the Friar aside, and says he’ll need the Friar’s wedding services (to marry him and Beatrice), which will binding him up in marriage, might also be his undoing. (It’s a pun!) Benedick announces to Leonato that Beatrice likes him, and he loves her. However, he glosses over Leonato’s claim that their love is all Leonato, Claudio, and Don Pedro’s doing. Instead, he asks that Leonato’s goodwill be added to Beatrice and Benedick’s marriage.
  • 5.4.72: Benedick stops the wedding party on the way to the chapel, and calls Beatrice to come forward. He then has a lovely exchange with her, tentatively asking if she doesn’t love him, and then replying that of course he doesn’t love her either, in any unreasonable way. He points out that he had heard she was madly in love with him, but as she denies it. He seems ready to dismiss the whole thing, but asks again to make absolutely certain, "Then you do not love me?"
  • 5.4.91: Benedick declares it a miracle that he and Beatrice’s letters have brought to light her true feelings. He jests that he’ll take her (like it’s a sacrifice on his part), and he jokes that he’s only marrying her out of pity. She jests back, and he reacts the way he usually does when she outwits him – this time, instead of ending the conversation with his silence, he ends it with a kiss.
  • 5.4.100: Benedick is subjected to plenty of teasing about his coming marriage, but declares that he’s in a great mood now, and no amount of teasing can change that. He doesn’t care what anyone has to say against marriage. In the same vein, he doesn’t even care what he used to say against marriage. He concludes that man is a giddy thing, with fluctuating wants and feelings. He goes back to teasing Claudio about how he’s glad he doesn’t have to pulverize him anymore.
  • 5.4.117: Benedick suggests they all dance together, since they’re all friends again. He encourages Don Pedro to get a wife. Finally once it’s announced that Don John has been captured, Benedick says he’ll think up punishment for him tomorrow. In the meantime, Benedick calls for music and merriment.