Much Ado About Nothing Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line) Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.
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? (1.1.162-165)
Benedick admits that he has a thing against the entire female gender and tends to go on anti-women tirades. However, he notes that he’s capable of "simple, true judgment" of particular women, which isn’t necessarily touched by his general woman-hating spiel. It’s interesting that he has two different lenses through which he can view women, while probably only one through which he views men.
Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted
with a husband.
Not till God make men of some other metal
than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be
overmastered with a piece of valiant dust? To make
an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl?
No, uncle, I'll none. Adam's sons are my brethren,
and truly I hold it a sin to match in my kinred. (2.1.57-64)
This is a brilliant statement from a gendered point of view. Beatrice first uses "man" in the general sense (as in mankind), but she finally comes around to admitting the gender inequality inherent in marriage. She plays on the notion that all mankind is ashes to ashes dust to dust, so it isn’t fitting that a woman should be ruled by a man (who is in the end only dust). The capstone to this deliciously incisive commentary is Beatrice’s assertion that all of Adam’s sons are her brothers, and she’d commit the sin of incest to marry them.
She doesn’t actually believe she’s a blood-sister with all men—incest is just the easiest way to write off marrying any man. In claiming all Adam’s sons as her brothers, and admitting that all humankind is dust together, Beatrice has threaded together the argument that men and women are kindred and equal—they are made of the same material (earth, dust), return to being the same after death, and together they are all God’s children.
It’s a fantastic insight that adds to Beatrice’s many reasons for not marrying—she is unwilling to be subservient to one of her equals (a man), which it seems she’d have to do if she were married. (It’s particularly juicy that Benedick also worries about giving up his independence and freedom by getting married. Though Beatrice has more cause to worry as far as losing freedom, we’re beginning to see Shakespeare draw parallels between the two characters.)
One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet
I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all
graces be in one woman, one woman shall not
come in my grace. Rich she shall be, that's certain;
wise, or I'll none; virtuous, or I'll never cheapen
her; fair, or I'll never look on her; mild, or come not
near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good
discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall
be of what color it please God. Ha, the Prince and
Monsieur Love! I will hide me in the arbor. (2.3.27-36)
Benedick lists off the qualities of an ideal woman; he says he can’t be tempted to love any woman unless she has all of womankind’s best qualities wrapped up into one. The woman Benedick dreams of is an idealized (and unrealistic) version of women. He must think pretty highly of himself to believe he deserves such a woman. Also, it’s interesting here that he doesn’t seem to be against the idea of marrying, so long as he’d by wedding a perfect girl. (Thankfully, he grows up and marries Beatrice).