Study Guide

Much Ado About Nothing Pride

By William Shakespeare


Act I, Scene i

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. (1.1.122-125)

Benedick is not so much Captain Modesty. Still, he seems to take a bit of pride in rejecting all of the women that love him. It seems he takes pride not only in the fact that numerous women have fallen in love with him, but also that he has an impenetrable heart.

Act II, Scene iii

I hear how I am censured. They
say I will bear myself proudly if I perceive the love
come from her. They say, too, that she will rather
die than give any sign of affection. I did never think
to marry. I must not seem proud. Happy are they
that hear their detractions and can put them to
mending. (2.3.227-233)

Ironically, it seems that Benedick’s hurt pride will inspire him to not seem prideful, and eventually maybe even lead him to put aside his pride and love Beatrice.

O, she tore the letter into a thousand halfpence,
railed at herself that she should be so
immodest to write to one that she knew would flout
her. 'I measure him,' says she, 'by my own spirit,
for I should flout him if he writ to me. Yea, though I
love him, I should.' (2.3.148-153)

It’s telling that though this conversation is entirely made up, it’s actually quite accurate. Even after Beatrice admits that she loves Benedick, in the last scene, her pride gets in the way of her public admission that she loves him. It’s interesting that Leonato and Don Pedro are spot-on in their assessment, as it’s proof that Beatrice and Benedick aren’t fooling anyone with their pride.

Act III, Scene i

O god of love! I know he doth deserve
As much as may be yielded to a man,
But Nature never framed a woman's heart
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice.
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
Misprizing what they look on, and her wit
Values itself so highly that to her
All matter else seems weak. She cannot love,
Nor take no shape nor project of affection,
She is so self-endeared. (3.1.49-58)

Hero suggests that Beatrice’s pride gets in the way of valuing her suitors at their true worth. This is, again, ironic, as Beatrice is generally such an accurate observer of people and emotions. Perhaps this love-stuff is too close to her nose (and her heart) for comfort.


What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! And maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand. (3.1.113-118)

Up to now, we could’ve believed that Beatrice loved Benedick and just wouldn’t admit it. However, what moves Beatrice about the "secret" conversation she’s just heard is the accusation that she’s scornful and prideful. Her pride is hurt at being called prideful (just like Benedick). Beatrice’s pride moves her more than any latent love for Benedick; she’s humbly willing to attempt to improve herself, which is way cooler than changing herself for a guy.

Act IV, Scene i

For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
And never shall it more be gracious. (4.1.110-113)

Claudio isn’t only disgusted by the acts he thinks Hero has committed, but it’s clear he thinks that his own pride is wounded by almost marrying such a woman. He feels he’s been deceived about love in general, and this (perhaps more than her betrayal) is what wounds him. These words are particularly important, as they are his parting comments before leaving Hero for dead.

Wherefore? Why, doth not every earthly thing
Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny
The story that is printed in her blood?—
Do not live, Hero, do not ope thine eyes,
For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,
Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
Myself would on the rearward of reproaches,
Strike at thy life. Grieved I I had but one?
Child I for that at frugal nature's frame?
O, one too much by thee! Why had I one?
Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes?
Why had I not with charitable hand
Took up a beggar's issue at my gates,
Who, smirchèd thus, and mired with infamy,
I might have said, 'No part of it is mine;
This shame derives itself from unknown loins'?
But mine, and mine I loved, and mine I praised,
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her—why she, O she, is fall'n
Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again,
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul tainted flesh! (4.1.128-151)

Leonato does not grieve for the apparent death of his only child; rather, he rejoices over it as the best way to hide her shame (and therefore his shame). This leads him to reveal that his wounded pride is what he’s really worried about. He wishes she was not his flesh and blood, but some adopted child, so he could say, "No part of this scandal is mine," and renounce the girl without any grief. It’s clear from Leonato’s words that he is more concerned about his own hurt pride than Hero’s dishonor.

Act V, Scene i
Don Pedro

By my soul, nor I,
And yet to satisfy this good old man
I would bend under any heavy weight
That he'll enjoin me to. (5.1.288-291)

Like Claudio, Don Pedro says he’ll willingly undergo punishment. He claims this is not because he’s actually done an awful thing, but because he wishes to "satisfy" Leonato. Don Pedro and Claudio both are too glib in saying essentially, "I’m sorry, but it wasn’t my fault, and aren’t I a good guy for being willing to get a slap on the wrist for it anyway?" This is some egregious insensitivity, but a healthy dose of pride too—the men are concerned with trying to weakly defend their own reputations.


I know not how to pray your patience,
Yet I must speak. Choose your revenge yourself.
Impose me to what penance your invention
Can lay upon my sin. Yet sinned I not
But in mistaking. (5.1.283-287)

Claudio is really outrageous here – he’s just found out he wrongfully accused Hero and he thinks he caused her death. Instead of just hanging his head in shame and being sorry, he feels the need to point out that he was misled, so none of this was really his fault. It seems Claudio is more concerned with protecting his pride than mourning over his part in Hero’s death. Even that he’s willing to submit himself to punishment seems more about the appropriate formalities of dealing with his wrong than any actual regret or repentance he has.