This exchange between Benedick and Beatrice comes just after the shocking revelations revealed in the church scene for the wedding between Hero and Claudio, where Claudio has shamed Hero, as he believes she has cheated on him. This is important, as both of these characters are friends with Benedick and Beatrice, so this exchange is likely to include their feelings. This is also the first exchange since the two have been deceived that the other loves them, during act II and III. This is also likely to play a big role in the couples’s discussion. As Beatrice inevitably uses this deceived love to the test as she asks a large question of Benedick, leaving him torn between this love, his honour, and his friends. This scene also seems very important on the whole, as it cumulates in the potential for more bloodshed in the play, as Benedick goes off for revenge, but not for himself, for Beatrice. This makes the scene a pivotal point, as it appears Benedick has indeed chosen love over friendship.
In this exchange between Benedick and Beatrice, a series of issues and emotions occurs, including their love for each other. “I do love nothing in the world so well as you.” However, as usual, the two skate around the subject in the typical way of the two characters. They slowly admit their feelings, and it comes across to the audience in a gentle way. “I will not desire that.” Benedick says, as he embarks on soothing Beatrice on his way to showing his real feelings. Then the tone takes an abrupt change, as Beatrice exclaims “Kill Claudio” as her anger boils over at the revelation of her dear friend Hero, having wronged Claudio, but Beatrice knows is not true, and wants revenge, against Claudio, however this is ironic, as the audience know that it is Don John that has committed the villainy. At first, Benedick believes this is the old Beatrice talking, in her usual jovial manner, as he replies “Ha! Not for the wide world.” But as the exchange develops, her replies become more serious; “You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.” Then Benedick realises that this is not the Beatrice he is used to, but a woman scorned, and out for revenge.
This point is further reinforced when Beatrice makes other comments such as “I would eat his heart in the marketplace” which exaggerates her need for revenge, and her sense of powerlessness at not being a man, and taking this revenge that Hero decerves for being wronged so terribly. This also vividly suggests such a public horror, similar to that Hero has suffered at the hands of Claudio, which has driven Beatrice to say these horrifying things. The whole exchange, on the whole, also seems to explore the positions of men and women in the society they live in, such as the emasculation of men, and how Beatrice longs to be a man, so she can take the revenge herself. “O god then I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace.” The exchange also examines the issue of honour, as some would believe Benedick makes the right decision to challenge Claudio, because it seems the honourable thing to do, as the scene portrays Don Pedro and Claudio as dishonourable, but this is only because of the deception by Don John. The matter of family honour is also portrayed in the scene, as Hero is Beatrice’s cousin, so she feels she had been dishonoured by Claudio, hence her hunger for revenge. The exchange as a whole is an immediate and extreme test of the couples newly confessed love, where love and honour conquer over friendship.
Benedick and Beatrice’s relationship forms a large contrast with the relationship between Hero and Claudio. Firstly and foremost, Benedick and Beatrice actually talk to each other, and discuss their love, honour and feelings, if somewhat in a humorous manner, whereas Hero and Claudio scarcely exchanged words, and only talk of each other, usually Claudio in a very serious manner. This is scene is a good example, as Claudio goes ahead and publicly shames his bride to be Hero. “Give not this rotten orange to your friend.” He does this on Don Johns word, and what he thinks he has seen, which is also one of the plays themes, that not is all what it seems. This all seems a far cry from the way that Benedick and Beatrice seem to deal with their feelings: by talking about it. “By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.” This approach also seems much more logical to the audience, as how would Claudio know what Hero is like if he has never talked to her, yet he readily believes that she had wronged him, with minimal persuasion. In this light, the audience could be persuaded that Claudio is dishonourable, as he has publicly shamed the woman, who the audience know is innocent.
Benedick is also somewhat developed as a character. Previously in the play, the audience has seen Benedick in a much different light to what he has become by the end of this scene. Previously in the play, we have scene his and Beatrice’s exchanges laced with humour, right at the beginning of the play for example. At the start of the exchange in this scene, the audience believes this is what Benedick expects their exchange to be. “Ha! Not for the wide world” This is the Benedick the audience recognise, but as the conversation goes on, he realises Beatrice is serious, and asking him to choose between his love and his friendship. His final decision comes as a surprise, as he chooses love. “Enough, I am engaged: I will challenge him.” This comes as a great contrast form the character of Benedick the audience has come to know, who laughs and jokes, and becomes quite arrogant when he finds out Beatrice’s feelings for him, but not this violence he has committed himself to, and how it has stirred him to revenge, for Beatrice. This seems to surprise the audience at first, due to the blatant disregard to his friends and comrades, but if the audience was to examine his decision further, it would seem less shocking, as his deniable love has been one of the plays central themes, and at the crunch, he has chosen it over all else, and on face value, he seems to be doing the honourable thing.
Beatrice’s response is not that unexpected, however it is more vigorous than the audience would expect. In some ways it is quite surprising how badly she takes the news, but when the situation is explored, her reaction is readily justifiable. Her reaction most likely stems back from the theme of honour, and family honour, as Hero is Beatrice’s cousin, and this public shame has affected Beatrice. Beatrice also knows Hero very well, we learn she is often her ‘Bedfellow’ and Beatrice knows Hero is innocent, and wants the accusers punished for their behaviour. When she delivers the line “Kill Claudio” would be delivered coldly and bluntly, as she finally reveals what she wants to happen to the men who shamed Hero wrongfully. This line would also be delivered quite poignant manner, as it is the pivotal point of the exchange, as it turns the mood to a much darker note, on the lines of violence and death. This scene also reveals Beatrice’s frustration at not being a man. “O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace.” This is also further examination of the roles of men and woman in the society, as such men could only commit violence, and it would not be a woman’s act of such horror, and honour should be held up by men, which is why she wants Benedick to restore her of her honour.
During this scene I had a range of responses to the complex events. The revelations made by Claudio came across as shocking, even though he had already announced that he was going to do it in the previous act, the grim reality of the public shame dawned when he announced “There Leonato take her back again.” Claudio over dramatises the whole affair, which makes me feel almost embarrassed for him, this is however typical Claudio.
“I’ll lock up all the gates of love.” He announces. My most surprising response, however, came from the exchange between Benedick and Beatrice. At the start of their conversation, I was expecting what had gone before, a humorous conversation, which is what Benedick also expected. At first I was shocked of Beatrice’s comments “Kill Claudio” but this was little in comparison with her vividly horrific description of “I would eat his heart in the marketplace.” This is utterly compelling and shocking on first impressions. However, after some exploration, and the relation of the scene on the theme of honour and love, her comments lose this thought, and I realise that Beatrice only wants to do what Hero deserves, and get revenge for the awful things Claudio did to her, but at the same time, I feel sorry for Claudio, as he has been deceived into this by Don John, and he is going to pay, for something he has not believingly done.