Ramblings on the Two Relationships Depicted in Much Ado About Nothing

In Branagh’s adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, of the two couples depicted, Benedict and Beatrice’s relationship seems to be the genuine focal point while Hero and
Claudio’s romance simply appears to be a necessary device for developing and remedying the plot pertaining to Don Pedro and Don John. By comparing and contrasting the couples and their roles in the film, this will become more apparent.

Before the tale begins, though viewers are not aware of the details immediately, it is clear that both of the couples were in contact with one another previously.  Nevertheless,
the degree of intimacy in these relationships is quite different. Benedict and Beatrice have been romantically involved in the past. Though there are numerous instances which would enable one to divine this, the most definitive proof can be found in the masque scene when Beatrice is conversing with Don Pedro. While speaking of Benedict’s heart, she states, “He lent it me awhile; and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one: marry, once he won it of me with a false dice, therefore my grace you may well say I have lost it.” Therefore, the feud that confronts the audience, at the beginning of the film, can be understood to be the product of some rift which engendered pain and is now dealt with in banter and witticisms.

In contrast, Claudio and Hero’s relationship lacks a prior romantic basis, and the foundations that are laid in the initial scenes seem logical rather than passionate. Claudio conveys to Don Pedro that he liked Hero before he left for war, and now that he has returned, his mind is fixated on securing a love that he can settle down with. Hero, from what one can judge of her demeanor, appears to share his innocent and nascent feelings. Yet, it is disconcerting that she would yield so readily and almost happily to Leonato’s wish that she marry Don Pedro if he seeks her hand. It is equally jarring that Claudio would yield to such when Borachio brings this possibility to his attention. Though one can reason that Claudio’s duty is to the Prince and Hero’s is to her father, the fact that they would be so easily swayed by obligations indicates that nature is not given free rein in their hearts.

In addition, the couples’ views of marriage are understandably different. Due to the fact that Benedict and Beatrice have been harmed by each other in the past, they are embittered and proud. They seem to espouse that love indicates weakness because it is not aligned with reason. Animal similes and metaphors are frequently employed to convey the irrationality of love between men and women.

In contrast, Hero and Claudio are too inexperienced to have the depth and complication of feeling that Benedict and Beatrice harbor. They greet their potential and forth-coming union with joy because they believe that love entails simply worthiness on the part of the man and virtue on the part of the woman. It is a very calculated sort of exchange, which is why they are so apt to fall to pieces when parts of the equation are seemingly missing.

While Hero and Claudio are torn asunder by hearsay and mistrust, Beatrice and Benedict are easily brought together as soon as they no longer have to fear their affections. Their reasoning is that if love exists in the other’s heart, then there is no cause for restraint and no slight to rationality. It is sensible to requite love so long as one’s pride is not diminished in the submission. It is a testament to their love that it grows stronger even in the midst of conflict.

The conclusion of the film also gives more weight to Benedict and Beatrice’s marriage over the seeming protagonists’. Claudio is only allowed to marry the resurrected Hero when he can blindly accept her as another woman. His honor is at stake, not his heart. In contrast, Benedict and Beatrice must overcome their pride and fear before they can publically acknowledge their love and marry. For them, much more seems to hang in the balance in a personal sense. They are trying once again at something that had failed before, and in yielding to such, they are opening themselves not only to disappointment but mockery.

It seems evident that just as Hero and Claudio’s love is flat so too are their characters. Whereas, Benedict and Beatrice are dynamic characters who exhibit development as does their relationship. Nevertheless, Benedict and Beatrice’s love does not tie into the Don Pedro-Don John plot in any significant way while Hero and Claudio’s is integral.  Without them, the villains would have no avenue for action. They are the means by which Don John attempts to undermine and dishonor his brother, Don Pedro. They are also the reason why Don John and his conspirators are arrested and imprisoned. In other words, both couples are essential but for very distinct reasons: Hero and Claudio are plot devices; Benedict and Beatrice are the means by which one can explore the intricacies of romance, passion, reason, and the difficulty of reconciling human love with
sensibility.

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