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the lovers. We have Hero and Claudio, who show the innocence of love,
and Beatrice and Benedick, who show a more cynical version. There are
also the friendships, between Hero and Beatrice, and Don Pedro,
Claudio and Benedick. It is also important to remember that Don John
is the bastard brother of Don Pedro – this is a major factor in the
events of the play, for Don John’s status makes him envious and evil.
From the beginning of the play, Shakespeare focused the attention of
his audience on Beatrice and Bendick. The first battle of words
between them hinted at an earlier love affair, and also included an
intriguing hint of mystery. ‘You always end with a jade’s trick: I
know you of old’, says Beatrice.
Shakespeare also uses the two older lovers, Beatrice and Benedick as a
contrast to the younger couple, to show different aspects of love.
Hero and Claudio represent a girl and boy who have fallen deeply in
love for the first time; Benedick and Beatrice are more worldly, and
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audience enjoy even more their rapid acceptance of the each other’s
affection when they are tricked into falling in love with each other.
Although Shakespeare allows Claudio to confess his love for Hero to
Benedick, he and Hero never play out a love scene alone together. This
is quite unlike the tender scene between Benedick and Beatrice in the
chapel after Claudio has refused to marry Hero. They discover and
reveal their love in front of the audience, which makes it seem far
more sincere and real. True to her fiery character, Beatrice is soon
despatching Benedick to challenge Claudio to a fight to the death.
The courtship of Benedick and Beatrice seems never to run smoothly,
for even at the last minute they are joking and teasing each other.
The audience can accept their love as deep and sincere – unlike
Claudio’s quick acceptance of Hero’s infidelity, and his willingness
to marry her ‘cousin’ – but still understand and can be amused by
their strength of character and ‘merry war’.
There are many relationships. Probably the most important are the
lovers. We have Hero and Claudio, who show the innocence of love, and
Beatrice and Benedick, who show a more cynical version. There are also
the friendships, between Hero and Beatrice, and Don Pedro, Claudio and
Benedick. It is also important to remember that Don John is the
bastard brother of Don Pedro – this is a major factor in the events of
the play, for Don John’s status makes him envious and evil.
At some point in the play, all the relationships are challenged. For
example, Claudio believes Don John’s lies and accuses Hero of being a
whore, and Benedick challenges his friend Claudio to a duel, to
protect the honour of Hero.
The play’s main interest lies in the relationship between Beatrice and
Benedick, for they create a great deal of tension because everyone but
them can see they belong together.