Monday, September 24, 2012

Strength, Ego & Evil

The characters in Shakespeare’s plays are so entertaining, it’s no wonder that his plays are still being studied, produced and enjoyed today. The three characters that most affected me the in the first two acts of Much Ado About Nothing  are Beatrice, Benedick and Boracchio.
Beatrice’s character exudes confidence. She is firm in her beliefs and does not seem to care that others disagree with her. She is able to express her beliefs in intelligent and amusing ways. She counsels her cousin Hero, against her father, in front of him. Beatrice tells Hero it is in her best interest to say, “Father as it please me”(2.1.47)  instead of “Father as it please you”(2.1.45) in regards to choosing a husband.  Considering that Beatrice is Leonato’s ward, it is interesting that Beatrice does not fear his scorn at her advisement of Hero.  She is so resolute in her position not to marry that she turns down the Prince, Don Pedro’s marriage proposal and then compliments him.  She tells him, “Your grace is too costly to wear everyday” (2.1.287).  This is another example of Beatrice’s disdain for marriage. Beatrice possesses many admirable qualities but her disregard for being a financial burden on her uncle seems selfish. Yet, when discussing his niece’s position on marriage, Leonato does not mention money.  If he’s not concerned about it, the reader shouldn’t be either.  Could Beatrice’s attributes outweigh her financial burden?  Don Pedro notices Beatrice’s “merry heart” (2.1.274) and her uncle speaks of how Beatrice “often dreamt of unhappiness and waked herself with laughing” (2.1302-303). Beatrice’s disposition seems like an attribute to the household and is a jovial person. She is even revels in her dislike for Benedick, so much so that his return is the first that she inquires about. She considers herself superior to him in wits and she even refers to him as a “stuffed man” (1.1.47).  Beatrice’s abhorrent feelings for Benedick and marriage remind me of the famous quote from another Shakespeare play, Hamlet, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.  Could Beatrice just think that she’ll never find a match so she rejects marriage  and might she have a bit of a secret crush on Benedick? She has taken notice of his relationships with women. The messenger comments on Bennedick, “And a good soldier too, lady” but Beatrice says “And a good soldier to a lady, but what is he to a lord?” (2.1.43-44). She considers Benedick a lady’s man and questions his real worth.
Benedick thinks Beatrice is awful. When she enters he asks Don Pedro to send him “to the word’s end” (21.1230) so that he can avoid her. He thinks that she indirectly insulted him but she knew it was him all the while. His description of the account and his feelings about Beatrice is displayed with the most eloquent language.    In this day age I think a man would just say that the woman was a “bitch’ and move on. The lines Benedick speaks in 2.1. 209-227 are an excellent example of the beauty of language and how Shakespeare deployed it.  The conviction he feels about his dislike of Beatrice is extreme. The notion that people would sin so that they go to hell and get away from Beatrice (2.1.225) is comical. The quickness in which Shakespearean characters are able to change their minds about a love interest is prominent factor when reading his works.   In Twelfth Night Olivia readily accepts Sebastian over Cesario and in  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Demetrius doesn’t protest when he ends up with his stalker, Helena.  When Benedick finds out that Beatrice is allegedly madly in love with him, he changes his feeling towards her instantly. Are Beatrice’s initial ideas about Benedick warranted? Is he a fool? Is he so viscous towards because she deflates his ego or because he is hurt because he secretly likes her?  Is it a case of feel/think one way but say and do another? 

In complete contrast to the light hearted teasing and talks of match making and betrothal in the first two acts of the play, there is Borrachio. He is just plain evil.  He is aligned with Don Pedro’s black sheep of a brother Don Jon, and his sole purpose is to help him make everyone unhappy.   In one fell swoop he wants to, deceive Don Pedro, torment Claudio, ruin innocent Hero’s reputation and destroy Leonato. This character is The Emperor from Star Wars evil!  It is also remarkable that Shakespeare could craft a chain of results from one act of deception.
It will be interesting to see how these three elements, strength, ego and evil work together through the play.  Will the strength be weakened? Will the ego be put aside and will good overcome evil all in the name of love?


Myra Gonzalez said...

I enjoyed reading your post. I completely agree that Beartice does possess incredible confidence. I even wonder where it comes from. I would have assumed as an orphan she wouldn't be so outspoken especially because she relies on her uncle for support. I felt her rejection of Don Pedro could have been due to her feeling lower class than Don Pedro who was a prince. Another reason for her rejection of marriage could be because she knows marriage will limit her freedom. I also agree it could have been because she was crushing on Benedick. When she asks about him it shows her feelings are not all full of distain for him.

I find it interesting how Shakespeare's plays have so many parallels. I am confident he will uncover all deceptions and all the lovers will be with who they really want, even if they don't know it.

Cyrus Mulready said...

This is great analysis, Pamela, and your comments remind me of Sam Somer's nice post below, as you show the way in which language works between these characters to create both comedy and a kind of erotic tension. Your mention of Borachio is relevant, too, as his use of language is strikingly different from B & B--his line about "killing" Leonato is chilling, and without irony!