Much Ado About Nothing

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Beatrice Character Analysis

Leonato’s niece, an extremely witty and strong-willed young woman. Beatrice has a “merry war,” of wits and insults with Benedick, whom she hates. Like Benedick, Beatrice never wants to marry. All the same, she is tricked by Hero and Ursula into falling in love with and marrying Benedick by the end of the play.

Beatrice Quotes in Much Ado About Nothing

The Much Ado About Nothing quotes below are all either spoken by Beatrice or refer to Beatrice. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Simon & Schuster edition of Much Ado About Nothing published in 1995.
Act 1, Scene 1 Quotes

“There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her; they never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them.”

Related Characters: Leonato (speaker), Benedick, Beatrice
Page Number: 1.1.59-62
Explanation and Analysis:

Leonato's niece Beatrice asks the messenger about Benedick, one of Don Pedro's officers. She argues with the messenger and makes fun of Benedick, and in the process displays her ability with language, her wit, and her sharp sense of humor. In the line here, occurring just after Beatrice's interaction with the messenger, Leonato explains the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick in military terms: they are engaged in "a kind of merry war;" there is "a skirmish of wit between them."

Thus Leonato frames courtship (even if Beatrice and Benedick don't yet realize that they are courting) as battle, an idea that is very common in renaissance love poetry, and that will animate the rest of this play. It's worth noting, though, that while here the war of love is described as being "merry," the events of the play will show that like war it can bring victory and joy but also pain, despair, and even death. 

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Act 2, Scene 1 Quotes

“He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.”

Related Characters: Beatrice (speaker)
Related Symbols: Beards
Page Number: 2.1.36-39
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene opens with Antonio, Leonato, Beatrice, and Hero discussing Don John's attitude and comparing him with Benedick. Beatrice jokes that Don John talks too little and Benedick talks too much, saying that a good husband would be somewhere in the middle. After this joke Leonato tells Beatrice to be careful so that she can find a husband, at which point Beatrice says that she's happy that she doesn't have one, especially because she hates beards.

Thus begins a discussion here about beards, in which Leonato suggests Beatrice marry a beard-less man. Her response, given in the quote, is that someone with a beard is more than a youth, and someone with no beard is less than a man (boyish). She doesn't like bearded men, but beardless men are merely boys who cannot handle her. Beards become more and more important in the play as symbols of manliness.

Note also that this discussion has an extra level of irony because, in Shakespearean times, female parts were played by beard-less youths. When a young actor's beard came in, it was an indication that he could begin to play adult male parts instead of boys and women on stage. The original speaker of this line would have been a young man without a beard dressed as a woman.

Act 4, Scene 1 Quotes

“O! that I were a man for his sake, or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules, that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.”

Related Characters: Beatrice (speaker)
Page Number: 4.1.331-338
Explanation and Analysis:

The Friar has concocted a plan in which Hero will pretend to be dead while Leonato gets to the bottom of her accusation, the hope being that it will make Claudio even more thrilled to marry her when he finds out she is actually alive (though modern audiences might object that Hero might not want to marry Claudio after he mistrusted and then shamed her). Now, Beatrice and Benedick are alone on stage; the pair has just admitted they are in love with each other, and Beatrice is upset by what has happened to Hero. Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio for her.

When Benedick refuses, Beatrice speaks the lines quoted. She wishes that she were a man so that she could kill Claudio herself, or that Benedick would be a man and do it. But, she laments, classical manliness has faded, and devolved into only language. Valor, she says, has become nothing more than lying and false oaths. Since she cannot be a man simply because of her wish to become one, she concludes that she'll die as a woman because of her grief. Beatrice's criticism of manliness and the prevalence of language over action speaks to the theme of the play, in which nothing really happens but talk and falsity. It also inspires Benedick to agree to kill Claudio.

Act 5, Scene 4 Quotes

“…get thee a wife, get thee a wife: there is no staff more reverent than one tipped with horn.”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker), Beatrice
Related Symbols: The Savage Bull
Page Number: 5.4.126-128
Explanation and Analysis:

The drama of the play has been resolved, with all plots and confusions rectified. Hero's innocence has been established, and she and Claudio have married. Beatrice and Benedick learn that they have been tricked and set up by their friends, but nonetheless agree that they are truly in love and agree they too will wed. Benedick's views on marriage have changed: he excitedly insists on music and dancing, and even advises Don Pedro to get married. Benedick tells Don Pedro that he seems sad, and repeats the idea that he should get a wife.

It seems, then, that the play has resolved completely in favor of marriage. Yet Benedick's line that "there is no staff more reverent than one tipped with a horn" complicates things. A man who had horns was the standard description of a cuckold – a man who's wife has been unfaithful. What exactly Benedick is saying here is not clear. He may be implying that all women will eventually be unfaithful, and so all married men are essentially cuckolds. He may be suggesting that married men, because they are vulnerable to being cuckolded if their wives are unfaithful, love their wives (are "more reverent") more than they would otherwise. And he may just be joking about the idea that women are likely to make men cuckolds. Nonetheless, even as the play ends happily, with a marriage complete and another to come, it continues to complicate the very idea of love and marriage with male anxiety about female infidelity and the associated shame.

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Beatrice Character Timeline in Much Ado About Nothing

The timeline below shows where the character Beatrice appears in Much Ado About Nothing. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1, Scene 1
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Beatrice, Leonato’s niece, asks the messenger about Benedick, a Lord of Padua. She makes sarcastic remarks... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...go to the effort of housing and entertaining his new guests. Soon after, Benedick and Beatrice begin trading insults and sarcastic remarks. Benedick calls Beatrice a “parrot teacher,” (1.1.138) and both... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...wearing a yoke, like a beast of burden in the field. He also claims that Beatrice, despite her bad personality, is more beautiful than Hero. (full context)
Act 2, Scene 1
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Antonio, Leonato, Beatrice and Hero discuss Don John’s bad attitude, comparing him with Benedick. Beatrice says that Don... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...to see his face, but he charmingly deflects her request. Benedick, also masked, speaks with Beatrice. Pretending not to know who he is, she asks if it’s true that Signior Benedick... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...Hero for him, he refuses to believe it, and mopes away. Alone, Benedick complains about Beatrice’s insults, swearing that he isn’t as she says and promising revenge. Don Pedro arrives, looking... (full context)
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Just as Benedick is speaking of her, Beatrice arrives, along with Claudio, Leonato and Hero. Benedick and Beatrice begin arguing bitterly. A remark... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio talk somberly about Beatrice’s supposed love for Benedick. Aware that Benedick is listening from the trees, Leonato swears that... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Beatrice comes to invite Benedick in for dinner. Uncharacteristically, he treats her with gallantry and friendliness.... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 1
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
The female characters prepare a similar ambush. Hero sends Margaret to fetch Beatrice, instructing her to say that she has overheard Hero and Ursula gossiping about her. Hero... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 4
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...on her fashion and teasing her about soon being the “heavier for a husband.” (3.4.35) Beatrice enters, claiming to have a cold, and Margaret teases her as well. Accusing her of... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...(4.1.140) and that her shame has infected him. Benedick cautions him to be patient, while Beatrice is immediately certain that Hero has been slandered. Interrupting Leonato’s ranting despair, the Friar says... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...reappears. Benedick expresses support, and Leonato agrees to the plan. Everyone leaves but Benedick and Beatrice. (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Benedick comforts Beatrice, who is weeping over what has happened to her cousin. In the course of their... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...feast. Not yet believing that Benedick is serious about dueling, Don Pedro teases him about Beatrice’s love. Paying no attention to this, Benedick leaves, promising to meet “Lord Lackbeard,” (5.1.192) later... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
...that this is because his wit is not meant to hurt women. Leaving to fetch Beatrice, Margaret wittily replies that women have bucklers to defend themselves from the swords of men.... (full context)
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Beatrice arrives and wants to know what has happened between Benedick and Claudio. After learning that... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Claudio and Don Pedro arrive, and two masked women—Beatrice and Hero—are brought forward. Claudio, noticing that Benedick is nervous, teases him about becoming a... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Benedick unmasks Beatrice and asks if she loves him. She says that she loves him “no more than... (full context)