Much Ado About Nothing

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Benedick Character Analysis

A witty young Lord of Padua and a soldier. He is extraordinarily successful with women, but is fanatically committed to a bachelor’s life. He has a “merry war,” of wits and insults with Beatrice, whom he hates. By the end of the play, Claudio, Don Pedro and Leonato have tricked him into falling in love with Beatrice, and he marries her.

Benedick Quotes in Much Ado About Nothing

The Much Ado About Nothing quotes below are all either spoken by Benedick or refer to Benedick. 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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“Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker), Claudio
Related Symbols: Eyes
Page Number: 1.1.195-196
Explanation and Analysis:

Don Pedro and his men, including Benedick, have arrived at Leonato's house, Benedick and Beatrice quickly begin their verbal sparring, both saying that they are completely resistant to the charms of the opposite sex. Leonato then invites everyone to stay at his house for a month. Claudio subsequently tells Benedick that he is in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero. Benedick and Claudio then begin a conversation about Hero, love, marriage, and freedom, in which Benedick utters the quote shown here.

Benedick claims to cherish his status of bachelor, suggesting that marriage would constrict his freedom. He says that he isn't attracted to Hero, and he turns all of Claudio's praises into mockeries and insults to women and marriage in general. In this line, he asks, jokingly, if he'll ever see a 60-year-old bachelor again, since most men are so eager to get married. He claims that not enough men are committed to the bachelor life, comparing marriage to wearing a yoke like a beast of burden. Benedick's comment also adds humor and irony to the play, as a significant part of the rest of the play involves other characters trying to trick him into falling in love.

“Well, as time shall try: ‘In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.’”

Related Characters: Don Pedro (speaker), Benedick
Related Symbols: The Savage Bull
Page Number: 1.1.255-256
Explanation and Analysis:

Don Pedro has entered whil Claudio and Benedick are speaking about love. Benedick immediately reveals to Don Pedro that Claudio is in love with Hero. Though Claudio tries at first to deny it, ultimately he admits to his love. With a dramatic statement about being burned at the stake, Benedick claims that Hero is unworthy of Claudio's love. This point causes Don Pedro to accuse Benedick of being a "heretic" of love.

Don Pedro then says these words, a proverb, to suggest that Benedick will eventually fall in love himself. The proverb says that eventually, even the "savage bull" will "bear the yoke," playing on Benedick's own assertion that married men are like beasts of burden.

Note that the proverb is a line of iambic pentameter though the rest of the dialogue is in prose. This small detail helps underscore Don Pedro's prediction, which eventually comes to pass at the end of the play.

Act 2, Scene 3 Quotes

“One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace.”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker)
Page Number: 2.3.27-30
Explanation and Analysis:

In this scene Benedick soliloquizes in Leonato's garden. Benedick is frustrated that Claudio, whom he considered to be a perennial bachelor like himself, has become a lover and is getting married. Like Beatrice's response to Hero's engagement, in which the former starts to entertain the idea of marriage, Benedick begins to wonder if he will ever change his mind and get married. But like Beatrice, he constructs for himself a scenario in which he'll never find a suitable bride.

Here, he lists different desirable traits in potential wives: "fair," "wise," and"virtuous." Benedick then concludes that until all of these graces is combined in one perfect woman, he will not get married. Whereas earlier he refused to even consider marriage, now, given the social pressure of Claudio getting married, he can consider getting married, but still protects himself by deciding that he could only ever marry an idealized woman. Recall that he even criticized Hero, the woman who inspired Claudio's "perfectest" joy. 

Act 3, Scene 2 Quotes

“Well, every one can master a grief but he that has it.”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker)
Related Symbols: Beards
Page Number: 3.2.27-28
Explanation and Analysis:

This scene begins with the discussion of Claudio's upcoming marriage, and with Don Pedro saying that after the wedding he will spend time with Benedick, who is always merry and impervious to cupid's arrows. To this assertion, Benedick says "I am not as I have been," indicating he has changed and fallen in love. Leonato and Don Pedro think that Benedick is sad or just needs money, but Claudio correctly asserts that he is in love. Benedick says that he has a toothache, and when the other men suggest that his sadness seems inappropriate for only a toothache, Benedick delivers the quoted line. 

He essentially says that it is easy to give suggestions on how to get over sadness, but difficult to get over it yourself. This line also speaks to the way that romance and emotions are crossed between characters. Don Pedro courts Hero for Claudio, and a whole group is conspiring to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love. It is easy for them all to intervene in each other's love lives, but many of the characters face difficulties when dealing with their own situations.

Note also that Benedick's appearance and reality are changed at once. He is not as he has been, emotionally, but he has also shaved his beard, changed his attire, and put on perfume. His appearance as a man changes with his inner shift towards love.

Act 5, Scene 2 Quotes

“I was not born under a rhyming planet.”

Related Characters: Benedick (speaker)
Page Number: 5.2.40-41
Explanation and Analysis:

Benedick speaks this line in a soliloquy after he has sent Margaret to get Beatrice. He sings a little song, attempting to find a way to communicate his feelings to Beatrice, and laments his poor singing ability. Because he wasn't "born under a rhyming planet," meaning he doesn't have any natural ability rhyme or write poetry, he says he can only come up with bad rhymes.

First, Benedick's reference to the planet under which he was born echoes Don John's assertion earlier in the play that he is evil because he was born under the planet Saturn. In each case, these men argue that their natures are determined by the stars; that they couldn't change or learn even if they wanted to. They proclaim, therefore, that their true natures are set no matter the perception of them. 

Meanwhile, Benedick's struggle with writing poetry speaks to the limitations of language brought up by the play, the way that it frustrates and confuses. (Benedick's struggle with rhyming is also ironic, since it is written by Shakespeare, a master poet.) At the same time, Benedick has been engaging in a war of wit and language play with Beatrice for much of the play, so it's not clear that he actually does have limitations with language. Perhaps, instead, he is making excuses for finding it difficult to express his love through language, which would then be another indication that love, like a toothache, is more profound, more of the body, than language can evoke.

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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Benedick Character Timeline in Much Ado About Nothing

The timeline below shows where the character Benedick 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
...to inform him that the Spanish Prince Don Pedro, the Florentine Claudio, and the Paduan Benedick have returned victorious from a recent battle. They have lost almost no men, and Leonato... (full context)
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 about him, punning on the messenger’s praise.... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Don Pedro, Don John, Balthazar, Claudio and Benedick arrive at the house. Don Pedro apologetically jokes that Leonato is “come to meet [his]... (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
...home for a month, and Don Pedro accepts on behalf of everyone. Privately, Claudio tells Benedick that he has fallen for Leonato’s daughter Hero, and asks him what he thinks. Benedick... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Don Pedro enters the room where Benedick and Claudio are speaking, and asks what they are being so secretive about. Benedick instantly... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
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Now that Benedick is gone, Claudio speaks with Don Pedro more honestly about his love. He explains that... (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 John talks too little, while Benedick talks too much. Beatrice jokes... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...propose to Hero. She wants 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... (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
...of others: “Let every eye negotiate for itself / And trust no agent.” (2.1.177-178) When Benedick arrives to tell him that Don Pedro has wooed Hero for him, he refuses to... (full context)
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
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Just as Benedick is speaking of her, Beatrice arrives, along with Claudio, Leonato and Hero. Benedick and Beatrice... (full context)
Act 2, Scene 3
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Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Alone in Leonato’s garden, Benedick complains that Claudio, who he had considered a bachelor and a military man at heart,... (full context)
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Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Don Pedro, Leonato, Claudio and Balthazar enter the garden. Benedick hides behind some trees, and though they see him they pretend not to notice him.... (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
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 Beatrice’s passion is “past... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
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Beatrice comes to invite Benedick in for dinner. Uncharacteristically, he treats her with gallantry and friendliness. Thinking he is simply... (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
...as they notice Beatrice sneak up on them, Hero and Ursula begin an argument about Benedick’s supposed love for Beatrice—should he tell her about it? Hero argues that he should keep... (full context)
Act 3, Scene 2
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Benedick arrives in the middle of a conversation between Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio. He is... (full context)
Act 4, Scene 1
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...fallen / Into a pit of ink,” (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.... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...accusation killed Hero, and all the more ready to love her again when she 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
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Benedick comforts Beatrice, who is weeping over what has happened to her cousin. In the course... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 1
Courtship, Wit, and Warfare Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Benedick arrives. Claudio and Don Pedro say that they had been looking for him, and mention... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 2
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Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Benedick banters with Margaret, who calls his gibes as “blunt as fencer’s foils.” (5.2.13) Benedick says... (full context)
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Beatrice arrives and wants to know what has happened between Benedick and Claudio. After learning that they have only had an argument, she threatens to leave... (full context)
Act 5, Scene 4
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
Leonato, Benedick, Antonio and the Friar wait at the church for Claudio and Don Pedro. Everyone is... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
Language, Perception and Reality Theme Icon
Marriage, Shame and Freedom Theme Icon
...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 married man, but promises that he shall have... (full context)
Love and Masquerade Theme Icon
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Benedick unmasks Beatrice and asks if she loves him. She says that she loves him “no... (full context)