Benedick banters with Margaret, who calls his gibes as “blunt as fencer’s foils.” (5.2.13) Benedick says 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. While he waits for Beatrice to arrive, Benedick complains that he cannot write a good love poem for Beatrice—he was “not born under a rhyming planet.” (5.2.40)
There is a metaphoric connection between war, witty banter, and sex here. Bucklers are shields designed to catch the tips of swords—this is a rather obvious sexual innuendo. Benedick’s difficulty writing poetry stands in for the way characters in this play are trapped by language. Unable to use it for their own purposes, they are caught by the language of other people—whether by hearsay, witty put-downs, or tricks.
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 without giving Benedick a kiss. She is relieved when Benedick explains that he has challenged Claudio to a duel. From there, the two begin talking like lovers, engaging in a more friendly and flirtatious version of their earlier “merry war” of wits. In the middle of this, Ursula arrives and tells them the good news: that Don John’s tricks have been uncovered, and Hero’s name cleared.
Again, Beatrice is dissatisfied with just words. The parallels between violent battles, battles of wits, and the battle of sex (see the discussion between Margaret and Benedick above) are extended here. For Benedick and Beatrice, the same way of speaking works for both flirting and fighting.