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Queen of Swords - Beatrice

Dramatis Personae: Beatrice.

Text & Context: Beatrice is a woman who knows both her mind and her heart, and though she harbors feelings for Benedick, knows well enough to cut those feelings down to size. Many of the swipes she takes at man's nature, male hegemony, and the inequality of wedlock are as incisive as they are decisive.


 Consider her immediate resolve that her cousin Hero has been villainously slandered by the cur Claudio and compare it with her uncle's eager willingness to accept the charge. Leonato treats his own daughter not as a person so much as an appendage, to proffer to a man as a favour or forfeit and curse should aspersions cast her as the cause of disgrace. So certain is he of the male vis-a-vis the female, he neither questions his daughter nor the putative noblemen. Beatrice, for her part, inveighs "O God that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace." and one well believes she would. 

 Yet, Beatrice is no shrew. When she over-hears herself characterized as one by her cousin, she is appalled. From the outset, Beatrice may get the better of Benedick, but it is for her a cold comfort. She is the one whose feelings for the other are most evident, and is also most in need of shielding her feelings from any further harm at the hands of Signor Montanto. As Don Pedro states, Benedick had "cut Cupid's bow-string", and Beatrice deems him a pernicious suitor" who won her heart "with false dice". 

 The plot and the rest of the characters in Much Ado are as nothing. Instead, it's a play about two larger than life characters, a man and a woman, both incredibly self-conscious except where the other is concerned - or are they? In hindsight, they are the only real people in the play and quite unquestionably destined to be together right from the start. Perhaps it is we who have misread the situation and been mislead by Benedick and Beatrice, who looked to be thinking themselves out of love with one another only so that we, for our own self-deluded entertainment, might think so too.

Intertext: Knight of Swords Benedick

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