Love & Marriage in Much Ado about Nothing

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      There are grand discussions of love and marriage throughout much of the play Much Ado about Nothing, especially by Beatrice and Benedick who swear against both love and marriage, at least at first. They claim they do not believe in such foolishness. For example, when Claudio admits that he has fallen for Hero, Benedick cannot believe him. Benedick tells Claudio if it is love and marriage that Claudio wants, he should go do it. However, Benedick warns Claudio that love and marriage are like putting one's "neck into a yoke," and then wearing that yoke for the rest of one's life. Benedick ever makes the mistake of falling in love, Benedick tells the prince to "hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me."

      Later, in act 2, Beatrice has her own way of explaining that she will never marry, until "God make men of some other metal than earth." In other words, there is no man on earth that attracts Beatrice enough to cause her ever to think about marriage. Although these two characters make their gestures against love and marriage, Shakespeare's play does not turn in that direction. Shakespeare does, however, create the opposite type of couple, one that falls madly in love without knowing much about one another and not really caring about that detail. Claudio and Hero are infatuated and that is enough to lead them to the altar.

      Of course, Shakespeare makes it quite clear that Beatrice and Benedick are not as hardened in their commitments to stave off love as they sound, but quite the contrary. They just do not believe they can ever find someone who will meet their standards, which are very high. On a subconscious level, both Beatrice and Benedick know that they have met someone whom they could fall in love with - namely one another - but they can not admit this to their rational minds. They have to be tricked into it. They both want the other person to admit it first. Once Benedick believes that Beatrice has admitted loving him, Benedick gets just as mushy inside with infatuation as Claudio did earlier. Likewise, Beatrice has a similar reaction. Before the end of the play, a double wedding is in order, thus bringing the play's theme of love and marriage to its fulfillment.

      However, Shakespeare is a master of representing opposites. And this play is no exception. Don John represents the other side of the love-and-marriage issue. Don John is completely void of love. Having him called the bastard brother immediately puts Don John at a disadvantage, insinuating that lust replaced love and marriage at his conception. It is because of this lack of love that he attacks the prince and tries to destroy the love Claudio has for Hero. However, Shakespeare does not allow his play to turn on Don John's misery. Love and marriage, rather, are what hold this play together.

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