War of the Sexes in Much Ado About Nothing

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      The differences between men and women - how they relate to each other, how they misunderstand each other, how they love and repel each other - are a common theme in motion pictures, comics, television shows, and world literature. It appears throughout Shakespeare's comedies as well, Much Ado about Nothing is no exception to the pattern, of conflict between the sexes concerns.

      Beatrice and Benedick, with their relentless disdain for each other. Each tries to outdo and out-duel the other in crafting the cleverest and most deflating remarks, and the impression is given that their sparring has a long history, one that precedes the action of the play. The goal of each is not to deliver the most crushing, hot-blooded blast but to offer the most coolly disdainful and witty remarks possible.

      After Benedick and Beatrice actually admit the love they have been hiding under their masks of disdain for one another, the tragedy of Claudio and Hero's separation causes a different type of war between Benedick and Beatrice. The sudden and newfound tenderness that Benedick and Beatrice have shared reverts to a heated, near-frantic rage on the part of Beatrice, after Benedickhesitates at her command to kill Claudio. Here she turns from employing wit to questioning Benedick's manhood. In one of the most-often quoted sections of Much Ado about Nothing, she declares, "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 curt-sies, valor 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." This sentiment is one with the words of Balthasar's song, from act 2, scene 3: "Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more, Men were deceivers ever One foot in sea, and one on shore, To one thing constant never." This song, one of the loveliest in all of Shakespeare's plays, describes the war between the sexes, set to poetic phrases.

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