Wise Fools & Philosophical Love: Benedick & Beatrice

For first half of the play, Benedick and Beatrice have both ardently declared their distaste for marriage. Benedick has said, “Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust none. And the fine is–or the which I may go the finer–I will live a bachelor” (Act 1, Scene 1). Beatrice has said: “So deliver I up  my apes and away to Saint Peter for the heavens. He shows me where the bachelors sit and there live we as merry as the day is long.” (Act 2, Scene 1) Both are known for their wit, and play of words. Equally they are known for having a quite ripping rapport between them, consisting of such a battle of wit.

However, the machinations of Don Pedro convince both Beatrice and Benedick that the other is madly in love with the other. How do they fall from their convictions so quickly? Here I think Benedick particularly displays aspects of wisdom. Instead of remaining obstinate about his desire to remain unfettered, he thinks of the good of considering this match with Beatrice. “Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets drawn from the brain awe a man from the career of his humor? No. The world must be peopled.” (Act 2, Scene 3) Consider how Benedick & Beatrice are known particularly for their humor and wit. Humor, wit, and such other intellectual entertainments are the sword and armor for young men and women who spurn love and its follies. They will not be made fools of love, and their humors keep them guarded, jovial, seemingly happy and content for all the world.

Once Benedick and Beatrice believe themselves to be in love with each other, their attitudes completely change to sad countenances, doleful looks, and the sorrow that all the various cupids among them declare to be indicative of love. They’ve become the fools they mocked so often! Part of what is taking place here is what I call a shift in perspective from Irony to Sincerity. Before either character is in love, they don’t have a care in the world, both are known to be happy, jovial, “full of mirth”. This is because they are care-free, self-satisfied, and probably would have remained so if they were not so arranged. Though Benedick and Beatrice always fought in the beginning, there is no denying they couldn’t be more suited to each other, as they are basically cut from the same cloth in terms of their dispositions. But, because of these dispositions of theirs, they cannot entertain the idea that they would be a terrific match of love.

I think in part the reason they are swayed so easily is because the chemistry was already there, and simply required a little nudge, a bit of misinformation, that ended up being true. So, what of Beneidkc and Beatrice’s famous wit and wisdom? In truth, they were fools when they thought themselves wise by being single, plainly ignoring something right in from of the both of them. Once they were able to let go of their “mirth”, they became seized with passion, and the sadness we see grow in them is really indicative of a personal growth, the development of a care for others and a love more true and honest than most we see in typical stories of lovers.

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