Analysis

  • Interrogate Beatrice

    In this video, actress Michelle Terry describes Beatrice as someone who needs to stay ‘in control’ of her emotions and of life. She describes the wedding scene as a moment where ‘life is allowed to happen to her rather than her trying to happen to life.’ Beatrice is a woman with an independent mind living in a world where women have few rights and very little say and this frustrates and angers her. However, Beatrice manages to say quite a lot and people genuinely find her cheerful and entertaining company. She has a low opinion of most men and has no desire to be trapped in marriage. We know Beatrice is a person with very strong emotions but she tries very hard to bury the emotions that might hurt her. One of the key questions for this character is:

    Why does Beatrice need to stay in control?

    We’ve started to think here about some of the things that affect Beatrice. See if you can complete the grid to make four points that could answer this question. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not, as long as you can back it up! Looking at the following scenes might also help to collect evidence:

    • Act 4 Scene 1: Take a look at how Beatrice reacts after Claudio shames Hero at the wedding. What is making her so angry?
    • Act 2 Scene 1: Beatrice says a lot about men and marriage to Leonato and Hero before the masked dance. What could have made her think this way? Why does she want Hero to hear it?
    • Act 3 Scene 1: Look at what Hero says about Beatrice in the gulling scene. How much of this is part of the joke to tease her and how much of it is true? What effect does this have on Beatrice and what she thinks of herself?

    Point

    Beatrice is frustrated that, as a woman, she has a weaker position in society than men and is powerless to challenge the things they do.

    Evidence

    ‘But manhood is melted into curtsies, valour 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.’ (Beatrice, 4:1)

    Explanation

    Beatrice wants to challenge Claudio for disgracing Hero but she can’t because it’s not a thing women are allowed to do. This is one of the few moments in the play where Beatrice’s control slips and she finds she is unable to take control of the situation in the way that she wants to, something she addresses when she calls all men cowards. In her opinion, they are full of lies and not honour. As she cannot become a man, she concludes that she must remain a woman until her grief kills her.

    Point

    She thinks she has more freedom being single than if she was married.

    Evidence Select an option

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here

    Point

    She has been hurt by Benedick in the past and is protecting herself.

    Evidence Click text to edit

    Enter your evidence here.

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here

    Point Click text to edit

    Enter your point here.

    Evidence Click text to edit

    Enter your evidence here.

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here.

    As you explore Beatrice’s language, you’ll find even more evidence to back up your case and find more arguments for why she says the things she does.

  • Interrogate Benedick

    Take a look at this video of Act 1 Scene 1, where Benedick says to Claudio, ‘Is't come to this? Shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again?’, mocking the idea that young men are too quick to want marriage and eventually there will be no one who reaches old age unmarried. Benedick has a reputation for mocking the idea of love and marriage. He is determined to avoid both at all costs and horrified when his friend Claudio falls for Hero. His friends find his behaviour entertaining and Don Pedro takes up the challenge to trick Benedick into doing just what he says he will never do - fall in love. For all Benedick’s talk of hating love, he is tricked into falling for Beatrice almost immediately and goes on to prove himself a loyal and honourable partner. It is important for any actor playing Benedick, and anyone writing about the character, to ask:

    Why does Benedick hate the idea of love and marriage?

    We’ve started to think below about some of the reasons why Benedick is so against marriage. See if you can complete the grid to make four points that could answer this question. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not, as long as you can back it up! Looking at the following scenes might also help to collect evidence:

    • Act 1 Scene 1: Take a look at what Benedick says to Don Pedro and Claudio about women. Does he give anything away here about his true feelings?
    • Act 2 Scene 3: Look at Benedick’s soliloquy at the start of this scene. What is his argument against love and marriage? Are his views beginning to change?
    • Act 3 Scene 2: Explore the things the men notice about Benedick at the start of this scene. How does Benedick respond to their teasing and what does this tell us?

    Point

    He isn’t ready to settle down.

    Evidence

    ‘he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the next block.’ (Beatrice, 1:1)

    Explanation

    We know that Benedick has broken Beatrice’s heart in the past. Here, she accuses him of being fickle and changing his affections like the latest fashion, which suggests he is not ready to commit to being with anyone and has made that clear.

    Point

    He doesn’t trust women.

    Evidence Select an option

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here

    Point

    He has no experience of real love and doesn’t take it seriously.

    Evidence Click text to edit

    Enter your evidence here.

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here

    Point Click text to edit

    Enter your point here.

    Evidence Click text to edit

    Enter your evidence here.

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here.

    As you explore Benedick’s language, you’ll find even more evidence to back up your case and find more arguments for why he says the things he does.

  • Interrogate Hero

    In Act 1 Scene 1, Claudio has not long caught sight of Hero before saying ‘Can the world buy such a jewel?’ Hero is presented as a perfect picture of sweetness and virtue but says very little in the first two acts of the play and starts off as a bit of a mystery. Compared to how much her cousin, Beatrice, has to say, Hero is virtually silent, even when being given to Claudio. However, in Act 3 Scene 3, Hero reveals herself to be clever, witty and wise in how well she knows and can manipulate Beatrice. What happens to Hero in the wedding scene is a shocking event in the play and, although she defends herself, she is almost silent from that scene onwards. When looking at the events of the play and what is said about Hero and to her, one of the important questions to ask is:

    Why doesn’t Hero speak for herself?

    We’ve started to think here about some of the pressure that is on Hero. See if you can complete the grid to make four points that could answer this question. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not, as long as you can back it up! Looking at the following scenes might also help to collect evidence:

    • Act 2 Scene 1: Take a look at the start of this scene. What might Hero be thinking? Who might she listen to more, Beatrice or her father?
    • Act 2 Scene 1: Look at how silent Hero is after the masked ball when she is given to Claudio as his wife. Are there any clues to how she feels?
    • Act 5 Scene 4: Explore the moment when Hero is revealed to Claudio. Should she have said more to him? What do her words tell us about how she feels?

    Point

    It is not her place to speak.

    Evidence

    ‘Daughter, remember what I told you. If the Prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.’ (Leonato, 2:1)

    Explanation

    It is Hero’s duty as a daughter to obey her father, especially over who she will marry. Women in her society were the property of their father until they married and became the property of their husband. Although Leonato wants the best match for his daughter, it is his decision and not hers.

    Point

    She is overwhelmed.

    Evidence Select an option

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here

    Point

    She doesn’t get the chance to speak.

    Evidence Click text to edit

    Enter your evidence here.

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here

    Point Click text to edit

    Enter your point here.

    Evidence Click text to edit

    Enter your evidence here.

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here.

    As you explore Hero’s language, you’ll find even more evidence to back up your case and find more arguments for why she says the things she does.

  • Interrogate Claudio

    At the very start of the play, we hear that Claudio ‘hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion’. We know he is a good soldier and has been rewarded by Don Pedro. However, he is young and inexperienced in love and falls in love with the idea of Hero before getting to know her well. Claudio is also hotheaded and allows his emotions to get the better of him. He is easily influenced and his willingness to trust and believe others leads him to fall out with Don Pedro at the masked ball and to publicly shame Hero at their wedding. As the play unfolds, one of the important questions to ask is:

    Why does Claudio treat Hero so badly?

    We’ve started to think below about some of the things that influence Claudio. See if you can complete the grid to make four points that could answer this question. It doesn’t matter if you agree or not, as long as you can back it up! Looking at the following scenes might also help to collect evidence:

    • Act 1 Scene 1: Take a look at how Claudio talks to Don Pedro about Hero. How well does he actually know Hero? What does this tell us about Claudio?
    • Act 4 Scene 1: Look at what Claudio says and does to Hero at the wedding. Does it change how we feel about him? How might this affect their relationship at the end of the play?
    • Act 5 Scene 1: Explore how Claudio behaves at the start of this scene. How does his behaviour to Leonato and Antonio affect how we see him?

    Point

    He has an idealised view of Hero.

    Evidence

    ‘You seem to me as Dian in her orb, / As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown’ (Claudio, 4:1)

    Explanation

    Claudio uses two images of perfection to describe how he sees Hero. One is Diana, the goddess of the moon and a symbol of purity; the other is a flower bud, before it opens and withers. His view of her is so over the top and unrealistic, that it makes the thought of her being unfaithful even worse.

    Point

    He is led by his emotions.

    Evidence Select an option

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here

    Point

    He is young and easily led.

    Evidence Click text to edit

    Enter your evidence here.

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here

    Point Click text to edit

    Enter your point here.

    Evidence Click text to edit

    Enter your evidence here.

    Explanation Click text to edit

    Enter your explanation here.

    As you explore Claudio’s language, you’ll find even more evidence to back up your case and find more arguments for why he says the things he does.

Teacher Notes

For each of the characters on this page we’ve asked some central questions. These are great questions to explore with students in mind maps, or as class debates.

The following activity will help you explore Hero’s character even further with students.

Behind Hero’s public mask (2012)

The activity can be found on page 5 and takes approximately 40 minutes.