Beatrice's gulling

Act 3 Scene 1 – Key Scene

In this scene, Hero tricks Beatrice into believing Benedick loves her by talking loudly with Ursula about Beatrice and her flaws. From being nearly silent so far in the play, Hero reveals herself to be intelligent, fun-loving and witty. She also knows her cousin very well and uses this opportunity to tell Beatrice some things that she may not have the chance to say to her face. Hero and Ursula leave Beatrice shocked and determined to change her ways.

Take a look at an extract from this scene and watch it in performance here. Using the following steps, remember to look at it line by line and if you’re looking at the scene for the first time, don’t worry if you don’t understand everything at once.

  • Look

    Take a look at the scene. Who has the most lines? Are they using prose or verse? Actors at the RSC often put the language into their own words to help them understand what they are saying. We’ve added some definitions (in green), questions (in red) and paraphrased some sections (in blue) to help with this. You can click on the text that is highlighted for extra guidance.

    No; rather I will go to Benedick
    And counsel him to fight against his passion.
    And, truly, I'll devise some honest slanders
    To stain my cousin with. One doth not know
    How much an ill word may empoison liking.

    I’ll make up some bad stories about Beatrice that will upset her for a little bit. Rumours are a powerful way to put people off someone. (Note that this is exactly what Don John does to Hero.)

    O, do not do your cousin such a wrong!
    She cannot be so much without true judgment -
    Having so swift and excellent a wit
    As she is prized to have - as to refuse
    So rare a gentleman as Signor Benedick.

    What does this scene reveal about Hero? Does it change anything we know about her relationship with Beatrice?

    He is the only man I ever saw.
    Always excepted my dear Claudio.

    He is the only man I would consider worth fancying, apart from my Claudio.

    I pray you, be not angry with me, madam,
    Speaking my fancy; Signor Benedick,
    For shape, for bearing, argument and valour,
    Goes foremost in report throughout the land.

    Saying what I think.

    Indeed, he hath an excellent good name.
    His excellence did earn it, ere he had it.
    When are you married, madam?
    Why, every day, tomorrow. Come, go in;
    I'll show thee some attires, and have thy counsel
    Which is the best to furnish me tomorrow.

    From tomorrow onwards.

    (To Hero) She's limed, I warrant you; we have caught her, madam.

    ‘Limed’ refers to a way of trapping birds.

    (To Ursula) If it proves so, then loving goes by haps;
    Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.

    ‘By haps’ means by chance.

    Exeunt HERO and URSULA
    (Coming forward) What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
    Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much?
    Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu!
    No glory lives behind the back of such.
    And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,
    Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.
    If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee
    To bind our loves up in a holy band.
    For others say thou dost deserve, and I
    Believe it better than reportingly.

    Beatrice’s soliloquy is the same length and structure as a sonnet. Why do think Shakespeare has her speak in this way?

    ‘A holy band’ is a wedding ring.

  • Listen

    Read the scene aloud. Are there any words or lines that really stand out? How does this compare to Act 2 Scene 3, in which Benedick is 'gulled' or tricked?

  • Watch

    Take a look at the actors performing this scene. How do the characters come across in this version?

  • Imagine

    Explore some images from past versions of Much Ado at the RSC. Which sets and staging choices for the scene feel right to you?