Act 2 Scene 1
Leonato’s family discuss Don John. Beatrice changes the subject to Benedick and mocks both him and Don John as bad examples of men. Leonato warns her that such an attitude will not get her a husband but Beatrice replies ‘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.’ Antonio reminds Hero to obey her father and Leonato says she must give the right answer to the prince when he proposes. Hero is silent but Beatrice tells her to keep her own mind. Don Pedro and his men enter in masks and the dancing begins. Benedick, hidden by a mask, teases Beatrice but she gets the better of him and insults him to his face. Don John tells Claudio that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself. Claudio believes him and thinks he’s been betrayed by Don Pedro, saying ‘I wish him joy of her.’ When Benedick informs Don Pedro, the prince is quick to put things right and Claudio and Hero are betrothed. Benedick is furious about Beatrice and tells the prince: ‘Oh she misused me past the endurance of a block’. When he leaves to avoid her, Beatrice tells Don Pedro that she and Benedick may have loved each other in the past. For fun, Don Pedro decides to trick them both and bring them together and Hero, Claudio and Leonato agree to help.
- Don John has not joined the group for dinner.
- Beatrice does not want to get married and thinks that single people are much happier.
- Hero has been told to accept Don Pedro’s proposal.
- Claudio and Hero’s marriage has been arranged.
- Don Pedro plans to bring Beatrice and Benedick together.
Act 2 Scene 2
Don John’s first attempt to upset Claudio has failed and he is now desperate to spoil the newly arranged wedding, saying ‘I am sick in displeasure to him, and whatsoever comes athwart his affection, ranges evenly with mine.’ His servant Borachio has an idea. Borachio knows Hero’s maid, Margaret, and can arrange to be seen with her at Hero’s bedroom window. He will get Margaret to call him ‘Claudio' and he will call her ‘Hero’. If Claudio sees and hears this, he will mistake Margaret for Hero and think Hero is being unfaithful. Borachio points out how damaging the plan will be, saying it will be ‘Proof enough, to misuse the prince, to vex Claudio, to undo Hero, and kill Leonato’. Don John is quick to accept the idea, claiming ‘Only to spite them I will endeavour anything.’ Borachio instructs Don John to tell Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero loves him and bring them to Hero’s bedroom window the night before the wedding. Don John promises to pay Borachio a thousand ducats for his cunning and leaves to find out the date of the wedding.
- Don John intends to ruin Claudio’s wedding to Hero.
- Borachio will use Margaret to deceive Claudio and Don Pedro and make them think Hero is unfaithful.
- The plan will happen the night before the wedding.
Act 2 Scene 3
Alone in the garden, Benedick speaks directly to the audience. He wonders about men like Claudio, who say they’ll never fall in love and then suddenly do. He asks if it’ll ever happen to him and talks through a long list of the qualities a wife should have. On seeing Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio approaching, he hides to avoid Claudio who he calls ‘Monsieur Love’. The men are amused to see Benedick hide and begin their trick. They discuss how Beatrice is madly in love with Benedick but too afraid to tell him. They enjoy teasing Benedick as he listens, with Don Pedro saying ‘tis very possible he’ll scorn it, for the man, as you know all, hath a contemptible spirit.’ The men list Beatrice’s good qualities and a few of Benedick’s, concluding that he is not worthy of her, before going back inside. Left alone, Benedick is amazed and vows to return Beatrice’s love, declaring ‘When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.’ When Beatrice is sent out to call him to dinner, he looks for signs of love in her.
- Don Pedro’s trick has worked on Benedick and he now believes Beatrice loves him.
- Hero and her maid have a similar trick planned for Beatrice.
- The wedding between Claudio and Hero will happen in two days time.
Things to Notice in Act 2
Notice how much is happening to and about Hero in Scene 1 but how little she actually says. Compare this to how much Beatrice says. What does this make us think about the two women? How are they different?
Consider how Beatrice and Benedick both talk about marriage. What does this reveal about their characters? What effect do these statements and conversations have as Claudio and Hero’s marriage draws closer?
Take note of Claudio’s behaviour in Act 2. What things do Don John and Don Pedro say to influence his behaviour. Does Claudio’s response say much about his character?
Act 2 is important because it sets up conflict – letting us know that trouble lies ahead for Hero and Claudio. It also sets up the first of two comical scenes where Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into falling in love. What tactics do the men use to convince Benedick? Which of these affect Benedick the most? Would the same approach work successfully on Beatrice?