“[H]e that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him.”
Summary: Act 2: Scene 1
While Hero, Beatrice, Leonato, and Antonio anticipate the masked ball, Hero and Beatrice discuss their ideal man, someone between the reserved Don John and the constantly bantering Benedick. This leads to a conversation about Beatrice’s prospects of marriage, and she jokingly claims she will never find a husband. Leonato and Antonio remind Hero that Don Pedro plans to propose to her that evening.
At the ball, the men wear masks so the women can’t recognize them. Don Pedro flirts with Hero while dancing with her, and Benedick dances with Beatrice, who either doesn’t recognize him or pretends not to. Beatrice insults Benedick to her dance partner, describing him as boring despite his belief in his wit.
Don John, who has seen Don Pedro courting Hero, decides to make Claudio jealous by misleading him into thinking Don Pedro intends to keep Hero for himself. Don John approaches Claudio, pretending not to recognize him, and reveals Don Pedro’s plan to marry Hero that night.
Believing Don John, Claudio rushes out angrily when the real Benedick enters shortly after. However, when Don Pedro, Hero, and Leonato arrive, Benedick learns that Don Pedro has stayed true to his promise and courted Hero for Claudio, not for himself. Still resenting Beatrice’s insults, Benedick asks Don Pedro to send him on a difficult errand to avoid her. Don Pedro insists he stay, but Benedick leaves anyway.
When Claudio returns, Don Pedro tells him that Hero has agreed to marry him, and Leonato supports him. Claudio, overwhelmed, can barely speak, but the couple privately exchange promises. Beatrice half-seriously comments that she will never marry, and Don Pedro offers himself as a potential husband. Beatrice jokingly likens him to fancy clothes, saying he would be too extravagant for her to have every day.
After Beatrice and Benedick leave, Leonato and Claudio discuss the wedding date. Claudio wants it to be the next day, but Leonato chooses the following Monday, a week away. Claudio laments the wait, but Don Pedro suggests a plan to make Beatrice and Benedick stop arguing and fall in love with each other, with the help of their friends.
Analysis: Act 2: Scene 1
This scene resolves the question of whether Claudio will obtain Hero’s consent to marry her. When they are finally brought together, Claudio is too overwhelmed with joy to express his feelings eloquently, simply stating that silence is the best way to convey his happiness. Hero doesn’t say anything in response, but Beatrice affirms that Hero loves Claudio.
The quiet characters, Claudio and Hero, seem well-suited for each other, as Claudio refers to Beatrice as his cousin, indicating his future marriage into her family. However, this scene reveals a troubling aspect of Claudio’s character. Don John’s attempt to sabotage the match fails, and Claudio quickly believes that his friend has betrayed him without questioning the claims. This shows Claudio’s tendency to make rash decisions, foreshadowing potential conflicts in the future.
Beatrice and Benedick continue their witty banter, but their exchange takes a more hurtful turn. While dancing with Benedick, Beatrice mocks his wit and considers his jokes dull. Her comments strike a nerve, as Benedick can’t stop repeating them to himself later. Benedick even begs Don Pedro to allow him to leave to avoid Beatrice’s company, suggesting that he finds her presence not just annoying but damaging.
Although Beatrice claims she will never marry, her attitude seems to shift slightly. She expresses a wistful tone as she witnesses Hero and Claudio’s betrothal, jokingly remarking that everyone is getting married except for her. Don Pedro playfully offers himself as a potential husband, and Beatrice’s gentle rejection leaves us wondering if she truly desires marriage.