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From Each Other
|by Tanvi Patel|
There are many ways to play the game of love. Given that each method will provide a multitude of difficulties, the lovers attempt to solve the game the best way they can. The various solutions provide example and insight to others who find themselves in the same struggle. William Shakespeare explores the jeopardy of love in Much Ado About Nothing when he suggests that with experience of others, we are able to choose the correct avenues of our own lives. Through Benedick and Beatrice, Shakespeare illustrates the problems of the rational lover by contrasting them with others in the play. He shows that the "wise" lover lacks an assertion of outer affection and can not be distinguished in the paradox of reality vs. fake appearances. The multi-plot structure provides a field of diversity and allows Shakespeare to show that there are many different ways of attaining the same result. The actions and reactions of the ones around us illuminate the problems we embody so as to allow us to solve the puzzle of the heart.
The first jigsaw to be unraveled is the conflict between relationships on the surface and affections on the inside. While Benedick and Beatrice present a face of mockery and disgust towards one another, they actually have tender feelings that they do not display. In their first encounter in the novel, Benedick and Beatrice throw their strong around tongues around to ridicule each other. Benedick warns her to "keep her ladyship" and she lashes with insults of his physicality suggesting that he is so ugly that "scratching [his face] could not make it worse" if it were "such a face as [Benedicks']" (I.I, ln. 132-137) They use wit to shield their true feelings and pretend to enjoy their separate environments when in actuality it is a mechanism for safety. Their wittiness provides a safety from heartache and rejection. This double - faced presentation of persona is one of the problematic characteristics in a rational lover. These types of persons feel that they must present one face to the world in order to be accepted by the society that judges them. This society however, acknowledges the wit of Benedick. In a later scene, Don Pedro knows well of Benedick's "quick wit and his queasy stomach" for love. (II.I, ln. 283) Even though most people know of his disguises, he continues to use them. In the end they will leave him for emotion.
The ideal of not letting ones emotions run the body is very important especially in love because the rationalists view love, and most all other emotions, as vulnerabilities that will amount to only dire consequences. By comparing himself with Claudio, Benedick wonders how "one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love," become a lover himself. (II.II, ln. 7-11) Being in love is a game of fools for Benedick and he vows to never be "such a fool." (II.II, ln. 26) Benedick believes that by staying away from Beatrice and denying marriage, he is a stronger individual and one who controls his own life instead of living for another human being, as hopeless lovers do. The problem of characterizing love as a weakness is that the protagonist loses sight of his desires by keeping up fronts in the audience of others. Benedick misses out for a long time on the positive results of lovemaking and companionship by denouncing his ladylove. Thus, Shakespeare shows that no matter how much one might intend to suppress his feelings, they will surface in due time. He suggests that the best person one can be is himself because genuineness is the only reliable persona. Ironically, it will be Benedick who becomes the most sincere of lovers when his ears are opened by the "noting" of fellow characters in the play.
By contrast to Benedick and Beatrice, Shakespeare introduces Claudio and Hero as the passionate lovers who believe they love each other on the surface but lack the true knowledge of their lover's individuality. Claudio proclaims Hero to be "the sweetest lady that ever [he] look'd on" but later chances his stance to criticize beauty when he warns to "trust no agent [and] let every eye negotiate for itself." (I.I, ln. 187-188 & II.I, ln. 178-179) Their love for each other seems to be sincere, however, at the slightest doubt; one is quick to judge the other of adultery. Shakespeare introduces the multi-plot atmosphere to allow the reader a view of other possibilities as an illustration of what is missing in their own lives.
Benedick and Beatrice are the exact opposite of Claudio and Hero. The qualities that are inherit in Claudio and Hero's relationship are very much absent in Benedick and Beatrice. While Claudio has "soft and delicate desires" for Hero, Beatrice views Benedick as a "Prince's jester whose only gift is in devising impossible slanders." (I.I, ln. 303 & II.I, ln. 137-138) However, as the play progresses, Beatrice rids herself of these notions and proclaims her love for Benedick upon overhearing Hero and Margaret. The former couple illustrates that there can be lots of positives that come out of loving one another while the latter suggests that appearance on the surface are lost in time and only inner feelings are valued. Shakespeare compares these two relationships to illustrate the lack of certain things in each one of them. While Claudio and Hero are happy on the outside, Beatrice and Benedick love each other on the inside. The author suggests that it is the combination of these to scenarios that becomes the best option overall. Their comparison shows that even in situations where love flourishes on the outer surface, there must be a deeper meaningful affection within the heart that can withstand any obstacle. It is then very necessary to have both of these relationships displayed to carry out this point of inner and outer love and to show the qualities that are missing from Benedick's particular romance with Beatrice.
The rational lover's struggle progresses from concealing oneself from others to self-deception. Throughout the play, most of the characters put on face after face to suit the audience they wish to appease. The problem with these layers of disguises is that the true self is completely hidden. Don Pedro knows very well that Benedick and Beatrice, because of their stubbornness, will not come together without a little bit of help from the outside, so he "undertakes one of Hercules' labors and brings Signior Benedick and Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection." (II.II, lns. 365-367) Benedick is so preoccupied with these "masks" that the real individual inside him is forgotten and lost. It takes so much energy to keep up all the charades he has going, that he fails to realize his feelings for Beatrice. The rational lover loses sight of himself in the process of becoming someone he believes can outsmart them all. The loss of individuality by the rational lover becomes a severe problem because lovers don't really get a good sense of themselves. The faces prevent a genuine nature and provoke others to question all actions and reactions in terms of their real motives. When Benedick proclaims that he "loves nothing in the world so well as" Beatrice, she immediately questions him and him if he "will not eat his word?" (IV.I, lns. 267, 278) Thus Beatrice can not believe Benedick when he actually proclaims his love for her in the latter part of the play because everyone is used to his facades. However, if the genuine individual showed himself from the start, the problems of believability would not result. The addition of counter plots helps Benedick to understand and realize his true self and his genuine affection towards Beatrice.
The inclusions of subsequent plots in the novel are very helpful to Benedick and his confused self. The problem of believability is quickly answered through another scheme in the play devised by the outward lovers Claudio and Hero to enlighten Benedick and Beatrice of their true feelings. While Claudio and Don Pedro are fooling Benedick, Claudio notices that Benedick is paying close attention and believing what is being said, so he urges Don Pedro to "stalk on, stalk on, [because] the fowl site" and listens to the falsehood presented for his own good. (II.III, ln. 100) Throughout the play, the only reliable way of believing someone through all of the faces is to overhear something that is said. Claudio and Hero use this method to actually unveil hidden feelings. In a sense, a presumed genuine act is used in a deceptive way to bring forth credibility. By using his own weapon against him, Claudio helps Benedick realize his love. Even Benedick knows that overhearing is a genuine method of truth because he believes that "knavery cannot sure hide himself from reverence." (II.III, 119-120) Through this revelation, Benedick becomes a lover and in essence a deeper man. Sometimes, it is necessary to have others show the correct path when our eyes are clouded by appearances. Benedick realizes that "everyone can master a grief but he that has it" and it the job of those around him to help him see what he can not. (III.I, 28-29) Thus, the contrasting personalities of the other characters in the play are needed to show this couple their love when it can not be seen for themselves. If the multi-plot structure was not in place, Benedick might have realized his love too late or never at all.
The multi-plot mechanism that Shakespeare employs not only helps his characters reach their desires positions as lovers; it also shows the reader the diversity of individuals. Through the plots, Shakespeare suggests that there are many different types of people in the world who will in essence start on different paths and reach the same destination. Although with the diversity is the necessity for people themselves. Shakespeare says that "the world must be peopled" because it is the people that provide the essence of the world. (III.I, 242) By the example of these lovers, Shakespeare shows that there are many different ways to reach the same goal. The differences in these paths do not make the individual more or less righteous than his counterparts if he reaches where he should end up. Each path is strictly designed for the individual in question in order to teach him or her the lessons he needs to acquire. Here, Shakespeare also suggests that there may be a higher power that controls the events of our lives.
Knowing that none of his various plots can stand on its own, Shakespeare uses a series of actions to provide critiques of rational lovers. He shows these downfalls by contrasting them with the other characters and scenarios in the play to fully illuminate them. Shakespeare shows that people help each other reveal the best in each other by example. He comes to the conclusion that live is a lesson not only of the world but of the individuals that influence us on the path of life. No matter what direction we choose, we will all arrive at the exact location we are destined for. The differences of our lives rest only in the ways we handle the life we are given. Eventually, we all find our way and reach the next realm of existence.
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