The perfect woman has the face of Angelina Jolie, the legs of Megan Fox, the breasts of Madonna and the IQ of Britney Spears, proof indeed that today’s man wants both sexual and emotional dominance over us women. However Shakespeare’s comedies give us hope that things can change, when we examine a strong woman such as Beatrice will at some point dress in men’s clothing as a sign of strength and equality in a male dominated world. But, more often than not, Beatrice uses merely her wit to protect herself, a far more effective weapon.
Within Beatrice and Bennedick’s merry war, we can see layer upon layer of manipulation and ulterior motives camouflaging their previous relationship. As a result of this seemingly disastrous encounter, both are now determined in their desire to dominate the other, neither willing to back down. In the Beatrice-Bennedick plot, Beatrice is arguably more important than her lover, not only because she’s sharper than he is, but also because she holds quite a few of the cards and it is Beatrice who evokes the many changes that Bennedick undergoes throughout the play.
Then, once they have been tricked into admitting their love for each other, Bennedick is the one making advances, and Beatrice holds the option of accepting or rejecting him. It was traditional in the Renaissance to imagine that cuckolds had horns on their heads and Bennedick’s obsession with this image shows her fear that any woman he marries is surely to cheat on him. “Sensible” Benedick is a person far too intelligent to yield to the irrational ways of love. However, Benedick is the first to admit he is in love.
It is Beatrice who holds her proclamations of love, refusing to commit to him and it is Beatrice, more than any character in this play, displays the realistic characteristics of a brilliant mind in love. She is afraid to show her vulnerability, she is scornful of being wimpy, lovesick fool, and it is these characteristics that make her hesitant to dive blindly into romance headfirst. Unlike Hero, who gives into over like an obedient girl , Beatrice is a wise and warm woman, who in some ways seems to have assumed the role of a man.
Her fear of vulnerability, her hesitance to admit her love and her soul full of of pride and honour, unheard of and unbecoming in a woman, dominate her attitude towards Bennedick and her concept of love. While the audience may think that a woman has won the battle between the sexes, this is a rather naive and immature evaluation of the play because, while “Much Ado About Nothing” seems to reach a common resolution, visualised in multiple marriages and joyful exchanges, it is highly evident that honour still has an imminent place within Messina’s society.
Bennedick’s, “Peace, I will stop your mouth” stops Beatrice’s speech with a dominant kiss, showing that his male honour is still at the very root of this relationship. Beatrice’s harrowing command to “Kill Claudio” is her attempt to defend and restore Hero’s honour and hides yet another layer of manipulation. Beatrice’s verbal ultimatum is not only an attack against Claudio, but the very essence of the entire brotherhood. Just as a man will protect another man’s honour, so only a woman will protect another woman’s honour.
The search for equality between men and women is like a dog chasing its own tail because only a woman has the capability to love another woman in a complete and vulnerable way. Therefore, equality will always be out of reach and the very act of chasing it is costing us a great deal. It is the fundamental differences between men and women that are keeping the battle alive then, now and forevermore. Since men do not see women as worthy enough to bestow complete vulnerable love upon, perhaps Beatrice needed to forget about Benedick and instead engage in a union with Hero. Maybe only then could the battle find a compromised resolution.