At the beginning of the play, Benedick is portrayed as an experienced soldier who is confident, cheerful and loves to humour others. However, he also seems to loathe women, love, and any mention of marriage which is a very contrasting characteristic to his initial personality. As the play progresses, we see him become easily influenced by others and the play ends with a double marriage, one of which involves Benedick. Shakespeare is very clever in showing this drastic change of Benedick’s attitude using very clever use of language techniques and theatrical devices.
In Act 1 Scene 1, Claudio innocently asks Benedick about his thoughts on Hero, obviously being aware of Benedick having past experience with women and love but Benedick replies with a rather insensitive retort of ‘I noted her not; but I looked on her.’ He is basically saying that he saw her, but to no notice. His unaffected air seems to take Claudio by surprise who replies with an unsure question ‘Is she not a modest young lady?’ He seems to be questioning himself now, not just Benedick. This would be Benedick’s queue, as a good friend, to support Claudio and be honest with him but instead he gives a sarcastic answer declaring that Hero is nothing special, clearly displaying his own opinion of all women, not actually taking the time to think it through in order to support his friend. This is a rather selfish attitude and Shakespeare uses a list of three, to show Benedick’s mocking and almost poetic language to show his sarcasm as he describes Hero, ‘too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise.’ Benedick’s sudden attitude towards Claudio’s innocent and harmless question clearly shows him immediately putting up a defence towards the start of a topic of love. Claudio hasn’t even suggested at it yet but Benedick is already wary. This shows the audience a small hint of Benedick’s inside feelings towards love but not entirely, so the audience find themselves listening out for anymore hints to be dropped and see what Benedick is going to do as the conversation becomes more in-depth.
Benedick continues to scorn Claudio’s romantic feelings for Hero and when he uses the dreamy cliché ‘can the world buy such a jewel?’, Benedick replies with a scornful remark of ‘Yea, and a case to put it into.’ His reply is ambiguous with many different meanings and by doing this, Shakespeare encourages the audience to delve deeper into Benedick’s emotions, helping them to connect with the character better. I think that what Benedick was trying to imply, was that once you have your wife (a jewel), you have to start providing her with her needs (a case) and this will start costing you. This opinion is also shown later on where he says ‘Go to, i' faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it, and sigh away Sundays.’, This is showing what Benedick feels would happen as soon as you are married. He is implying that one becomes trapped and your social life becomes restricted. The use of ‘print’ is referring to a scar and scars are always permanent, showing that he believes that it isn’t just short term, but forever. This is obviously what he fears in a marriage and we see here, that his initial disdain towards Claudio’s suggestion is maybe Benedick just looking out for his friend, from what he sees as a threat. We now begin to see that there is a reason for Benedick’s disregard for love but what will still be puzzling the audience, and made me perplexed at this point in the play, is why he accuses all women or being disloyal.
Another part, said by Benedick that will make the audience think, is where Cluadio declares is love for Hero quite openly now to Benedick and he replies with ‘I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter. There’s her cousin, an she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of…