“LENATO. You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a / kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her. / They never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them.” (1.1.56-59)
This is one of the most conventional but lighter comedy. The reading is easy and the language conversational. Ostensibly about a lord attending Prince Don Pedro, Claudio, who is falling in love with Hero, daughter of a local governor. She soon becomes engaged to the noble Claudio.
Claudio’s comrade Benedick, a sardonic bachelor, renews his “merry war” of scornfulness with the ever-disdainful Beatrice, Hero’s strong-headed, high-spirited cousin. As the wedding preparations ensue, Don Pedro and others agree to pass time by tricking the squabbling duo into falling in love.
BENEDICK. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs. If her / breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living / near her; she would infect to the North Star. (2.1.234-237)
But Don Pedro’s malicious brother, Don John plots to wreck the nuptials by making it appear to Claudio that Hero is unfaithful. Although the ceremony becomes a debacle, and Hero terribly humiliated, the nasty scheme eventually is exposed and a happy ending is achieved.
The romantic plan is thwarted for no discernible gain. The play is really about Beatrice and Benedick. Claudio sways too easily upon the opinions of others and he doesn’t command one’s respect. He is too unsympathetic of a lover. The unending sparring between Beatrice and Benedick steaks the limelight and saves the weak plot.
As a comedy the book is funny, especially Beatrice, who is a master of wordplay and sarcasm. Her insults are delivered with a stinging precision and deftness of a cat’s paws.
98 pp. Penguin Books. Trade Paper. [Read|Skim|Toss] [Buy|Borrow]
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