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Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing" added many visual details to the text of the play. One of these appeared to be a prior sexual relationship between Beatrice and Benedick. However, it's not exactly easy to follow the dialog. Was this a correct interpretation of events? If so, was this at all referenced in Shakespeare's dialog, or was this an extrapolation by Whedon?

  • I'm not familiar with the specific version you're referencing, so I can't tell you if your interpretation is correct. However I can tell you that nothing like this is part of the original Shakespeare. With regard to the dialogue being difficult to understand, I used to think so too. You might be interesting in watching this play (and others) as produced by the Royal Shakespearian Company. Those actors truly understand their lines, so even if some of the words don't quite make sense, you easily can understand what's happening through inflection, body language, etc. I enjoyed reading (cont'd) – WendiKidd Aug 25 '13 at 2:35
  • Hamlet (that is, the actual text of the play), but I appreciated it even more when I watched the RSC version with David Tennant and Patrick Stewart. You get a lot more out of it when you get that real sense of how the characters think and feel. The RSC has a version of Much Ado About Nothing also (I think you can buy it on their website somewhere, I forget exactly where.) It's also very good. So, just a thought :) It might help you appreciate Shakespeare even more. I know I really got it for the first time, watching the RSC. – WendiKidd Aug 25 '13 at 2:37
  • Thanks for the recommendation! Whedon's version was similarly easy to follow, even though it used the original text word-for-word. You might enjoy it. It's just the exact wording that's difficult, like you said. – Stephen Collings Aug 26 '13 at 12:12
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From the text:

DON PEDRO

Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.

BEATRICE

Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one: marry, once before he won it of me with false dice, therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.

DON PEDRO

You have put him down, lady, you have put him down.

BEATRICE

So I would not he should do me, my lord, lest I should prove the mother of fools.

So, at some point in the past, Benedick told Beatrice he loved her (he lent her his heart). She returned his love ( gave him use for it, a double heart for his single). However, he was not faithful (he won it of me with false dice, i.e. he cheated). Therefore she insults him/keeps him at arms length because of how he treated her.

Now, Whedon presents this as a sexual relationship, possibly a one night stand, during the prelude/opening credits. Given the horror of Hero's assumed loss of virginity, however, this would NOT be the original intent of Shakespeare.

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Yeah, my favorite version is the one with Robert Lindsay and Cherie Lunghi from the ‘80’s, followed by the more recent filmed production from the Globe. I’ve always been a little confused about this one, myself. Just from Beatrice’s words, without of the context of the rest of the play, I would agree that maybe that they had a romantic attachment in the past but he “dumped” her or something. But, then, from earlier scenes one is led to believe that Benedict has always held women at arms’ length, never showing more than civility, perhaps, from what he says and what his friends say about him. And then, when he “overhears” of Beatrice’s love for him later he is completely taken aback. If they had some sort of mutual romantic attachment in the past or if he was aware of her being romantically inclined to him in the past, I don’t think he would be as taken aback at the idea that she was in love with him. If she was in love with him once, why not again or still?

I think that many, many years ago when Beatrice was open to love and uncynical she met Benedict and they hit it off, friendship-wise, and maybe he was flirtatious in the courtly-love sense, and noble country bumpkin Beatrice, who maybe was a little sheltered without parental instruction and only her uncle, thought he was serious and fell into full fledged infatuation, her “double heart for his single one”; while clueless Benedick just enjoyed her company, he 16th century friend-zoned her, with a little customary court flirtation thrown in.

So she’s expecting some sort solid attachment to form and it never materializes and he leaves, she realizes it was just empty fliratation, he never took her seriously, maybe she even feels cheated and taken advantage of. Maybe she asks around and finds out that this behavior is par for the course with Benedick. Her feelings sour. So, when next they meet, still before the events of MAAN, she’s verbally cutting and cold. Benedick, totally clueless as to why she’s suddenly hostile, he probably never paid her serious attention in the first place, is paying attention now, and is on the verbal defensive back, thus begins the sparring, and maybe begins or deepens his scorn of women. But underneath it all, maybe even unknown to Beatrice, is still the young girl who fell in love with Benedick, and it’s woken up when she “overheard” of Benedick’s alleged love for her.

Just a thought. A very long thought.

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