- Don Pedro is the most elusive character and also the most noble in the social hierarchy of the play.
- He is friends with Benedick and Claudio and although they are equal in wit and intelligence ,they must rely on him and seek his approval as he is of a higher rank.
- Don Pedro is well aware of the power he has. Whether or not he abuses his power is open to question.
- Don Pedro, unlike his brother Don John, uses his authority for a positive end.
- Don Pedro manipulates other characters for instance, he insists on wooing Hero for Claudio himself, while masked, rather than allowing Claudio to profess his love to Hero first.
- Obviously everything does turn out for the best and Don Pedro's motives are purely in the interest of his friend. However as the audience we are left wandering why Don Pedro feels a need to create such an elaborate plan merely to inform Hero of Claudio’s romance.
- It would appear that it is Don Pedro’s royal right to do what he wishes.
- Despite his strange motives he does work to bring about happiness. For example he convinces Beatrice and Bendick that they love each other, he is responsible for orchestrating the whole plot and plays the role of director.
- Don Pedro is the only one of the three friends not to marry. Benedick jokes in the final scene that the melancholy prince must “get thee a wife” in order to enjoy true happiness (V.iv.117).
- Don Pedro as a result is sad at the end of the joyous comedy, and the audience are left asking why? Perhaps he is pained by Beatrice’s refusal to marry him when she assumes he is joking at the ball, perhaps he does truly love her.
- The play as a whole does not give us an explicit reason for Don Pedro's behaviour and subsequently he becomes a thought provoking and mesmerising character.
- Benedick had recently returned from fighting and vows that he will never marry.
- Benedick openly flirts with Beatrice in a battle of wits to outsmart and out insult each other.
- However it is obvious that Benedick does love Beatrice and this is all a rouse.
- When Benedick overhears Claudio and Don Pedro discussing Beatrices desire for Benedick he vows to be “horribly in love with her,” (II.iii.207).
- In effect Benedick is simply trying to outwit Beatrice in the game of love.
- Benedick is one of the most dramatic characters in the play. He continually performs for the benefits of others, he is an entertainer who indulges in wit and playfulness.
- He delivers a perfect example of this during the masked ball when he exaggerates that Beatrice used him and he expresses to his friends that he would rather be sent to the farthest corner of the world than spend time with his nemesis. “Will your grace command me any service to the world’s end? I will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes that you can devise to send me on. I will fetch you a toothpicker from the furthest inch of Asia . . . do you any embassage to the pigmies, rather than hold three words’ conference with this harpy” (II.i.229–235).
- As a result of his flamboyant nature it is not easy to tell if he is in love with Beatrice all along or if he falls for her during the play.
- His refusal to marry doesn’t change over the play, however he does change his mind when he decides to fall for Beatrice. His refusal to marry could simply be a mask to hide his true feelings.
- The change in Benedick is evident when he challenges Claudio to a dual over Hero’s unchaste behaviour. This is when the audience realises that Benedick has switched his allegiances from Claudio his former best friend to Beatrice.
- Beatrice is Leonato’s niece, although close to her cousin Hero they could not be more different. Beatrice is feisty, cynical and witty, and continues to play a ‘merry war’ of wits with Benedick.
- The play suggests that Beatrice was once in love with Benedick but he led her on and the relationship ended.
- When Beatrice and Benedick meet again the two compete to outdo each other with clever insults.
- Although she appears hardened and sharp, Beatrice is very vulnerable. Once she overhears Hero discussing that Benedick is in love with her, she opens herself to sensitivities and weakness of love.
- Beatrice is one of Shakespeare’s strong female characters.
- She refuses to marry because she has not discovered the perfect equal partner and she is unwilling to give up her liberty for a controlling husband.
- Beatrice explodes at Claudio when he humiliates Hero. She overtly rages at Claudio and rebels against the unequal treatment of women. This is supported when she says
- “O that I were a man for his sake! Or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake!” she passionately exclaims. “I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving” (IV.i.312–318).
- A beautiful attractive lady.
- She falls for Claudio almost instantly and is crudely betrayed by the men in play.
- When Claudio accuses her of betrayal she suffers terribly.
- A respected and well to do noble.
- The action of the play takes place in his home in Messina, Italy.
- As governor of Messina he is second in power only to Don Pedro.
- A very young soldier who has won great acclaim fighting under Don Pedro.
- He falls quickly in love with Hero and appears to be a fool in love when Don John deceives him.
- His immature attitude allows him to reject Hero as quickly as he accepts her, and he is hasty when he believes the rumours and takes his revenge on their wedding day.
- Don John, Margaret and Borachio
- Don John is the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro; he is sometimes known as ‘the bastard’ and is often referred to by this name in the play.
- Don John is melancholy and sullen by nature and uses the little power he has to ruin the happiness in the play, he is the villain of the play, he has an evil attitude and intends to cause chaos throughout the play.
- He envies his brother’s power and authority.
- Margaret is Hero’s serving woman, who helps Borachio and Don John deceive Claudio.
- Margaret is of a low class, compared to Hero and her other serving woman Ursula.
- Margaret is honest however she does have some dealings in the villainous world of the play when she helps Don John and her lover Borachio.
- Maragaret also likes to break decorum with bawdy jokes and teasing people.
- Borachio is the lover of Margaret, Hero’s serving woman.
- He works with Don John to trick Claudio and Don Pedro. His name means ‘drunkard’ in Italian, which serves as a subtle direction in the play