With line 96, ‘Peace, I will stop your mouth’ we finally get the kiss that we’ve been waiting for.
But its connotation is ambiguous: Beatrice’s mouth is literally stopped – she doesn’t say a word after this.
Perhaps their banter is also a type of self-defence against the appearance of any emotional vulnerability.
Here is their extraordinary opening dialogue, full of cheerful insults: What makes these lines and this attitude stand out is that they are spoken in a large assembly onstage of the community in which this story will take place.
Benedick talks on to the play’s end, very much taking his place as the newly dominant male – no longer an outsider, or the Prince’s clown, but the potential father-figure: ordering dancing (despite Leonato’s objection), telling the Prince to ‘get thee a wife’ (5.4.122), and saying he (not Don Pedro) will devise ‘brave punishments’ (5.4.128) for Don John.
Much depends on the mute reactions of Beatrice during these final moments: can she, like Katherina in Romantic comedy is essentially a conservative form: it always ends with marriage, and the status quo, though perhaps somewhat tarnished, is reaffirmed.The men’s amateur performance of an improvised riff on ‘Did you know Beatrice is madly in love with Benedick? And, Benedick, love on, I will requite thee, Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.’ has forced him into a new understanding of himself; and he declares to the audience, in his characteristic extravagant manner, ‘I will be horribly in love with her … If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee To bind our loves up in a holy band; For others say thou dost deserve, and I Believe it better than reportingly.Their bantering and mutual insulting is now resumed, but it is clearly affectionate: We expect them to kiss at the end of this scene, but they are interrupted by Ursula with the good news of Hero’s proven innocence.Thus in classic rom-com fashion, their final encounter, in Act 5, Scene 4 – mirroring the public gathering of the play’s opening scene – continues the repartee their onstage audience expects of them (and it is only at this point that they find out their more conventional friends have duped them).For example, in Act 1, Scene 1 Beatrice’s opening enquiry of the Messenger is bizarre to the point of indecorum: ‘I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars? For indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing’ (1.1.31–33).Leonato has to intervene, explaining that she’s engaged in ‘a kind of merry war’ with Benedick: ‘they never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit between them’ (1.1.45–47).This is a very precisely delineated social group, with its hierarchies, its gentry and servants, its young people and elders and its surrounding village folk, set (notionally) in the Sicilian city of Messina.More to the point is that the whole play takes place in the governor Leonato’s great house and garden, where the military visitors of Don Pedro’s army arrive in Act 1, Scene 1 for a short period of rest and recreation.features the most obviously modern of Shakespeare’s courting couples, Beatrice and Benedick.They are the direct ancestors of the ‘rom-com’ couple – the staple of Hollywood comedies since (at least) the 1930s heyday of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, and of television series like the 1990s’ , where the audience is kept intrigued by the unresolved sexual tension between the sparring, apparently unsuited couple.