Happy Valentine’s Day, darlings! To celebrate the international day of lurve, we reveal what topped our expert panel’s list of most romantic moments in Shakespeare.
Compiled by Andy McLean
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1. Things get real for Benedick and Beatrice
So, you thought Romeo and Juliet were a shoo-in for the number one spot, huh? Well, think again. The names “Beatrice and Benedick” appeared most when our expert panel made their nominations. And one scene, in particular, stole the show: Act 4 Scene 1 of Much Ado About Nothing, when the pair finally let their guard down and confess their feelings for one another.
“I love each of them as individual characters – their wit, loyalty, good humour and the complexity of their relationship to love,” says actor Lucy Bell. “You get the sense they’ve been around the block and both of them are protecting their hearts from being hurt. So, when their shells are cracked open and they finally admit their love for each other, it is incredibly satisfying and deeply moving.”
Of course, the path of true love never runs smooth in Shakespeare. This scene takes place just after Beatrice’s cousin (Hero) has been wrongly accused of infidelity and ditched at the altar by Benedick’s friend (Claudio). As writer, researcher and educator Dr Anna Kamaralli explains: “[Benedick and Beatrice] have been nothing but ostentatiously rude to and about each other since we met them at the beginning of the play, but the crisis … forces truth to the surface. There is no more time for amusing lies when lies have been revealed to be so injurious; nor is there much space for fancy words: the language in this exchange becomes sublimely simple, and by the end of the scene Benedick has agreed to do more than talk. For Beatrice, he is willing to act.”
Yep, just moments after he’s finally got together with the love of his life, Benedick agrees to fight Claudio to the death. As Bell Shakespeare Associate Director, James Evans, says: “It is one of the most extraordinary scenes ever written because it combines them declaring their love for one another and this awful event that just happened at the wedding ceremony. It’s romantic because it’s the moment when Benedick makes a very profound decision to follow his heart and be a friend and ally of Beatrice and Hero instead of being ‘one of the boys’, as he has been all his life.”
Bell Shakespeare Head of Education, Joanna Erskine, adds: “It’s an honest moment – so real, modern and unexpected after everything that has just preceded it. And it’s especially romantic because it’s such a precious, fleeting moment before the stakes get raised. Finally, the two of them have a chance of happiness yet they have to immediately risk it all.”
- Anna Kamaralli is the editor of the Arden Performance Edition of Much Ado About Nothing. She blogs about Shakespeare and more at orlandocreature.wordpress.com
- Lucy Bell and James Evans are appearing in Bell Shakespeare’s 2022 production of Hamlet in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra from 4 March – 14 May.
- Jo Erskine is Head of Education at Bell Shakespeare. She and her colleagues have published a range of education resources for Much Ado About Nothing.
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