This is a collection of some of the best female monologues from Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare. One of his most beloved comedies, Much Ado is full of characters who seemingly have little better to do than gossip and argue with one another. For this reason, the witty banter and intelligent dialogue in this play is second to none.
Below are two monologues for the fiery, brilliant Beatrice—one of the Bard’s greatest comic characters, female or otherwise—and a piece delivered by her cousin and best friend Hero. Take your time with these pieces, pull them apart and appreciate their language, and enjoy!
Much Ado About Nothing Hero Act 3 Scene 1
Hero, Beatrice’s cousin and best friend, conspires with some friends to help Beatrice fall in love with her tempestuous frenemy, Benedick. In order to fool her quick-witted cousin, Hero resorts to the classic Shakespearean strategy of talking very loudly about things she hopes Beatrice will overhear. In this piece, she is talking to her attendant (servant) Ursula.
NB: This monologue is actually a composite of lines taken from Act 1, Scene 3. While Ursula’s interjections aren’t strictly necessary, it is worth reading the original scene to gain a greater understanding of the context.
Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come,
My talk to they must be how Benedick
Is sick in love with Beatrice.
Sees Beatrice coming
For look where Beatrice, like a lapwing, runs
Close by the ground, to hear our conference.
Letting Beatrice overhear the rest:
No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful;
I persuaded them, if they loved Benedick,
To wish him wrestle with affection,
And never to let Beatrice know of it.
Nature never framed a woman’s heart
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice;
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
Misprising what they look on, and her wit
Values itself so highly that to her
All matter else seems weak: she cannot love,
Nor take no shape nor project of affection,
She is so self-endeared.
I never yet saw man,
How wise, how noble, young, how rarely featured,
But she would spell him backward.
So turns she every man the wrong side out.
But who dare tell her so? If I should speak,
She would mock me into air; O, she would laugh me
Out of myself, press me to death with wit.
Therefore let Benedick, like cover’d fire,
Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly:
It were a better death than die with mocks.
The above plan of Hero’s works a treat. This second monologue is the short, impassioned soliloquy in which Beatrice wrestles with her new-found feelings. For the usually-headstrong woman, this speech represents an unusual moment of emotional vulnerability.
What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemn’d for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! And maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on; I will request thee,
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand:
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.
Beatrice and Benedick declare their love for each other! You’d think the play would be over, right? Sadly, Beatrice has just watched her dear cousin Hero humiliated at the altar, after her petrothed Claudio was convinced she’d been untrue to him. Having just spoken to Benedick of her feelings towards him, she immediately hits him up for a favour: to murder his friend Claudio as a symbol of his good and just nature.
NB As with Hero’s speech, above, this scene is a composite of lines that omit Benedick’s interjections. You may wish to read the original scene for greater context—or even imagine Beatrice is speaking over her true love’s lame attempts to placate her.
Kill Claudio! You kill me to deny it. Farwell. I am gone, though I am
here: there is no love in you: nay, I pray you, let me go. In faith, I will go. You
dare easier be friends with me than fight with my enemy. Is Claudio not
approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured
my kinswoman? O that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they
come to take hands ; and then, with public accusation, uncovered slander,
unmitigated rancour, – O, God that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the
market-place. Talk with a man out at window! A proper saying! Sweet Hero!
She is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone. Princess and counties!
Surely, a princely, a goodly count, Count Comfect; a sweet
gallant surely! O that I were a man for his sake! Or that I had any friend
would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies, value
into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too :
he is now as valiant as Hercules that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot
be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.
Much Ado About Nothing is sometimes regarded as a silly play—for some, it’s all in the title, really… However, to dismiss it as nothing more than a farce is to ignore some of the brilliant writing it contains. We hope you enjoy putting these speeches through their paces, and would recommend you check out the best male monologues from the same play.