The obvious, comical scenes within Act 1 are created with the two protagonists Beatrice and Benedict. The role of women in society in the time period was to be quiet and have little power however; Beatrice goes against society’s unspoken rules and contradicts social conformity by being witty and clever with smart remarks so therefore goes against expectations. Due to her continuous conflict with Benedict, she generates comedy in the form of satirising physical features and aspects of his personality. Beatrice speaks arrogantly and aggressively towards Benedict, which further goes against conformity. This is clearly shown through the way she condemns Benedict, portraying him as a ‘disease’ named the ‘Benedict’ that is easier caught that ‘pestilence’. This implies that Benedict is no more than an infection that is easier to catch than the plague, which will spread if you become to friendly with him. The utilisation of these words is humorous due to the fact she always wants the upper hand in the competition of wit, outsmarting the notorious Benedict.
Additionally, the role of Benedict is important in generating the comedy within Act 1. Benedict is a proud and vain individual, who satisfies himself with sarcasm and is the entertainer in the book very much like Beatrice. This contradiction in personality helps to generate comedy, as both individuals battle to seek smart remarks to give themselves satisfaction. However, what they both don’t seem to realise is that they both have equal power and wit. This is evidently presented when Benedict states that Beatrice is a ‘parrot teacher’. This is comical as Benedict personifies Beatrice to be a parrot that is typically renowned for their repetitive nature, in repeating whatever someone Sais.
Furthermore, comedy is caused through sexual references and sexual comedy. This is signified when Beatrice refers to Benedict as ‘Signor Mountanto’ at the start of scene 1 act 1. This phrase is a common fencing term or fencing thrust however it can mean two things. The idea that he is a flashy swordsman or this could be a connection of Benedict’s penis thrusting into an enemy soldier, so therefore there is an association of aggressive sex. Beatrice is clearly commenting on his sexual prowess, as being a womaniser. We find this amusing as Beatrice is once again going against social conformity, speaking of sexual matters with men involved. Due to the fact he has sexual prowess, the imagery of him thrusting his penis is quite obscure but comical as it infers homosexuality. Additionally, Leonato uses less explicit sexual references within Act 1 to generate comedy. This is expressed when he says ‘ her mother hath many times told me so’ in the context that he jokingly doubts Hero as his daughter. This connotes that status of women in the Victorian society, as he makes a joke at his wife’s expense to generate comedy. The idea tat women are passed around in this context is comical.
Furthermore, the theme of marriage is a theme that spawns conflict and comedy. Benedict disgusts anyone’s approach to marriage and emphasises that he ‘will die a bachelor’, however the comedy is generated when Claudio expresses his love for Leonato’s daughter, Hero. This is demonstrated when Benedict states that she is ‘to low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise and too little for a great place’, which creates comedy. This is comical as Benedict over complicates Hero as a wife for Claudio analytically pulling out all the negatives within her. The fact that Benedict is devoted to the idea he will die to be superior o a bachelor, allows his character to pick the fun out of anyone who has fallen into the trap if love and marriage.
Pleasure and merrymaking is projected through the banter and conflict between Beatrice and Benedict within the first act this is clear when Leonato states there is a ‘skirmish of wit between them’, which clearly emphasises the fact that there battle for wit is obviously noticeable in order to get the upper hand. The reason for enjoying this humour is because of the fact that they want to be superior over one another.
In conclusion, we can infer that there are numerous attributes that contribute to the humour and comedy of Act 1 in Much Ado About Nothing. However, the most noticeable element is the battle of wit between Beatrice and Benedict. The utilisation of satirical comedy and overly exaggerated sarcasm along with puns emphasises the fact the reason for their conflict is the recognition and gratitude they will feel. Undoubtedly, there are several other contributing factors like the sexual references from the male characters, which could be thought to be slightly sexist and inappropriate in todays society but the cheek involved in delivery the lines makes it comical.