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Act III, Scene 2
The conversation that Benedick thought he was covertly overhearing has its desired effect on him. In the opening dialogue, Don Pedro targets Benedick for uncharacteristically harsh criticisms, saying that for too long Benedick has dodged Cupid's arrows, so that the tiny god of love will not dare to shoot at him. Don Pedro remarks sarcastically that Benedick's heart is as sound as a bell and his tongue should serve as a clapper for the bell. Hence Benedick's tongue speaks what his heart thinks. Benedick refutes the statement, declaring that he is no longer the kind of man he used to be. Again, Don Pedro provokes him, saying that no true drop of blood in Benedick is truly touched with love.
Elsewhere, Don John sows the seeds of his malicious plot by telling Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero is unfaithful. He invites them to join him outside Hero's window to see for himself.
The scene opens on a humorous note and then assumes a serious tone. Benedick is in love, and the changes in him are obvious. His reticence, the change in his manner of dressing, his "toothache" -- all point to the change that has come over him. He dresses like a Dutchman on one day, a Frenchman on the second, a German on the third and a Spaniard on the fourth day. To his friends, this strange behavior is proof enough that he is in love.
This lighthearted banter quickly comes to an end when Don John comes into the picture, casting his spell of imminent doom. The scene shows Don John's villainy at its worst. The innocent Hero is dishonored by the suggestion that she has been unfaithful to Hero. Claudio is incensed and proclaims that he will dissolve his marriage if he finds evidence enough to prove Don John's allegation. He agrees to go to Hero's that night to witness her disloyalty.
This scene marks the development of the main plot towards the climax. Here, the serious and comic Themes are played out simultaneously. Claudio and Don John derive great pleasure in making Benedick as the butt of their friendly jokes. Ironically they are themselves being gulled by Don John's plotting, which is much darker and evil. Claudio's reaction to this accusation against his loved one is unbelievably accepting. Rather than disbelieve, he threatens punishment if the accusations are true. "...in the congregation, where I should wed, there will I shame her." Claudio had earlier mistrusted Don Pedro's wooing of Hero, and now he has almost immediately lost faith in Hero. Claudio's character is revealed here as flawed. He is not courageous enough to stand by his feelings, nor is he loyal enough to trust his beloved Hero. Don John has achieved his evil goal of exploiting Claudio's weakness.