I’ve liked Emma Thompson for a long time. It goes back to high school and first being introduced to Much Ado About Nothing and Sense and Sensibility. I’ve been irrationally angry about the demise of her marriage to Ken Branagh for far longer than they were married. (And I was like five when they divorced.) I’ve only recently started to let that go and forgive Professor Lockhart for leaving Professor Trelawney to be with Bellatrix Lestrange. The point being…I like Emma Thompson. She tends to portray (with the exception of Trelawney) women who inspire me. Think about it…Elinor Dashwood, Beatrice…Mrs. Potts. (I’ve always wanted to be a housekeeper who was turned into a teapot. I do like tea, as you may have heard. Becoming a teapot is merely the next step.)
In the spirit of my love of Emma Thompson and in light of March Ado About Nothing, I want to share with you the most important things that I’ve learned from my favorite of Thompson’s film roles…Beatrice. Beatrice is a strong-willed woman who doesn’t fear much of anything. She isn’t afraid to stand up for herself or her loved ones. I’ve been compared to Beatrice before, and I am genuinely unsure as to whether I’m a natural Beatrice or if I’ve tried (consciously or unconsciously) to become a Beatrice because I like her so much. So…what have I learned from Beatrice?
- Be yourself. Beatrice is not interested in conforming to societal norms to make other people happy. Perhaps she could have married younger if she had adapted herself to social norms, but that is not in her nature. She is independent, and she is not willing to change herself to make a man happy. She doesn’t mince words or try to hide behind pretense. She does not allow Don Pedro’s power to intimidate, and even when she is romantically interested in Benedick she doesn’t sit and swoon over him. She keeps being herself, and he appreciates that.
- Intelligence is attractive. Beatrice is smart and witty. She is a woman who speaks her mind. Not everyone loves it, but those who understand her appreciate her and value her. People may tease her about her personality, but ultimately, she has several people in her life who value her for who and what she is. For example, Don Pedro is clearly impressed by her wit and her ability to keep up with other intelligent people like Benedick. Their mutual friends seek to pair them up partially as a joke or entertainment but also because they see the ways in which their wits are well suited.
- Treat your friends well. Beatrice is a wonderful friend. She treats her friends with respect and puts their own interests ahead of their own. Look no further than her relationship with Hero. Hero is both Beatrice’s cousin and best friend, and Beatrice treats Hero better than she treats herself. When Hero is hurt, Beatrice is willing to do whatever she can to help her. She even goes so far as to endanger her fledgling romance with Benedick to defend Hero’s honor. This works out well for her, but that is due in part to Benedick’s respect for Beatrice as well as his understanding of her relationship with Hero.
- Don’t be afraid to laugh. Life is not forever serious, and Beatrice knows that well. We need to laugh and enjoy life. Beatrice does that. As Leonato says, “she hath often dreamed of unhappiness and waked herself with laughing.” (Act II, Scene 1) She does not take life more seriously than it requires. She is serious when the situation calls for it, but she prefers to laugh. “I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.” (Act I, Scene 1) Similarly, Don Pedro speculates that she must have been born in a merry hour because of her disposition.
- Be realistic about the world around you. Beatrice knows who she is and her limits within her world. She knows that she would not do well married to the Prince because he is “too costly” for daily wear. He will make a good husband for someone, but she knows that they would not be well suited. She is not meant to be the wife of a prince. She is also aware that a woman is not allowed to defend the honor of another woman, and so she seeks out help from someone who is allowed to take that action. She knows her own limits, and she works within them to the best of her ability.
Overall, I love Beatrice. I admire her strength and sense of humor as well as her awareness of how far she can push the boundaries of her world. I like being compared to her, and I think she makes a good role model for strong women.
“There was a star danced, and under that was I born. ”
-Act II, Scene 1