These days, statistics do not favor the longevity of romantic unions that culminate in marriage. More than half of them, it seems, are doomed to end in divorce. The other day I was listening to NPR and I heard an interesting piece on how the divorce rate in the United States is going down, and what was interesting about this were the reasons:
- Couples tend to marry later in life and, presumably because they are more mature and have more realistic expectations of marriage, tend to stick it out longer than their younger counterparts;
- People with a higher level of education also tend to stay married, probably for similar reasons.
When comparing the relationships between Claudio/Hero and Benedick/Beatrice, I couldn’t help but ask myself which of these two marriages had any hope of lasting past the initial passionate phase. Claudio and Hero, I’m afraid, are destined for the rocks. They have bigger problems than their marriage, however. As characters they are flimsy and seem only to serve the purpose to which we ourselves are now putting them, i.e. a contrast to the “real” lovers of the story, Benedick and Beatrice. Hero barely says two words in the entire film and is merely a lovely face (truly lovely in the still baby fat-endowed visage of Kate Beckinsale); Claudio is not really in love with Hero. Rather, he is in love with the idea of being in love. The season (and here Nature plays a part) is conducive. Love is an important part of reaffirming life over death, and these men have survived a battle and are returning home as heroes, in the season of plenty. It is only natural that their thoughts should turn to marriage and reproduction of their own. But Claudio has no interest in getting to know Hero as a person, they barely if ever actually converse. She is lovely and she is a maid (a virgin) and that is all that matters, apparently. Well, good luck to them, is all I can say.
I don’t want to spend too long talking about Claudio’s readiness, almost eagerness, to believe the worst of Hero, as it merely reinforces the ideas I have already brought forth: he is a one-dimensional character, he is not really interested in Hero herself, as a person, and he is so young and immature that he can’t see an inch below the surface of any situation.
Benedick and Beatrice are entirely another story (not really, but somewhat). They are older, wiser, more skeptical, and mistrustful not of each other (they actually know each other and respect each other’s intellect and wit) but of the vagaries of love itself. This is a much more interesting and intriguing foundation on which to build a relationship and/or a marriage. They have the lion’s share of the dialogue, as they should, since they are witty and entertaining, lively, three-dimensional characters. Clearly they have loved each other for a long time, which is the real reason they fall so hard and so easily when they are duped by their friends. They have merely been afraid to venture into the dangerous territory of relationships and marriage. When they finally take the plunge, it is with the enthusiasm and the relief of two people who have long known they were meant for each other, who clearly look forward to years of verbal sparring, and who are very well suited to each other as a pair. In the marriage/divorce statistics bet, my money is on them.