Summary and Analysis
Hero and her two attendants, Ursula and Margaret, plan how they will trick Beatrice into hearing that Benedick is in love with her. Margaret goes to tell Beatrice that Hero and Ursula are in the orchard talking about her and to suggest that Beatrice hide herself nearby to hear their conversation.
When Beatrice has hidden, Hero and Ursula talk about how Benedick is overcome with love for Beatrice. Hero says that Don Pedro and Claudio want her to tell Beatrice about his passion, but she feels instead that he must keep it hidden for fear of Beatrice's ridicule and disdain. Instead, Hero says that she must convince Benedick to fight against his love. She and Ursula talk about Benedick's many good qualities and his excellent reputation.
When Hero and Ursula leave, Beatrice emerges from her hiding place, astonished at what she has overheard. She realizes that she must change her ways: She will return Benedick's love and express kindness instead of contempt and pride.
Beatrice seems surprised that she has such a strong reputation for pride and disdain, and for being self-centered and unapproachable. Just as Benedick did in the last scene, she completely reverses her negative view of marriage. And just as with Benedick, she was always much closer to loving him than she would ever acknowledge. Now she is pleased with the prospect of marrying Benedick, revealing how her deeper feelings differ from the way she appears to others. She admits to herself that she has known Benedick's good qualities all along, in spite of what she has said to him and to others about him, which parallels Benedick's sudden realization that Beatrice possesses the very qualities he insisted a future wife should have.
Quiet, traditional Hero apparently finds pleasure here in criticizing her cousin within her hearing, probably in a rare opportunity to tease her. She may not have the courage to criticize her face to face. They have been best friends and indeed bedmates until now. Hero may wonder how Beatrice will get along without her once Hero is married (and this pretense is an opportunity to send happiness in Beatrice's direction).