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The Relationship etween Men and Women in “Much AdoAbout Nothing”

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  • Pages: 11
  • Word count: 2526
  • Category: Relations

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Shakespeare presents his female characters with grace and innocence. Hero plays the role of an Elizabethan woman who is quiet, obedient, sacrificial, and a girl who lacks the ability to speak her mind before her father. Hero represents the submissive woman “Daughter remember what I told you. If the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer”. Hero has been brought up by her father in a way that she obeys his every demand. She does not speak her mind. In contrast to this Is Beatrice, Hero’s cousin, who is shown as an independent woman, with a mind of her own.

The play deals with a number of contrasting characters both female and male, and an example of this is reflected in Shakespeare’s illustration of Beatrice and Hero. Beatrice is and orphan, therefore she lacks any parental authority, making her a lot more independent in action and spirit. Beatrice represents the educated lady who can defend herself and who will do whatever pleases her, and when the prince asks her if she would have him she answers…

“No, my lord, unless I might have another for working days your grace is too costly to wear everyday”. When Beatrice refuses his offer as he had already assumed even before asking, he shows princely magnanimity when she blushes, to which he responds…

“Your silence most offends me, and to be merry, best becomes you”. A metaphor has been used in Beatrice’s speech, where she describes Don Pedro’s grace as being something that can be worn. This suggests that she feels that he is too sophisticated for her. Therefore she feels that to accept his offer, it would be too “costly” for her.

Beatrice plays a role which contradicts the Elizabethan expectations of women. She is a woman who is rebellious, challenging, questioning and assertive when talking about her own personal opinions. She is most definitely an individual. A source where this statement is proven is once again where Don Pedro asks Beatrice if she “would have him”, to which Beatrice boldly refuses. She quickly adds…”but I beseech your Grace pardon me, I was born to speak all mirth and no matter”.

The trick which brings Beatrice and Benedick together develops as follows.

In the orchard Benedick bemoans Claudio’s transformation from soldier to lover. Could love so change him, he wonders, complacently reviewing his immunity to various female charms and conjuring up a vision of the ideal woman incorporating all possible virtues of mind and body. He hides when Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato approach. Balthasar sings a song about the suffering men’s inconstancy causes women. Having spied Benedick eavesdropping in his hiding place, his three friends express their pity for Beatrice, dying for love which hides for fear of his scorn. They flatteringly review Benedick’s virtues but deplore his pride and contempt for women. Once they have gone, Benedick in a soliloquy admits that his faults should be amended, Beatrice be pitied and loved, and that he is in love, must settle down, marry and father children. When she calls him to dinner, he greets her with incomprehensible civility and interprets her least encouraging remarks as evidence of love. This dramatic device brings together two ideas. Firstly, the effect of the trick on Beatrice is to bring her into line with the dominant social order and position her in her gender divisions. She is now to abandon her “maiden pride” and to tame her wild heart for Benedick’s hand. This is because she needs to come to terms with her feelings. Although she may feel as though admitting to her love is not like her, she has to now because Benedick obviously has. She is in constant denial towards her feeling and therefore needs to tame her wild heart for Benedick’s hand.

Claudio and Hero’s relationship seems to be more conventional in its formation. Shakespeare comments on many aspects of love and relationships in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’, one of these aspects has being passion and reason. This is displayed through the relationship of Benedick and Beatrice. An example of this is illustrated in Act 1 Scene 1 where Beatrice and Benedick are arguing. Beatrice would rather hear her “….dog barks at a cow than a man swear…” he loved her.

Also the relationship between illusion and reality. The centrality of illusion and reality is established with the false accusation again Hero… “Give not this rotten orange to your friend”, Claudio storms. His metaphor suggests hypocrisy-wholesome in appearance but corrupt within. Claudio denounces Hero for the supposed discrepancy between her own ‘outward graces’-ironically an illusion.

The centrality of illusion and reality is established with the false accusation. The power of illusion is enhanced when fabrications oblige Beatrice and Benedick to express their real feelings of love for each other. Claudio’s idealised love for Hero, masked fear and aggression which erupts in the chapel. By Beatrice’s love began in illusionary antagonism and has sealed in aggression with the demand for Claudio’s death. The constant play of illusion raises issues of the subjectivity of perception although illusion entertained and leads to the revelation of the truth, it was also potentially destructive- As with Hero.

Beatrice retains a lady like composure. Love has not weakened her female solidarity or determination to win the merry war. Her manipulative complaint that “manhood is melted into curtsies” echoes the earlier “would it not grieve a woman to be over mastered with a piece of valiant dust”. Such disdain implies an ideal of chivalry founded upon action not gesture or pretence. Marriage for a woman is to risk her integrity by submitting to a man. A similar fate is seen by Benedick, who views marriage as risk to men’s’ honor. As a result, he commonly refers to bulls’ horns and cuckoldry in the first act. Both Benedick and Beatrice hold a mature awareness of what marriage entails, causing them to shun it. This will show up later in the last act when Benedick remarks, “Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably”.

In fact, it is Beatrice and Benedick alone who pay the most attention to social customs. Ironically they do this while arguing with each other, thereby breaking with social norms. They put on a facade of disregard for social norms, but actually note what is happening around them far more than other people. This is evident when Leonato tells Beatrice, “Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewdly”.

Their relationship is far more complex than Hero and Claudio, because they both have strong personalities, and they both fear marriage will endanger this ‘quality’. Beatrice would rather hear her “…dog barks at a cow than a man swear…'” he loved her. And Benedick “will not be sworn but love may transform me into an oyster”. Here Beatrice has clearly said that in her eyes all men are like dogs, as compared to what Benedick says in response that his “…love will transform…” him into an oyster. This is shown as a positive point because oyster produce pearls, therefore he is suggesting that his love are like pearls.

A modern audience might look at the play from a feminist perspective and remark upon the fact that women’s sexuality is cast in absolute in the play, constructed in terms of the binary oppositions of virgin or “whore”. They might also be interested in the exhibition of male insecurities. Elizabethans believe that if a man was ‘cuckolded’ he would grow a horn on his forehead as it was considered for the greater disgrace for a man if his wife was adulterous that if a man was unfaithful. A woman’s sexual purity was vital or then would be socially shunned. Claudio is too quick to judge, demonstrating his male insecurities. Men in Elizabethan time either idolised women regarding then as epitomising purity or condemned them like Claudio does to Hero when he casts doubt on her reputation.

Modern audiences have different expectations or courtship and marriage to an Elizabethan one as we believe in having more intimacy and equality than demonstrated here. Although, for an Elizabethan audience, Claudio’s and Hero’s relationship could have been seen entirely appropriate. The way Hero was insulted, humiliated, falsely denounced on her wedding day would not occur today because women have now become more independent and equality has come about, therefore the way Claudio denounced Hero would not happen in this century.

Language is a significant part of the play and the plot. Much Ado About Nothing has more prose than almost any other Shakespearian play, and it is significant to see how Shakespeare uses this prose. Benedick remarks on the change in Claudio by noting his change in language: “He was wont to speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man and a soldier, and now is he turned orthography”. This shows the transition from uncluttered military language to stylistic prose, and it is indicative of some of the confusion in the play, specifically, people do not speak plainly.

A common theme throughout Shakespearian drama is the role of gardens. Gardens are dangerous places to be because they harbour serpents trying to seduce the senses. Much Ado About Nothing has many garden scenes, all of which are involved in plotting against or confusing other characters. For instance, Don Pedro spread his rumors about Beatrice loving Benedick in the garden where Benedick is hiding. In the first scene Claudio and Don Pedro are overheard in the garden, causing Leonato to think Don Pedro wants to wed Hero. Beatrice will likewise overhear Hero and Ursula in the garden, causing her to think Benedick loves her.

We would find it more satisfying if Hero contemptuously refused Claudio’s suit when he realises his mistake and once again asks for her hand in marriage. However, this is a romantic comedy, and whereas Shakespeare may hint a redefinition of sexual roles his contemporary purpose was to entertain and satisfy his audience’s expectations of a happy ending. The resolution of the battle in sexual equality remains a live issue in the minds of a 21st century audience.


Much Ado About Nothing York Notes Advance.


In this scene, Shakespeare manipulates the audience with frustration and tension by leaving a scene with such climax, to one with Hero I getting ready on the morning of her wedding day. If the confrontation had happened before the wedding, it would have diminished the tension and would not have tightened suspense. This way its makes the audience wanting more.

Hero reticence is a sign of both innocence and of the superior value of her relative youth, beauty, wealth and social position. Her boasts of Claudio’s superiority to all other men broaden her conventional character and make her dishonour more poignant. Claudio’s denunciation of her as “but the sign and semblance of her honour” is ironic. Hero is shy and differential, she is defenseless against Claudio’s’ denunciation. She retains her dignity until she faints, protesting her innocence righteously…”is it not Hero, who can blot that name with any just reproach”. Her willingness to marry Claudio in the end implies and indicates her being true to herself as a conventional, romantic heroine. She is exemplary in her patience and forgiveness.

Hero is getting dressed by Margaret for her wedding that day. She sends Ursula to fetch Beatrice, who arrives but has lost her wittiness and has also caught a cold. Margaret makes severally sexually explicit puns before mentioning to Beatrice that Benedick is now in love. Margaret then implies that perhaps Beatrice will someday decide to fall in love much the Benedick has. Ursula interrupts her and informs Hero that the men are all gathered to take her to the church.

The fear of the men that they will be cuckolds is inherent in the scene where Claudio accuses Hero in the church. Leonato falsely thinks he has noted that she is guilty. Claudio further insults him by stating, “Give not this rotten orange to your friend” (4.1.30). Hero’s fainting is taken as sign of her guilt, leading Leonato to tell Beatrice that, “Death is the fairest cover for her shame” (4.1.113). This is part of the social norms, it is Leonato’s way of avoiding humiliation. Leonato chooses Hero’s death in order to protect his reputation and avoid embarrassment.

Claudio now mimics the first time he thinks he has lost Hero. “But fare thee well, most foul, most fair, farewell” (4.1.101). This is virtually identical to 2.1.173. The audience by this point can tell that Claudio is a bad reader; after all, he makes the same mistake twice! He is also the most unfriendly lover in Shakespeare. Claudio dotes on Hero in his mind but prefers to choose male bonding over marriage. This becomes even more apparent in the next act when Claudio and Don Pedro mock Benedick together; Claudio shows no remorse for Hero’s death and appears positively triumphant in having killed her.

One of the chief issues that have divided critics of all stripes in their respective readings of Much Ado About Nothing concerns Hero’s acceptance of Claudio after he has spurned her on their first wedding day. Many commentators and virtually all modern feminist critics have found it intolerable that Claudio should be reunited with Hero after believing a flimsy slander and rejecting her in public on their wedding day. On this count, we note that the extraordinarily satiric wit of Beatrice should not blind us to the fact that the gentler and more feminine Hero is fully capable of holding her own in the war of the sexes. When a disguised Don Pedro attempts to woo Hero, she matches wits with him, showing that she is by no means a vapid, powerless female. In response to the masked Don Pedro’s requests that she walk with him, Hero makes it clear that she will do so only on her terms, i.e.,

“so you walk softly, and look sweetly, and say nothing, I am yours for the walk, and especially when I walk away” (II, i., ll. 88-90). Hero is not as pliant to male will as is often supposed; she merely appears that way when set alongside the feistier Beatrice.

At the conclusion of the play, Much Ado’s two principal female characters—Beatrice and Hero—prepare to wed their respective mates. This is certainly an appropriate end for a comedy in which the relationship between the sexes serves as an overarching theme, and the audiences of Shakespeare’s day saw the pre-marital dance as both a happy and a fully expected outcome. But from the standpoint of a modern feminist sensibility, Beatrice and Hero’s acceptance of marriage can be interpreted in a highly negative light. Indeed, from a modern feminist perspective, that Beatrice marries a “professed tyrant” of women while Hero weds a man who has inflicted gross humiliation upon her demonstrates that these women are portrayed by Shakespeare as sacrificial women, also women that are obedient and follow orders that were expected from Elizabethan women at that point in time.

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