Unlike the title of this piece suggests, Hero did not undergo her transformation in Much Ado About Nothing through magic. Rather, Hero was a victim of the double standards and illogical fears that the men of Shakespeare’s plays commonly held. The following quote sums it up quite well:
In the plays female sexuality is not expressed variously through courtship, pregnancy, childbearing, and remarriage, as it is in the period. Instead it is narrowly defined and contained by the conventions of Petrarchan love and cuckoldry. The first idealizes women as a catalyst to male virtue, insisting on their absolute purity. The second fears and mistrusts them for their (usually fantasized) infidelity, an infidelity that requires their actual or temporary elimination from the world of men, which then re-forms [sic] itself around the certainty of men’s shared victimization (Neely 127).
Hero’s plight in Much Ado About Nothing is a perfect example of how the skewed male perspective can turn a sweet and innocent girl into a scheming strumpet in no time.
The main problem is young Count Claudio. He is immature when it comes to matters of love, and it shows when he hints of his growing feelings for Hero when he asks Benedick what he thinks of her (I.i.161). Claudio cannot come out and just say that he has feelings for Hero, he has to seek approval from his male counterparts first. While talking to both Benedick and Don Pedro, Claudio describes his feelings as passion first (I.i.219-220), and then he says, “That I love her, I feel” (I.i.228), indicating that he knows he feels something for Hero, but he is unsure of exactly what his feeling…
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… Ironically, this has occurred because of the folly of the men, almost making up for the double standards exercised in the beginning…But not quite. Hero should not have had to depend on the men to regain her honor. Works Cited
Much Ado About Nothing. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Samuel Goldwyn Company and Renaissance Films, 1993.
Much Ado About Nothing. The Riverside Shakespeare, 2nd ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1997. 366-398.
Neely, Carol Thomas. “Shakespeare’s Women: Historical Facts and Dramatic Representations.” Shakespeare’s Personality. Ed. Norman N. Holland, Sidney Homan, and Bernard J. Paris. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. 116-134.
Ranald, Margaret Loftus. “ ‘As Marriage Binds, and Blood Breaks’: English Marriage and Shakespeare” Shakespeare Quarterly 30, (1979): 68-81.
Much Ado About Nothing Essay: Beatrice, Benedick, and Love
Beatrice, Benedick, and Love in Much Ado About Nothing
William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is set in thirteenth century Italy. The plot of the play can be categorized as comedy or tragicomedy . Villainy and scheming combine with humor and sparkling wordplay in Shakespeare’s comedy of manners. Claudio is deceived into believing that Hero, is unfaithful. Meanwhile, Benedick and Beatrice have “a kind of merry war” between them, matching wits in repartee. This paper will attempt to present the fact that Beatrice and Benedick are in love during the entire play despite their witty rivalries. Their friends’ schemes lead each to think that the other is in love, which allows the true affection between them which leads to the exchange of the sacred vows.
“They offer comedy of both character and situation. The “merry war” between them is established in the opening scene: Beatrice piles comic insults on Benedick both before she sees him and to his face, yet there is no mistaking her interest in him, however it may be expressed; and although Benedick declares himself ‘ a professed tyrant to their sex’ (1.1.161) and an opponent to marriage, he tells Claudio that Beatrice ‘an she were not possessed with fury, exceeds’ Hero ‘as much in beauty as the first May doth the last of December’ (1.1.180-2). Beatrice, too, though she says she prays morn and night that God will send her no husband, admits that there is something to be said for Benedick, were it not for his perpetual tattling (2.1.6-26)” (Wells 167).
Beatrice and Benedick had been more or less in love for some time, and Benedick had retreated:
Bene: O God, sir, here’s a dish I love not! I cannot endure my Lady Tongue.
D. Pedro: Come, la…
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…eason’, she loves him ‘but in friendly recompense’; he takes her only ‘for pity’, she yields to him ‘on great persuasion, and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption’. As pipers strike up the music for a final dance we can only agree that they were ‘too wise to woo peaceably’ (5.2.65)” (Palmer 119).
Shakespeare’s interest in action frequently is merely tertiary to his powers of characterization and of language. In Much Ado he created a puzzling relation between Beatrice and Benedick. It is upto the reader to interpret this relation as love or “merry war.”
Bloom, Harold. Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human. New York : Riverhead Books, 1998.
Palmer, John. Comic Characters of Shakespeare. New York : Macmillan, 1959.
Wells, Stanely. Shakespeare – a Life in Drama. New York : W.W Norton, 1997.