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Discuss the validity of Rachel Clayton's view that Much Ado About Nothing has 'laid bare the faults and deficiencies of a traditional patriarchal society'

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Introduction

Discuss the validity of Rachel Clayton's view that Much Ado About Nothing has 'laid bare the faults and deficiencies of a traditional patriarchal society'. In Rachel Clayton's essay 'Who is Hero?' she suggests 'Shakespeare has laid bare the faults and deficiencies of traditional patriarchal society.' She suggests that a feminist would find Hero's acceptance of Claudio after he disgraced her frustrating. But she suggests when looking at Hero's actions again considering the society at the time that her actions are more understandable. Elizabethan society was patriarchal and religious. Women were possessions, owned by fathers or husbands. They had to be compliant; a disobedient wife or child made a man appear incompetent. Whereas men were allowed to behave promiscuously before they were married and even during, women were not. If they were found guilty of this they would never be able to marry and their reputation would be shattered. 'The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the horns and set them in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write 'Here is a good horse to hire' let them signify under my sign 'Here you may see Benedick, the married man'". ...read more.

Middle

For when rich villains have need of poor ones, poor ones may make what price they will.' He believes that 'chiefly by my (Borachio's) villainy' he has bettered members of the upper class society. He is unaware that he is about to be found out by a lower class than him. A Marxist reading would say that many characters, especially the women, are controlled by hierarchical society. This is also shown in Don Pedro, who believes his high status in society gives him the right to mock other characters, especially women. This is shown when plotting the match between Benedick and Beatrice Don Pedro tells Hero 'I will teach you', assuming Hero would not be able to trick her own friend. This also shows how men in society viewed the women as inferior and insignificant, and he is patronising her. The word patronising and patriarchal both stem from the Greek word 'pater', meaning father. The theme of 'noting', overhearing, appears throughout the play, as many of the deceptions are carried out due to people misunderstanding overheard conversations. The title 'Much Ado About Nothing', is multi-layered, as it could be interpreted as a commotion over nothing, but in the time of Shakespeare it could be read as noting, a commotion over noting. ...read more.

Conclusion

perceptive nature of The Watch and the way the upper class characters are fooled so easily, and also the belief that women were of a lower status to men and were possessions of men. The comedy in the play is satire, used to highlight the faults in the patriarchal society. As a feminist, I agree with Clayton that Hero's acceptance of Claudio after he had disgraced her is frustrating. I also agree with Clayton's view that 'Much Ado About Nothing' has 'laid bare the faults and deficiencies of a traditional patriarchal society'. Shakespeare uses many techniques to mock the upper class characters; especially the way women were treated. One of his motivations for this may have been the fact that the monarch was female at the time Shakespeare was writing. Queen Elizabeth was Shakespeare's greatest patron, and if his plays appealed to her she would go to see them, which would also encourage others to go. However, the very last line of the play is given to Benedick, who has the last word in his 'merry war' with Beatrice, giving him the upper hand and kissing her to stop her mouth, which shows Shakespeare could not break entirely away from the restraints of patriarchal society. ...read more.

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