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Explore Shakespeares presentation of the Courtly World of Messina in the plays opening acts. Evaluate how the setting might be regarded as typical for its time and analyse how modern audiences could feel alienated by the cultural values on display.

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Introduction

´╗┐Explore Shakespeare?s presentation of the Courtly World of Messina in the play?s opening acts. Evaluate how the setting might be regarded as typical for its time and analyse how modern audiences could feel alienated by the cultural values on display. The concept of the courtly world goes beyond the mere setting of the royal court and is largely presented as a life style, especially with regards to romance. This idea has transcended time, with Chaucer?s Canterbury Tales depicting a similar courtly world in the Knight?s tale, a story that possessed broadly similar features to Much Ado About Nothing. This world is set firmly in a period where the monarchy was the centre of English life. This, perhaps, explains why some aspects, especially the apparent degradation of women until they become objects, are somewhat uncomfortable for modern readers as our liberal society views this as sexist, far from a Victorian audience?s view that this was normal life. ...read more.

Middle

The form is repeatedly used to reinforce the features of the courtly world to the audience. Being a play, the dominant role of men is highly apparent though their overrepresentation in the dialogue, nowhere more so than in conversations with Hero. Her lack of a response to ?Speak, cousin; or if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss? encapsulates the idea that women weren?t valued for their opinions, but merely their sexuality as a wife and childbearer as the ?kiss? suggests - Hero can only communicate with men though sexual appeal rather than her intelligence or personality. Ironically, despite being outspoken, Beatrice is only able to do so by adopting ?masculine? traits such as the scorner of love persona emulated by Benedick. The mere fact that the only way that Beatrice is able to speak up is through being ?one of the guys? reinforces the idea that it was unnatural for a woman of the courtly world to be opinionated as it was a trait primarily associated with men. ...read more.

Conclusion

The main feature of the courtly world appears to be power as this idea recurs in many ways throughout the play. The witty language used by the men is not only symbolic of the constructed courtly world, but is used mainly a tool for them to show off and gain power over one another. The same can be said for the structure as the dramatis personae is essentially a power list going in descending order. What is most interesting about this, however, is the fact that women are always at the bottom which suggests that this is less about power than it is playing to gender roles where men are required to assert themselves, just as woman are required to remain passive. This idea would sit at odds with a modern audience, as our post-feminism society finds fault with everything that separates men and women into gender roles and this patriarchal courtly world would be considered highly sexist in our modern day. ...read more.

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