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In Much Ado about Nothing(TM) Shakespeare presents relationships between men and women which are so unequal it makes it difficult for a modern day audience to respond favourably to the play(TM) How far do you ag

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Introduction

''In Much Ado about Nothing' Shakespeare presents relationships between men and women which are so unequal it makes it difficult for a modern day audience to respond favourably to the play' How far do you agree with this quote? Shakespeare's 'Much Ado about Nothing', written in 1598, depicts relationships between men and women within a context so patriarchal, it is arguable that a 21st century audience may find the relationships difficult to relate to. However, Shakespeare presents and explores a diverse range of relationships between men and women: between father and daughter (Leonato and Hero) and between lovers (Hero and Claudio, Beatrice and Benedick). These demonstrate examples of both equal and unequal relationships. The equal match of Benedick and Beatrice engages the audience because Shakespeare presents their courtship as a "merry war of wit". In contrast, the inequalities between Hero and her father and Hero and her lover, are exposed to show the audience the destructive consequences of a patriarchal society. To outweigh the potentially tragic nature of the play, Shakespeare is careful to use humour, through the characters, the language and the subplots. The audience knows the truth and is entertained by the twists and turns of the plot and by the use of disguise, deception and trickery. Whilst some of the relationships show overt inequalities, the central relationship in the play, that is between Beatrice and Benedick, is presented as an equal love match. ...read more.

Middle

One could argue that as Benedick kisses Beatrice in the final scene: "Peace! I will stop your mouth." Beatrice is tamed, and this is Shakespeare's way of returning a woman to her rightful place. Alternatively, Benedick has proved himself to be a man that Beatrice can respect: he treats her as an equal and as such she no longer feels the need to constantly prove herself. In the National Theatre's 2008 production, the kiss is interpreted by the actors in a playful manner, without any suggestion of oppression. This light-hearted way of staging the kiss results in the audience feeling that the line could have been delivered just as easily by Beatrice. This untraditional courtship between two independent spirits provides a refreshing contrast to that of Hero and Claudio. At the beginning of the play, Hero is presented as being the ideal Renaissance woman; "A Turtle in her love, a lamb in her weakness, a saint in her heart and an angel in her soul." (Nicholas Breton). She possesses all the characteristics desired by men in the 16th century; she is obedient, meek and pure. Hero rarely speaks, and in the company of men she remains quiet, only speaking when she is spoken to. For instance, when the events of the play reach a climax, in the scene where Hero is shamed, the most she does to defend herself with is to ask Claudio: "seemed I ever otherwise to you my lord?". ...read more.

Conclusion

He wills her to die, commanding "Do not live, Hero, do not ope thine eyes". His rejection of her is so absolute that he even wishes that she were not his daughter because if he had adopted her he could say, "No part of it is mine: This shame derives itself from unknown loins." Whereas earlier she was regarded by her father as pure she is now "fallen" and has become "tainted" in her "foulness". Such powerful imagery is shocking and it is arguable that a modern day audience might find such a betrayal difficult to respond favourably to. However, because the audience knows that Hero is innocent, their sympathy is with her and any hostility is directed at Leonato and Claudio for their mistreatment of her. Shakespeare's understanding of the destructive nature of unequal relationships is as relevant to a modern day audience as it was four hundred years ago. While many of the audience will aspire to Beatrice's independence of spirit, it would be wrong to assume that there are not as many Heros in modern society, as there were in the 16th century. In the 21st century there are plenty of examples of arranged marriages in different cultures, enabling a modern day audience to relate to issues raised in the relationships between Hero and her father, and Hero and her lover. However, the enduring nature of Shakespeare's appeal lies in his understanding of the need to portray the darker, more painful side of human relationships through comedy thus acknowledging the desire of most audiences to witness closure and a happy ending. ...read more.

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