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Explain how Shakespeare portrays men and women and relationships in Much Ado about Nothing

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Introduction

Explain how Shakespeare portrays men and women and relationships in 'Much Ado about Nothing' Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing is a play based around the relationships between men and women, and the way they are portrayed in the eyes of society. Throughout, trickery, deception and secrecy form a play based around illusions and the interference of others into the lives of the main characters. Shakespeare presents the audience with four main characters whose relationships and experiences of love are presented in very different ways, but which are held together with a common thread of friendship, loyalty and romance. Though the play was popular with audiences in Shakespeare's time, Victorian critics condemned the characters of Beatrice as coarse and disagreeable, and Benedick as a shallow man. The major characters are established early in the play- Hero and Claudio as being youthful and romantic and Benedick and Beatrice more experienced and cynical. The characters seem to illustrate different aspects of love which Shakespeare explores until, at the end of the play, all 'loose ends' fit together forming two lasting relationships. The paths they follow are in opposite directions and each one has its own merits. ...read more.

Middle

Although Shakespeare used the relationship between Claudio and Hero to portray the attitudes of the Elizabethan time, whereby men were strong and dependable, and women were portrayed as weaker and reliant. Extreme shyness underlines Claudio and Hero's traditional relationship. Hero's beauty and romantic ideal of love strikes Claudio's heart. 'Can the world buy such a jewel?' he asks before proclaiming that 'she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on' and promising 'I would scarce trust myself...if Hero would be my wife.' By comparing Hero to a jewel, Shakespeare shows the utter admiration Claudio has for Hero. Shakespeare has also used the metaphor of a jewel in Romeo and Juliet, where there was also a sense of admiration, 'Like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear'. The relationship between Benedick and Beatrice is, however, not a traditional relationship. They both seem unable to commit to each other but by the help of their friends Benedick was convinced that Beatrice had feelings for him. His feelings for her changed from his feelings at the start of the play and he misread her comments to him. Benedick's relationship with Beatrice is established in the play from the first meeting of the pair. ...read more.

Conclusion

Through the portrayal of the main characters, Shakespeare has written a play which although deemed a comedy, has a dark and sinister side, but which ends happily. In the play Shakespeare writes about the four values; wit, virtue, honour, and love. Wit, being cleverness and intelligence, is shown through both the characters of Beatrice and Benedick. Virtue and honour are portrayed through innocent Hero, a character who does not sin, yet gets the most extreme punishment. Love is the universal theme, running through the play and targeting almost every character. All four Shakespearean values fit in with the characters and the plot of Much Ado about Nothing. It is very evident that the play is packed with emotions and feelings rather than a structured storyline in a conventional play. However, the apprehension of every event seems to add suspense and tension to the whole play, overwhelming the audience with every type of emotion. The major "ado" or complication of Much Ado springs from Claudio's accusation of Hero on the basis of a misconception, a trick, a nothing. The minor "ado" is the deception which unites Benedick and Beatrice at the point that Claudio and Hero separate. In conclusion, Shakespeare has succeeded in writing a play with no real meaning or relevance, but which has every aspect of a successful Shakespearean play. ...read more.

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