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Compare the characters of Hero and Beatrice, as they are presented by language and action in the play - In what ways do their characters and behaviour reflect sixteenth century attitudes towards women and their role in society?

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Introduction

Compare the characters of Hero and Beatrice, as they are presented by language and action in the play. In what ways do their characters and behaviour reflect sixteenth century attitudes towards women and their role in society? The two characters of Hero and Beatrice are in complete contrast. Both characters however represent stereotypes that men had of women in the sixteenth century. Hero is young, quiet and in everyway the typical and greatly desired Elizabethan woman that men wanted for a wife. In contrast to this Beatrice could have been viewed by men as a shrew because she attempts to stand up for women's rights and rebels against the life style that women were expected to lead. Shakespeare established the difference in Hero's and Beatrice's personalities and character in the first scene. Beatrice interrupts the conversation between her uncle and the messenger Beatrice: I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the war or no? From this we see that Beatrice is impatient and has no time for formality. Beatrice's wit, recognised as intelligence in Elizabethan England, and a greatly admired quality in the sixteenth century, is quiet intimidating for the men. The messenger realises that her wit and strong personality is something he does not want to have to come up against therefore says Messenger: I will hold friends with you lady In this scene Beatrice is the centre of attention, while Hero patiently stands to one side, but isn't acknowledged. Hero's silence while the men speak, shows that her upbringing, and father's dominance over her has taught her to respect the men in her life. It could also be because her cousin Beatrice's strong personality has overshadowed Hero's. ...read more.

Middle

Leonato her uncle, allows her this freedom because he knows that it is not his parenting that is at fault, and because Beatrice's wit amuses him. You might say that Beatrice's wit was one way of getting attention within her family, as she was originally the outsider. However he is still concerned for her well being and chances of getting a husband because of her intimidation outgoing character. For in the sixteenth century a woman's sole existence was to get married and to have children, if a woman did not do this then she was seen as a failure in society Leonato: Thou wilt never get thee a husband, if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue Before Hero is formally handed over, Claudio is led to believe that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself and not for Claudio. Claudio's jealousy seems extreme and he quickly accepts Don Pedro's betrayal, this event is a foreshadowing of the future, however he immediately reverts back to putting Hero on a pedestal, showing how fickle he is. When the betrothal comes Leonato is handing Hero to Claudio he says Leonato: Count take me my daughter, and with her my fortunes. This shows that Leonato's daughter and fortunes go hand in hand because Hero's inheritance becomes the property of the man she marries. It is a very formal speech as though he was making a business proposition rather than giving his daughter to be married. Because Beatrice has no father, she is able to also have freedom of choosing her partner and within the actual relationship with Benedick, this is to her advantage because, I think it shows that Benedick loves Beatrice for who she is not the money. ...read more.

Conclusion

She wishes she were a man so she can harm Claudio like her has harmed her cousin, this is because she knows that as a woman she would come under scrutiny for doing this, which again frustrated her because women can not stand up for themselves. She then realises that she can still get her revenge so she asks Benedick to 'Kill Claudio'. This loyalty that Beatrice shows for Hero shows that family values are important to Beatrice, because she knows what it is like to be lonely and is protecting trying to protect her cousin form this. Overall the language and action through the play, Shakespeare has displayed two different Elizabethan women, and their very different characters. Hero is a young girl who submits to the men in her life and is silent and dutiful around them. This is because of her desire to marry and to do duty to her father by being the typical and desired Elizabethan women. In contrast to this Beatrice who, despite expectations of women in the sixteenth century and will to overcome the stereotype shows independence and defiance to the woman's place in society. The effects that the characters had on the audience and their response to them are very different. For Hero they would have great sympathy, for what she was put thought and the way she was treated. For Beatrice however they would have great admiration for her, because of her ability to play with words, her wit and strong personality. However the Elizabethan audience would rather Hero be a role model to women because she was the desired Elizabethan lady. However the contrasting characters both got their perfect man despite expectations, so as in all of Shakespeare's comedies there is a happy ending. 1 ...read more.

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