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Discuss Shakespeare’s presentation of Hero and Claudio's relationship and how it reflected Contemporary attitudes to love, courtship and marriage and how a modern Audience reacts to them.

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Introduction

"Honour in the court-orientated house of Leonato is the primary virtue in a Caste-conscious society...The honourable lady must be modest and chaste; the honourable gentleman, loyal and valorous." Discuss Shakespeare's presentation of Hero and Claudio's relationship and how it reflected Contemporary attitudes to love, courtship and marriage and how a modern Audience reacts to them. Hero is the beautiful young daughter of Leonato and the cousin of Beatrice. Throughout the play, Hero is a gentle, kind and lovely girl. She is a very passive character that only speaks when spoken to and is seen to be a recognised type in Elizabethan England. She is conventional and a traditional type. However when Claudio slanders her, she suffers terribly. A woman's honour is based on her virginity and chaste behaviour. For a woman to loose her honour she would loose her social position, her whole family would suffer. Women were blamed for the faults of the world. It was Eve who brought the first evil to the world, if there was no Eve, i.e. no women the men believed they would still be in the Garden of Eden. "Woman in her greatest perfection was made to serve and obey men." Leonato speaks of Hero's loss of honour as an 'indelible stain'. "O she is fallen/ into a pit of ink, that the wide sea/ hath drops too few to wash her clean again." ...read more.

Middle

This shows the transition from uncluttered military language to stylistic prose, and it is indicative of some of the confusion in the play, specifically, people do not speak plainly. Beatrice and Benedick are the other couple in the play; there is less focus on them. They are there for comedic value as Beatrice is a very strong willed woman and speaks her mind, making witty jokes about Benedick all the time, belittling his manliness. "Why, he is a princes Jester: a very dull fool; ... and the Commendation is not in his wit, but in his villainy... they Laugh at him and beat him" (Act 2 Scene 1) Benedick also replies with witty comebacks and jokes about Beatrice, Proving that even though their insults are biting, their ability to maintain such clever and interconnected arguments reflect the fact they know each other well. In Act 2 Scene 1 during the masked ball Beatrice and Benedick use the disguises to be rude without insulting them directly. Shakespeare throughout the play has very strong women, apart from Hero; and she is the one to get slandered. The men throughout the play are weak, including Claudio and even Benedick is scared of women for most of the play as he vows never to marry "I will live a bachelor" (Act 1 Scene 1). Claudio believed Hero to be un-chaste and therefore could not consider marrying her. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shakespeare's presentation of Hero and Claudio's relationship shows that Claudio, even though he idealises hero he is scared of her. He shows no real personal feelings; an example of this would be in Act 5 scene 3 when he reads from the scroll to Hero's monument. It is very poetic however it is not really romantic and has no real personal feelings in it. "Done to death by slanderous tongues was the Hero that here lies;" Claudio regrets dishonouring her yet he would've married into the same family to gain his honour, even though he had never seen the girl before. "Why, then she's mine. Sweet, let me see your face." Hero is a very passive girl and was willing to marry Claudio after knowing what he did to her, how he slandered her in front of her family. She is always willing to do the 'honourable' thing, and honour her family. This shows that Elizabethan men were very dominant and 'owned' their wives and the fathers pressurised into marrying the right man for their family's honour. It was always the honour that came first. To an Elizabethan audience it would have been accepted what both Hero and Claudio did, however to a modern audience it seems unusual because we no longer marry for property and very rarely marry for money, we marry for love which was not present at all in Shakespeare's presentation of Hero and Claudio's relationship. No. of Words Excluding Quotes : 1,475 ...read more.

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