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Examine how Shakespeare presents the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick in comparison to his presentation of the love between Hero and Claudio.

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Introduction

Examine how Shakespeare presents the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick in comparison to his presentation of the love between Hero and Claudio. William Shakespeare wrote "Much Ado About Nothing" between 1598 and 1600 during Elizabethan times. Shakespeare often explored the relationships between two characters in his plays and his relatively early play "Much Ado About Nothing" is no exception. The shear number of plays that featured love as a major role and plot device suggested it to be a favourite theme of Shakespeare's. "Much Ado About Nothing" consists of two very different presentations of love in the relationships of Beatrice and Benedick, and Hero and Claudio. From the onset of the play the audience is aware of the role the central characters play and from the initial meetings of the couples, their interactions as well as the language they use, Shakespeare is able to portray and define these relationships clearly to the audience. Along with examining the presentations of the relationships, it is a good idea to consider the conventions of Elizabethan times and remember that although "Much Ado About Nothing" has the potential to become a tragedy it is essentially in the romantic comedy genre where the primary focus is marriage. The relationships of Benedick and Beatrice and Hero and Claudio are indeed very different, as are their characteristics and attributes. The union between Benedick and Beatrice seems very much an invention of Shakespeare, where as the story of characters such as Hero and Claudio have featured many times in literature's history. The most famous of this story is Edmund Spenser's epic narrative poem "The faerie Queene" (1596), although Shakespeare's is a far lighter adaptation. ...read more.

Middle

As the relationship of Hero and Claudio is very much conventional, the outcome of this couple, that they end up together, is of no real surprise and modern audiences may predict this and therefore they are not the dominating characters in the play. However as Benedick and Beatrice are unusual characters for a Shakespearean play and so they are of more interest to the audience. Before the first onstage interaction between Beatrice and Benedick we are warned by Leonato of the "merry war betwixt" them. Leonato of course is referring to a war of wit and words, but the imagery produced by the word "war" suggests a heated display of their strong feelings of each other. Just as Beatrice's first words about "Signor Mountanto" are insulting, in his response during the battle of wit Benedick calls her "Lady disdain". Beatrice scorns Benedick on more than one occasion calling him "a disease" among other slanders, although the phrase "nobody marks you" is ironic because Beatrice "marks" or notices him the most, perhaps due to her deeply hidden feelings towards him. Their relationship is based on wit and there is a sense of history and significance between the two that is obviously lacking from Claudio and Hero's relationship. Beatrice's muttered words "I know you of old" and the remark about sharing Benedick's heart, "a double heart for his single one" suggests that they were previously involved with each other, and may have been hurt, which initiated their "war". Although there seems to be something between Beatrice and Benedick they seem reluctant to show their feelings and perhaps they are afraid of getting hurt again. ...read more.

Conclusion

Even when they have confessed their love they are still figuratively at war with each other. "Thou and I are too wise to woo peacefully". However, romance is featured in their relationship as Benedick says to Beatrice "I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes". This is perhaps the most evident difference between their relationship compared to Hero and Claudio's as Hero and Claudio never mention the word "love". Benedick and Beatrice's relationship is based on the plot by Don Pedro to get them together but even after they find this out, they confess they still love each other and marry. However they still protest while doing it and Benedick and Beatrice "yield upon great persuasion" and stay together. Shakespeare has presented this couple as being equally wise and witty as well as both sharing an obstinacy to love and commit. Be that as it may they are soon confronted with the issue of love and tricked into declaring their deep-rooted feelings. In this romantic comedy the successful pairing of the similar characters are the driving force of the play. Shakespeare's presentation of love varies immensely in the two couples. Shakespeare presents an ordinary, conventional relationship between Claudio and Hero. The relationship seems superficial and arranged, yet this was the norm for Elizabethan times. Hero and Claudio are typical characters who want to marry but Benedick and Beatrice go against the society's customs when they declare marriage is not for them. Audiences are likely to show greater interest in their relationship, as Shakespeare conveys it as unusual and their unique attributes and witty dialogue make them likeable comic characters. The outcome of Benedick and Beatrice is less predictable and modern audiences can identify with them. - 1 - ...read more.

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