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Examine the way in which both Austen and Shakespeare present a spirited female lead.

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Laura Wood 3rd Draft. Examine the way in which both Austen and Shakespeare present a spirited female lead. "Pride and Prejudice" by Jane Austen and "Much Ado About Nothing" by William Shakespeare are two of the best known and best loved literary works in history. One of the main reasons for this is the strength and personality of their leading female characters Beatrice, and Elizabeth and the relationships that they form within the books. Beatrice, described as being "possessed with a fury", and Elizabeth as an "obstinate, headstrong girl", are characters whose vibrant and incredibly spirited personalities simply leap off the pages capturing the imagination of any reader. One of the key techniques used by both authors is to give each character somebody in whom they meet their match. In Beatrice's case this person is Benedick, one of the young Lords who accompany the king, Don Pedro, on his visit to Messina. Following their first meeting in the play Shakespeare makes it very plain that these two characters are on the same intellectual level and that any conversation between them will always be a battle of wits. The speed and wit of the insults that are thrown between these two characters are what make this play so enjoyable to watch. When Benedick remarks that it is a relief that Beatrice has sworn off love "so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face" Beatrice fires back just as quickly with "scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were." ...read more.


Perhaps this is a slightly harsh judgement of Hero because she is in fact far from two-dimensional, Shakespeare would never allow such a thing, and some might argue that her eagerness to take part in the gulling of her dearly loved cousin shows a feistiness that Beatrice would be proud of. Her insistence, when with Ursula, that they come closer to a "hidden" Beatrice so "that her ear lose nothing of the false sweet bait that we lay for it" shows a more mischievous and slightly manipulative side to an otherwise "pure" character. However by deliberately contrasting Beatrice with a more typical, swooning romantic heroine Shakespeare does still increase the impression that in Beatrice is a distinctly different and more forcible character. In "Pride and Prejudice" the role of the beautiful innocent is filled by Elizabeth's sister, Jane. Much as in "Much Ado", Jane's character and her relationship with Mr Bingley help to emphasise the passionate nature of both Elizabeth and her relationship with Darcy. As in Shakespeare's play Austen chooses to base the foundations of Jane and Bingley's relationship on appearances. One of Bingley's first comments about Jane is that "she is the most beautiful creature I ever beheld!", Austen makes the contrast between the two relationships crystal clear by having Darcy comment on his first meeting with Elizabeth, "She is tolerable; but not handsome enough to tempt me", and although he later refers to Elizabeth as "one of the handsomest women of my acquaintance" it is clear that it was for her mind that Mr Darcy first fell in love with Elizabeth Bennet. ...read more.


For this reason Austen is allowed the luxury of letting the reader discover the character of Elizabeth slowly. "Pride and Prejudice" is not as dramatic as "Much Ado" because it does not need to be. By building the character up over three volumes within the book Austen allows the reader to feel more of a bond with Elizabeth. We understand her better and have experienced more with her, we have a more consistent picture of her personality as we see her over a lengthy period and not the brief snap-shot that we receive of Beatrice. This means that while Elizabeth does not perhaps behave as outrageously as Beatrice we are still left with the overwhelming impression of a highly spirited female lead. While "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Pride and Prejudice" were written at very different times and are examples of two very different genres of writing, both Shakespeare and Austen have succeeded in creating fantastically spirited and vivacious characters. Elizabeth and Beatrice appeal to their readers sense of fun and mischief, to that part of us that wants to behave audaciously and be as passionate and as intelligent as them, that wants to be involved in a battle of wits and come away as victoriously as they do. Shakespeare and Austen have managed to tap into this desire and it is from this idea that Elizabeth and Beatrice were born. Both writers have used methods that run parallel throughout their work to create a spirited female character but they could not have been as wholly successful as they were, were it not for the simple truth; in these characters we all see a little bit of ourselves or, at least, someone we aspire to be. 2,715 words. ...read more.

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