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Explore Shakespeare presentation of women in the play "Much Ado About Nothing".

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Introduction

Explore Shakespeare presentation of women in the play "Much Ado About Nothing" In the world of Messina we see women presented very differently to what we would expect of the presentation of women in the 21st century. We see women as close equals to men these days, which would have been unthinkable in the 1600's. It is obvious that audiences of different time periods would have different views as to whether the presentation of women is acceptable or not, there would be different values for people of their particular time period. We also have to understand that people from different backgrounds of society, people's age, or what sex you are will determine how you view the play and how women in Messina are presented. In my opinion the presentation of women is a very dark element in the play. I can understand that women's place in society, back then, wasn't like it is in the 21st century, that their roles were much less involved, but the treatment of Hero by the male characters, and most horrifyingly of all, her father Leonato, takes the edge of the comedy that it is trying to be created. Even though all the problems are resolved in the play there is always a doubt in our mind about some of the characters and their reactions towards women throughout the play. Claudio is the most notable in showing another side to his character. ...read more.

Middle

Hero is controlled by her father. It could be argued that that Hero's public speech and actions are prescribed by her father, Leonato. We see an example of this when his brother, Antonio, misinforms Leonato that Don Pedro is about to propose. Leonato says to Hero, "Daughter, remember what I told. If the Prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer". Leonato is in effect instructing Hero as to whom she should marry. As an audience of the 21st century, we see a father choosing his daughter's husband to be very old-fashioned, and in some ways, not how it should be. In my opinion it is not the right of the father to choose his daughters husband, it should be up to the woman herself, not to be dictated by men. It shows the world of Messina to be a patriarchal society. The fact that Hero accepts her father's choice shows just how weak women's position in the society at the time really was, and in my opinion this weakness of women and the dominance of men is a problem in the world of Messina. The presentation of women is somewhat redeemed by the character of Beatrice, who is a stark contrast to Hero. On the one hand she is very opinionated and witty in her approach to men and this is revealed in her first line, she says, "I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the wars or no?". ...read more.

Conclusion

Having a Queen rather than a traditional King is the beginning of the breaking down of gender ideologies present since the beginning of time. It was always believed that the natural social order was God as the highest, King in second place, the clergy in third, then the nobles, and finally the peasants at the bottom. In this hierarchy there is no mention of women or a Queen, meaning that Queen Elizabeth was creating a subversion of social order. The play 'Much Ado About Nothing' was introducing and establishing this new rank in society, and it was very effective to do so through a comedy, because this way of explaining anxieties and roles isn't too harsh for the audience to take on board due to their laughter diffusing the seriousness of the situation. I think that, generally, in the play women's presentation is a problem for a 21st century audience to come to terms with. However, when this was written the position of women in the play would have been as expected, with the exception of Beatrice who doesn't fit in to the definition of women at that time. Beatrice is more of the type of character we might see today. The fact that women seem entirely dominated by men in Messina is hard to come to terms with for an audience of the 21st century and to some extent a big problem. This is one of Shakespeare's comedies, and this position that women hold in Messina is one that holds a dark side to the play. ...read more.

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