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Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Hero and Beatrice in 'Much Ado About Nothing'

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Introduction

Explore Shakespeare's presentation of Hero and Beatrice in 'Much Ado About Nothing' Hero and Beatrice are the two main female characters in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" and they tell us a lot about how Shakespeare saw women in the context of the sixteenth century upper classes. In looking at the presentation of the characters it is important to examine their entrance into the play and what first impressions the audience gets of their personality and appearance. Although they are both present in the very first scene of the play it is Beatrice who speaks the most and makes her presence known. Her very first line is also worth noting as when she says "I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from the wars or no?" She is making a joke about Benedick and is therefore showing that she is both a playful character and also not afraid to think of herself as equal with men. This would have been a strange sight to a typical Elizabethan audience as women in that era were supposed to be quiet and subordinate characters, not speaking out against men. Beatrice is also showing that she is a witty and intelligent character as she uses the word Mountanto to describe Benedick. This is a term used in fencing to describe an upward thrust, so it could be both a sexual innuendo or linked to the war which has just ended. In contrast to this creative outburst, Hero's first line is completely straight. ...read more.

Middle

It is also interesting to note that these are both maverick characters, going against the typical man and woman images. Whilst noble men such as Benedick were supposed to be great lovers, he could not manage to write simple poems and she insulted and abused him at every possible juncture. This coupled with the fact that they were both highly intelligent and full of classical references and quick witted puns it is not surprising that they got together. I think Shakespeare wanted to use Beatrice and Benedick to show how life does not always follow patterns and protocol and that people are so individual and different that they can only be happy when they are themselves. This entire play seems to be an attack on the overly restrictive culture which existed in the upper classes at the time, and the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick is Shakespeare's way of showing that another choice for life exists. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Beatrice and Claudio seem to be the perfect Elizabethan couple. She is quiet and submissive, he is a noble warrior home from the war, but everything seems to go wrong for them. The characters themselves are not so similar as Beatrice and Benedick but more the polar opposites which they were supposed to be at the time. I think it is interesting the way even though they get together through conventional methods for the period they still have a lot of problems with their relationship, and I think Shakespeare could have very easily decided to make this a tragedy on their part if he wanted to hit home his point even further. ...read more.

Conclusion

Here Claudio is clearly saying that human instinct is bad and this cannot be a sensible way of thinking given modern ideas. The language which the two women use throughout the play shows a lot about the development of their character, as well as the subject of their speech. Beatrice is shown as being a light-hearted character by the fact that she always uses puns and makes jokes often, but the fact that she speaks often in prose, especially before falling in love shows that maybe she is not as respected as Hero, being an orphan. Hero's language, however, is not quite as adventurous as Beatrice's to begin with but is in blank verse as opposed to prose and this shows she was afforded high status within the household. Her speeches also become longer and more confident as the play continues, possibly showing that she has learned and progressed from her experiences. Overall I think Shakespeare has presented the characters of Beatrice and Hero both as necessary characters to the plot of Much Ado About Nothing but also as symbolic messages to the people of his time, telling them that they should not become drawn in to living under the control of different social rules and protocols, because it is only when people act themselves that they can find true happiness, as Beatrice does in the play. Hero could be seen as a warning sign to girls of the time that they should not allow themselves to be pushed around, and I think Shakespeare is mocking the high class culture in which she lives. contributed by Sam Jones Sam Jones ...read more.

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