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"Far from endorsing a conventional idea of the battle of the sexes, Much Ado About Nothing is a powerful plea for dignity and equality in the public and private relationships of men and women".

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Introduction

"Far from endorsing a conventional idea of the battle of the sexes, Much Ado About Nothing is a powerful plea for dignity and equality in the public and private relationships of men and women". In 'Much Ado About Nothing' Shakespeare subtly argues against the Elizabethan stereotype of women being inferior to men and asks that women's dignity or *"state of being worthy of respect" is equal to that of men. He has done this by creating both the witty, scintillating character of Beatrice whose shrewdness surpasses most of the male characters and also the tranquil, virtuous character of Hero who remains loyal towards Claudio despite his and Don Pedro's unjust accusations. For an Elizabethan audience, the idea of a woman like Beatrice publicly making insulting, profane jokes like calling Benedick, "Signior Mountanto1" would have been very forward thinking and relatively shocking despite England having a female monarch who was reputed for her wit. To lessen the shock and indignity that this lead character might create, Shakespeare created the role of Benedick who is nearly able to equal Beatrice's shrewd repertoire. The two characters are very similar; they are both "scorners" of love who end up falling for each other, which were stock characters of comedy. They compliment each other with their "war" of wits and hide their emotions behind their sarcasms and disagreements. ...read more.

Middle

Leonato loses his dignity with the audience because of his quick acceptance of Claudio's story and melodramatic response; only a few moments after hearing the story, he claims to be so ashamed that he asks to die, "Hath no man's dagger here a point for me?4" This is utterly ridiculous to the point where the audience think that he just wants people to notice him in all the excitement. He loses even more of the audience's respect when he tells Claudio to wed his brother's daughter, who is "Almost the copy" of Hero; he has moved on so quickly from sorrow for his daughter that there is little he can do to redeem himself. What is the most ironic thing about the way Shakespeare has written this play is that Hero manages to uphold her dignity throughout the entire play, and is polite and respectful all the way through as a typical Elizabethan women was expected to be, for example when Claudio accuses Hero to her face of being promiscuous "betwixt twelve and one," she merely replies politely, "I talk'd with no man at that hour, my lord.5" Even when Claudio and Don John accuse her of having an affair and her father is the first to accept the story as the truth she is still courteous and dutiful towards them. ...read more.

Conclusion

He had to subtly imply his message through his writing and then hope that people no matter how intelligent would be able to think about and come to a decision. Shakespeare appealed for women to have equal amounts of dignity in both a private relationship but also for public figures like the queen to be treated like an equal by men even though she was far superior to any man in Britain. Perhaps the fact that the reigning monarch was a strong feminist woman who had already shown that she was any mans equal just by ruling for the length of time which she did. If England had been ruled by a male chauvinist would Shakespeare have written such equal minded and ahead of his time plays? 'Much Ado About Nothing' stands strongly as a witty, perceptive play which goes conclusively against the conventional ideas of a battle of the sexes and tries to educate the public to give women equal dignity and respect whether they be the queen, a wife or peasant. 1 Act I, Scene I, line28 2 Act IV, Scene I, lines 59-60 3 Cuckold - man married to an adulterous wife 4 Act IV, Scene I, line 109 5 Act IV, Scene I, line 86 6 Sir. H. Walpole - Letters. 1776 7 T. Campbell - "Dramatic Works of Shakespeare. 1838 ...read more.

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