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How and how effectively are women presented in 'Much Ado about nothing'?

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Introduction

How and how effectively are women presented in 'Much Ado about nothing'? In this essay I will give a detailed analysis of the language used by both characters; Hero and Beatrice. I will comment and contrast the way in which they speak to people of both the same and opposite sex, relating their personalities to this. I shall also refer to their relationships between themselves and the male characters. The first woman character presented is Beatrice, whose opening line is an insult towards a man; giving an ironic name to 'Signor Mountanto.' Benedick is a character, with whom Beatrice often fights, professing disdain. This is extremely unladylike and not the usual way women should have behaved in Shakespeare's days, as they should have been silent gentle and submissive. She is the only woman character portrayed to be opinionated, passionate, and witty, in Shakespeare's time these kinds of women were often frowned upon and evoked suspicion. The way that Shakespeare found to explore this issue was by using comedy. Because of her personality, she has no time or use for men as she admits that she 'had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me'. This totally sums up Beatrice in terms of her attitude and her emotions, claiming her heart is harder than Benedick's; we later discover this is not the truth. ...read more.

Middle

Normally the male would be more influential than the female but as Beatrice is so opposed to male domination and as Benedick loves her so much, it seems there is no way to resolve this. However it is cleverly done at the end of the play 'Peace - I will stop your mouth. [He kisses her]' This shows Benedick is taking charge as the male should in Elizabethan society, and so ending the dispute of authority in their relationship. This is the outcome a typical audience from Shakespeare's time would have expected. It would have been difficult to show Beatrice in charge as the audience would have disputed this. Hero is a character typical of a young, innocent woman in Elizabethan times, whose wealth, beauty and social position makes her attractive to the male audience. She evokes sympathy from the audience through her disgrace and public humiliation at the questioning of her chastity, and defencelessness against Claudio's cruel words. Unlike Beatrice she cannot speak up against a man, therefore she finds it difficult to redeem herself when accused by Claudio. 'O God defend me, how am I beset!' This is because she understands that men should have power and authority over women and that Claudio is dominating and superior to herself. ...read more.

Conclusion

and giving a false impression to him, it is an impossibility, as he had already idealised her and moulded her in his mind to be what he wanted her to be, probably something to do with the expectations at the time the play was written. Hero does not say much at the beginning of the play and does not seem to be a very main character, though she is referred to often through Claudio's love. Yet as soon as she is to be married to Claudio she is included a lot more in the play in terms of speaking and trying to put together both Beatrice and Benedick. Overall, both women that Shakespeare presents are contrasting and reflects the difference between people in love. Hero is presented to be a women conventional in her etiquette and manners who is attractive to the male audience and exemplary in her patience and forgiveness, whereas Beatrice is presented as a women who knows what she wants and how to get it, who is not independent or reliant on males. Her sharp wit has youth and eternal spirit, and she shows wide experience and intelligence with a just impatience at an unequal society. Perhaps she is the true heroine of the play. ...read more.

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