• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

How does Shakespeare dramatically present power and authority in the relationship between men and women in Much Ado about Nothing

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

How does Shakespeare dramatically present power and authority in the relationship between men and women in Much Ado about Nothing? One of the key explorations of power and authority in "Much Ado About Nothing" is the relationship between Hero and Leonato as father and daughter. The play was written in Elizabethan England, and social attitudes of the period, together with long standing tradition, influence Shakespeare's portrayal of the "proper" relationship between father and daughter, and duty they owed to each other. In "Much Ado About Nothing" it is very much a patriarchal society, where rank and position rule supreme and women are submissive position to men, whether fathers or husbands. This "male dominance" is most acutely represented by the nature of arranged marriage. When the suspicion that the Prince wants to woo Hero is born, Leonato instructs her in what she must do. Indeed, Antonio believes that Hero "will be ruled by your father". He automatically assumes that Leonato has the right to command Hero. He decides who she will marry, amply demonstrated again, when after Claudio's denunciation of her he still gives her to him in marriage. Even stranger, to us as a modern audience, is Hero's passive acceptance of what her father decides her fate should be. This is a central point in understanding Shakespeare's representation of social structure at the time, since the authority Leonato had over Hero was absolute, and she as a daughter was indeed completely submissive to her father. ...read more.

Middle

Beatrice and Benedict are more mature and confident in themselves, and as such make a much more successful couple. Their conflict is based upon perceptions of male and female shortcomings, and it is those perceptions that make Claudio so susceptible to regard Hero as "sinful". However, Benedict and Beatrice are able to admit their own mistakes and think rationally of each other when faced with their own faults, as is apparent in their reflective soliloquies after their deceptions. Their relationship begins with mistrust and develops into love, while Claudio's and Hero's starts with love and develops into mistrust. This dramatic irony is used to reflect Shakespeare's own attitude on what a relationship should be, which is amplified by Benedict's humorous statement that he and Beatrice are "too wise to woo peaceably". It is clear from the play that Shakespeare criticises the existing customs and advocates that a courtship in which couples communicate would be a far more preferable way, and which would prevent the mistakes of perception evident in Claudio. Benedict's and Beatrice's relationship advocates a society in which women are given more power and authority by the very nature of a "merry war". Shakespeare is ambivalent in his representation of love. He uses it as a necessary component to restore harmony to a community. He also uses it as a challenge to both the males and females in the play, especially with male characters, indicating that male power they possess publicly, such as Claudio's warrior skills and Don Pedro's position doesn't affect matters of the heart. ...read more.

Conclusion

Shakespeare's use of puns and literary patterning when describing Claudio's outrage and pain "most Foul, most Fair" can be seen as an indication of male opinion of all faithless females. This fear of infidelity is also present among women. Beatrice's avowal that she would "rather hear a dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me" illustrates women's distrust. However, women's attitude is considerably different, as the song "Sigh no More" proves. They consider it as a fact of life, and while they distrust men, they don't consider it a "betrayal" to be treated as such, the way that men do. Men expect and demand total fidelity from a woman. However, in contrast, male fidelity is considered as a passing thing, never to truly be expected by any woman. Male honour demands that they protect women, but both Claudio and Leonato fail this task. Benedict, for the sake of his love of Beatrice, agrees to challenge Claudio and fight for the truth of Hero's fidelity. He remembers true honour, and the obligations that come with male power and position. Beatrice and Benedict, in concert, challenge the clearly wrong "honourable" male behaviour. Shakespeare shows that male rage at female betrayal led them to forget their own duty to women, leading to their own betrayal. This is Shakespeare's warning - while men have overt power and authority over women, the power comes with responsibilities which they are bound to fulfil. Beatrice's love reminds Benedict of this duty, demonstrating women's greatest power - to influence men's minds and hearts. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our GCSE Much Ado About Nothing section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related GCSE Much Ado About Nothing essays

  1. Peer reviewed

    How does Shakespeare challenge the conventional role of women within the patriarchal society of ...

    5 star(s)

    In the Kenneth Brannagh version, the women all wore white to symbolize the women's innocence at the time. Beatrice's love for picking arguments with people, especially with Benedick could be a sign of her anger against him for abandoning her when they had courted before.

  2. Peer reviewed

    How does Shakespeare Present Relationships Between men and women in much ado about nothing

    3 star(s)

    As well as their being force in the relationship it is also very sudden and rushed because no sooner had they arranged to be together, the wedding was to be planned straight away, which isn't a relationship which could last or if it did last would they both still be happy.

  1. Much Ado About Nothing clearly shows the attitude of the Elizabethans towards women and ...

    shows that in theory he wants to better himself, as he is just a Signor so he has no title but in reality he later proposes to Beatrice who has little wealth. The men in the play are often making sexual innuendoes and this is acceptable because men do not

  2. Act 4 Scene 1 is often considered a key scene in 'Much Ado About ...

    Benedick does not accept this, but promises to have a duel against him. The love between Hero and Claudio is tested greatly because of deception on both of them, yet they do not know it. Claudio truly believes that what he saw the night before was Hero and does not deny it.

  1. Much Ado About Nothing - Elizabethan Women

    Her relationship towards Benedick has been described as "...a kind of merry war... they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them" (1.1.51-53). She is dismissive of talk of marriage and men. In act 2, scene 1, Beatrice declares, "He that hath a beard is more than a

  2. Much Ado About Nothing - the relationships between men and women.

    Nobody can believe how horrible they were to her, as they were didn't know what had happened. Claudio is then encouraged to marry the made-up daughter of one of the other characters in the play- the daughter is Hero, but because she is wearing a veil, only those behind the idea of making her play dead know it is her.

  1. How does Shakespeare present the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick in "Much Ado About ...

    This suggests that maybe he wanted to hear this for quite some time. In the film, he even falls off his deckchair with shock, which is funny. Beatrice is portrayed as a helpless victim. Claudio says that "down upon her knees she falls, weeps, sobs, beats her heart, tears her hair, prays, curses, Oh sweet Benedick, God give me patience".

  2. How Does Shakespeare present the relationship between men and women in his play 'Much ...

    of marriage by asking Claudio if he has any "intent to turn husband," Shakespeare also uses euphuism as Benedick exaggeratedly says that "fire cannot melt" his heart out of him. He voices his scorn by saying he will never be cuckolded by any woman and will "live a bachelor," but perhaps he "doth protest too much"?

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work