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How does Shakespeare represent love in 'Much Ado About Nothing'?

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Introduction

How does Shakespeare represent love in 'Much Ado About Nothing'? 'Much Ado About Nothing' is a romantic comedy where the primary focus is marriage. There are three pairs of lovers. One is the idealised love of Hero and Claudio. Another is a love based on the exploration of each other's character, Beatrice and Benedick. The last is the more earthy side of love, Margaret and Borachio, which is purely sexual. In this essay I'm going to look at the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick, and Hero and Claudio. Hero and Claudio represent an idealised love that was a widespread image of love in the early 1600's. With Beatrice and Benedick we see a very different picture - a love/hate relationship. While Claudio describes Hero as a "jewel" Benedick refers to Beatrice as "my dear Lady Disdain". As Claudio and Hero whisper sweet nothings to one another Beatrice and Benedick bicker incessantly. (Compare "my cousin tells him in his ear that he is in her heart" with "if her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her. ") Beatrice and Benedick are presented as equals in 'Much Ado About Nothing' and seem destined to be together sooner or later. They are very alike and both have similar attitudes towards love by neither ever wanting to marry. Beatrice says, "I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me." Benedick says "and I would I could find my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none." This could be because of an earlier romantic attachment that neither wants to move on from. They show an intriguing fascination with each other. ...read more.

Middle

As usual Benedick asks Beatrice straight out with no flowery, romantic language "Do you not love me?" The play is ended by Beatrice and Benedick being told of each others love by Hero and Claudio as in the start. Claudio: "And I'll be sworn upon't, that he loves her, For here 's a paper written in his hand, A halting sonnet of his own pure brain, Fashioned to Beatrice." Hero: "And here 's another, Writ in my cousin's hand, stol'n from her pocket, Containing her affection unto Benedick." After Benedick has told Beatrice of his love she says "...I yield upon great persuasion, and partly to save your life, for I was told, you were in consumption." Benedick puts a stop to more of Beatrice's wit by simply kissing her. The other viewpoint on marriage and commitment in this play is Hero and Claudio. Jealousy, mistrust and love play major parts in their relationship. Claudio's role is the courtly lover - the romantic hero of the play. He is extremely interested in beauty and fitting in. He also needs people's approval and reassurance before making a decision. He asks Benedick what he thinks of Hero and when Benedick gives him a joking answer he tells him to be serious. After Benedick has given a positive answer Claudio starts praising Hero. He is very concerned with his honour and how he appears. He is quick to fall in love with Hero for her beauty before her personality. He describes Hero as a "jewel" showing he does not see her as a person but more as an object to be obtained and desired. ...read more.

Conclusion

As it is a romantic comedy Claudio must undergo a challenge so he will become more mature and worthy of Hero's love. It is quite surprising that Leonato is still willing to let Claudio marry Hero but he is highly spoken of by Don Pedro so would be a good son-in-law to have showing again that practical rather than romantic consideration ruled most marriages. By Act 5.3 the ends are beginning to tie up. Claudio promises to commemorate the day Hero died every year. Could he now be grieving for her? At the wedding where Claudio has promised to marry Hero's cousin he still asks to see her face before marrying her but is told he "shall not till you take her hand." This shows that Claudio still cares very much about appearances. When Hero is unveiled Claudio is overjoyed but is this because Hero is alive or because he will not have to feel guilty anymore? Hero says very little in this scene except to show Claudio he is forgiven. A modern audience can find this difficult to accept but marriage is the usual conclusion in romantic comedies. Unlike Hero and Claudio, Beatrice and Benedick did not jump into their relationship as they had already known each other for a long time. Their relationship is based on the exploration of each others character partly due to their constant banter. Claudio seems to have a suspicious nature and is quite shallow but I believe he does love Hero. At the beginning of the play Hero and Claudio seem to fulfil the view of true love but by the end of the play Beatrice and Benedick's love seems to be the most sincere. Overall Beatrice and Benedick's relationship seems to be more genuine and trusting that Hero and Claudio's. ...read more.

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