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In Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare presents us with a conventional heroine (Hero) and an unconventional heroine (Beatrice) which is more to your taste and why?

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Introduction

In Much Ado About Nothing Shakespeare presents us with a conventional heroine (Hero) and an unconventional heroine (Beatrice) Which is more to your taste and why? Heroines from Shakespearian times and literature were very different to contemporary heroines. The differences in characteristics of heroines from these periods are largely illustrated by the two heroines in 'Much Ado About Nothing,' Beatrice and Hero. Beatrice is more similar to today's heroines with her forthright manner whilst Hero's gentleness and submissiveness make her typical of the play's period. Despite a woman, and a reputedly fearsome one with no desire to marry, on the throne at this time the main characteristics women in society, heroine or not, were expected to display included a gentle and submissive disposition, purity, modesty, a great respect for men and a desire to marry well, the end to which all other traits were expected to lead. Claudio, a young man who is in love with Hero, demonstrates a typical Elizabethan view of women by saying of Hero, 'Can the world buy such a jewel?' (I.i.56) He talks about Hero as if she is an object as, to many men, women were. Marriage was a business transaction more than a romantic affair where possession of the bride was transferred from father to husband. Today characteristics applied to a heroine can be similar or very different. Hero's characteristics make her a heroine in stories but many of the ones people look for in modern life are portrayed by Beatrice who, if not a complete opposite to Hero, certainly provides a great contrast which not only adds to the humour in the play but provides an opportunity to compare attitudes towards women and how the stereotypical description of a ...read more.

Middle

The most noticeable change is in Act 3, scene 1 when Beatrice changes her speech from prose to poetry. Beatrice indicates that she will change by saying, 'And Benedick, love on, I will requite thee, Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.' (III.i.107-112) This is not only a change in attitude towards herself and Benedick but also towards marriage and romance for in Act I scene i Beatrice declares, 'I had rather hear a dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.' and when Leonato says to her that he hopes she will get married one day Beatrice replies, 'Not till G-d make man of some other metal than earth.' (II.i.52) Benedick initially has a very similar attitude to marriage and women and yet by the end of the play the two are married with far fewer problems than the more traditional couple, Hero and Claudio. Whilst this is a great change in Beatrice she doesn't lose many of the characteristics unusual for an Elizabethan woman. She still possesses the ability to make fun of Benedick without any hesitation as she demonstrates in Act V scene iv lines 93-96 by saying to Benedick's proposal of marriage, 'I would not deny you; but, by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption.' One of Beatrice's most powerful scenes is Act IV scene i when she learns of Claudio's accusations against Hero. In this she recognises how limited she is by being a woman but unlike Hero, who accepts what befalls her as a result of being a woman, refuses to accept defeat. ...read more.

Conclusion

Beatrice on the other hand, does not command sympathy but the audience's support. I prefer her character within the play as it provides far more humour and entertainment. As a person Beatrice's character is again the more appealing possibly because she personifies so many accepted characteristics of today's women. Hero's submissiveness may today be seen as weakness whilst Beatrice's boldness demonstrates a strong character which is today accepted among women. Part of Beatrice's charm is her reluctance to conform to the expectations of the period. I think this is highly admirable as, coming from a modern perspective, I can't agree with many of the accepted thoughts about women being possessions and being expected to submit to living under the control of men. Beatrice's statements such as, 'I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.'(I.i.123) are amusing both of their own accord but also because of the defiance they show in the face of the traditional idea that the primary aim in life is to ensure a good marriage. Living in a modern society I am biased towards Beatrice although I agree with Georg Brandes description of her, and his reasons for calling her 'a pearl of a woman.' I think that the audience the play was written for would have appreciated Hero far more than I do but would have found her quite a 'normal' character. Beatrice would have provided an alternative to the accepted norm and would be found perhaps more entertaining and possibly the preferred character as her wit, whilst not enough to offend, makes her highly amusing. To the more liberal thinkers she may also have represented a 'forward - thinking' person whom they would have been glad to see portrayed in the theatre. Claire Strauss ...read more.

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