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Much Ado About Nothing' revolves around male honour and male friendship and that is what Beatrice attacks 'you dare easier be friends with me, than fight with mine enemy,' challenging male solidarity and introducing ideas about sexual equality

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Introduction

'Much Ado About Nothing' is the most urbane and sardonic, and the least pastoral and romantic of Shakespeare's comedies. He wrote his plays to entertain the Elizabethan audience, and his characters can been seen as representatives of significant social issues of the time. Like most playwrights, Shakespeare reflected in his plays the world he knew. In 'Much Ado About Nothing' it is a patriarchal society, where rank and social status rule supreme and women are in a subordinate position to men, whether fathers or husbands, hence Beatrice's wish 'oh God that I were a man.' Leonato is able to depend on Hero's obedience 'daughter, remember what I told you: if the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.' This patriarchal world, with its strict code of honour, places repressive moral restraints on its young women, inspite of Beatrice's defiance. The men's persistent jokes about cuckolds and faithless wives make abundantly clear the fear of women's sexuality beneath ribaldry. Messina is a male-dominated society. In Elizabethan times, the idea of male honour depended on male friendship as well as family, class and reputation amongst fellow men. Unlike a woman, a man could defend his honour, and that of his family too, by fighting in a battle or duel, which was not an ...read more.

Middle

The fear of female sexuality also lies behind the importance of virginity in a bride, which explains Claudio's bitter rejection of Hero at the altar 'give not this rotten orange to your friend.' Up till now we see Claudio feels that Hero has embarrassed him, and we can see the extent of his male pride, and the concern he has with the possibility of his social status being tainted 'most foul, most fair, farewell, thou pure impiety and impious purity.' This verse is intensely contemptuous, yet some critics have argued that the artificiality of the patterning suggests ostentation in Claudio's feelings, and his grief is not for Hero but more for himself and his loss of honour. The merry war between Benedick and Beatrice clearly marks their attraction towards each other as the only apt companions in a patriarchal society such as Messina 'too wise too woo peaceably.' Beatrice's command to 'Kill Claudio!' is a test of Benedick's willingness to desert the world of masculine bravado and narcissism for the female values of Beatrice, who is outraged at the cruel and disreputable humiliation of her cousin. Hero has been 'belied' in the name of male honour 'Is a not approved in the height of villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman.' ...read more.

Conclusion

When Claudio declaims in verse, this underlines the artificiality of his sentiments towards Hero, unlike Beatrice and Benedick whose prose suits the realism of their proclaimed love for one another. The love between the traditional romantic war hero wooing a passive loyal woman appears in hollow in comparison to Beatrice and Benedick. 'Much Ado About Nothing' revolves around male honour and male friendship and that is what Beatrice attacks 'you dare easier be friends with me, than fight with mine enemy,' challenging male solidarity and introducing ideas about sexual equality 'for women have souls as well as men.' The masculine value code is eventually challenged by Benedick, which clearly changes himself. Beatrice has encouraged Benedick to a new level of seeing and feeling, then that compared to this military friends, who remain firmly in their old male world, cracking their jokes about cuckolds to the very end 'Bull Jove, sir, had, an amiable low, And some such strange bull leaped your father's cow.' We see, therefore, that love triumphs in the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick but ideas of honour still shape the behaviour of the characters with whom we have less sympathy. ?? ?? ?? ?? AS ENGLISH LITERATURE: MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING 'THIS IS MORE A PLAY ABOUT HONOUR THAN ABOUT LOVE.' EXPLORE THIS STATEMENT WITH REFERENCE TO THE WAY SHAKESPEARE PRESENTS BOTH MEN AND WOMEN IN 'MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING' RIMAH CHOUDHURY ...read more.

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