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  • Level: GCSE
  • Subject: English
  • Document length: 1757 words

With close reference to Act 2 scene 1 and in relation to the rest of the play, discuss Shakespeare’s presentation of the relationship between men and women in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ and show how a modern audience sympathies might differ f

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Introduction

With close reference to Act 2 scene 1 and in relation to the rest of the play, discuss Shakespeare's presentation of the relationship between men and women in 'Much Ado About Nothing' and show how a modern audience sympathies might differ from those of a contemporary audience. Over periods of time trends, beliefs and morals change and develop within a society. In particular you could compare the attitude towards women and relationships in the Elizabethan times to those in the present day. In the Elizabethan period women were expected to be seen and not heard, speak when spoken to, and to hold the most upright respect and obey their fathers and/or husbands. However our present day situation is far different, women may do as they please, when they please, and with who they please. It is certainly fair to say that women now have entire freedom of speech and even freedom of action unlike women in the past. Immediately it is apparent as to who and who doesn't fit convention in the play, Beatrice proves herself to be witty, outspoken, and quite unique which is an unconventional concept for Elizabethan audiences to have grasped. A modern audience would see her as a role model figure for standing up and speaking in a manner that we deem as acceptable and as a right.

Middle

Beatrice and Benedick on the other hand are seemingly more 'modern'. They challenge traditional beliefs about love and marriage and both begin the play equally matched in their opinions that it is a waste of time, and that neither could find a partner that is worthy. When these two do finally start a relationship, the way that they go about it doesn't conform to the methods of love, commitment, and social ideals enacted by Messina as a society. A perfect example of Beatrice's rebellion to this culture is when she refuses Don Pedro's marriage proposal "No, my lord, unless I might have another/ for working-days." The character of Hero is very submissive and dutiful. She appears to be happy in her role as a compliant daughter who follows the rules of society closely, however when she is more closely inspected there are things about her that would not be noticed at just a glance. For example, a contemporary audience would think nothing of the way that Hero behaves because to them it would have been perfectly normal, however a modern audience would sympathise with her as she is never allowed to make her own choices, and "Her answers are not hers to give"1 Although Leonato is very vindictive over his only child "Daughter, remember what I told you. If the Prince do/ solicit you in that kind, you know your answer."

Conclusion

Conclusion: Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy of intrigue. It involves suspense, question and has a detective story element. Within the comedy of intrigue, there is social comedy involving Beatrice and Benedick. Through this couple, and Claudio and Hero, the play explores the way people interact with each other. Shakespeare shows that love can be very logical but also very passionate. Claudio and Hero have a love that is soft, delicate and logical. Beatrice and Benedick on the other hand, are very passionately in love with each other and show this by quarreling constantly. The way in which a contemporary audience would interpret this is far different to that interpretation of modern critiscism. Gender roles in society have been so heavily redefined not only for women but for men too, e.g. women now have the right to vote, and men not have the right to paid paternity leave from work. To an Elzabethan audience, the relationships in this play, comically show and help them to understand slight changes within their own civilization, such as having a female monarch in such a patriarchal society. However modern critics, would especially focus on Beatrice, and her quality of being ahead of her time in terms of feminisim and equal rights. QUOTES 1 Much Ado About Nothing, Penguin Critical Studies, Roger Sales, London 1987, pg 83 ?? ?? ?? ??

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