Compare Shakespeare's Presentation of the Contrasting Relationships between Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio and Hero

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Compare Shakespeare's Presentation of the Contrasting Relationships between Beatrice and Benedick and Claudio and Hero

In 'Much Ado About Nothing' Shakespeare presents two contrasting relationships. Claudio and Hero's relationship is a conventional, idealistic courtship of the time. Principally Hero and Claudio are apt to declaim in verse throughout the play as their relationship is based on this expected decorum of courting. Their relationship is impetuous and emotionally painful as they lack a true understanding of each other. The deception featured within the play tries the strength of the relationship and only the endeavours of the other characters and discovery of the truth that allows their relationship to continue. Benedick and Beatrice understand each other on an intellectual level and use their skills with words to banter and create friction between them. The two characters take longer to acknowledge their feelings for each other and their friends provide catalyst to awaken these feelings. Benedick and Beatrice usually communicate in prose to reflect the unpretentious relationship. Different personalities of characters result in their contrasting relationships. Beatrice and Benedick are independent and they both exemplify a negative attitude to love and marriage. Claudio and Hero however, are naïve which explains how their love for each other is more conventional and romantic; it is based on appearance rather than a mental connection. The similarities in their attitudes to love bring them closer to their partners.

Beatrice is introduced to he audience as a keenly witty, intelligent and independent woman, who is harsh towards Benedick. At the beginning of the play the messenger describes Benedick: "A good soldier too, lady." This communicates that Benedick is brave and honourable, but Beatrice's clever wit is conveyed as she uses a pun by changing his words so they mean the very opposite, "And a good soldier to a lady," implying that Benedick is a shallow womaniser. The audience is given the impression that Beatrice has a low opinion of Benedick which is enforced when Leonarto uses military language and says: "...there is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her: they never meet but there is a skirmish of wit between them." This suggests that the two characters are known to have battles of words when they cross paths but the oxymoron, 'merry war' gives a sense that the friction between them is complementary. It is also significant that the audience's introduction to Beatrice is her asking after Benedick, when she says, "I pray you is Signor Mountanto returned from the wars no?" The comment contains sexual connotation as "Mountanto" is a fencing term for thrusting. However, it insinuates that she cares about him but hides her concerns by making her enquiry into a joke.

The contrast between the two relationships is made apparent from the beginning as Claudio is affectionate towards Hero and openly admits his feelings for her. Claudio is smitten by her when he first sees her and describes her as "a jewel". Moreover, this language also conveys that he is struck by her appearance only, and perhaps sees her as a possession. He continues to say: "In mine eye, she is the sweetest lady that ever I love upon." This shows that he has genuinely fallen for her; it explores Claudio's idealistic attitude to love reflected by his romantic language. Claudio is clearly infatuated by Hero's beauty but seeks advice from friends to ease his insecurities of women and his own confused emotions: "But lest my liking might too sudden seem". We are able to see that he is unsure if the feelings are true ands is wary that he may be assuming he loves Hero too quickly. When Claudio asks Don Pedro's advice they use romantic verse as they both believe in love. "How sweetly you do minister to love, /That no loves grief by his complexion". Claudio's lyricism enforces his desire to love Hero. However, a weak side of Claudio is revealed to the audience when he uses 'grief' to describe love, suggesting his naivety and inexperience as he associates love with negative language.
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Unlike Claudio's desire to court Hero, there is a distinct lack of affection during the first encounter between Beatrice and Benedick, Benedick says: "What, my lady Disdain! Are you yet living?" The audience recognises the quarrelling which they had previously been made aware of as the use of the word 'distain' means Beatrice is contemptuous. The language reflects their understanding and the familiarity of each other's personalities and behaviour, they are ready to banter. Beatrice says, "You always end with a jade's trick: I know you of old". It is during their repartee that Shakespeare shows Beatrice's attitude ...

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