How does Shakespeare Portray Women in "Much Ado about Nothing"?

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How Does Shakespeare Portray Women in "much Ado about Nothing"?

Summary: Shakespeare portrays women quite accurately in his play "Much to do About Nothing", as all the female characters have widely varied personalities so that main female stereotypes are covered, without making the women come across as being too patronising, animated or humorous. The variety of personalities and social status enables different people to relate to the different characters, and enable a range of relationships to be formed in the play.

This play is mainly based around battles of the sexes, conflict, relationships and deceiving people. Women feature very heavily in each of these and many lines can be interpreted in different ways, to show hidden meaning or to reflect society. The only female characters in the play are Beatrice, Hero, Ursula and Margaret. All of these women have very different characteristics, opinions and personalities, and occasionally their personalities clash a little. Not all of these women's characters fit the typical female stereotype in Shakespearean society (especially Beatrice), and are possibly made to behave in such a way to add humour, irony or contrast.

Beatrice is introduced in the first scene of the play, and is portrayed as being a very witty and clever woman. She frequently plays with words to win arguments or to prove her point. For example, when a the messenger informs her that Benedick is a "lord to a lord, a man to a man, stuffed with all honourable virtues" she quickly replies, "It is so indeed, he is no less than a stuffed man, but for the stuffing - well, we are all mortal." Her quick answers indicate that she is a woman who will always speak her mind, no matter what the consequences may be, and will never back down from an argument. This type of attitude and wit in a woman may have shocked Shakespearean audiences, as during the time this play was originally performed women had little power over men and were seen as second class citizens. Shakespeare may have decided to portray Beatrice in this way in order to make a point about women's role in society and to show that some women were in fact cleverer than men, or he could have done it simply to inject some humour into the play, as the thought of an independent women may have been a joke and might not have been taken seriously.

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Her relationship with Benedick is a constant battle of wits, as both characters like to play with words and try to outsmart each other. Although at the beginning of the play they appear to despise each other and any thought of marriage, after hearing false rumours of the others love they begin to think of the other fondly and forget their previous dislike.

Although Beatrice comes across as being very competitive, independent, clever and assertive, Shakespeare occasionally gives the audience a glimpse of the other side of Beatrice, who doesn't seem to be as happy as she pretends to be. ...

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