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. For example, in Act 3 Scene 1, Beatrice overhears Hero and Ursula talking about her, and later in a soliloquy she says "Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much"" which shows that she is shocked that she comes across as being so hard-hearted. She then goes on to say "Benedick, love on, I will requite thee, taming my wild heart to thy loving hand: if though dost love, my kindness shall incite thee." This change of heart shows her true feelings, and causes the audience to feel more sympathetic towards her as she seems genuinely hurt by Ursula and Hero's comments and willing to change for Benedick.
Beatrice also makes good use of her feminine wiles to get what she wants. A good example of this is when Benedick declares his love for her and offers to do anything she asks, and she replies "Kill Claudio." Although she knows that Benedick murdering Claudio is unlikely to ever happen, she takes hold of the situation and tries to use it to her advantage.
However Hero is not as confident and witty as her cousin, Beatrice. Although Hero is present in the first scene of the play she only says one line, "My cousin means Signor Benedick of Padua" throughout the entire act. The next act she is in is Act 2 Scene 1, and yet again she only says one line, "He is of very melancholy disposition." Hero is portrayed as being very shy and sensible, as she barely says a word, and when she does it's always in polite context. Her attitude and behaviour may have been more similar to the way women in Shakespearean times acted, compared to Beatrice's witty sense of humour and constant play on words. Shakespeare may have chosen to present Hero like this to show a contrast between her and Beatrice, and possibly to make Beatrice seem even more lively and eccentric compared to her retiring and shy cousin. However, it does become apparent that Hero does look up to Beatrice as the play continues, as she often uses similar comebacks to Beatrice when teasing men, e.g. "So you walk softly, and look sweetly, and say nothing, I am yours for the walk, and especially when I walk away."
Both Hero's gentlewomen, Margaret and Ursula, are very confident characters, but in different ways. Ursula is portrayed as being very well spoken and clever, and like Beatrice also enjoys teasing men, e.g. "I know you well enough, you are Signor Antonio...I know you by the waggling of your head." Ursula also has a scheming and secretive side, as she and Hero trick Beatrice into falling in love with Benedick.
Margaret, in contrast to Ursula, is portrayed as being very crude and rude, and often makes sexual jokes, e.g. when talking about Hero's wedding dress, she jests, "'Twill be heavier soon by the weight of a man." She is probably quite similar to a lot of the `working women' in Shakespearean times, as although she is cheeky and bubbly, she will not let anyone walk over her or take advantage of her. Shakespeare has definitely chosen Margaret to be like this in order to provide some rude humour into the play, and also some normality, as the Shakespearean audience may have found it hard to relate to the upper-class characters, because the majority were working class.
When reading or watching the play in the present day and age, we must remember that in Shakespearean times, every character would be played by a man, no matter what gender the character was meant to be. Therefore, this may have provided subtle jokes that because of the mixed casting we have now, we might not be able to pick up on. For example, in act 4, Scene 1, Beatrice says "Oh, that I were a man! ... Oh God that I were a man!" This would have been very comical to Shakespearean audiences, because it would have been a man saying this line, which would add irony and possibly pathos, which we wouldn't grasp today.
Although Shakespeare is a male writer, he doesn't always have the male characters winning arguments and coming out on top of a situation, and in many cases the male characters are shamed and the female characters triumph over men. He may have chosen to do this because this was such an unlikely event that it became humorous, or it could have been his way of showing that not all women deserve to be thought of as second class citizens.
An example of women having power over men in Much Ado... is when Beatrice turns down Don Pedro at the ball. Beatrice jokingly complains that she will be a spinster for the rest of her life, and Don Pedro offers himself as a husband, "Will you have me, lady"" but Beatrice rejects him. Beatrice comes out on top of the situation, but also leaves Don Pedro's pride intact with her kind and mature rejection, proving that she isn't always looking to win a situation and is conscious of other people's feelings.
The women's relationships with each other are very strong throughout the play, and although they may occasionally tease each other, they willingly offer support at critical times and give each other the benefit of the doubt. For example in Act 4 Scene 1, when Hero is wrongly accused of no longer being a virgin, even when her father, Leonato believes the rumours, Beatrice jumps to her defence straight away, "Oh on my soul my cousin is belied." However, men also stick up for each other frequently during the play, which is shown also in Act 4 Scene 1, when Leonato immediately believes what Claudio has to say, instead of listening to his daughters version of the event. I think that the character's relationships with other people of the same sex are much more trusting, because it's natural that we can often relate more to those of our gender and form deeper friendships without the worry of love or lust getting in the way and confusing things. I also think that it was very important for women to be close, especially in Shakespearean times, because of them being treated as second class citizens and also to support each other during difficult times.
Women's relationships with men are much more varied in the play. There are a few important relationships that help to provide a more complex plot. Obviously, Hero and Claudio's relationship is a key factor in the play, and is fairly turbulent, but at the end of the play all the liars are shamed and the couple wed. However, we are always aware that one of the main reasons Claudio wants to marry Hero is because of her wealth. When Leonato offers Hero's `cousin' as a bride, Claudio willingly accepts without a second thought, which makes the audience reconsider whether Claudio really is in love or mainly attracted to Hero's wealth. Their relationship may have been typical of a high society Shakespearean relationship, with the couple being encouraged to marry because of their high status and wealth, and also shows how women are expected to marry men that their fathers think are suitable, without having much of a say in the matter.
Beatrice and Benedick's relationship is also a very turbulent one, as I have previously explored. They constantly give subtle hints that there may be more to their competing than the matter of pride, especially when Beatrice and Don Pedro talk at the ball (Act 2, Scene 1), and Beatrice says "Indeed my lord, (Benedick) lent (his heart) me a while, and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one: marry once before he won it of me, with false dice, therefore your grace may well say I have lost it." However, neither Beatrice nor Benedick elaborate on this quote, and so it adds mystery and makes the audience wonder what exactly did happen between them.
Overall, I feel that in this play Shakespeare does portray women quite truthfully, as all the female characters have such varied personalities that all of the 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.