Shakespeare: relationships between men and women in Romeo and Juliet and Much Ado About Nothing

Authors Avatar by saifmustafa1997yahoocom (student)
        09/04/2013 11:44 Shakespeare’s plays present the relationships between men and women in various ways, as for example, Benedick is a supposed tyrant to women, while Romeo, a member of the Capulet household, is deeply in love with Juliet.  Shakespeare makes the audience focus on how men and women portrayed themselves to society in the Renaissance period. Men and women in modern society are analogous to the men and women in Shakespeare’s plays as they use trickery, deception and secrecy throughout the plays to attempt to achieve a goal that inevitably interferes with the lives of others. However we can see that things have changed in society as Shakespeare’s time was predominantly patriarchal, not meritocratic. For example Hero, ironically named, is a very shy and weak woman who is the daughter of Leonato, whilst Beatrice is an exception to the typical patriarchal paradigm; she is noisy, sharp-tongued and greatly opinionated – she isn’t afraid to contradict Benedick. This essay will discuss the portrayal of men and women and their relationships in Much Ado About Nothing and Romeo and Juliet. At the beginning of Romeo and Juliet “Two households, both alike in dignity” shows that there will be a comparison of the men and women in two families which may possibly lead to a feud. In the renaissance period status was very important, and Shakespeare’s plays typically emphasized that as the audience at that time approved of it.  The houses hold an “ancient grudge” which implicitly reiterates the idea of conflict occurring throughout the play. “Star-crossed lovers” suggest that there will be a great sense of romance throughout the play as a man and woman are destined to be together – “star crossed” which means, literally, against the stars (stars were thought to control people’s destinies). Also, “Do with their death bury their parents' strife,” suggests that these lovers will mend the quarrel between their families by dying. This is dramatic irony as the audience at that point would be aware of the inevitable fate of the main characters.  It is evident that throughout the play there will be death and perhaps even a tragedy that will split the lovers apart – the rhyme of the prologue splits from “…death-mark'd love” which may literally refer to the splitting of Romeo and Juliet in the play through death. Keeping in mind that they were Catholics, they would believe that marriage did not exist in Heaven. Additionally the prologue is written in the form of a Sonnet, which generally relate to death and consists of 14 lines written in iambic pentameter. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, the opening of Much ado about nothing is written in prose as all the characters have equal parts. For example in act one, scene one, the two most witty characters, Benedick and Beatrice, insult each other throughout the first scene, but they’re both “balanced” in their act of doing so; neither ever lets the other say anything without countering it with a pun or criticism. Beatrice is a strong woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind to Benedick. For example, “Scratching could not make it worse an ’twere such a face
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asyours were” shows that Beatrice finds Benedick to be ugly superficially, but there is a sense of uncertainty as to if she truthfully meant that as “I know you of old” suggests that they were in a past relationship, and that she cared for him. Also, the men speak to each other with respect, and we can see this from how they address each other. For example Don Pedro calls Leonato “Good signor Leonato” and “My grace”. Once again, this is because society at that time was patriarchal and Shakespeare’s audience would’ve included men of high status that would’ve addressed ...

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