Claudio the Courter

William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing is often seen as one of Shakespeare’s most comical plays but while it is comic it also has some disturbing elements. It is often seen as a ‘tragicomedy’ rather than a pure comedy because it raises the possibility of a tragic ending. Although the play ends in a comedy, its disturbing elements still leave a mark with the reader, a mark which has led to criticism against the character of Claudio. Throughout the play, the disturbing elements increase in number and degree as Claudio’s character is unravelled. Whenever Much Ado About Nothing is seen as a disturbing play, Claudio is generally seen as the reason why.

        As the play begins, Claudio is seen as a returning war hero as well as an honest lover but he later turns into a shrewd fortune hunter. He is introduced as the “right noble Claudio” by a Messenger as he enters “in the company” of the Prince, Don Pedro, as they return from a victorious war. (6) He then speaks to Benedick about his love towards Hero, the governor Leonato’s daughter. He notes her as a “jewel” as well as the “sweetest lady [he] hath ever seen.”(11) After that he professes his love for her to Don Pedro. But this is followed by his first question, “Hath Leonato any son?” to which Don Pedro correctly replies “No child but Hero; she’s his only heir.”(13) Claudio followed by asking Don Pedro to woo Hero for him. The Prince knew what Claudio wanted was Leonato’s fortune as soon as the question was asked which would explain his remark of her as Leonato’s only heir. Once Claudio saw that his path to fortune was clear, he declared his love for Hero to Don Pedro. This motive is later alluded to by Leonato, who gives Claudio his “daughter and with her [his] fortunes,” knowing full well that the money was part of the package. (28) This business like process of love and marriage is always noted as one of the most disturbing aspects of the play and the key player in this deal is none other than Claudio.

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        It is said that true lovers have a unifying trust of each other but Claudio proves an insecure and mistrusting courter. Having achieved Hero’s love, Claudio awaited the day when they would get married until Don John’s warning to him. John says that “the lady is disloyal” and calls her “every man’s hero”, implying that she is a whore. (51) Claudio doesn’t question the allegation, he just jumps to action. He says,

“If I see anything tonight why I should not marry her tomorrow in the congregation, where I should wed, there will I shame her.”


Jackie Shead said ...

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