Acknowledging Female Stereotypes in Much Ado About Nothing

Women in the Elizabethan age have been extremely repressed and discriminated in opposition to. Most wouldn’t have gone to highschool or received any type of formal schooling. They were not allowed to vote, own property, or freely voice their opinions.

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They were seen as the property of a man, subject to his desires, wants, and never allowed to have their own; males held extraordinarily stereotypical views of their female counterparts that helped them justify the way they treated them. Shakespeare exposes many of those injustices and biases in his stage performs, that are nonetheless commonly read and performed at present.

In Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio strikes from seeing girls (specifically Hero) as goddesses and wives to adulterers, and then back once more to his authentic views.

Claudio initially views Hero in accordance with the established stereotypes, in Act 1, Scene 1 as property. When first speaking of Hero, he refers to her because the “daughter of Signor Leonato;” whereas this appears to be merely for identification functions, he really relinquishes the power of her name to her guardian (1.

1. 119).

Instead of calling her by her given name, Hero, Claudio names her in relation to her more highly effective male owner. He goes on to ask Benedick if she is a “modest younger woman,” not questioning provided that she is nice, but if she is literally a virgin (1. 1. 121). A woman’s virginity was extraordinarily valuable in Elizabethan England, and decided her value as a possible wife.

This outright inquiry into her purity foreshadows the later scandal surrounding it. Benedick asks Claudio if he would buy her, and Claudio responds with a seemingly noble hypothetical query: “Can the world buy such a jewel?” (1 1 134).

While his query seems to indicate that she is so useful that the whole world’s cash could not purchase her, it nonetheless perpetuates the stereotype that girls are items of property, albeit very lovely and expensive ones.

Later in the same scene, Claudio demonstrates Elizabethan men’s views of girls via Shakespeare’s thematic messages. He remarks that “in mine eye, [Hero] is the sweetest woman that ever I appeared on” (1 1 139).

This introduces a reoccurring theme of Much Ado About Nothing of seeing and perception. Here, and in a while within the play, Claudio bases his opinions of Hero on her outward beauty and look of piety. In addition, the phrases “mine” and “I” stress the importance of Claudio himself, the essential, powerful male within the state of affairs. One notes Shakespeare’s wordplay in the pun implied when “eye” and “I” sound interchangeable when spoken aloud.

Another theme surfaces in using the word “sworn” in line 144 of Act 1, Scene 1, whereby Claudio makes evident that his honor is decided by people’s perception of him and, by proxy, his future spouse, Hero. Also notable is the hope he expresses that Hero would “be [his] wife”, in that he uses language once more pertaining to himself; where he may have wished that Hero would “marry him” or one thing comparable, he as a substitute needs her to turn into his property.

Claudio reveals that he has had an interest in Hero for some time earlier than their current dialog about her. He admired her before he went away to warfare, however extra urgent, necessary, masculine issues took his thoughts off her. This implies that issues of the guts have been less valued by men than responsibility and honor, and that his present infatuation with Hero is sort of an afterthought, one thing to pursue as he’s now bored.

This distant, material admiration for Hero quickly turns to contempt when he thinks that Don Pedro has taken her for himself in Act 2, Scene 1. When Don John and Borachio tell him about his friend’s betrayal, Claudio seems to be angrier with Hero than with the person who stole his potential bride. He claims “beauty is a witch, in opposition to whose charms religion meltheth into blood” (2 1 135-6). This demonstrates the stereotype that Elizabethan males held of girls being easily turned to adulterers – it appears to be her evil beauty that lured Don Pedro into supposedly successful her over for his own.

This is once more an insult to Claudio’s pride; Don John and Borachio use types of the word “swear” when recounting Don Pedro’s supposed conquest of Hero, calling to thoughts how Claudio swore to marry her in the first act. Claudio denounces Hero, and wishes Don Pedro “joy of her,” once once more suggesting women to be objects of private property, solely present to meet the desires of man.

When it is confirmed that Don Pedro was indeed simply performing his friendly duties, Claudio instantly reverts to his view of Hero as a perfect, virginal, nearly goddess-like potential spouse. He says to Hero: “Lady, as you’re mine, I am yours: I give away myself for you, and dote upon the exchange” (2 1 233-4).

Claudio acknowledges that Hero is now his property, and as that is an accepted customized in Elizabethan England, it is due to this fact deemed heroic that he provides himself to her, as properly. Using the word “exchange” suggests a proper transaction of property, which is what is really transpiring between Claudio and Leonato. Claudio expresses his anticipation for the marriage, as time strikes slowly “till love have all his rites” (2 1 269-70); the 2 meanings of rites as the precise ceremony and rights as a husband present insight into this.

He feels a necessity for their union to be official, as legally marrying Hero will give him legal possession of her, and her property. Though he claims to love her, his affection could finally be seen as a need of her dowry.

Claudio exhibits his opinions of women in his comical description of Beatrice’s love for Benedick in Act 2, Scene three. He describes her grief over her unrequited love in a ridiculous way, saying that she threw a savage match. This implies Beatrice, and by extension all girls, to be managed and weakened by their emotions.

Claudio says that Hero had informed him that Beatrice would surely die if her state of affairs with Benedick progresses in any path, again poking enjoyable at women’s irrationality. He suggests she put on herself out by talking to someone about her love, as though she have been a small child throwing a temper tantrum. Like most males of his time, Claudio seems to believe that women’s perceived lack of control of their feelings made them less worthy of esteem.

His view of women once more turns cynical again when he receives information in Act three, Scene 2 that leads him to imagine that Hero has had an affair with one other man. Don John uses the word “disloyal” to describe her actions, and Claudio repeats that word in outrage and confusion about this blow to his honor (3 2 76).

Being “disloyal” appears worse than most different things, in that it has wounded Claudio’s delight and reputation. The prefix “dis” is extremely adverse and poignant. He emphasizes that if he sees something with his personal eyes, he’ll consider these accusations. He describes the issue as “mischief surprisingly thwarting,” and extends that description to all ladies in general; here he shows that he has moved from seeing girls as wives and goddesses to adulterers and shrews.

At their marriage ceremony ceremony in Act four, Scene 1, Claudio spitefully and ironically addresses Hero with all types of virginal, harmless, pure language like “maid” (4 1 19).

He again describes her as property in calling her a “rich and treasured reward,” but this time it is with an air of contempt and scorn (4 1 23). Continuing the theme of perception and sight, he calls Hero “but the signal and semblance of her honor,” implying that she merely placed on a facade of virginity and purity (4 1 28). He asks the attendees of the wedding and, by extension, the audience, to acknowledge that her innocence is merely a present.

Claudio accuses her girlish blush to be really that of guilt and shame. Where previously he has referred to Hero as a maid, right here he calls her solely “like” a maid; this literal comparison emphasizes his change of feeling toward her and her sex. He facetiously describes her because the goddess of chastity and the moon, Diana, and of an unopened flower bud – virgin in appearance solely.

Then he compares her to Venus, goddess of sexuality, and even to senseless beasts that act solely on impulse and intuition. In the road “Marry that Hero, Hero itself can blot out Hero’s virtue,” he proclaims that ladies are the source of their very own downfall (4 1 75). Where her outward appearance was that of a virtuous younger girl, her perceived actions lead Claudio to imagine her to be a whore.

Although one may argue that Claudio’s view of women was that of all Elizabethan men, together with Shakespeare himself, the event of Benedick’s opinions show that this isn’t true.

He begins the play disliking the concept of marriage and particularly marriage to Beatrice, but, through the dramatic motion, he learns to like and respect her for her beforehand detested intelligence and wit. Benedick learns to worth girls for the people they’re, and but Claudio nonetheless sees them as property on the end of the play.

This suggests that Shakespeare realizes that, although he can convey consideration to the issue of gender equality in his works, he cannot anticipate the audience to fully accept his ideas.

Claudio continuously moves between stereotypes in his views of girls in this play: he alternatively sees Hero as wife, goddess, adulterer, and every thing in between.

Shakespeare’s particular word selection and themes revealed in Much Ado About Nothing provide perception into how girls had been truly thought of and handled in Elizabethan England, and the way the writer himself believed they want to be. Today, the centuries-old battle for gender equality is much from over. But, like Shakespeare, we can hope that all ladies will ultimately be revered as equals, like Beatrice.

Works Cited

  1. McDonald, Russ. The Bedford Companion to Shakespeare. Boston: Bedford, 2010. Shakespeare, William. Much Ado about Nothing. Ed. Mary Berry and Michael Clamp. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.