Act 4 Scene 1 is a very dramatic and exciting scene, because it give the story that all-important twist. It opens up the story and keeps the suspense going.
Shakespeare builds up to Act 4 scene 1, to make the scene more enjoyable and exciting for us as an audience. He does this using dramatic irony. In Act 3 Scene 2 L: 60-100 Don John convinces Don Pedro and Claudio that Hero is not “a maid” in this sense meaning virgin. Don John uses the words “Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero.” (3,2 L: 78) This is shocking here because it strongly suggests that Hero is not a woman for one man, but every man’s woman, she is nothing but a “common stale.” Claudio tells Don John that if he is given proof he will not marry her. He says (3,2 L91-92) “If I see anything tonight, why I should not marry her tomorrow in the congregation, why I should not wed, there will I shame her.” This is telling us that he is prepared to humiliate her and embarrass her in front of every one in the congregation. Thus the audience is left awaiting a dramatic showdown, knowing that the most character in the drama are expecting events to proceed happily.
We know that Claudio can be easily manipulated making it more believable for us as an audience. We would expect Claudio to defend Hero but he believes what he hears and is ready to shame Hero. In Act 2 Scene 1 L: 115-138 Don John, pretending to be Benedick, tells Claudio that Don Pedro is courting Hero for himself instead of wooing her for him. When Claudio hears this he quickly jumps to the conclusion that he no longer wants Hero, “farewell therefore, Hero.” (2,1 L: 138) Though he does find out that Don Pedro was in fact wooing Hero for him. By putting in this scene a lot is learnt about Claudio character. It revels that Claudio is very gullible, Shakespeare hiigight this floor in Claudio’s character. He is gullible and will act with out the necessary evidence.
As we go into act 4 scene 1 we feel tense. We do not quite know what is going to happen, and we fear the worst for Hero and Claudio. Shakespeare has us ready as an audience for the Drama of the wedding.
The scene opens with Leonato expecting nothing, untoward calls to the fair “come Friar Francis be brief.” Leonato wants to get the wedding finished so that they can celebrate. He does not suspect that the wedding is going to be a complete disaster. Shakespeare makes it impossible for us not feel sorry for Hero. As an audience we go into Act 4 scene 1 knowing that Claudio wants to shame her and because of this we already feel concerned for her because we know it is a trick. Don Pedro and Claudio, both very respected men, convince her own father that she is not a maid but “an approved wanton” (VI, 1, 39). She knows that she is completely innocent and becomes confused and shocked. She is insulted time and time again by Claudio and Don John. Shakespeare does not provide Hero with the opportunity to speck for herself. She is only allowed to answer direct questions and her responses aren’t treated wit respect. This is very effective and we are led to feel angry and frustrated and her behalf.
Claudio is clearly very upset. He loved Hero and the night before his wedding he is led to believe that she has been disloyal. This makes him very wrathful. We can feel just as sorry for him, as we do for Hero. He loved Hero, and he is hurt, and he wants to hurt Hero just as much as he is hurt. He does this by shaming her. In Shakespeare’s time if a woman was disloyal, she would become worthless and no man would want to go anywhere near her. A young woman of high social standards such as hero needs to be a virgin on her wedding night. Now she is reduced to the level of a common prostitute, Claudio calls her an “approve`d wanton” (L: 39) which means ‘proven whore.’ Don Pedro refers to her as a common stale “I stand dishonoured that have gone about to link my dear friend to a common stale.” She is spoken of with complete contempt.
Shakespeare uses Leanato to shock the audience even further. In with great distress shouts out “Hath no man’s dagger here a point for me.”(IV, 1, 102) when he says this he is saying that can any one kill him, he feels his life is over and is no longer worth living. His only child has shamed him and he no longer has anything to be proud of. This highlights even more the importance of young’s woman’s purity when she is given in marriage.
Leonato dismiss Hero. He Wishes her dead. He says, “Death is the fairest cover for her shame that may be wished for.”(L: 118-119) Even while Hero is unconscious lying on the floor he still has no sympathy for her and her continues to pour shame on her with one long speech with insult after insult. We know that Leonato is completely convinced with one statement, “Could she here deny the story that is printed in her blood?”(L: 114) Her guilt is revealed from her blushes and she cannot deny what she has done. Leonato wishes her to die, when he says, “do not open thine eyes.” he is saying go away and leave I don’t want to see you. He calls her dirty and unclean. “Oh she is fallen into a pit of ink, the wide hath to few drops to wash her clean again.” (L: 132-134) This tells us he believes that she is so dirty and unpure that she can never be clean. Shakespeare has Leonato say a pit of ink because it gives us an idea that she is falling into a large pool which is too big for her to climb out. He then states, nothing will ever cover up what she has done. “salt to little, which may season give to her foul tainted flesh.” (134-135) In the time of Shakespeare’s there was no freezer or fridge, so to keep they meat fresh they would put salt on it. When he insults Hero he is saying to her that there is nothing to cover your filth and what you have done.
This is a very shocking speech from Leonato, we do not expect a father to behave like this towards his daughter. If something like this happened today we might expect the father to help and defend her daughter. This is because a father today would not have as much at stake and therefore be willing to support his daughter. However Leonato has a lot more at stake. He would lose a large amount of respect from what has happened, as children were said to be mirrors of their parents. With Leonato being a man of power no one in this time would want to know him and deal with him. The father has also lost a lot of respect for Hero, he has looked after Hero since her mother died, so he feels that he has been betrayed, I belive that he feels that Hero has let him down. Today there is nothing like this at state. There would be gossip going around but the father has not as much to lose, and it would have been considered Hero’s choice.
Shakespeare introduces the plan to fake Heroes death. From this we get a change in mood. When Hero is insulted for something she has not done we feel frustrated and angry. When we see that Hero has not been completely thrown out we have a sense of hope for Hero. With hope that the watchmen will bring what they heard forward and all will be restored. So there is a great relief in the audience. The wedding has proved to be a very dramatic and exciting scene. However Shakespeare does not end the scene at the end of the wedding. He carries the suspense on with Benedick and Beatrice.
As one love story seems to be ending, Shakespeare picks up the action and opens another. The closing scene with Beatrice and Benedick is effective because it follows the wedding we feel very down and angry, but this shows us that there is still love left in this play. In earlier scenes the ploy was to get Beatrice and Benedick to fall in love. After seeing them squabble with one and another. Now we see them declare there love, we are delighted for them.
However Shakespeare again does not chose to end the scene with Leonato and Beatrice in love. He chooses to end the scene on a more dramatic note. Benedick in an attempt to comfort Beatrice says. “Come bid me do anything for thee.”(L: 278) Beatrice with very strong words replies “kill Claudio”(L: 279) This might be a shock, but quite understandable, as she is under the impression that Claudio is being nasty to Hero. Claudio refuses, but Beatrice is a strong woman. She is a very different character to Hero. She is very strong at heart very powerful with her words. Hero is a more timid character. When Claudio and Don Pedro were accusing her she was unable to stand up for herself. By make tow female character so close yet so very different Shakespeare shows that we cannot make assumptions about how women feel and behave.
After much squabbling Benedick ends the scene just as dramatically as it started. “Enough, I am engaged, I will challenge him.” (L: 13) This is a very tense moment. Much could happen from here and we are worried for Benedick and Claudio, and we can only hope that all is cleared up before anything else happens and Don John causes complete disruption.
Act 4 scene 1 has proven to be a scene with many twists and turns. Shakespeare manages to create an exciting and dramatic scene. Which ends on a note of suspense as intense at that of the opening.