In ‘Much ado about nothing’ Shakespeare presents us with a conventional heroine (Hero) and an unconventional heroine (Beatrice). Which is more to your taste and why?
Shakespeare presents us with 2 heroines in ‘Much ado about nothing’ called Hero and Beatrice. Hero is the conventional heroine because she is an ideal Elizabethan woman. She is beautiful, modest, obedient and co-operative. Her character stays constant throughout the play and she has very few lines. One of her lines that show her character is act 2, scene 1, line 847-8; ” I will do any modest office, my lord, to help my cousin to a good husband.” Hero wants to marry and be the perfect wife and she succeeds in this when she marries Claudio near the end of the play.
The other heroine in ‘Much ado about nothing’ is Beatrice. Beatrice is the unconvential heroine because she is out of the ordinary and different to the stereotypical Elizabethan woman. She is playful, outspoken and feisty and she expresses her attitudes to men and marriage openly. We learn about Beatrice’s interest in Benedick right from the start of the play when her first line is “I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from the wars, or no?” Their relationship is entertaining and unusual but adds much amusement to the play.
Throughout the play, we learn about Beatrice by a lot of her opinions and views, whereas with Hero, we learn about her by what other people say about her. An example of this is Claudio’s comment in act 1, scene 1, line 169; “Can the world buy such a jewel?” Claudio and Hero’s relationship is very ordinary and the whole affair depends not on Hero but on the permission of her father. This shows that she does not have a say in her future, but does not object to any of the decisions made for her. Hero and Claudio are never alone together during the play. This is unrealistic and it is hard for a modern audience, such as myself, to believe in this relationship. Their friends set them up, which is another reason why it is hard to believe their love for each other. Claudio declared his love for Hero, as soon as he saw her, which shows that his feelings are entirely based upon her outside beauty.
Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship, however, is much more genuine and realistic. They have a constant war of words and their attraction is obvious to us, but they both would rather die alone than be the first to admit it. It takes a few little white lies, but Benedick and Beatrice soon find themselves falling for one another. Their friends, tired of their bickering, convince them that the other is desperately in love, but afraid to reveal it. They succumb to the ruse and become hopelessly smitten. The sharp-witted banter turns into declarations of love, but not for long. There’s an instant connection between them, which makes it easier to accept their falling for so obvious a deception. The relationship between Beatrice and Benedick provides the play with its most energetic and enjoyable moments.
Beatrice and Hero are both the centre of different plots, devised by their friends. Hero is involved in a plot to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love and this brings out her sense of humour, even though she is only going along with everybody else’s ideas. Hero is the centre of a plot, when Don Pedro’s brother Don John succeeds in making Claudio believe that Hero has been unfaithful to him, just before their wedding day. It is difficult for Hero to stick up for herself, and then we see Beatrice take the matter into her own hands. This shows Beatrice’s loyalty to her cousin.
Hero shows no flaws and agrees with those around her, whereas her cousin is the opposite and is not afraid to speak her mind. When talking about love, Beatrice states,
“I had rather hear a dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me,” and she is always playfully flirting with Benedick, shown in act 1, scene 1 when she says;
“Scratching could not make it worse, an ’twere such a face as yours were,” A conventional heroine, such as Hero, would never say something of the sort, especially to a man. Beatrice also expresses her anger towards Claudio, when he accuses Hero of being unfaithful. She says, “If I were a man, I would eat his heart in the market place!”. She is not afraid to show her anger and tougher side. We can see she also has a very loyal and caring side when she protects Hero at the wedding when she says, “No truly not: although until last night I have this twelve month been her bedfellow”.
In conclusion, Beatrice, the play’s unconventional heroine, is much more to my taste. This is because I can relate to her more than I can relate to Hero. Beatrice is suited to a modern audience. She is witty and friendly and she adds much humour and excitement to the story. She shows several different sides to her character during the play including her bickering and sarcasm with Benedick, her romantic side when she find out Benedick loves her, her loyal side when she protects her cousin at the wedding, and her tough side when she expressed her anger towards Claudio. I think she is more genuine and realistic than Hero and I really enjoyed getting to know her down to earth character throughout the play. Hero’s character is very reserved and does not really unfold in the play. Although she is the centre of interesting plots and storylines, she does not reveal her true personality, emotions or opinions. I think that Hero is much more suited to an Elizabethan audience as she is socially acceptable to them. She is pure and exactly the type of woman that men would want to marry, but in my opinion she does not bring much to the play and she is not to my taste.