Shakespeare’s Treatment of Courtship and Marriage in “Much Ado About Nothing” Essay Sample

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In ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ there are two love interests on which the play is mainly focused. The courtship between the two couples Beatrice and Benedick and Hero and Claudio gives the audience a glance at two completely different forms of love.

The relationship between the characters Claudio and Hero is one which is very traditional and a very safe way of communicating their feelings to one another. Shakespeare borrowed the story of Hero and Claudio from a man called Matteo Bandello, this shows that this may not be his own view of how love should be expressed. He did however invent the story of Benedick and Beatrice; this may mean that he believes that the way in which love is expressed should be much more spontaneous and heart-felt. The way that Beatrice and Benedick treat each other offers humour as this is one of Shakespeare’s comedies whilst also providing a relationship which seems much more modern and extraordinary for the time. The courting between Beatrice and Benedick is slightly vicious as they seem never to compliment each other but instead comment on each others faults ‘he is no less than a stuffed man’ and the names which they call each other make it seem like they are feuding as opposed to courting ‘madam disdain’. This may give the reader mixed feelings as to how they truly feel, however how easily they accept their feelings during the juxtaposed gulling scenes shows that they have very strong feelings towards one another ‘by this day, she’s a fair lady’ and ‘taming my wild heart to thy loving hands’. They express their love for one another very rarely during the play and when they do it seems to be done very reluctantly.

The relationship between Claudio and Hero seems to a reader of this day to be slightly boring and eventless. It is the exact contrast to the relationship between Benedick and Beatrice. Claudio does often compliment Hero ‘can the world buy such a jewel?’ however his love for her is very strong but it seems that he is able to feel the way he wishes as if he could turn his emotions on and off as he explains that he could leave his love if he were to be wanted in battle. Claudio, although he loves Hero intensely, he relies heavily on others to express his feelings to her. This relationship is has true love involved but seems very structured and doesn’t quite look like they feel it. Claudio explains that he will never stop loving Hero ‘if my passion change not shortly, God forbid it should be otherwise’; this is ironic because he fell in love so quickly and proves himself wrong as he very quickly falls out of love when she is accused of being unfaithful.

The language used to describe the courtship between these two couples show two very different approaches to this act of love. The language between Hero and Claudio is extremely romantic ‘in mine eye, she is the sweetest lady that I ever looked on’ but the language used by Benedick and Beatrice is slightly degrading towards each other ‘if he had wit enough to keep himself warm’ ‘you are a rare parrot-teacher’ and they are continuously quarrelling ‘there’s a skirmish of wit between them’.

The gulling scenes are the two scenes in which Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into uncovering their hidden passion for one another which only each other were oblivious to as others had clearly noticed ‘she were an excellent wife for Benedick’. The words of Balthasar’s song at the beginning of act 2 scene 3 help explain the feud between Benedick and Beatrice ‘men were deceivers ever’. Benedick describes his ideal woman as ‘virtuous, rich, wise, fair and mild’ Beatrice, although he would never go as far as to admit it actually does mainly fit this strict criteria although she is not ‘mild’; this shows that they were destined for each other from the beginning of the play, however the reader only truly becomes aware of this now.

The two gulling scenes are juxtaposed and this allows the reader to compare them immediately. In act 2 scene 3 Benedick is very quick to assume that they are speaking the truth as in fact he knows that this is what he truly wants Beatrice to feel, he does not look deeply into the scenario as he wants Beatrice to reciprocate his feelings for her that he had not yet ever even considered expressing. In act 3 scene 1 we see Beatrice in an environment in which she feels comfortable as she is with only women, this leads to her feeling she can believe Hero and Ursula when they gull her into admitting her feelings for Benedick ‘ to bind our love up in a holy band’. These two scenes change both Beatrice and Benedick’s views on love and marriage as both had previously sworn they would never marry, but both admit now that they could see each other marrying.

In Shakespeare’s time plays would have been acted by a male-only cast, this meant that the actors would have had to be able to portray the feminism of the women as best they could by using body language. The relationship between Claudio and Hero was one which the Shakespearean audience would have been a custom to and would have expected.

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