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Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing - Essay Example

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Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing William Shakespeare was born in 1564 and is considered the greatest writer of English literature. Much Ado About Nothing was probably written in 1598 and 1599 and is considered one of his best comedies as it combines elements of a comical drama with darker human concerns of human frailty or man’s imperfect nature…
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Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing
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"Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing"

Download file to see previous pages In the play the majority of characters including Hero, Leonato, Claudio and Benedick are characters who adhere to Renaissance ideals. In contrast, Beatrice stands out as the only character that does not conform to the ideals of the Renaissance period. During the Renaissance, man was superior to woman in all aspects. Women were seen as inferior to men. They were subservient to the men in the family and were expected to obey the men in all aspects of their lives. Men made all decisions and the women were expected to obey them. Women represented virtues such as obedience, piety, chastity, humility and patience. Renaissance society was a patriarchal society. At every point on the social scale, a man was the head of the household. A woman was controlled by her parents throughout her childhood, then, handed over to her husband who would exercise control over her until death. This patriarchal attitude can be seen in the characters of Antonio and Leonato. Antonio advises Hero, “Well niece, I trust you will be ruled by your father” (Act 2 Sc i). A daughter is supposed to obey her father even when it comes to choosing a husband. Leonato reminds Hero how to behave when the prince comes to woo her. Then, when it becomes clear that the prince was on behalf of Claudio and not himself, Leonato accepts the sudden change of son-in-law with no consideration for his daughter’s feelings. He demands that his daughter agree to a marriage whether she approves of it or not. Beatrice suggests that Hero agree with her father only if it pleases her to do so. She says, “Yes, faith, it is my cousin’s duty to make cursy and say, ‘Father, as it please you.’ But for all that, cousin, let him be a handsome fellow, or make another cursy, and say, ‘Father, as it please me’” (Act 2, Sc i. 52 -56). To this, Leonato says “Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband” (Act 2, Sc i. 53 -54). In fact, Leonato is reminding Beatrice that she is a maid, an old unmarried maid, something that is looked upon unfavorably by the Renaissance patriarchal society. In the patriarchal society, a woman’s ultimate goal is to marry and be an obedient wife. Similarly, Leonato displays his adherence to the traditional male role in other sections of the play. Later in the play, following Claudio’s denunciation of Hero, Leonato does not heed to his daughter’s claims that she is innocent and wishes her death rather than live with a tarnished reputation. “Do not live, Hero, do not ope thine eyes, / For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die, / Thought I that thy spirits were stronger than thy shames, / Myself would on the rearward of reproaches / Strike at thy life. (Act 4, Sc I 123 – 127). Even when the rest of the household believes in Hero’s innocence and takes her side in the conflict, he is convinced of Hero’s tainted reputation. It is only after Benedick and the friar swear they believe in Hero’s innocence, does he relent. Leonato’s love for his daughter only lasts as she protects his name and honor. Once it appears that she has brought shame, he wants her to die and put an end to the dishonor she has brought. Not only does Hero willingly submit to her father as his obedient daughter, she is also willing to submit to her husband as his wife. She is performing her roles as an obedient daughter and ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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Much ado about nothing
The same kind of incidents happens in today’s life, where love conquers the hearts of many people and they live together a happy married life. Women have been made victims of social injustice, right from the past civilisations to this age. This theme has also been very strongly dealt with in the play, which reflects upon the beliefs of society.
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The play keeps true to the title as many of the characters participate mainly in the actions of just observing, listening and nothing. The play deals with the masculine feelings pertaining to women's chastity and the subjugation of women by the male dominated society.
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