How Shakespeare Dramatically Presents Power and Authority in the Relationship Between Men and Women in Much Ado About Nothing

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How Shakespeare Dramatically Presents Power and Authority in the
Relationship Between Men and Women in Much Ado About Nothing

One of the key explorations of power and authority in “Much Ado About
Nothing” is the relationship between Hero and Leonato as father and
daughter. The play was written in Elizabethan England, and social
attitudes of the period, together with long standing tradition,
influence Shakespeare’s portrayal of the “proper” relationship between
father and daughter, and duty they owed to each other. In “Much Ado
About Nothing” it is very much a patriarchal society, where rank and
position rule supreme and women are submissive position to men,
whether fathers or husbands. This “male
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However, while Beatrice does publicly denounce the more stringent
aspects of arranged marriage, and displays herself as a thinking
character, there is an indication in the play that both Leonato and
Antonio dismiss her view e.g.“she is too curst” This shows that older
men didn’t hold a woman’s opinion in much value, which might be the
reason for Hero’s reluctance to offer her opinion in front of men.
Beatrice championing this view of female choice, not Hero, only
further serves to distinguish the positions of the two women in
relation to male power. On first view, Hero is the obedient female
character, while Beatrice is the abrasive character. However, this
position is challenged by Hero’s firmness in dealing with other women
“my cousin is a fool, and so are you”. Indeed, both men and women have
much more different patterns of behaviour when outside each other’s
company. Hero is covert, silent and publicly unassertive in front of
men, because she doesn’t believe that she will be listened to.
Beatrice is the only female character who Shakespeare presents as
unconstrained by this restriction. However, the only male character
that seems to listen to her is Benedict, which only magnifies the
uniqueness of the two characters, both as a couple and as individuals,
in that Beatrice is not tamed by male power, and Benedict acknowledges
female wisdom.

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