Shakespeare's Presentation of Hero and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing

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Shakespeare's Presentation of Hero and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing

Hero and Beatrice are the two main female characters in Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" and they tell us a lot about how Shakespeare saw women in the context of the sixteenth century upper classes.

In looking at the presentation of the characters it is important to examine their entrance into the play and what first impressions the audience gets of their personality and appearance. Although they are both present in the very first scene of the play it is Beatrice who speaks the most and makes her presence known. Her very first line is also worth noting as when she says

"I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from
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This would be more like what the Elizabethan audiences would be expecting to see and for the beginning of the play at least there is an interesting contrast between the two female characters.

This contrast does not however, remain the same throughout the play, as we see that Hero becomes more and more confident as the plot develops, and by the beginning of Act 3.1 she goes into a speech of 15 lines explaining to Margaret her plan for getting Benedick and Beatrice together. This will be interesting for the audience as Hero up to this point would have been seen as a minor character, and although all the plot development has been revolving around her, this is where she starts to enter into the spirit of it all. Hero begins to take command here, instructing Margaret of her duties but she does not move away from her stereotypical upper-class woman's behaviour as she is only acting in this manner when there are no men around. With Beatrice however we see tendencies turning the other way through the course of the play. Where she began as an assertive woman, witty and quick, she comes to the conclusion in Act 4.1 where she says

"Oh that I were a man for his sake"

she is acknowledging that as a woman she has less powers and she is wishing that she could be a man to attack Claudio properly. Beatrice also recognises that she can be