Shakespeare’s play ‘Much Ado about Nothing’ has two main female characters, Beatrice and Hero, who are cousins. Both appear to be completely different in the beginning of the play but, as things progress and their characters develop, there are also some very obvious similarities between them. Hero and Beatrice have a very close relationship; they are best friends. Leonato is Hero’s father but Beatrice has no parents, which gives her greater freedom. Where Hero is polite, quiet, respectful and gentle, Beatrice is feisty, cynical, witty, and sharp.
Shakespeare uses quite a lot of literary devices and techniques to present the characters of Hero and Beatrice in a way that lets the audience easily compare and contrast them. For example, in the characterisation of Hero and Beatrice, the dialogue used – what they say, how they say it, what other characters say about them and Hero’s silence are all very important in revealing their characters; in a similar way, their actions – what the characters do, and their inaction contrasts and creates significant difference between them, bringing each one’s personality. In addition, Shakespeare’s constant use of dramatic irony, exaggeration and contrasting plots, themes and structure all combine in his presentation of the two.
At the start of the play Hero is presented as a typical woman of the time, modest and demure – she says little. In fact, Shakespeare’s first words describing Hero, ‘Is she not a modest young lady’ announce her essential qualities of modesty and decorum. In this period, these were vital qualities to have in a wife and Hero possessed them, unlike Beatrice. By contrast, Shakespeare portrays Beatrice as an untypical woman, being outspoken, independent, witty and unconventional – she is always participating in the conversation even with the men (especially Benedick), which Hero never does.
A prime example of this in Act 1 is when Beatrice asks the messenger about Benedick, (a lord, and soldier from Padua) in an offensive way:
“I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from the wars or no?”
This is part of her “merry war” with Benedick. Beatrice appears to loathe Benedick and vice versa; they engage in many “skirmishes of wit.” However, although Beatrice appears hardened and sharp, she is vu...
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...he other hand, Beatrice and Benedick are comedy-makers and Beatrice is not ruled by her father as Hero clearly is. It does take Don Pedro’s benevolent plot to bring Benedick and Beatrice together, however. A modern audience would prefer Beatrice to Hero as she is her own self and admirable. The relationships also differ because Benedick and Beatrice’s relationship slowly grew whereas Claudio and Hero’s relationship was love at first sight. Perhaps it was a little hasty as we see in Act 4 how their love turns sour.
Beatrice and Hero are both wonderful and intriguing characters. They develop in interesting ways and they represent two extremely different views of society and what it was like to be a woman in those patriarchal times.
I find Beatrice the more interesting character of the two women; she is more active and has a fuller character which lets you speculate about her whereas this isn’t possible with Hero because her character is so bland. Beatrice’s character is also more entertaining and she stimulates feelings out of the reader, making you like or dislike her and the way she acts and again this isn’t as possible for Hero because her character is so featureless.
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