Much Ado literature essay: Do you agree that Shakespeare presents Beatrice as offending societies expectations of women?

Much Ado about Nothing essay analysing Shakespeare's presentation of Beatrice and  how it would have been perceived by the contemporary audience

HideShow resource information
Preview of Much Ado literature essay: Do you agree that Shakespeare presents Beatrice as offending societies expectations of women?

First 557 words of the document:

Do you agree that Shakespeare presents the character of Beatrice as
`offending against society's expectations of women?
In this essay I will be speaking about the presentation of Beatrice, and how this
presentation opposes or conforms to the conventions of women in the Elizabethan
era. I will begin the essay by examining act 1 scene 1, act 3 scene 1, act 4 scene 1 and
act 5 scene 2 to see how Beatrice is portrayed in each one.
At the very beginning of the play, the audience can immediately deduce the
outspoken, crude and seemingly masculine character of Beatrice. Her first line `Is
Signior Mountanto returned?' is a sexual pun. This use of language and sarcastic tone
instantaneously allows the audience to recognize that Beatrice is not a conventional
woman. The juxtaposition of Beatrice's jesting wit and wild words, to Hero's timid
silence and tameness only increases the impression she gives to the audience. Hero
speaks only once throughout the whole scene to say `My cousin means Signior
Benedick of Padua' there are no jokes or sexual connotations, only a polite formal
reference to Benedick. This line does however connote the closeness of Hero and
Beatrice, as they have obviously discussed Benedick together in private. This one line
compared to Beatrice's forty-nine, connotes her dominative, unreserved nature
shown to the audience in this first scene. The `merry war' between Signior Benedick
and Beatrice also shows the audience that Beatrice is not a commonplace woman.
She has the nerve to deliberately speak ill of a man and defy his military achievements
numerous times (e.g. `He is a very valiant trencher-man; he hath an excellent
stomach'). This shows her opposition to the conventional image of women in a
patriarchal society, as she is not afraid to speak her mind.
Towards the end of act 3 scene 1 this image rapidly changes. Beatrice's gulling at first
re-iterates her characteristics that we have already observed. Hero speaks, quite
harshly, about her cousin, knowing that she can hear her. For example Hero says
`nature never framed a woman's heart of prouder stuff', `She is so self-endeared' and
that she `turns every man the wrong side out'. The audience having already
determined these traits expects Beatrice to be angry with her cousin for pointing out
her more negative features. But the unexpected occurs. Beatrice is shocked and
appalled at how she is portrayed and swears to renounce her `pride and scorn'. She
proclaims her love for Benedick, and promises that `her kindess will incite' him. This
new side to Beatrice is quite shocking. She appears to have forgotten about her
misandry and is readily prepared to embrace the role of a typical wife. This sudden
reversal of her character allows the audience to see Beatrice in a different light, and
explicitly suggests that maybe Beatrice will conform to society's idea of women after
In act 4 scene 1 the brutal, outspoken nature of Beatrice is once more seen. After
the disgrace of her cousin, Beatrice turns to Benedick and says `Kill Claudio!'. This
brutal request goes completely against her previous promise of `kindness' and her

Other pages in this set

Page 2

Preview of page 2

Here's a taster:

Also in this scene, she begins to be quite evasive about
her love for Benedick, `I loved nothing so well as you, but believe me not, and yet I lie
not; I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing.'. It's almost as if Claudio disgracing Hero
has made Beatrice question her love for Benedick. Or maybe she has started to
regret denouncing her dislike of men because of how Claudio has acted.…read more

Page 3

Preview of page 3

Here's a taster:

This suspicion was confirmed in act 4 scene 1. Her rage, acerbity and violent threats
towards Claudio, a man of high standing, would have thought to be completely
unacceptable. Women were to accept what men said, and take every accusation they
made to be solid truth. Instead Beatrice shows her devotion to her cousin, and her
animosity and disbelief towards Claudio.
Then finally in act 5 scene 2, the resulting character of Beatrice is shown.…read more


No comments have yet been made

Similar English Literature resources:

See all English Literature resources »See all resources »