Much Ado About Nothing
What does Leonato and Claudio’s treatment of Hero in Act 4 Scene 1 reveal about each character’s relationship with her and their attitudes to women? ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ is a romantic comedy set in the Elizabethan era. It shows the roles of men and women in a patriarchal society and how each are looked upon. The themes of this play are cuckold, where a married mans wife has sex with other men; the wife is adulterous. This play shows the relationship between two courtly lovers, ‘Hero’ and ‘Claudio’.
Leonato being the father of Hero has a close relationship with her. Hero represents Leonato in her image, and reflects on the way Leonato has brought up as a daughter. Leonato seems to be proud of his daughter and constantly, throughout the play, he shows her off. Leonato feels he knows his daughter very well, but also, expects a lot from her and wants to do what is best for his self image.
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With Leonato being much older than Claudio, Leonato knows what is best for his daughter, Hero and wants her to marry someone that will contribute to his self-image to, to make him look more superior.
Claudio is Hero’s fiance, and Hero also plays an important image for Claudio’s sake. Claudio does not know Hero very much, but relates to her as a ‘Jewel’. By relating Hero to a ‘Jewel, it shows us how precious she is to him and as a jewel is a prized possession gives us the image that Hero is Claudio’s prized possession. Don Jon creates this devious plan to get back at his brother Don Pedro as Don Pedro has it was his responsibility for this marriage to continue, therefore he wooed Hero for Claudio, so if it was to go wrong it would look bad on Don Pedro as he started this relationship.
In ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ Claudio seems to be very insecure; this is shown by the way Don Jon can easily mislead him into something which is not true. Claudio is seen as an easy target. To Claudio there is a lot of evidence as to him he is seeing it in front of is eyes and has the witness of Don Pedro and Don Jon. By this we can see it as very believable, however our eyes can deceive us and lead to consequences that you may not want to happen. As Claudio is obviously very angry at this stage he does not know how to confront Hero about this allegation.
Claudio is in a state of shock, to watch his bride-to-be, have sex with a man that has less status than him, and immediately questions himself about marrying Hero and especially confused about what to do. He then again confronts ’Don Jon for advice and approval of what to do. The way Claudio public humiliated Hero was very harsh. All the anger got took out on her and made her look vastly diminutive. With Don Jon, Don Pedro and Benedick in the presence of this public humiliation affected the situation a lot. As Hero can be very timid in the presence of a man, she does not answer to Claudio’s accusations against her.
With the fact that Don Jon, Don Pedro and Benedick were at the wedding; it gave a lot of pressure onto Claudio to show how superior he was in front of a respected woman to have supposedly slept with a lower class than her. Seeing that Don Jon, Don Pedro and Benedick was there and had witnessed themselves to have seen Hero have sex with another man before her wedding day, Claudio had there view of what had happened. By them being there Claudio showed that Hero was not worthy enough for him and wanted everyone else to know that as well; and look down at her.
Claudio insults Hero and refers her to approved wanton’s in today’s standard English is known as a proven whore. Claudio refers Hero to this as he witnessed it for himself, and in the Elizabethan era, to loose your virginity before marriage was a big deal and you would be known as a whore. Claudio is offended by the fact that Hero is seemed to be so ‘pure’ and ‘worthy’ and she has done this terrible act. By Claudio relating Hero to a ‘pure’ and ‘worthy’ women, gives us the image she is an innocent lady and has been brought up well.
Leonato plays a lot in these quotes because it puts the pressure onto him; giving the impression he wasn’t a good enough father to bring up his daughter to learn the meanings of wrong and right. This also shows a lot of the personal image; Claudio wants to show how he looked upon Hero before he found out about Hero’s wrongdoing, and then compares her to ‘Venus…pampered animal’. Venus was known as the goddess of sexual love, which relates to Hero as an over craved sexual ‘animal’. The meaning ‘pampered animal tells us that Claudio looks at Hero in an animal image; she cannot control herself and needs to be tamed.
Saying that Hero is a ‘pampered animal’ contrasts with the fact she cannot be controlled but yet is living a luxurious lifestyle. By this Claudio is quick to accuse Hero of wrong doing and because Hero never would do such a thing it appears he does not know her very well. When Claudio accuses Hero of having sex with another lower class man, Leonato is also very quick to accuse Hero as well. This is because Claudio is a at a high status and Leonato looks highly up to him, with Don Jon’s blessing on the marriage it looks a bad image for Leonato’s daughter, Hero to commit such a crime’.
When Hero was public humiliated, Leonato was to. Hero is seen as a part of Leonato as she shows the effort and care he has taken to bring her up as a: Loyal, Trusting, Obedient young lady. If Hero is to act in a dreadful way it would look back to Leonato because he is the one that brought her up. In Act 4, Scene 1, Leonato is incredibly ashamed of his daughter and what she has meant to have done. Leonato’s feelings are very intense, and it reflects the pride and love he felt towards Hero as a daughter. He is ashamed of how her honor has ‘fallen into a pit of ink’.
The public humiliation affected Leonato’s judgment towards his daughter, because Leonato is the governor of his city and at the wedding everyone is there so it is a big deal, for someone that the city looks up for advice, that there daughter would do such an outstanding act. Overall, the way that Leonato and Claudio treat Hero, is mainly to do with their self-image and how they are seen among the fellow citizens of their city. If both Leonato and Claudio had not been in such a high class then it would not be such a bigger deal if she had slept with another man.
Seeing that Hero did not sleep with another man, it shows how women are seen to me. Hero never really had her own mind and was expected to do what her father wanted for her and as for Leonato the image for Hero to be a loyal wife for him and for his status. Mostly a respected women is good for a mans image and shows that the father is capable to bring up his daughter to be a respected women. If Hero was to be guilty then it would look even worse for Leonato’s and Claudio’s self-image, as the citizens of their city would look down and would seem less superior.