Forgiveness and Marriage in Much Ado about Nothing, All's Well That Ends Well, and Measure for Measure
Shakespeare never does manage to make the journey to the end of his comic plays an easy one for his characters or his audience, and as his comedies evolve, the journey becomes even more difficult. Tragic elements and more psychologically complex characters increase the intensity of the ending and often make a reader or viewer question if there will be a happy ending at all. Specific male characters in three plays act as impediments to this comic ending, often prompted by a villainous character and sometimes by their own doing. These men: Claudio in Much Ado about Nothing, Bertram in All's Well That Ends Well, and Angelo in Measure for Measure for various reasons are not ready for marriage or love. Living in a patriarchal society, they are often more concerned with fighting in a war or preserving male bonds than they are with being in love or being married. The problems that occur between the couples about to be married or just recently married are essential because these men need to grow up and become responsible. The only way to change them is to let them commit these harmful acts and realize the consequence. The women: Hero, Helena, and Mariana must be strong enough to forgive them for the hurtful acts these men have committed against them in order for some semblance of a happy ending to take place.
The "crimes" committed by Claudio in Much definitely requires a great act of forgiveness but Hunter feels that forgiveness is the essential element in this play. He point out that "the love of man for woman (but not of woman for man) is seen too frail an emotion to sustain the pressures that are frequently put upon it. Man's love fails, and woman must charitably forgive the failure" (60). Claudio fails Hero for several reasons; he is youthful and easily influenced by friends. Even more important is the fact that he has just returned home from the war, and some say that he is more comfortable on the war front than with dealing with feelings for Hero.
Janice Hays, in her essay "Those 'soft and delicate desires' and the Distrust of Women," says:
...his [Claudio] association with the male world, his silence in the presence of women, and his hesitation about affirming his tentative feelings imply that he is more at home with the actions of war than the emotions of love, and the speech in which he finally declares his feelings suggests the basis for his diffidence. (81)
Claudio definitely lacks self-confidence in the field of love. He is dumbfounded by his feelings, and unlike war, Hero and his feelings for her are not just enemies he can fight or kill, he must talk to her and this is very intimidating indeed. Hays supports this idea and says, "We may deduce that Claudio is a young man whose energy has been channeled into male pursuits but who now finds himself physically attracted to a gorgeous...