Differences between Beatrice and Hero in the early scenes of Shakespeare’s play ‘Much Ado about Nothing’
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 vulnerable, for she loves Benedick. She is disguising her feelings for Benedick by calling him names and disguise is a major theme in this play. Beatrice’s vulnerability is an important point of comparison with Hero, as she is also vulnerable, as we see later in the play.
In contrast to her talkative cousin, Hero speaks only once in Act 1 – in the presence of Beatrice, her father and the messenger, “My cousin means Signor Benedick of Padua” she says, to explain Beatrice’s jibe.
Similarly, in comparing wooing, wedding and repenting to three types of dancing Beatrice describes them as a...