Female Imagery In Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing".

1384 words - 6 pages

In Virginia Woolf's novel "A Room of One's Own", Woolf puts forth the argument that "it would have been impossible, completely and entirely, for any woman to have written the plays of Shakespeare" (Woolf 60), as women of that time neither had the finances nor the space where they could sit down and write effectively. Along with this convincing argument, Shakespeare's constant portrayal of women as second class citizens lacking in personality cannot be ignored. Even though Elizabethan values were rooted in a patriarchal system, a woman playwright would not have portrayed the members of her own sex in such a degrading manner as Shakespeare did. The depiction of women in Shakespeare's comedy, "Much Ado About Nothing" reflects a common pattern of imagery. In this play, Shakespeare demonstrates that women are objects, that their worth lies solely in their chastity and purity, and that women, on the whole, lack in personality. He further illustrates that women who do not lack the strength of character are of no use to society until they are subdued.In Shakespeare's play, male characters objectify women. In the opening scene of "Much Ado About Nothing", Claudio, a young lord of Florence, professes that he is in love with Hero, the daughter of Leonato, governor of Messina. The audience feels that it is Hero's physical beauty as well as her innocent and quiet nature that attracts Claudio to her. Before Claudio has even spoken to Hero he asks his friend Benedick: "Is she not a modest young lady?" (Much Ado About Nothing 1.1. 165) Claudio is not interested in Hero's personality. He further seeks his friend's approval when he questions Benedick: "Can the world buy such a jewel?" (1.1. 181) Not only does Claudio need Benedick to validate Hero's worth, he equates her with a precious object. This transmits the patriarchal idea that women are not people, but possessions to own, admire and use.Shakespeare places great stress on the virginity of his female characters. In "Much Ado About Nothing", Claudio, in his quest for lineage, is careful to find out that Hero is Leonato's virtuous heir before he woos her. In this case marriage is seen as business, and not as something that is related to true feelings or love. The concept of virginity in "Much Ado About Nothing" becomes a matter of life or death. When Don John, in his quest to get revenge on Claudio, falsely informs him that Hero has engaged in premarital sex with another man, events take a chaotic turn for the worse. Upon hearing that Hero is impure, Claudio naively responds: "If I see anything to-night why I should/ not marry her, to-morrow in the congregation,/where I should wed, there will I shame her" (Much Ado About Nothing 3.2.123-5). Virginity, an important ideal in Elizabethan times, is not only desirable in a woman but necessary if she is to be wed.When Claudio and Don Pedro witness the deception Don John has deliberately set up, it is Hero who suffers. Don John pays Borachio to woo "Margaret the Lady...

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