Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare
Antonio: Well, niece, I trust you'll be ruled by your father.
Beatrice: Yes faith, it is my cousin's duty to make curtsy, and say,
father as it please you.
Does this extract reflect Shakespeare's presentation of women in the
play, and what is your response to this presentation 400 years later?
The presentation of women in the play is varied. Shakespeare has
produced two very different presentations of women. One being
Beatrice, the assertive, outspoken, almost masculine female and the
other being Hero, the 'modest young lady' who does whatever she is
Beatrice has no mother or father in her life and therefore lacks a
sense of duty. She doesn't have a father to control her and tell her
what to do, which is a major contrast to Hero. Beatrice is perceived
in the play as a threat to the masculine world. She engages in verbal
battles with Benedick and openly criticises men, which goes against
Elizabethan ideals. In that society, people would have disapproved of
this and she would be perceived as lacking modesty, a great virtue of
It is so indeed, he is no less than a stuffed man; but
For the stuffing-well, we are all mortal.
Beatrice doesn't seem to offend anyone except Benedick. The other
characters are amused by her wit.
She speaks poniards, and every word stabs. If her
Breath were as terrible as her terminations, there
Were no living near her; she would infect to the north
When the soldiers return from war, Beatrice almost mocks them. Since
she has no man in her life to dominate her, she is full of strength,
intelligence and gaiety and people believe that her sharp tongue
repels potential husbands. Leonato and Antonio try to persuade
Beatrice to marry but Leonato feels she will never marry and Antonio
claims that she is too bad-tempered. This implies that men only want a
passive, submissive wife.
By my troth, niece thou will never get thee a husband if thou be so
shrewd of thy tongue.
However, Don-Pedro finds Beatrice to be a 'pleasant-spirited lady' and
doesn't see the shrewd and witty side to her.
In faith lady, you have a merry heart.
Her shrewishness is an exaggeration of an innate quality and her
intention not to marry is not taken too seriously by the other
characters. Beatrice is seen as an independent woman with a strong
personality. Her masculinity and wittiness are seen as a sexual
challenge to Benedick. Deep down he admires her.
She would have made Hercules have turned spit, yea, and have cleft his
club to make the fire too. Come, talk not of her. You shall find her
the infernal Ate in good apparel.
In the masked banquet scene, everyone has hidden identities which
allows all the characters to be different. Beatrice and Benedick