The Importance of Male Honour in Much Ado About Nothing

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Draft: ‘in this apparent comedy male honour is a subject of deadly seriousness’ Do you agree? Much ado about nothing (MAUN) was written in a patriarchal society, (ruled by men) where Shakespeare could influence society’s morals and virtues in his plays. The idea of male honour was central to view the concept of masculinity. Shakespeare uses the seriousness of honour through his characters and his play as a whole looks at both sides of the question of honour. Although male honour is supposed to be viewed as deadly serious or there are its comical sides to it. Like in the first opening scene when Beatrice is having a spar with the messenger, he simply can’t keep up with her. Beatrice makes the messenger look weak when she proposes these insults towards Benedick. The Messenger try’s to defend ‘Signoir Mountanto’ ‘He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.’ The messenger tries to sustain his loyalty to the men and defends Benedick to make him sound like a good man. But with Beatrice’s quick witted insults he just simply can’t keep up with her and her ‘acid tongue.’ She has no care for what she saying and how she’s attacking Benedicks behaviour as a loyal man. This could suggest that Shakespeare is trying to show that women can be stronger than a man if given the chance to. This can relate back to Elizabeth the 1st, she was a strong headed women with strict views and was very opinionated and even masculine. Some of her people at that time didn’t even realise she was a women. Elizabeth was respected and honoured even though she was a woman in the 17th century who usually had no rights; she was the ‘virgin queen’ that married her country. Elizabeth had a famous quote: ‘I know I have the body of a weak feeble woman but I have the heart and stomach of a king.’ We can relate this to Beatrice, as a woman of her time she is strong courageous and independent witch would not be seen in typical Elizabethan women, her independence makes her that much more stronger than every other women in the play, but with this comes the name of a ‘shrew.’ This is how other people would see her as she is not the stereo typical Elizabethan women like Hero. Male honour is said to be a deadly serious part of the play in MAUN. Leonato and Claudio play a big part of this in Act 4 Scene 1 it shows how something as little such as a women’s chastity can affect a man’s honour. But also what depths they will go to get it back again. ‘There Leonato, take her back again. Give not this rotten orange’ and ‘O, one to much by thee, why had I one?’ In the Elizabethan times honour was one of the strongest virtues holding great importance. Both men and women’s honour had mutual dependency. Women’s honour was their chastity and purity; in men it was fighting, respect, loyalty and courage. In the 21st Century this would have been viewed in a completely different way, instead of Claudio being taken seriously and a serious deception towards him and his honour, we would view it as an ‘over the top’ reaction and completely ridiculous. But in the Elizabethan era honour was everything you could even question the play; In Elizabethan times the women performer’s would have been played by males, which must have been humiliating and degrading even dishonourable for acting like that as a man should be a man and a women should be a women. I think that Shakespeare is trying to put a point across that honour is overrated and is in fact simply funny as he used such a serious matter in comedy. This slander scene shows how Claudio feels so strongly about Hero’s chastity and he wouldn’t let anything jeopardise his honour. But you can also take your personal reputation too far and damage other people in the process making it deadly serious. It also shows how honour can affect other people as Hero is not pure anymore affecting Leonato because he has no one to give his daughter to and has no heir it also puts shame onto their family name. It could have affected Claudio’s honour but it also...
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