Honor in Much Ado About Nothing
Shakespeare shows the level and type of honor expected of women of the time through the character of Hero. Hero, the much sought after daughter of Leonato, the governor of Messina, is judged based on how well she respects her fathers wishes. She is only honored if her father is honored. Her only personal honor lies in her chastity. She is expected to remain a maiden until her wedding night, with the loss of her virginity bringing down both her honor and her worthiness as a wife. On their wedding day, when Claudio exposes her "dirty secret" he states:
"Sweet Prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
There, Leonato, take her back again.
Give not this rotten orange to your friend.
She's but the sign and semblance of her honor "(IV, i).
This statement shows how a female of the time is looked down upon for giving herself up to a man that is not her husband. Her honor is disgraced for her "actions" and Claudio will no longer accept her as his wife because of the dishonor she has caused him.
Shakespeare uses both Claudio and Leonato to represent the males of the time and the honor code they were held to. Claudio is in no way held to the same pre-marital expectations as Hero, which, at the time, was the case for