Gender relations in "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Othello". How does genre make a difference?

Master's Thesis, 2016

53 Pages, Grade: 2,5


Table of Contents

1. Introduction

2. Much Ado About Nothing
2.1 Hero and Claudio
2.2 Beatrice and Benedick
2.3 Male Alliances and Villainy

3. Othello
3.1 Race and Gender
3.2 Desdemona and Othello
3.3 Othello and Iago

4. Conclusion

1. Introduction

I want to start my thesis by briefly discussing one of the seminal works on historical gender studies, Thomas Laqueur’s Making Sex. He argues that based on the publications of an old Greek physician named Galen, women and men were regarded as the same sex in Europe for about 2,000 years from the second century AD to circa 1800. He claims that male and female genitals were depicted and regarded as the same, with the only difference that the female genitalia were inside whereas the male genitalia were outside. Men and women were supposed to be different in degree but not in kind. Women were considered an imperfect version of men, since they were cooler, wetter, and more passive. Thus, the supposed sameness of the physical characteristics of men and women did by no means promise equality of the sexes; on the contrary, it underpinned the hierarchy and male superiority. Furthermore, women stood for fleshiness and desire (Laqueur 4). The connection of passiveness and desire as female traits seems controversial but is typical of the time. The idea of lustful, desirous, and uncontrollable women changed quite a lot later, especially in the 19th century, when women were usually supposed to have no or a very low sexual drive (von Braun 54). Although we also find “the fallen woman” in 18th and 19th century literature, who is unable to control her sexual passion. The concept of a promiscuous female sexuality in Shakespeare’s time might seem a bit odd to us today, but if we look at the plays, we find exactly this idea of women being lustful and uncontrollable for men. Laqueur (149) claims that “Sometime in the eighteenth century, sex as we know it was invented”. This means that Shakespeare’s contemporaries would still have had an ancient understanding of sex (or gender) differences. Although the concept of gender was not yet developed in Shakespeare’s time, I believe it is useful and justifiable to talk about gender relations. It is inevitable to take a modern perspective, and the concept of gender is not restricted to men and women of the 20th and 21st centuries; it is definitely applicable to Shakespeare’s characters, too, as I will try to show in this thesis.

Laqueur’s book was published in the early 1990s and unsurprisingly, has not gone undisputed. One of his most important critics might be Helen King, who calls Making Sex “ misleading in many ways” (1). She claims that Laqueur’s theses are too one-sided and that he did not consider a wide enough range of texts. In The One-Sex Body on Trial she writes that, although some of the late medieval and Renaissance authors agreed with the one-sex model, others were already far more advanced. She argues that “This model reduces the historical and geographical variety of pre-modern Europe into a single image, imposing on it a misleading uniformity, while privileging 'modernity'” (King 31), although she admits that it was still common in the 15th and 16th century literature to depict women as the “deformed male” (42). It is hard or maybe even impossible to figure out what people around 1600 really thought about gender differences, but Shakespeare’s plays suggest a more advanced approach than Laqueur wants to have us believe. As Brannigan writes, the past represents a different culture and is therefore alien to us (Brannigan 123).

Thus, when talking about gender relations, we should keep in mind that Shakespeare’s contemporaries had a different perception of gender than we have today. Nowadays, it is rather undisputed that gender is a social construction, which is performed by men and women alike. In the 17th century, people did not distinguish between sex, a biological category, and gender, a social category (Wells 4/5). Gender norms were much stricter than they are today, although one should not believe that we have totally overcome those “ancient” norms in our “modern” societies. As Zitner reminds us, “justifications for male behaviour having changed more than the situation of women” (Zitner ed., Much Ado About Nothing 74). Masculinity was mainly a matter of appearance (Smith, Bruce 4), clothing and social status could be read as the visible signs of personhood in Shakespeare (29). Nobility, honesty, gentleness, honour, and virtue made a man a man, and these ideals did not change much from antiquity to early modern England (42). Nobility was regarded as being innate, but honour could or had to be acquired through successful warfare. In both plays, Much Ado About Nothing and Othello, we see that men are primarily defined through the victorious battles they took part in. Especially Othello, who used to be a slave sometime before the play, gained all of his reputation by showing bravery and wit in battle. Masculinity had to be achieved, and the patriarchal system, which categorized men, was hierarchical, competitive, and based on mutuality at the same time. As Bruce Smith (66) puts it: “If masculine identity is something that men give each other, they do so under a complicated system of rules whereby they alternatively abet and oppose one another.” Moreover, Smith (106) reminds us that sex difference was mostly a matter of behaviour. The chastity of lustful women had to be supervised by men, who were supposed to be more rational and self-controlled. While the etiquette for men was a little less strict, it was a different story for women, who had to obey more repressive rules.

Women were supposed to be silent and obedient (Wiesner 23), they were perceived according to their relation to men (41). Before marriage, a woman’s reputation depended on her father’s status; after marriage, it depended on her husband’s rank in society. Most women were more or less transferred from father to husband, and almost never led independent lives. A woman could hardly promote her family’s status, but she could ruin it. As we see in Shakespeare’s plays, a woman’s first duty was chastity. She had to be a virgin when she married, because sex was only accepted between married couples. It is generally assumed that this strong emphasis on virginity was reinforced by the role of the Holy Virgin Mary in the Catholic church, but obviously, chastity was just of a higher importance when contraception was not yet available. Cuckoldry was greatly feared, especially in the plays discussed, because men could not be sure whether they were really the biological fathers of their children. DNA tests were developed a couple of centuries later.

Rackin claims that this “masculine anxiety” led to the disempowerment of women (15), whereas one should not assume that every woman was subordinate to every man (27). An upper class court lady would definitely not have had to obey a man of a lower social standing. Although for Rackin, Shakespeare wrote from a male point of view, she recognizes that the subordination of women in Shakespeare’s plays is limited in size and number (48). She also reminds us that about half of Shakespeare’s audience were women (23ff), and that they would hardly have savoured a too conservative depiction of gender relations. With Much Ado About Nothing and Othello we have a comedy (with some tragical elements) and a tragedy. The aim of this thesis is to show that we find significant differences concerning gender relations, character types, and plots between the different genres. I want to show that we find stronger and more emancipated women in the comedies, and a more extreme inequality between the genders, as well as a greater extent of male dominance in the tragedies.

Rackin (28) argues that the discourse of gender differences and the male superiority resulting from it was less a discourse of the biological science, as one might expect, but rather a theological one, since theology was already established and even privileged at Shakespeare’s time, whereas biology was just developing as a scientific discipline. The traditional assumption that “the nature of woman was unchanging” and women “by nature weak in the head” (Dusinberre 199/200) was a justification to restrict education for women. Girls received “a practical rather than intellectual training, in household management, in the midwifery … and in estate management” (Dusinberre 207) and were often taught at home, whereas “mingling with other boys of all kinds” at public schools would help boys to “learn the pratique [sic] of the world” (Stone, Lawrence 117). The concept of male superiority, which can be traced back to ancient Greece, was theologically reinforced by Eve’s betrayal of Adam (Stone, Lawrence 138). Nevertheless, the Puritans supported the evolution of a bourgeois society (Dusinberre 26) and questioned common attitudes towards women of the time (30). This happened also because “learning to read was viewed as a part of religious instruction” (Wiesner 121). The years between 1590 and 1625, when Shakespeare wrote both plays discussed in this thesis, “were the most creative and fertile years for English Puritanism”, and the Puritans saw themselves as “heralds of a new society” opposing a “decadent aristocracy” (Dusinberre 21/22). Wiesner (121) mentions that girls’ schools were established in Protestant areas first, but that we still found “the continuation of a large gap between boys’ and girls’ opportunities for learning”. Whereas “formal educational opportunities for boys and men grew steadily during the early modern period” education for girls and women were still “regarded as radical by most of society” (Wiesner 118). MacFaul (3) also writes that “men and women were strongly differentiated by education”. But we should not forget either that monasteries, a Catholic invention, offered a great deal of education to female nuns long before Protestant girls’ schools were established. The degradation of priests in Protestant areas also led to the patriarchs, i.e. fathers and husbands, to gain power (Stone, Lawrence 111). In the Renaissance period, education was still expensive if the parents could not teach their children themselves; thus the urban upper classes were the best educated (Wiesner 123/124). Dusinberre (199) reminds us that the humanists introduced new attitudes towards women, regarding education in particular, and that there was “a circle of noblewomen, centred round Elizabeth, who had all been educated on equal terms with men” (212).

Although England had its first queen, Elizabeth I, when Shakespeare wrote many of his plays, including Much Ado About Nothing and Othello, it is clear that the early modern society was much more patriarchal than our Western societies are today. Laqueur even talks about “male images” connected to Elizabeth I, the way she talked and behaved and how she was perceived seems rather masculine than feminine to him. This is a phenomenon we can still trace today; many female executives or leading politicians are said to appear quite masculine concerning their looks and behaviour. Mutuality between the sexes was hardly found in the 16th century (Novy 3) and a claim for equality between the sexes would have been comprehended as a call to anarchy for the Elizabethan establishment (Dusinberre 80). Ties between family members were rather weak, and romantic love was widely considered irrational (Stone, Lawrence 70), although the idea of amorous mutuality as the basis for a marriage started to develop as an ideal around that time (Kolin 234).

The theatre was more democratic than the world outside (Dusinberre 13), but we should nevertheless not underestimate Shakespeare’s cultural power. His fictional characters were discussed alongside historical figures (Barker and Kamps 4) and his female characters were based on actually existing aristocratic women of sixteenth and seventeenth century England. As Dusinberre (2) reminds us, the emancipation of aristocratic women began around that time. In the comedies particularly, we find many self-confident, intelligent, and emancipated female characters. As Bartels argues, we already found the first proto-feminism in the late 16th century (Bartels, “ Strategies of Submission ” 417). The relationship between the imitation of the outside world within the theatre and the outside world itself, as well as the implications the theatrical performances had on this outside world, are a highly interesting topic, but very hard, if not impossible, to investigate satisfactorily. Still, I believe that examining Renaissance literature, written at a time when so many things changed and the ground for our “modern” society was laid, can help us understand where we are coming from and to spot inequalities regarding gender relations that have survived until today, if only to a lesser extent. As Rackin puts it on page 137: “The reason the succession of shapes that Shakespeare’s women have assumed offers a revealing window into our own history is that each of those shapes served as a mirror for whatever images of women’s nature and experience were conceivable at the time of their production.”

It is also important to recognize that the two plays concerned are not set in England but in Italy. Much Ado About Nothing is set in Messina, which is the name of a city on the island of Sicily, though we cannot be sure whether Shakespeare had this particular city in mind. Othello is set in Venice, and undoubtedly Shakespeare had the actual Venice in mind here. As Honigmann writes in his introduction to Othello, Venice was about the same size as London (around 150,000 inhabitants) at the time Shakespeare was writing, but Venice was the more important trading town, as it was the European trade link with North Africa and Asia. In both cities, people from North Africa and the Arabian countries were already a common sight, although the vast majority of citizens was white (Honigmann ed., Othello 8). In contrast to London, Venice was considered to be the “pleasure capital of Europe” (9), especially regarding sexual tolerance. By choosing Italy or Venice as a setting, it was probably easier for Shakespeare to write about topics such as cuckoldry, promiscuity and loose morals in general, since Italy was some kind of “devil” without proper (Christian) virtues for the English . McEachern even claims Messina was “as remote as the moon to the majority of Shakespeare’s audience” (McEachern ed., Much Ado About Nothing 12). It is also relevant how Venetian women were perceived in Renaissance England, as Iago puts it: “In Venice they do God see the pranks / They dare not show their husbands” (3.3.206, all quotes from the primary literature have been taken from the Arden editions). This statement can be understood as a hint of promiscuity and loose morals.

2. Much Ado About Nothing

I want to begin with Much Ado About Nothing, because I believe this play offers a greater variety of gender relations than Othello does . As Novy (8) writes, we find a negotiation of different social ideals in the comedies. While tragic heroines are commonly forced into tragedy by making choices against the hero, choices are almost unnecessary in the comedies (Bamber 112) where a happy ending is usually guaranteed. Bamber (2) claims that women are often more brilliant than men in the comedies, “more aware of themselves, and their world, saner, livelier, more gay”. One of the main concerns of the play is the discrepancy between knowledge and perception (Cornelius 251). “Nothing” and “noting” were pronounced the same way at Shakespeare’s time and misperception and faulty reasoning are clearly an issue throughout the whole play . Cornelius (254) even argues that Much Ado is not so much about the action that takes place but more about the interpretation of the action by the characters. For him, the essential conflict takes place between the male and the female (Cornelius 221). Eisaman Maus (561/62) reminds us that the instability and tensions of the patriarchal social order might already have been apparent and that it was an important topic for the Renaissance society.

We have two couples in Much Ado, which are very different but nevertheless interrelated. It is hard to make out a proper main- or sub-plot. Although the Hero- Claudio plot is traditionally considered the main plot, it is often overshadowed by the supposed subplot of Beatrice and Benedick (Cornelius 170). We can compare a conventional, almost old-fashioned couple, which is surprisingly the younger one, with a “more modern”, and at least intellectually equal couple, which introduces an interesting, atypical female character for the time, i.e. Beatrice. Hero and Claudio are quite young and a bit immature compared to Benedick and Beatrice. It is also interesting to know that the Hero-Claudio plot is a pre-existing narrative, whereas the Benedick-Beatrice plot is Shakespeare’s original invention (Zitner ed., Much Ado About Nothing 6ff). This is probably a reason why the former couple is the more conventional one. However, McEachern also reminds us that the “misogynist and the shrew”, i.e. Benedick and Beatrice, represent just another set of literary conventions (McEachern ed., Much Ado About Nothing 28), whereas “the fun of this play is the way in which they shake off these conventions” (35). Hero’s and Claudio’s marriage is arranged, a practice which was already considered old-fashioned or highly aristocratic in the late sixteenth century. Cornelius (77-78) sees no authentic passion in Claudio, but the following of social rules and an interest in the dowry, whereas, according to Wells, Benedick and Beatrice feel true love for each other (116) ); for Novy (28), they also reflect a more complex and less asymmetrical love relationship in general. Zitner describes the interrelation between the two couples in the following way: “The lovers exemplify the alternatives of gender behaviour: female passivity and female assertiveness, male control and male concessions to power-sharing” (Zitner ed., Much Ado About Nothing 49).

It is obvious that Hero and Beatrice embody highly heterogeneous images of women. The differences are maximized “between characters brought together by incident” (Zitner ed., Much Ado About Nothing 18/19), especially between Hero and Beatrice in Much Ado. Hero is way more conventional regarding gender norms and almost a tragic figure until the end of the play, when she eventually marries Claudio, which is considered a happy ending for her. Beatrice, however, can be considered to be an “opposition to the conventional notion of what is fitting for women” at the time (Novy 3). Although it is questionable whether a general ideal personal type existed (Novy 9), typically feminine characteristics such as weakness, dependence, and vulnerability are embodied by Hero and tacitly accepted by Beatrice (Barker and Kamps 83). Cornelius (238) lists the feminine principles such as charity, generosity and sympathy and refers to Borachio talking about Margaret: “But always hath been just and virtuous / In anything that I do know by her” (5.1.292/93). Lenz (5) even goes so far as to talk about a female subculture with different styles, attitudes and values.

The very first scene of the play begins with an emphasis on rank, status, and honour connected to warfare. We hear sentences like “How many gentlemen have you lost in this / action?” which elicits the reply, ”But few of any sort and none of name.” (1.1.5-7). The men who returned from war successfully are admired and make a prospective husband. The majority of characters are undoubtedly members of the aristocratic circle, except the servants and the members of the watch. This is an important fact, since the upper class society was usually more conservative than the middle and lower classes, where the gender relations might have been a bit more mutual on an everyday basis, although we find educated and emancipated women rather or exclusively among the nobility. As already mentioned, rank and status were the most important markers of masculinity. Thus, we consequently find stronger and more authoritative men in the upper classes. It is not the aim of this thesis to point out the differences between the classes, but it is worth mentioning that we are talking about gender relations in the upper class when discussing Shakespeare’s characters.

The patriarchal structures of the play are obvious, for example when Claudio asks Leonato: [Do you] “Give me this maid, your daughter?” (4.1.23) in the marriage scene. Here the concept of exchange of women from father to husband becomes most clear. Although Hero is wooed by Don Pedro, it is not her decision alone whom to marry in the end. A daughter had to be obedient to her father. She could probably decline a possible husband, if the relationship between her and her father was not too bad, but she definitely needed the agreement of her father to marry. As Lawrence Stone writes (70), a marriage was a collective decision, which had effects on the whole family. Furthermore he claims (136) that a wife was so dependent on her husband that she was hardly considered to be an individual being, but rather an attachment to her man. Back at Shakespeare’s time (just as today), maleness and femaleness were reciprocally determined (Barker and Kamps 10). McEachern argues that with Much Ado we find “a world governed, even poisoned, by male rivalry, in which convention of gender and status shape emotional attachments” (McEachern ed., Much Ado About Nothing 1).

2.1 Hero and Claudio

Although they seem to share a romantic attachment as well, they rather represent a traditional Petrarchan couple. I think Hero can be considered a feminine role model of the time. She is silent and obedient for large parts of the play. In his introduction to the Oxford edition of Much Ado About Nothing Zitner writes that we find no love at first sight, but a Claudio only rechecking his opportunities (Zitner ed., Much Ado About Nothing 1); he finds “little romantic love in any of this” (2) or at least a romantic plot overlaid with harsh realism. He even calls Hero a “sacrificial figure” (3) and “one of Shakespeare’s passive young women: obedient, unquestioning, well brought up, thoroughly conventional and rather prudish” (19). But he also reminds us that she is not all conformity and quiet (20). She does not talk a lot, especially in the presence of men, but sometimes criticizes or comments on events. For example, she rebukes Beatrice when she says “But Nature never framed a woman’s heart / Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice” (3.1.49/50). She also flatters Benedick to make Beatrice fall in love with him.

Throughout the play, she does as she is told, something that was expected from women in the late sixteenth century. Dusinberre (63) claims that “in Shakespeare’s theatre chastity demands artlessness”, and Hero’s prevailing “silence and submissiveness” could be interpreted as such artlessness. She does not really defend herself after being falsely accused of promiscuity, but only says “O, God defend me, how am I beset! / What kind of catechizing call you this?” (4.1.77/78) and then faints, which leads Leonato to say “She not denies it” (4.1.173), and makes her seem guilty in the eyes of most of the characters. Only Beatrice, the Friar, and (partly) Benedick stand by her side and manage to convince her father and the other characters that she is falsely accused. Hero is defenceless and her honour could only be defended by a male relative, who she does not really have since her father and uncle are too old and their demand for a duel is declined: “Away! I will not have to do with you.” (5.1.77). Don Pedro, Don John and Claudio hold a much higher social status than Leonato does, and so, the argument can hardly take place between equals, but the intrigue must be resolved through another trick, i.e. faking Hero’s death and marrying her to Claudio later.

Hero speaks remarkably little for a major character; she hardly says what she really thinks and lets a lot of big decisions concerning her be made by other people. For example, she totally obeys her father’s instructions and decisions. She is quite passive and insecure; she is genuinely good but also a bit one-dimensional and absolutely introverted. She gets along with everyone, especially with Beatrice for whom she serves as a foil, which means that she represents a strong contrast to Beatrice, which highlights and emphasizes her qualities. Beatrice protects and defends her; she often says what Hero does not dare to, and strongly influences her. Nevertheless we should not think that Hero is totally dull and always passive; for example, she plays an important role in marrying Beatrice off to Benedick. In the end, she even steals Beatrice’s poem and gives it to Benedick. Towards the end of the play, she becomes a little bit more self-confident and mature and is probably a little less naïve about men, due to her negative experience with Claudio. She is always friendly, kind, generous, forgiving, and never mistrusts anybody. At times, she seems more of a sweet, little, innocent girl than a mature woman. It is very likely that she is still a teenager. She seems very timid, when she hardly defends herself against the accusations made towards her. She tolerates her destiny without a fight, maybe because her love for Claudio and her father is very strong.

Hero is the focus of masculine anxiety in the play and Barker and Kamps (85) even call her “the nothing that generates so much ado”. Despite her modesty and submissiveness, she seems to threaten the patriarchal structures. As Lenz (84) writes, her supposed feminine behaviour is a “powerful threat”, maybe because she cannot be controlled as long as she is playing by the rules, i.e. behaving according to the gender norms. Of course, this is a strong kind of control mechanism, but also an established one, which cannot easily be changed for anybody’s individual favour. Her assumed promiscuity evokes a fear of loss of status and honour in men, especially in Claudio and Leonato. Dusinberre (52) reminds us that “Claudio rejects in Hero, loss of caste as much as loss of virtue”. In the Elizabethan era women were considered to be more lustful than men and were therefore always suspect, fidelity and honesty were strongly interrelated for women then (Novy 83). Infidelity would change the entire character of a woman for the Elizabethan society (Lenz 155). We just have to look at Leonato’s reaction towards the accusations against his own daughter: “Death is the fairest cover for her shame” (4.1.116). This statement makes very clear how important chastity was for a young lady in the sixteenth century. Leonato’s first concern is family honour (Cornelius 207), and Cornelius even insinuates that his grief is fake, nothing but social convention, whereas Antonio’s grief is true for him. All the jokes, songs and remarks on cuckoldry bring to mind the idea of uncontrollability of women’s sexuality in the sixteenth century (Bloom, Modern Critical Interpretations 121). Although “the tragedy of Much Ado is apparent rather than real” (Bloom, Modern Critical Interpretations 123), Friedman (361) reminds us that Hero can actually only lose in the patriarchal society she has to adapt to. As McEachern comments, Much Ado is very close to the edge of the cliff for a comedy (McEachern ed., Much Ado About Nothing 51).

Claudio is a young but respected character, he has demonstrated his valour in the battle that took place right before the play. “He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion” (1.1.13-15). Nevertheless, he is sometimes derided because of his young age. For example, Benedick calls him a “schoolboy” (2.1.205), and Antonio later calls him “boy” (4.2.83), although he does so in a fury after the slander of Hero. Claudio seems to be rather shy too (McEachern ed., Much Ado About Nothing 163); at least he does not woo Hero by himself. He also has financial interests in Hero, which becomes clear when he asks “Hath Leonato any son?” (1.1.275). But that was not unusual or reprehensible at the time, because if Hero had any older siblings, especially male, all of Leonato’s property would have belonged to the oldest son (primogeniture, see Stone, Lawrence, p. 71) and Claudio would have had to supply Hero fully, except for the dowry. As Dusinberre (52) argues, marriage was primarily a property transaction at Shakespeare’s time. Women were a form of property, validating masculine authority and manhood (Barker and Kamps 14). That Hero is the only heir of her father and uncle is most likely to be one of the reasons for Claudio being interested in her, although he has a higher social standing than she does. As Benedick comments: “she's too low for a high / praise, too brown for a fair praise and too little for a / great praise” (1.1.163-65). Barker and Kamps (75-76) describe Claudio’s behaviour as “narcissistic instrumentality”, but that goes a bit too far for me. He is rather young and therefore a bit insecure; Don John can easily influence him. Wells (180) calls him “an instant victim of false appearances”. Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that he comes close enough to Don John to be bitten (Henze 194). As I have already mentioned, men were humiliated and dishonoured by female betrayal (Lenz 154); so we can try to understand Claudio’s heavy reaction to the cuckoldry accusations against Hero. He would have lost his reputation in society, if he had married a promiscuous wife. But Claudio definitely loses a lot of his sympathy during and after the marriage scene, when he calls Hero a “rotten orange” (4.1.30), i.e. prostitute, and an “approved wanton” (l. 43). By doing so, he “takes away her position in society” (Dusinberre 52), and destroys her socially. Maybe he is looking for revenge or is just in deep anger with Hero, because he feels betrayed by her. But even after the clarification of the whole intrigue, he does not seem to show too much regret, nor does he consider an “appropriate” apology, but defends himself “Yet sinned I not / But in mistaking” (4.1.173). Although he says “I have drunk poison whiles he uttered it.” (5.1.236) after Borachio made his confession, it seems hard for him to show regret towards Hero or her family. Maybe this is because of his higher social status or because of his shyness. This “callousness” sheds a negative light on him. Henze (187) even calls him more dangerous than Don John, “a plain-dealing / villain” (1.3.29/30), because he conceals his suspicion. For Bloom he is a ”fool to the code of romance” (Modern Critical Interpretations 46), whose performance has attracted “a whole thesaurus of abuse” (71). Henze (187/88) describes Claudio’s and Don John’s behaviour as “wrong deception”, which causes conflict and mistrust, because they trust in appearances and not in human nature.

Claudio is furiously passionate and enthusiastic, positively and negatively, pliable, immature and often weak when it comes to reasonable thinking. His behaviour is rather compliant and he starkly depends on (older) male friends like Benedick and Don Pedro and their opinions. Honour seems to be more important than love to him. Although he gushes at Hero in the beginning, he lets her fall, shows great anger towards her, and treats her mercilessly. He is a soldier and might think that romantic feelings are weakening him. Claudio mistrusts people, including Hero, very easily. One reason is certainly that Hero and Claudio hardly know each other. With Claudio and Hero, we find a similar “love at first sight phenomenon” as we find with Romeo and Juliet. Probably they only met once before, but then Claudio’s mind was set too much on the war to come, and he could not develop any romantic feelings for Hero. It is questionable whether this circumstance really changed much after the war. They are almost married without really talking to each other. Their marriage is arranged just after they see each other once again in the first scene, where they do not even have a conversation. However, we cannot be absolutely certain about how often they might have met each other already before the play takes place.


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Gender relations in "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Othello". How does genre make a difference?
Humboldt-University of Berlin  (Institut für Anglistik und Amerikanistik)
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Shakespeare, Othello, Much Ado About Nothing, Gender Relations, Renaissance
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Martin Boddenberg (Author), 2016, Gender relations in "Much Ado About Nothing" and "Othello". How does genre make a difference?, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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