Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Beatrice and Hero

The contrasts between Beatrice and Hero are easily seen in each characters specific demeanor as well as in their actions towards men and their different stations in life. Beatrice vehemently refuses to marry because she feels that she will never find a proper man that suits her needs and will live up to the expectations she has of a man that can possibly be compatible with her.
"He that hath a beard is more than a youth,
and he that hath no beard is less than a man;
and he that is more than a youth is not for me,
and he that is less than a man, I am not for him."

Beatrice's dominant character often overshadows Hero's quiet demeanor. Even when Hero is directly spoken to, if Beatrice is in her presence she will speak first and share her opinionated views, while talking about Hero as if she is not able to form her own opinion.
 "Yes, faith, it is my cousin’s duty to make curtsy and say,
'Father, as it please you.' But yet for all that, cousin, let
him be a handsome fellow, or else make another curtsy and
say, 'Father, as it please me.'"
Beatrice claims that Hero will agree to please her father only so far if she does not like the appearance of her suitor. This attests to the role of a woman and her duty to obey her father and marry his choice, but also the free will that Beatrice represents and practically forces Hero, as well as others around her, to agree with.
Hero allows Beatrice to interject as she pleases and Hero never takes offense. What Beatrice says in regards to Hero's somewhat shallow views on love is met with silence from Hero, however, it is not said by Beatrice out of hate. In some ways, Beatrice is commenting on Hero's power to choose her own husband, even if her choice is made based on shallow criteria. Beatrice's adamant refusal to take a husband contrasts Hero's duty to marry, and also the expectations of those around her that she will do so in order to please her father. There is never a question that she will agree to marry without complaint. Her voice is taken away by those around her and also by her own lack of opinions. She shows a certain degree of indifference but when she finally does voice an opinion, it is to hope that the man she is dancing with is more attractive than the ugly mask he wears. She's innocent and quiet, but also slightly shallow so far. Her character is bland, not solely due to Beatrice's strong, opinionated presence, but because she lacks a redeemable character so far throughout the play.


Sam Montagna said...

I agree with you that Hero's character is a little bland. I remember when I was reading and I was annoyed that they were talking to Hero but she doesn't speak. I found Beatrice's character much more interesting and enjoyable to read because she is so outspoken. It is hard for a reader to sympathize with Hero because we don't know that much about her because she does not speak. Often when something is not heard, it fades away into the background which is exactly what happens to Hero.

Liz Schiavo said...

I agree, Hero's character is very bland. Maybe that's just her personality, very quiet and to herself unlike Beatrice who is constantly running her mouth about everything. Maybe no one gives Hero a chance to speak, she's used to just going with the flow? I do enjoy Beatrice's character the most, I caught myself laughing when her and Benedick were bickering back and forth. Beatrice is certainly not afraid to speak her mind.

Christine Richin said...

I have come across the observation that many of Shakespeare’s plays openly categorize the dominant and submissive immediately as the obstacles are introduced in the play (i.e. Olivia to The Fool, Hermia to Helena). Almost instantaneously, our playwright ranks each character as one or the other through use of speech and behavior. He is sly in his procession throughout the play in blotting out the clearly drawn line between the seemingly polar-opposite characters by the play’s close.
Perhaps the reason the roles of these two women appear so opposite when placed side by side to one another rests in Beatrice’s lack of understanding for parental direction. Beatrice is not solidly bound to an authority figure in the way her cousin Hero is. She merely has to be respectful to her uncle whereas Hero must obey her father. Hero’s behavior is dictated in favor of the man who is responsible for her creation (much like Hermia was to Egeus). In our readings of The Twelfth Night and A Midsummer Night’s Dream we have become accustomed to the social rules of that time and their patriarchal mold. By having the ruler of the court in which she lives under as her father, Hero is imprisoned by these laws in the rawest sense. She is living under the same roof as the man in charge of enforcing them on the country.
On the other hand, I think the stability and confidence in Beatrice’s presence actually brings her internal insecurities into the spotlight. She has no one but herself to stand by and she has never fully known what it is like to have a person to whom she is meant to please or take insight from. In this sense, we begin to see that fine line blur. From this perspective Hero is perhaps more dominant in character in such that she has faith in the man who made her and the court that raised her. The impossible disconnect between that kind of upbringing and her own allows Beatrice’s behavior to be dictated in her favor, and perhaps the act of rejecting men’s authority and overriding the voice of her cousin with her own is her subconscious’ way of revealing the envy she feels.

Hannah Hoffman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Hannah Hoffman said...

I also agree with you, Beatrice is more dominant, and very opinionated. Hero is the shy cousin of the two, who and is the younger one so when Hero lets Beatrice interject and "speak on Hero's behalf." Beatrice is older and has a more cunning mind for a "battle of wits" which she has with Benedick. I think the reason for Hero being shy attracted Claudio because of her flirtatious actions.

Julian Mocha said...

I really enjoyed this post (partially because Beatrice is one of my favorite Shakespearean characters and comparing her to anyone usually results in an interesting and thought-provoking discussion). I'm betting that Shakespeare probably made Hero especially bland on purpose, almost to exaggerate Beatrice's unusual sense of autonomy (for her gender role at that time, anyway).

I feel like since Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy, we should expect something pretty funny and unexpected to happen to Beatrice (a marriage to Benedick, perhaps!) I'm hoping that her outspoken and pretty self-possessed nature isn't compromised though because Shakespeare really outdid himself with this one! Hero seems like a character that will just be left in the dust- I see it as she pretty much only exists to contrast Beatrice's awesomeness.

Cyrus Mulready said...

This is a good comparison, Kelsey, and one that, I agree, Shakespeare prompts us to make. One way of understanding this difference is in terms of the theater. In the audience, we may like Beatrice better because she's funny, lively, and witty. On the other hand, though the characters are different in their speech, they are both the object of a theatrical trick. Beatrice's is more benign, of course (depending on what we think of Benedick!). But the trick on Hero is nasty and damaging and almost unravels the comedy. In the end, I wonder if Shakespeare is, therefore, calling attention to similarities in these characters?