Throughout this play I have greatly questioned why Shakespeare named his female character Hero. In the beginning of the play she barely says a word and is portrayed as the docile, beautiful young woman; the model of perfection. Yet how is this heroic? She does not show any exemplary attributes or plays any significant role until Act 4, and in this she becomes the whore! In the midst of her condemnation she only speaks out of shock with lines like “O God defend me, how am I beset!”(4.1.76) and she makes a weak denial to her accusers, but only when Claudio asks her a direct question to her whereabouts on the night in question. This lack of a need to defend herself is just as damning as if she just stated that she committed the crime. Through her actions I feel that a more fitting name for her would be that of a famous martyr or a victim of some Greek tragedy that needed to be saved. Even in the sense of a damsel in distress, Hero is lacking. There can be no one to save her since in the eyes of the other characters, there is no way to save her except to kill her off and force this mystery woman on Claudio to marry. None of this is heroic in any light and I continue to wonder the reason Shakespeare named her Hero.
Shakespeare enjoyed social commentary and making ironic names for his characters. Many times the names foreshadowed what doom might befall this characters later on in the play. In this light the name Hero is the complete opposite to what actually occurs in this character’s life. To say that this is a social comment to the plight of women seems like a bit of a stretch. Hero is the ideal of women during this time and she shows no desire to save anyone or even herself in this false accusation. Beatrice is more proactive in trying to clear her cousin’s name and even makes Benedick promise to kill Claudio for his slander. If anything it is Beatrice that holds the characteristics of a hero, yet she is seen as a prickly, hard hearted woman. In the end, no one is really a hero since it is the Friar’s plan that saves Hero and everyone gets the love match that they desired. Maybe the name Hero is just a coincidence or not something that plays a major role in the play. If that is the case then maybe Shakespeare should have named her Bethany or Maria so that I would not have gotten so stuck on the name Hero and its supposed meaning for this lackluster character.