Monday, October 1, 2012

Hero is No Hero

After completing the play I was left with an unsatisfied feeling toward the character Hero. I wondered why Shakespeare created other amazing women in his plays such as Hermia, Helena and Beatrice yet leaves nothing to desire in weak and meek Hero. Does she reflect the typical women of Shakespeare's society? Hero bored me to tears and I wondered why Claudio was even interested in her. I assume he was interested in her because of her father's wealth and the fact that he has no male heir. Perhaps Claudio feels he can control both Hero and the finances. Also, Claudio doesn't seem too dedicated to Hero when he accuses her of unfaithfulness and rejects her stating in Scene Four, Act One lines 98-106:

“O Hero! What a Hero hadst thou been

If half thy outward graces had been placed

About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!

But fare thee well, most foul, most fair, farewell

Thou pure impiety and impious purity.

For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love,

And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang

To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,

And never shall it more be gracious.”

I couldn't imagine a crueler way to dump someone than this speech he has made to Hero in front of her Father, the Friar and others. He betrays her further when he agrees to marry her “cousin” after he was made to feel guilty about causing her death. Does Hero have no dignity to stand up and reject him for his behavior? I guess not because she marries him at the end of the play.

In several scenes Hero was present but didn't say a word. I wonder how that appeared on stage... Throughout the play we barely hear Hero especially when it came to incidents that involved her reputation. Regarding the accusation about her maidenhood, I expected more of a fight for her honor but instead she just passes out when accused. I didn't blame Claudio for not believing her. It was so frustrating when she doesn't vocalize her rejection and ask for proof of her behavior. I felt that her cousin Beatrice was disappointed by her behavior stating “Why, how now, cousin, wherefore sink you down” (4.1.108). I picture Beatrice looking down at Hero thinking “You have no idea how bad you look on the floor.” Beatrice was more proactive in defending Hero's honor when she asks Benedick to “Kill Claudio” (4.1.287). She also shows how cunning she is when she uses the newly discovered love from Benedick to quickly make her request. It seemed as though every one was doing everything for Hero and she didn't seem grateful for any of it. Although the play ended well, with Claudio getting his girl, I realize that Hero is intended to represent the reality of what women were like in Shakespeare's time. There were far more Heros than Beatrices.


Vanessa said...

I thought it was very interesting that you addressed Hero's rather passive role throughout the play. While we noted that Hermia and Helena do not talk in the last scene of A Midsummer Night's Dream, it is much more shocking to see how Hero (a very central character to Much Ado About Nothing) talks very little throughout the entire play. Hero is often the subject of conversation between the other characters, but very rarely has a voice of her own. I think Shakespeare creates Hero, "a weak female character", to show us what the true place of woman was in society. While, many of Shakespeare's plays challenge this rigid female role, Hero's conformity successfully brings her to a happy end. I think Hero is not more vocal about the accusations because she realizes this will not help her case, and the word of the male characters will be weighed heavier than her own. Instead, Hero puts faith in other men to restore her reputation. Although Hero has a very weak role, she is shown as a very practical woman who understands that it is a man's world.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Hero is representative of women who lived during Shakespeare's time. Hero's lack of voice and lack of opinion about her situation could be because she was simply devastated. She didn't have much to work with. Based on the severity of what she was accused of she was going to the covenent if the plan did not work out. Another reason Hero is so quiet could be because she is in her older cousin, Beatrice's shadow. Beatrice does enough talking for both of them.
In all fairness to Claudio, he did think he saw Hero in the arms of another man. Again, we have to dispend disbelief because one would think he would have yelled out to the two. I think Claudio agrees to marry Hero's cousin to redeem himself. I also think that she understood that he thought he saw her and acted accordingly.

Kelsey Maher said...

I completely agree with how misplaced a name like Hero was on her character. The irony that Shakespeare places on her from the beginning of the play is really just a foreshadowing of how she will act as the play unfolds. I also expected Hero to at least attempt to defend herself rather than stand there in silent shock. As for Claudio, I definitely agree with you that he betrayed her when he so quickly agreed to marry her cousin. Shouldn't he have mourned her rather than looking for any excuse to make amends with her father? I'd like to think that he was in it for more than the money. I wish that Hero would have made Claudio at least apologize for the way he treated her, even if he truly believed that she was unfaithful. Hero should expect a certain degree of trust in her marriage, but I guess that could be asking too much out of a relationship that rushes into marriage after only truly knowing and "loving" each other for so brief a time.

Cyrus Mulready said...

I'm glad that you call our attention to the other female characters we've encountered this semester, Myra, because I believe that Shakespeare calls on us (often) to view characters not as individuals but as pairs or in groups--think of Viola and Olvia, Hippolyta and Hermia, or even in this case, Beatrice and Hero. Notably, Beatrice doesn't seem to look down on Hero. In fact, as you nicely point out, she gets Benedick to be Hero's champion, in a sense, and stand up for her virtue. I'd like to think that there are, in fact, more Beatrices in Shakespeare's audience than Heros--judging by the responses on the blog this week, it seems that is the case today, at least.