Who Is Hero Essay

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Students are often quick to overlook the character of Hero, dismissing her as weak and unimportant. Such judgements are usually based on her actions (or lack of them), particularly her apparent willingness to marry Claudio at the end of the play, despite his mistreatment of her. It is the tougher, more outspoken Beatrice who connects with and appeals to a modern audience, whilst Hero is scorned for accepting, or in fact colluding in, her position as a dutiful daughter in the patriarchal society of Messina. A silent woman? In a play in which linguistic flair and self-expression are of great importance it is interesting that Hero actually says very little. She is on stage for the first 150 lines of the play but offers only one comment, merely to clarify one of Beatrice's points. It is the latter who dominates the conversation with the messenger and we are left feeling from these opening lines that Hero is indeed a wallflower, a passive onlooker who pales into insignificance next to the dazzling, combative Beatrice. Why is Hero so silent? One of the negative stereotypes of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century women was that of the `scold'--a woman showing no control over her tongue. Garrulousness was not something that befitted a young woman from a rich family. Beatrice is clearly accepted despite her loudness, because her discourse has been interpreted by those in positions of authority as `a merry war'; she is funny and therefore not to be taken seriously. The remainder of Act I Scene i consists of Claudio talking firstly to Benedick and then Don Pedro about Hero and her viability as a wife for him. She is admired for her modesty (speechlessness?), beauty and primarily wealth (line 275). It is Claudio's reference to her as a `jewel' (line 168), which is particularly interesting. Initially this clearly underscores Claudio's interest in her material worth and
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