In the play, Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare, Shakespeare introduces the character Claudio. Count Claudio is characterized as a gullible, naive and immature. Throughout the play, Claudio is placed in situations which reveal his level of maturity. By the end of the play, he is still a carefree, foolish boy who has not come to terms with his own faults-such as almost ruining Hero’s reputation. From the beginning to the end of the play, Claudio exhibits childish behavior, which does not change.
Through his depiction of Claudio’s interaction with Hero, Leonato and Benedick, Shakespeare criticizes that in reality, even for people as naive as Claudio, people get what they want because of their status. In the beginning of the play, Don John and Barachio tell Claudio that Hero is being wooed by Don Pedro, and his immediate reaction is to believe that it is true. As Don Pedro agrees to woo Hero for Claudio, it seems to Claudio that Don Pedro is pleading for himself. “The Prince woos for himself,” he says (2. 1, 172). For Claudio, “friendship is constant in all other things save in office and affairs of love” (2. 1, 173-174).
The nature of “all is fair in love and war” should warn the reader that Claudio thinks with an old nature about male competition for women. The misunderstanding is soon forgotten when Don Pedro assures Claudio that he was truly wooing Hero for Claudio and not for himself. Claudio takes Hero back and says, “lady you are mine, I am yours” (2. 1, 301-303). Claudio easily forgives and forgets and makes himself look foolish by taking her back so quickly. His immaturity is revealed by the speed of forgiveness. Shakespeare mocks reality in a sense that even though he acts like a child, a woman like Hero will still “love” him.
However, Claudio does not learn from his rash judgement of Don Pedro. When Don John later accuses Hero for sleeping with another man, Claudio is again quick to think that worst of Hero. Claudio tells Leonato that Hero is a “rotten orange” (4. 1, 32). By referring to Hero as a piece of rotten fruit, Claudio implies that what was once sweet and pure is now spoiled and lustful. Just as Eve was tempted by fruit in the Garden of Eden that turned out to be evil, Claudio was first attracted and then forced away by the crude Hero. After slandering his daughter, Leonato is more angered at Hero than at Claudio.
Even after being so idiotic and stupid, Claudio wins the woman of his dreams: a woman who he scolds and takes him back. At first and before considering other possibilities, Leonato seams to point his finger at Hero for being the one who ruin everything; not Claudio. Considering what happens, it can be inferred that Shakespeare is mocking the idea that men with a status such as Claudio get what they want, even if they make a big mistake such as insulting and ruining a girl’s life. Claudio not only slanders Hero, but Leonato, too.
To Leonato’s face, Claudio makes a big show of respecting his age, but it’s clear from this comment that Claudio does not understand what it means to have great respect for someone. Claudio says, “We had like to have had out two noses snapped off with two old men without teeth” (5. 1, 128-129). Age doesn’t seem to command respect for Claudio; he approaches it more as a weakness than a reason for reverence, which is immature of him. It’s another strike against Claudio’s character, and Shakespeare does this to portray that even when he shows disrespect to someone of high standards, he still gets what he wants in the end.
After Claudio slanders Hero, he joins the conversation between Leonato and Leonato’s brother. Claudio immediately insults Leonato by “fleer[ing] and jest[ing] at [him]” (5. 1, 65). Though Claudio claims that he “never lay[s] [his] hand upon [his] sword,” Leonato claims that he is “under privilege of age to brag” (5. 1, 60; 67). By reaching for his sword, Claudio is attempting to intimidate and undermine Leonato to reveal that he is more powerful and a better man than Leonato. However, Leonato knows that it is not true, and he tells Claudio to stop being a fool.
The undercut actions of Claudio towards Leonato is a direct way in which Shakespeare reveals his immaturity and disrespect towards his elders. Even though he is disrespectful and cruel to both Leonato and Hero, Leonato allows Claudio to marry his daughter. Claudio’s events with Benedick are also a way in which Shakespeare depicts Claudio to be an immature boy. When Benedick challenges Claudio, he thinks that it is a joke. Benedick tells Claudio that he wants to fight him in a dull, and says to Don Pedro that he should “give [Benedick] another staff” because “the last one was broke ‘cross” (5. 1, 151-152).
Claudio makes fun of Benedick for looking so angry and for seemingly having lost his ability to wittily reply to his jests. The immaturity among the men by Claudio is to insult the ways of men, and how status is the only thing that matters because, in the end, Claudio gets Beatrice for himself. Benedick finally thanks Don Pedro and informs him that Don John has fled Messina. He then turns to Claudio and tells him they will meet soon to fight. Don Pedro remarks that Benedick “is in earnest” about his challenge (5. 1, 206).
Claudio sarcastically replies that it is “for the love of Beatrice” (5. , 208). Even after having someone as highly ranked as Don Pedro telling him that Benedick is serious about the dull, and that Don John is responsible for Hero’s “death,” Claudio makes a sarcastic remark back claiming that he is only fighting for Beatrice and does not think to mention what Benedick says about Don John. His inconsiderate remarks and vagueness of his awareness are both ways of Shakespeare mocking men. The childish antics in Shakespearean times is caused by the young age that men and women are forced to be married at. Claudio, at this point, still has not grown up.
Shakespeare uses Claudio to mock that in reality, because of his status and the fact that he is a male, he gets is allowed to marry Hero, without any confrontation of Benedick. Throughout the play, Claudio makes immature mistakes that are used to criticize that in reality, men as stupid as Claudio still get what they want based on status. In life, men tend to have a better status than most women because people base status on sex. Claudio had better treatment than Hero throughout the play with both Leonato and Don Pedro, Prince of Argon.
In the end, none of his events with Hero, Benedick, or Leonato come out. The three people also decide to leave him alone without another confrontation. Today, men and women get married at a later age, when they are mature enough to be married. Even so, status definitely plays a major role in society today in a sense that the higher a person’s status, the more likely they will get what they want. That is what Shakespeare is trying to reveal; that in reality, even as long ago as his time, men and women get what they want based on their status in the world.
Courtney from Study Moose
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