William Shakespeare was noted for his marvellous works in making plays such as Much Ado about Nothing and Romeo and Juliet. It is these two plays that will be analysed, comparing the love scenes, and showing how women, love, power and marriage in the time of Shakespeare, as his plays have a reflection on some aspects of the culture at his time.
Romeo and Juliet
In Romeo and Juliet, the lovers which were Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, had a secret, albeit forbidden relationship, due to their families in an ongoing feud with each other. Juliet, at the young age of 13, was pressured, and eventually commanded to (or else she would be disowned), marry Count Paris. This shows that around the time of Shakespeare, parents could ‘make’ their daughter, even at young ages, marry a man even if they didn’t want to.
When Romeo and Juliet first glanced eyes on one another, fell in love and got married, showed how Juliet, defied her father’s wishes for her to marry someone. That he had chose for whatever reason. This showed that women were, at the time of Shakespeare, moving from a male dominated system, to a system where females were becoming self-dependant on their choices, showed when she chose Romeo over Prince Paris.
As Capulet discovered the body of Juliet (when she faked her death) her father calls it as having it ‘deflowered’ his daughter. Deflowered can be taken in two definitions as dictated in the dictionary:
_1._ _To take away the virginity of (a woman)._
_2._ _To destroy the innocence, integrity, or beauty of; ravage._
_The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2003. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved._
In this situation, it can be taken as both, but is more directed towards the second meaning, that Juliet had not reached the full age of a person, robbing her innocence of her young age, robbing her of life’s ‘pleasures’.
When Romeo discovered the body of Juliet in the Crypt, not knowing that she was only in a drug induced coma, killed himself, in an attempt to join her in the afterlife with poison, while the same thought crossed Juliet’s mind when she awoke and saw the dead body of her love, Romeo; suiciding with his dagger in the process.
This suicide was against the beliefs of Catholics, (which they were a both part of) who believed suicide will lead to Hell, and instead of the “Religion of Love”, and how the belief was instead that the suicide of two lovers with the intention of meeting one another will lead them to paradise.
This showed the love that Romeo and Juliet had for each other; it went beyond the levels set by their families’ religion, and them crossing into another.
Much Ado about Nothing
In Much Ado about Nothing, the main characters, Claudio, Hero, Benedick and Beatrice, are each in a relationship. Claudio, who had recently returned triumph at war, falls in love with Hero, the beautiful young daughter of Leonato (the governor of Messina) and the cousin of Beatrice. Claudio discusses with his friend Don Pedro, the nobleman from Aragon about marrying Hero, within a few days of seeing her.
The speed in which Claudio wanted to marry Hero is a demonstration of “Love at First Sight”, which could show how some people at around Shakespeare’s time, if they liked someone, asked in a short duration of time, to marry him/her.
Marriages in this play were straight-forward, with the to-be Husbands being given a chance to decline marrying the other, which was what Claudio exactly did, after being shown what he believed to be shown Hero having sex with another man.
With the constant arguments between Benedick and Beatrice in the play, they exchanged numerous vows, comments, offenses; to each other. But they were, in reality, in love with each other, as they exchanged comments that could easily be linked to admitting love such as this:
_BENEDICK: What, my_ _DEAR_ _Lady Disdain! Are you yet living? BEATRICE: Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence._
This extract from the play shows that although Beatrice and Benedick are trading with each other negative comments, they are doing it in a playful manner, in a way that does not do that much damage, and expresses love. If Benedick truly did not like Benedick, he would’ve not used the word ‘dear’ when he was addressing Beatrice In the above extract.
The language of the time was in such a manner that it was possible to mix love and distain in the same sentence, something that has unfortunately not being carried on into modern English.
Love was expressed also by writing poems, such as when Benedick was writing a poem for Beatrice and vice-versa. Although at the end of the play they spoke as if they did not love each other, the poems they wrote each other spoke for what they really had in their hearts. Shakespeare’s many poems also showed that people showed affection to each other in many forms, like writing poems to each other at around his time.
Comparison of the Two Plays
Romeo and Juliet’s love scenes are of young people falling in love. In Much Ado about Nothing, a similar view is held between Claudio and Hero, but not in Benedick and Beatrice. Their love was more of a traditional way of loving, by slowly finding out if someone they loved had any sincerity towards them; whereas in Romeo and Juliet, they skipped that principle and went straight into the relationship parts of things, and agreed to be married in only one night.
Women were presented in Romeo and Juliet as under men, whilst in Much Ado about Nothing they appeared like they had more rights and privileges.
However, in both plays, intentions to marry were both conducted; the differences being that Romeo did not ask permission from either his father or Juliet’s father to get married, and instead only asked her to marry, whilst Claudio had to ask Leonato, Hero’s dad for her hand in marriage. This showed some people around Shakespeare’s time were moving from the idea that you had to ask permission to get married, and instead only asked the person they intended to marry for permission.
Saying that, the actual marriage ceremony was similar, the difference being that Romeo and Juliet held their marriage privately with no witnesses except themselves and the Friar due to the situation, whilst in Much Ado about Nothing, there was a large group of people witnessing the marriages.
This showed that people around that time could have their marriage conducted privately or publicly.
The way the characters from both expressed love to each other was different. Romeo and Juliet expressed their love for each other in a very passionate, and fiery way, while Benedick and Beatrice had theirs disguised in the way they spoke to each other, and how they felt to one another. Claudio and Hero had a relationship, although they had a “different” way of expressing it. They did not make out with each other, nor did they use disguised words, they had a more indirect relationship.
This ultimately shows how love was in Shakespeare’s time; it could be expressed in many ways, as it is today.
Romeo and Juliet, and Much Ado about Nothing, were a reflection of Shakespeare’s times, the way love, power, marriage and women were at the time. His plays portrayed how he interpreted the customs were of the time, as well as give an insight into the language of the time (although he did invent many words into it).
Courtney from Study Moose
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