Beatrice is a strong-willed, independent woman. How far do you agree with this statement?
I would agree for the most part with this statement. Beatrice is indeed strong-willed, but her independence has its limitations. As with many Shakespearean characters, appearance can be deceptive, and what we see is only a facade, a mask to hide their true character or feelings. I believe that Beatrice uses her cleverness and quick wit to hide her real feelings, and that although she is independent to a certain extent, she is aware that she has limitations because of her gender. Although Beatrice states ‘I would rather hear my dog bark at a crow than hear a man swear he loves me’ she is ultimately ...view middle of the document...
The fact that nobody berates her for it gives us an insight into just how accepted she is in spite of the male characteristics that she displays. She believes herself equal to men, at least on an intellectual level, and argues with Benedick despite his status. The ‘merry war’ between the two of them showcases Beatrice’s quick wit and self-assurance. She seems happy to stay single, and even appears to wish that Hero could be free from patriarchal repression. Although everyone else in the play is united in arranging the marriage of Hero, Beatrice urges Hero to please herself rather than her father:
... let him be a handsome fellow, or else make another curtsy and say, ‘Father, as it please me’
This comment indicates her belief that women should have the power to take their lives into their own hands, to be independent as she herself is, and not succumb to the ‘unequal power relations’ between men and women. She is strong-willed enough to openly compel Hero thus, even though Hero’s father is present.
In contrast to Beatrice, Hero is happy to conform to the ‘gender role’ expected of her. Hero is a main character in the play, integral to the plot, yet she has very few lines. Almost all of her actions are as a result of male influence, whereas Beatrice is influenced by men in no way. Her uncle’s comment ‘well, niece I trust you will be ruled by your father’ refers to important decisions like finding a husband. This appears to be Hero’s only purpose in life, regardless of her own feelings, while Beatrice is staunchly independent. Even when she does succumb to the idea of marriage, it is on her own terms. Hero has feelings for Claudio, yet she agrees to a match with Don Pedro, and she even goes as far as feigning her own death in order to win back Claudio after he rejects her at the altar. Her ultimate role in the play is to be married, and she goes through hell to get there. Even her own father would rather she were dead than bring shame upon him by jeopardising her chance at marriage. His comment:
‘Do not live, Hero, do not ope thine eyes’
when she faints after being falsely accused of being a ‘wanton’ is a shocking testament to his eagerness to ensure that his daughter is married off. Hero’s obedience and meek attitude proves to be almost her undoing.
Contrastingly, Beatrice’s confidence and forthright manner, coupled with her quick tongue, provide entertainment for the audience, and those around her. Don Pedro is so impressed by her that he says ‘Lady Beatrice, I will get you one’ after Beatrice is talking about the fact that she will not have a husband. Don Pedro also proposed marriage to her. Beatrice, who ‘cannot endure to hear tell of a husband’, rejects his proposal. I don’t believe that she does this to maintain her single independent status, or because she does not like Don Pedro. Her heart lies elsewhere, having been won by Benedick ‘with false dice’. This proves that although she still has feelings for...