Friday, May 4, 2012

Character Analysis: Essay.

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At the time, clich�s imposed concerning relationships were plentiful. For example, Hero and Claudio’s almost robotic relationship is acknowledged as a ‘Courtly love’ relationship the relationship is modelled on the feudal relationship between a knight and his liege lord.

The knight serves his courtly lady with the same obedience and loyalty that he owes to his liege lord. She is in complete control of the love relationship, while he owes her obedience and submission. The knights love for the lady inspires him to do great deeds, in order to be worthy of her love or to win her favour.

The ‘courtly love’ relationship typically was not between husband and wife, not because the poets and the audience were inherently immoral, but because it was an idealized sort of relationship that could not exist within the context of real life medieval marriages, and so it appears apt that for the vast majority of the plot Claudio and Hero remain unmarried.

In the middle ages, marriages amongst the nobility were typically based on practical and dynastic concerns rather than on love. The idea that a marriage could be based on love was a radical notion. But the audience for romance was perfectly aware that these romances were simply romance, not models for actual behaviour.

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The courtly love relationship is, however, the basis for Claudio and Hero’s relationship in the play. As explained above, this was commonplace in medieval plays. However, Shakespeare adds his own dimension to the plot in the form of Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship (Beatrice, by the way, is in Italy the traditional name for the women in plays who exert much more power and authority than other women).

To try and illustrate the huge margin of difference between the two pairs of lovers’ relationships, I have collected a series of incidents between Beatrice and Benedick as examples. In act 1, Leonato explains the relationship between Beatrice and Benedick to the messenger. It is a camaraderie of wit and exchange of insults that is more commonly seen in the modern battle of the sexes. They repeatedly put one another down because of each others sex, and make clear the advantages and disadvantages they each possess because of it. This relationship prevails throughout the play. Beatrice exclaims that she plans to be a bachelor for all time, as does Benedick. She cannot stand to hear a man declare his love for her. Beatrices independent nature is unique to Shakespeares work. Benedick, however, puts women down for their frivolity and mistrust. He is grateful for his mother, but plans to have no other women in his life. Beatrice, by putting down men, illustrates how she believes women to be the better sex. Like Beatrice, Benedick, by insulting women, is proclaiming the male gender supreme.

Similarly, in act , Beatrice entertains her family, once again, with humorous tales of men and their problems. She does understand, however, that many women are not as happy as she is to be a bachelor. Therefore, she tries to convince her cousin, Hero, to select a good man, if she must select a man. This again shows Beatrice’s assertiveness and Hero’s willing to be told what to do. For Beatrice, her strength and femininity are unique and she does not try to force others to practice the same lifestyle. Elsewhere, in soliloquy, Benedick gives an enormous list of the requirements that his intended woman must possess. He realizes that women cannot possibly contain all such qualities and therefore he must remain a bachelor. Benedick overhears Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonatos plotted conversation about Beatrice. It seems that part of the battle of the sexes may cease to exist as Benedick falls hopelessly in love with Beatrice. However, he believes her to be in love with him, and this significant element in the plot allows him to fall for her. This, contrary to Hero and Claudio’s almost instantaneous ‘love at first sight’, is a progressive and endearing love whereupon they learn to love one another gradually.

Hero, Ursula, and Margaret ‘force’ Beatrice to fall in love with Benedick by telling tales ‘behind her back’ of the glorious Italian man, Benedick. They use traps in order to establish this love affair between these two soldiers in the battle of the sexes. Irony is used in this in that they are both told that they must not know, and yet both do. Beatrice has fallen for Benedick during the conversation, but still will not reveal her feelings.

Beatrice and Benedick proclaim their love for one another after evading the issue. They have trouble showing their feelings, for fear of being shown up by the other. Benedick is the first to declare his love and Beatrice soon follows. However, soon after they express their feelings, their battle of wit returns. Beatrice asks Benedick to kill Claudio and their friendly battle turns into something more than just a battle of words and wit. Blank verse is oft used for dramatic effect in these sequences.

Beatrice and Benedick meet again in Leonatos orchard. Benedick is still love-struck, but Beatrice begins the conversation with her insulting wit. She never ceases to battle Benedick in tongue. Their conversations are always about the differences between the sexes. So, although the two proclaimed bachelors are in love, they still insult one another through this verbal battalion. Eventually, Benedick swallows his pride and asks which masked woman is Beatrice. He does not admit that he loves her. Instead he declares that she loves him. Beatrice will not allow such humiliation, so she declares that he loves her and that she does not love him. They argue until Hero and Claudio steal their letters that confirm the love Beatrice and Benedick share. Until the end, neither Beatrice nor Benedick will admit to ‘defeat’ in love, ‘I was about to protest I loved you’ Line , p 46. The play concludes as Benedick welcomes marriage and love. He is happy and fulfilled and advises the prince (C) to marry also. The battle of the sexes has come to a blissful conclusion.

It becomes easy to see that B & Bs’ relationship is a slow, gradual conclusion, whereas C & H’s relationship is fairly spontaneous, and relies on honour, especially in Claudio’s case, rather than love. In fact, the thought of one man ‘wooing’ on behalf of another appears totally false. Indeed, the only point in which the relationship seems uncertain is when Claudio’s ego appears to have suffered a blow when Hero is ‘unfaithful’, removing her honour. The situation is quickly recovered when Claudio discovers it was an elaborate trick, Don John, the Bastard, being the culprit. Again, the two couples’ personalities are as wildly contrasting as the type of relationships they endure B & B’s personalities are very individual, yet also very similar. C & H’s personas, however, are almost non-existent by comparison; there is no ‘wooing’ done by either party outright, and marriage just seems as to be a mutual agreement rather than a declaration of their love.

In my opinion, Beatrice and Benedick’s relationship would have been more common today than in those days, but I would not label all medieval relationships as Courtly love. Indeed, it appears that love is presented in two different senses one, in a peripheral but necessary way, simply to conform; the other, a strong tie built up throughout the years with utmost passion and equality.

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