Shakespeare, W - Much Ado About Nothing (Arden, 2006).pdf

The disdainer of love who comes to recant and even

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the 'disdainer of love' who comes to recant and even regret his or her former protestations of disinclination. Claudio swears off love at least twice. Spenser's The Faerie Queene includes both male and female versions: Prince Arthur, whose vow to eschew the distracting company of women is undermined by his erotic dream of a woman of no less persuasions than the Faerie Queene herself; and the arrogant Mirabella, 'borne free, not bound to any wight, / And so would euer Hue, and loue her owne delight' (FQ_ y 6.7.30.8-9). Like Arthur, she is eventually humbled, though her comeuppance is significantly more abrading, 1 as she is brought before Cupid's court and sentenced to save as many loves as she had once scorned (twenty-two); her jailers on the journey are the tyrannous Disdain and the scourging Scorn, a pair which Hero describes as also riding 'sparkling' in the eyes of Beatrice (3.1.51) 1 Much as Beatrice's is, compared with Benedick's: the latter is won by flattery and appeals to his chivalry; the former, by a scourging account of the harsh (rather than playful) nature of her wit. 33
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Introduction (though presumably directing their wrath towards her suitors rather than towards Beatrice herself). Beatrice is also stung in the masque scene by the allegation that she is 'disdainful' ('Well, this was Signor Benedick that said so', 2.1.118-19). The 'scorner of love' who finds him or herself forced to recant was a familiar literary figure; the most prominent instance prior to Shakespeare lies in the first book of Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde, where Troilus is punished as a heretic to love by fall- ing for Criseyde. Among Shakespeare's works, Love's Labour's Lost, Troilus and Cressida and The Two Gentlemen of Verona provide male examples of the figure. Shakespeare's heroines almost to a woman display the ability to cast a cold eye upon the male of the species before themselves putting on the destined livery. Castiglione provides another precedent of disdain (or at least disinclination) being transformed by common opinion to the contrary: 'I have also seen a woman fall passionately in love with someone for whom to begin with she felt not the slightest affection, and this only from hearing that many persons believed the two were in love with each other.' 1 Beatrice, by contrast, believes 'better than reportingly' (3.1.116), and her reversal is prompted by her overhearing an account not only of Benedick's love but of her own allegedly uncharitable behaviour; however, the precedent does point to the imaginative currency of the love- conversion experience. Modifications of type These kinds of indebtedness demonstrate not just how Beatrice and Benedick derive from Renaissance assumptions about gender identity, but how the play also challenges these assumptions.
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