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

Smell the alleged suitor claudio must form his

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smell the alleged suitor, Claudio must form his judgement from 'afar off in the orchard', on a 'dark night' (3.3.144-5,150), though, on the other hand, unlike Dalinda, Margaret is not veiled. For Sir Timbreo the seduction scene alone is sufficient to convince, while for Claudio the 'oaths' of Don John and Borachio's further testi- mony are crucial. And whereas Sir Timbreo's rejection of Fenicia is carried out by messenger, after he witnesses the window scene, Claudio responds to the mere allegation of Hero's infidelity with a ready plan of public vengeance: 'If I see anything tonight why I should not marry her, tomorrow in the congregation where I should wed, there will I shame her' (3.2.111-13). 19
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Introduction The difference in these suitors' choices must partly have to do with the difference between a play and a prose account, and the dramatic opportunities of a scene of public rejection. But it is an unavoidable observation that Shakespeare deliberately provides us with a less than appealing suitor. Shakespeare may draw his heroine's name from the story of two loyal lovers, but the suitor in question resembles 'Leander the good swimmer' (5.2.30-1) - in Benedick's ironic term for the drowned swain - more in failure rather than steadfastness. Claudio's shortcomings in the trust department are also in keeping with his earlier lack of confidence in the loyalty of friends, when he suspects that Don Pedro has appropriated Hero for himself. His behaviour after the report of Hero's death is no less disappointing (the Friar's plan for instituting remorse seems not to have fully succeeded), which is consistent with the realism of this rendition. Shakespeare goes out of his way to give us a suitor who is morally faint of heart and faith, at a disadvantage in the lists of love and friendship. This has rendered Claudio vulnerable to critical scorn, as 'a miserable specimen' (Ridley, 106), or 'the least amiable lover in Shakespeare' (Harbage, 192); another commentator claims that love never did have 'interest in his liver': 'The verb describing the young man's feeling is significantly "like" not "love" . . . What Claudio is really interested in is a good and suitable marriage' (Prouty, 42, 43). Defences of his behaviour, on the other hand, cite the conventional nature of his love: it is time for him to marry; Hero is an appropriate choice; Claudio has the support of his patron. J.R. Mulryne grants him a quasi-tragic status: 'Claudio lacks confidence in himself and is readily given to suspecting others . . . He is easy prey for Don John precisely because of a deeply ingrained mistrust of his own feelings; he cannot exclude the possibility of his being quite wrong about his most intimate beliefs' (Mulryne, 40). Other commentators point out that while the grounds of such a match may not be romantically thrilling, they are unobjectionable by the terms of the day. At the same 20
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Introduction time, as Sheldon Zitner aptly observes, 'the ensuing marriage of Claudio and Hero is not quite as everyone would like it. Nor can we condescend to Elizabethan audiences by assuming it was wholly as
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