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

The enigmatic nature of heros appearance is made most

Info icon This preview shows pages 64–67. Sign up to view the full content.

The enigmatic nature of Hero's appearance is made most clear at the moment of Claudio's rejection of her. He asserts that 42
Image of page 64

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Introduction her blush, the conventional mark of female virtue, is a sign of shame, not embarrassment: 'guiltiness, not modesty' (4.1.40). 1 Her father agrees with this estimate: 'Could she here deny / The story that is printed in her blood?' (4.1.121-2). The Friar on the other hand has a different interpretation of Hero's visage: 'I have marked / A thousand blushing apparitions / To start into her face, a thousand innocent shames / In angel whiteness beat away those blushes' (4.1.158-61). Was a blush a sign of innocence, or experience? 2 Either reading demonstrates the way in which knowledge of Hero's ethical identity relies on judgements about an appearance that is at once intrinsically ambiguous and imi- table. 3 Hence while the docile Hero, the 'good daughter', is the enigmatic victim of others' manipulation of her representation, it is Beatrice, so clearly identified as the weaker sex by virtue of her unruly tongue, who paradoxically is transparently virtuous, 'out of all suspicion' (2.3.157). Cuckolds Much of this play's emotional process involves the need for discovery and disclosure - of Don John's villainy, of Benedick and Beatrice's mutual affections, of Hero's virtue and face, and so on. But if the revelation of a woman's true identity is neces- sary to marital security, the discovery of a man's is potentially horrifying (partly because the two are so interdependent). The dilemma of the conspicuous - what is visible and what is not - is also part of a popular tradition of cuckold humour that informs much of the play's comedy. While there are no actual cuckolds in Shakespeare's plays, Samuel Johnson wrote in some dismay, in a note on Merry Wives 3.5.140-1, that 'There is no image which our 1 Compare with Isabella's enigmatic blush in MM 1.4.16—17. 2 See 4.1.32n., and McEachern, 'Blush'. 3 The story of Susannah and the elders, in which the virtuous Susannah is slandered by two judges who attempt to blackmail her into sexual commerce by threatening her with a blot on her reputation, is another popular Renaissance instance of a woman being imprisoned by the very qualities she is trying to preserve; see Kaplan, 'Slander'; and e.g. Robert Greene, Mirror of Modesty (1584), 7ff. 43
Image of page 65
Introduction author appears so fond of as that of a cuckold's horns. Scarcely a light character is introduced that does not endeavour to produce merriment by some allusion to horned husbands' (Johnson on Shakespeare, 186). Much Ado is riddled with these jokes, as the characters make sport with the horn on their very way to the altar. Cuckoldry is not merely the matter of a running joke, but a theme that touches on the obstacle to love itself. Its prevalence warrants some explanation, especially given that what Johnson found an excrescence is more often, to modern readers, obsolescence.
Image of page 66

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

Image of page 67
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern