Much Ado About Nothing | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Much Ado About Nothing | Act 3, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

It's the day of the wedding. Hero sends Ursula to wake Beatrice while Margaret helps her dress. They argue over what Hero should wear. Hero says her heart is "exceeding heavy," meaning she feels nervous about her upcoming nuptials. Margaret makes a crass joke about Hero's heart being "heavier soon by the weight of a man." Hero thinks Margaret should be ashamed of saying such a thing, but Margaret says it's perfectly fine for her to say things about Hero having sex with her own husband.

Beatrice enters. She has a cold and doesn't feel well. Hero shows off her new perfumed gloves, which were a gift from Claudio. Beatrice can't smell anything as she is "stuffed," a remark Margaret turns into a joke about being pregnant while still a maiden. Annoyed, Beatrice asks Margaret how long she's been such a wit, and Margaret replies, "Ever since you left it." Margaret suggests Beatrice take some carduus benedictus for her ills, and when Beatrice accuses her of insinuating something, Margaret swears she isn't. She says she knows Beatrice will never fall in love. Unprompted she continues to say that Benedick, on the other hand, is showing signs of changing his mind about love.

Ursula enters to say all of the men are waiting to take the ladies to the church. Margaret and Beatrice help Hero finish dressing.

Analysis

The women of Much Ado About Nothing talk about sex just as much as the men, but only if the men are out of earshot. Margaret, who is of a lower class than Hero and Beatrice, has no qualms about telling dirty jokes and insinuating Hero will soon be underneath her husband both in the eyes of the law and in the bedroom. The virtuous, ladylike Hero is scandalized by this kind of talk, but it doesn't bother Beatrice. She makes dirty jokes of her own throughout the play, which also places her in contrast with Hero.

Attitudes about sex were surprisingly relaxed during the Elizabethan era, which is why Margaret and Beatrice both feel comfortable joking about it. Though the Church of England and the monarchy decried any hint of sexual activity before marriage, the general population felt it was acceptable for people intending to marry to engage in intercourse after agreeing to wed but before partaking in the religious ceremony. This is why Margaret says she can joke about Hero's wedding night—she was talking about Hero having sex with her husband, which is acceptable.

The "heaviness" of Hero's heart foreshadows the impending catastrophe she faces at the church, while Beatrice's illness is symbolic of her decision to love. She and Benedick both find themselves in pain after deciding to love the other, which is representative of the vulnerability of allowing oneself to be open to love.

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