Lovers in Messina





Figuratively speaking, there are several ears propped to a door, eavesdropping on a conversation pivotal to Shakespeare’s comedy, Much Ado About Nothing; a story about love; real, new and pretended, that began before the messenger arrives with his news. Two very different couples cling to each other or push one another away during five acts of masked balls, sighing under balconies, hysterics, a make-shift death and resurrection, attempts to compose poetry and finally, a feast. The lovers of Messina: innocent Hero, fiery Beatrice and their gallant knights, weak Claudio and comic Benedict stumble through abundant trickery, taking very different paths to reach the same goal: a happily-ever-after ending.
Hero, though one of the main characters of the play is a silent presence for the entire First and Second Acts, given a voice only when others speak about or for her. She is first introduced not by name, but as “the daughter of Signior Leonato”, described by Claudio as a “modest young lady” and “the sweetest lady I ever laid mine eyes upon”. Hero is described by everyone as beautiful, kind and gentle. Always she was the dutiful daughter. When her father, Leonato, instructs Hero that she must consent to a wedding proposal by Don Pedro, a man she barely knows, she happily agrees. Leonato says, “Daughter remember that I told you. If the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know the answer.”
In truth, Hero and her father realize later, she had not conceded to marrying Don Pedro, but Claudio. Her willingness to transport her hand from one man to another shows that it is not in her own interests that she acts, shows that her happiness is not as important as her father’s will. Claudio can declare victory, the wedding is confirmed, Hero is to be married and still she says nothing; content to be spoken for by Beatrice. “Speak cousin, or, if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss and let him not speak either.” says Beatrice.
Hero is the victim in this play, the loser in a situation she was not a part of, the target of anger directed at her father and fiancé. Don John, the only clear villain in the play, sought to upset Leonato and cheapen Claudio’s prize. Hero was the most virtuous amongst the characters but is horribly slandered of being promiscuous on her own wedding in front of everyone she knew. The man that was to be her husband shouted accusations to which she could not defend herself because she was a woman and always suspected of being false. Yet, despite the horror of this wedding ceremony and worse, being scorned by her father whom she had always sought to please, because of those empty words, when told by her father to do so, she happily married her cruel accuser.
The exact opposite of Hero in every way is Beatrice, her rambunctious cousin. Beatrice lives in Leonato’s house and shares a room with Hero. While her cousin is the image of an innocent maiden, Beatrice has many of the characteristics of men and qualities that most other women did not have. While Hero was quiet for most of the play, Beatrice dominates most conversations. She appears to be a strong woman and is radically independent, swearing she will never get married in a time when marriage was the most important and consequential aspect of a woman’s life. “Well niece,” said Leonato’s brother. “I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.” To which she replied, “Not till God make men of some other metal than Earth.”
These two very different cousins are very close and more like sisters. Beatrice describes Hero, much like a everyone else does, as a quiet, sweet girl. She appears to be the older cousin and certainly the wisest. Beatrice is very protective of her cousin. After Hero’s abortive when she was declared a “rotten orange” by the misguided Claudio, Beatrice remained true to her cousin, unlike her rash uncle. Beatrice declared in certainty that her cousin had been wronged.
Claudio is the gallant soldier just arrived from the wars in which he had distinguished himself. He can be considered both one of the heroes and villains of the play. He