Much Ado About Nothing Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line) Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey, nonny nonny. (2.3.64-71)
Balthasar sings that men are faithless dogs, but rather than chide them to be better, Balthasar’s song suggests that the remedy lies in women changing their paradigms about men. If women would simply decide to accept that men are awful, then they’d never get hurt by their cheating husbands/lovers (and men could continue to behave badly without any hassle). The notion here is that men should not have to change (a "boys will be boys" idea), women should change (their perspective on men) to accommodate their men.
God give me joy to wear it, for my heart is
exceeding heavy. (3.4.24-25)
Is it surprising that Hero’s not stoked on her wedding day? Not really, considering she’s never even really spoken to Claudio as far as we know. In addition, Hero’s been told what to do by her father for her whole life, and given what we know about old school marriage, she’s about to transition into being told what to do by her husband for the rest of her life. This is a function of her marriage, but it’s also a fact of her gender; women held a special role in marriage of being the ones that were taken by their husbands (both literally and figuratively), and that’s an awful lot to chew on.
Dear my lord, if you in your own proof
Have vanquished the resistance of her youth,
And made defeat of her virginity—
I know what you would say: if I have known her,
You will say she did embrace me as a husband,
And so extenuate the forehand sin.
I never tempted her with word too large,
But, as a brother to his sister, showed
Bashful sincerity and comely love. (4.1.46-55)
This is an important reminder that a woman’s virginity was central to making her marriageable in Shakespeare’s day. Leonato tries to cover for his child, saying if perhaps Hero gave her virginity to Claudio before the wedding, it was only because she was already thinking of Claudio as her husband. This is a crucial point: while women like Beatrice might be equal to men like Benedick in wit, there were still some areas of gender equality that had not yet been conceived of. A woman’s virginity was the crux of her marriage, and her future husband could reject her as worthless without it, no matter how wonderful or brilliant she was.