Much Ado About Nothing Gender Quotes
How we cite our quotes: (Act.Scene.Line) Line numbers correspond to the Riverside edition.
Let me but move one question to your daughter,
And by that fatherly and kindly power
That you have in her, bid her answer truly.
I charge thee do so, as thou art my child.
O, God defend me! How am I beset!—
What kind of catechizing call you this? (4.1.77-82)
This is a difficult passage to read, as it’s the first instance where Leonato chooses Claudio’s word over his daughter’s. He demands that Hero answer Claudio’s question, indicating that he’s already trusting Claudio instead of defending his daughter. Ultimately, this episode is sickening because of our intuition that Leonato’s role—because he knows his daughter and her honor—is to stand up for her, not to indulge Claudio in this public spectacle.
Hero’s reputation is on the line, and in the end, as a woman, her word isn’t worth much against a man’s. This episode reminds us of the constant cuckoldry jests in the play. Though they were jokes, they seriously refer to the distrust men had for their wives, and we’d bet it also makes them hesitate to stand up for their daughters.
Surely I do believe your fair cousin is
Ah, how much might the man deserve of me
that would right her!
Is there any way to show such friendship?
A very even way, but no such friend.
May a man do it?
It is a man's office, but not yours. (4.1.273-280)
It’s interesting that Beatrice can’t enact her plan to avenge her cousin because she’s a woman. You might think she would’ve come up with some scheme she could do herself (because she’s so independent and strong-willed), but this seems one of those rare chances when Beatrice admits that she’s unable. There’s no discussion of why her plan needs to be executed by a man, but even for Beatrice there’s an implicit understanding that some work is done by women, and some by men.
Princes and counties! Surely a princely testimony,
a goodly count, Count Comfect, a sweet
gallant, surely! O, that I were a man for his sake! Or
that I had any friend would be a man for my sake!
But manhood is melted into curtsies, valor into
compliment, and men are only turned into tongue,
and trim ones, too. He is now as valiant as Hercules
that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man
with wishing; therefore I will die a woman with
With Benedick as her only audience, Beatrice berates all men for being complete wimps. If Benedick didn’t get the picture before, he does now: Beatrice needs a manly man. Beatrice rails against what manliness has come to in these days of courtly pomp, and it’s not a flattering picture. It’s interesting that Benedick has spent all this time up to now indulging in similar rantings against all the courtly niceties of love (using Claudio as a prime example).
Now that Benedick has fallen in love, he’s provided a chance to prove that he’s different from other lovers who were transformed by love into sighing idiots (like Claudio). Especially now that Claudio has turned out to be faithless and cruel, Benedick can show that there are different ways to love than the stupid courtly formalities, which he’s not good at anyway. This could be Benedick’s big break.