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How Does Shakespeare Challenge Sexist Assumptions About Male Intellectual Superiority in the Conversation? How Does He Prepare the Audience for This Earlier in the Play?

This Essay How Does Shakespeare Challenge Sexist Assumptions About Male Intellectual Superiority in the Conversation? How Does He Prepare the Audience for This Earlier in the Play? and other 64,000+ term papers, college essay examples and free essays are available now on

Autor:   •  May 18, 2017  •  Essay  •  1,364 Words (6 Pages)  •  288 Views

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We very much see, as a theme, in Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare challenging the conventions of gender roles in Elizabethan Society. This was very much done as an appeasement of the Monarch, at the time being Elizabeth I, who had to try and rule as well as a man, this was due to in that era it was very much a patriarchal society meaning it was viewed that Elizabeth could not rule as well as a man could. Therefore in order to appease the monarch Shakespeare challenges sexist assumptions with his characters, Beatrice and Benedick, to show the audience that females are equally if not superior to the male intellect, this shows Elizabeth to be capable if not more capable of ruling than a male monarch.

Highly it is seen in the conversation that happened between Beatrice and Benedick (1:1 lines 110-138) this idea of Shakespeare's challenging of the sexist assumptions relating to the intellectual prowess of the genders. Beatrice is shown to be quick of mind in the way that she quickly retorts to Bendick´s comments, "A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours". This line gives rise to the speed with which she can turn Bendick´s own words upon himself, which shows that she is clever and can manipulate words well. This was very much an unexpected trait to see in the women of the time, who were seen to have less intellectual prowess than men and also a lack of any formal education giving them less chance to gain knowledge unlike the male gender. She also uses the words, "bird" and "beast" to show how women are skilful and clever with their words whereas men use words with brutality and harshness, showing women to be cleverer with how they use their words than men. Furthermore she declares, "Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence. “This line talks of the fact that she does not respect him in any way, though it is not clearly shown why she does not respect him, it could be again Shakespeare’s way of showing that she does not respect him as he is not clever and doesn’t possess the intellect that she does. She also uses the word, “convert” which is usually used in context when people are changing religion this could be Beatrice referencing how he has a tendency to change his mind and doesn’t have the intellect to stick to one decision whereas she does have the intellectual capabilities to make decisions and stick to them. In that era this is quite irreverent as in that era it was very much seen that men make the decisions for female’s lives and to say that he cannot make decisions shows him to be a poor husband. Though at the end of the play Benedick and Beatrice plan to marry showing that it does not have to be the husband that makes the decisions and it is fine that Beatrice is dominative and Benedick is submissive

Benedick is very much shown to be of less intellectual prowess than Beatrice. This is shown heavily in the last line which Beatrice speaks in which she says, "You always end with a jade's trick". This line is accentuate of the way that Benedick is not quick or mind, unlike Beatrice, and has to rely upon stereotypes in order to come up with retorts for Beatrice. This is clearly seen by the audience as although he is retorting to Beatrice's insults, it is not to the same level, "what my dear Lady Disdain" instead he insults her skill of word saying, "I would my horse had the speed of your tongue" though this does not give high level of credit to his mind it still gives insult as it plays on the stereotypes of women not meant to be clever, this again accentuates his lack of cleverness by his relying on stereotypes in order to insult. It also clearly brings light to the audience the lack of fairness built into the sexist stereotypes in the way that Beatrice has to be clever in order to insult Benedick whereas Benedick simply needs to

Earlier in the scene (1:1 line 30-56) we again see a show of Beatrice's intellectual prowess where she makes a joke about Benedick's name calling him, "Signor Mountanto". This name gives rise to two meanings, that of Benedick being a social climber, from the French word 'monter'-to climb, or that of a more sexual nature, saying that, from the word 'Montanto' which is an un-ward thrust in fencing, that he only likes having intercourse and is rather a ‘ladies man’. This shows again her ability to manipulate words and show high levels of background knowledge so as to come up with such a name for Benedick. This prepares the audience for the latter conversation in which Beatrice is shown to be clever as the audience begin


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