What similarities and connections would you draw between Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing and Aphra Behn's The Rover?

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I would want to compare these two excellent plays through the way in which they each comment upon the position of women in society and also the severe limitations under which they were forced to operate.

Much Ado About Nothing, as befits its status of a comedy, is of course a delightful romp in many ways as soldiers pursue women and Beatrice and Benedick in particular show sexual war in its full glory and humour as they enagage in their battle of wits. However, in spite of its classification as a "comedy," critics are right to stress that there are very un-comic elements to it. This of course centres on the treatment of Hero by male characters, most notably her father, her lover and Don Pedro. The way in which at the marriage Hero is publily shamed and abused reminds us of the inferior position women occupied at this time. If they did not conform to the male image of what women should be like, chaste, pure and virtuous, they were shunned and reviled.

In the same way, The Rover focuses on the position of women and the kind of options that they had when it came to marriage and life. The fate of Florinda can be paralleled to that of Hero in a number of ways, as she is shown to be a character whose fate will be decided by male characters and how they view her. She will either be married to an aging suitor or somebody else that a male relative will decide for her. The fact that Florinda's brother has dispatched Hellena to a nunnery is another example of the powerless position that women occupied. Even though this play has a happy ending, as both of the two main female characters end up with the man they love, this is shown to be more a product of complete chance than a victory for women.

Therefore, the main focus of this play is on the way in which the position of women is severely limited and curtailed in society, and how their fate was decided not by their own character but by the men around them. Although both are ostensibly "comedies," there is a darker side that paints a rather distressing picture of the position of women at this time.


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