How does the character of Claudio portray the gender expectations of men back in the time when Shakespeare wrote Much Ado about Nothing?  

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Claudio represents a male-dominated society where women were expected to remain chaste before marriage. 

There is a definite double-standard represented in the play.  Shakespeare’s play involves the story of a girl whose reputation was threatened, and she was so mortified that she faked her death. A reputation was all a girl had, and when Don John soiled hers, Hero was doomed to a life of misery. 

Claudio is very chauvinistic.  He believes Don John when he tells him that Hero has been having an affair.  He sees what he thinks is her and another man at the window, and he accepts it.  He supposedly loved her, but he never questions that she has been untrue. 

Worse than this, Claudio condemns Hero in front of everyone on their wedding day.  It is a very public display.  He mentions nothing to anyone, and then during the wedding he rejects her.  She has no idea why, and she is horrified.  This event does much more harm to her than to him. 

Hero’s father Leonato seems to accept Hero’s wrongdoing pretty easily, on only what Claudio says and the fact that Beatrice cannot alibi her. 

Confirm'd, confirm'd! O, that is stronger made
Which was before barr'd up with ribs of iron!
Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie,
Who loved her so, that, speaking of her foulness,
Wash'd it with tears? Hence from her! let her die. (Act 4, Scene 1) 

Even worse than his behavior at the wedding, Claudio apparently thinks that women are interchangeable.  Since Hero is supposedly dead, he agrees to marry another girl in her place when he is told that Leonato has a niece he can have instead.  Shakespeare’s audiences might have accepted this, but most modern audiences consider it despicable. It shows that a woman has no worth or personality on her own.  One is as good as another.

Read the study guide:
Much Ado About Nothing

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