In Much Ado About Nothing, given all that has happened to her, why would Hero go ahead and marry Claudio?

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I'm not sure if she melts into his hands, although she is clearly still willing to marry him despite the garbage he dumped on her.  It seems to me like she is more concerned with making sure everyone knows that she was, indeed, an innocent maid.  She doesn't say, "Oh, thank goodness, Claudio, I'm so glad you still want to marry me!"  Instead she says,

One Hero died defiled; but I do live,
And surely as I live, I am a maid. (5.4.65-66)

She makes a public declaration that her jerk of a fiance slandered her to "death," but her innocence has been proven and so now she can live again.  Now, the times being what they were, she couldn't very well say, "My jerk of a fiance...," but she was given two very strong lines, letting the world know that she was mistreated by this man who her father has agreed upon to be her husband.

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Love conquers all, and the attention span of teenagers is short.  Yes, Hero is concerned with her reputation, but she is more concerned that Claudius' feelings for her have diminished.  Once he again swears his love for her, she melts into his ignoble hands in the hope of a "happily ever after" ending.  Like #5 says, the play is a comedy.  It's supposed to end happily with everyone smiling on his/her way back home.

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I've always seen Claudio and Hero as nothing more than a foil for Beatrice and Benedick.  Beatrice and Benedick were once dating, and several lines imply they had a spectacular break up.  Each is left not trusting the other or the other's gender as a whole.  Hero and Claudio also have a spectacular break up where each feels ultimately betrayed by the other.   However, the reactions of the two women are very interesting.

Beatrice protects her heart and won't marry anyone, not even when the Prince asks if she would consider him.  As a woman of the era, she can't legally turn him down, but no one questions her ability to decide for herself that she will not marry even the Prince unless she can have another husband for everyday use because he is too fine for her.  Hero is almost slavishly eager to go back to the man who betrayed her.  Certainly, this has something to do with restoring her honor, but it also nicely juxtaposes against the suffering Beatrice has heaped on Benedick after their breakup.

Benedick has to turn on his friends and pledge himself to Beatrice to gain her trust, and even then, she's a little suspicious.  Claudio only has to show up for the wedding, and he's back in.  Hero is, at least in part, a foil character for Beatrice.  

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I wondered the same thing when I first saw the play. I wouldn't give the jerk the time of day if he treated me that way. However, I live in the 21st century. I have the option of never marrying and making a living on my own. Keep in mind the era in which the play was written. Unless a woman was born into a very wealthy family, a good marriage was the only option for her. We need to be careful about placing our own standards and mores on works written in different eras.

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I'm going to tackle this fine question from two directions: the idealistic and the cynical.

Let me start with a cynical answer: this is a comedy. Shakespeare was giving audiences what they expected. The lovers marry. That's what happens at the end of a comedy.

 And the idealistic answer? Love. She loves him so much that she'll forgive all.


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Oh, I think that is such an excellent question!  To be defamed by a man that you trusted in a public setting, to have him show no remorse at your supposed "death" until you were proved innocent of your crime... who would want him for the long run?

Consider the time period, however.  A women's reputation was all that she had.  She could not own property or act of her own free will, so she had to safeguard her reputation to make sure that she was not put out by her family and friends.  This is what her father Leonato says upon Hero being accused:

why, she, O, she is fallen(145)
Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again,
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul tainted flesh!

He claims at this point that she is as good as dead to him, for in losing her reputation, his own reputation has been tainted as well.  This is why the death scheme is enacted, to give some hope that Hero might be exonerated.

The only way for her to be clearly and definitively declared innocent, however, is for Claudius to accept her as his wife.  If, in the end, she had not married him, then she would be supposed to still be tainted.  She has to be wed to him, as was originally planned, if she hopes to regain her full reputation.

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