What is the main theme in Act 4 scene 1 (the church scene) in Much Ado About Nothing by Shakespeare ?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The biggest theme from this crucial scene in this play, that is supposedly denoted a comedy, is the way in which dishonour in a woman is regarded and treated. The thing that we should all focus on is the way that Hero is punished and publicly denounced for her supposed licentious behaviour. Let us remember that Claudio, who supposedly loves her, even though he has seen "proof" of Hero's infidelity before the wedding, deliberately chooses to wait for the wedding itself to denounce Hero in front of her friends and family in a very public way. The words he uses too are harsh and unforgiving:

Out on thee! Seeming! I will write against it:
You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pamper'd animals
That rage in savage sensuality.

For Claudio, ironically, Hero is the perfect example of appearances versus reality, as she "seems" to be like the virgin goddess Diana, whilst actually in reality living her life in "savage sensuality." What Claudio is blind to is that he has made this conclusion as a result of mistaking appearances for reality. This scene makes absolutely clear that honour in a woman is something that is irretrievable once it is lost, as both Claudio and Leonato make absolutely clear. Shakespeare thus draws our attention to the gender inequality that faced women at that time.


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