Who is Balthasar in Much Ado About Nothing?
Hi I have to write an essay on Balthasar in Much Ado About Nothing and I am really stuck. If you could just help me along that would be great. I have to include an analysis of Balthasar's song in Act 2 Scene 3 and explain the importance of this. Thanks!
In Much Ado About Nothing Balthasar is a servant and musician whose actions parallel those of the made leads, Don Pedro and Claudio. Balthasar flirts with Margaret during the masque and later helps the men (Leonato, Claudio, and Don Pedro) convince Benedick that Beatrice is in love with him. It is important to note that Balthasar's wooing of Margaret comes between Don Pedro's walking with Hero and Benedick and Beatrice's masked wooing of each other. So, Shakespeare uses Balthasar's successful attempts at wooing Margaret to juxtapose the unsuccessful attempts of Benedick and Beatrice. Also of note is that Margaret will later be complicit in deceiving Don Pedro and Claudio of Hero's infidelity with Borachio. Although Balthasar does not have a hand in the trick, his song does carry an important message.
Balthasar sings the song in Act II:
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh nor more; Men were deceivers ever; One foot in sea and one on shore, To one thing constant never; Then sigh not so, But let them go, And be you blithe and bonny; Converting all your sounds of woe Into. Hey nonny, nonny. Sing no more ditties, sing no mo, Or dumps so dull and heavy; The fraud of men was ever so, Since summer first was leavy. Then sigh not so, But let them go, And be you blithe and bonny, Converting all your sounds of woe Into. Hey, nonny, nonny.
The song is intended to convince the women that men's infidelity (cheating) is natural. The irony, of course, is that a woman's infidelity (Hero's) is unnatural. So, while the male-dominated culture condones Borachio's infidelity, it holds a double-standard for women. At the wedding, Claudio refuses to marry Hero and ruins her reputation publicly--a kind of death sentence for a woman of stature.
So, Shakespeare uses the servants (Balthasar, Margaret) as foils for their masters. Balthasar's wooing of Margaret juxtaposes the unsuccessful attempt by Benedick to woo Beatrice and foreshadows the successful wooing games later. His song portrays the gender roles and values of the Elizabethan culture, exposing the double-standard that men held on women's reputations.