At the presentation of this excerpt, Claudio has just rebuked Hero at their own wedding, tossing her back to her father, Leonato. Claudio is under the assumption that she has already been unfaithful to him. He has reason to believe that she has lost her virginity, and has become an unchaste, dishonest whore. He thinks that she has lost her innocence and purity to another man before their wedding. The cause for these assertions is the result of Don John's clever plan to make Claudio lose Don Pedro's goodwill through deciet.
Act IV, Scene I, lines 93-1001.
Oh Hero! What a hero hadst thou been, .
If half thy outward graces had been placed.
About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart?.
But fare thee well, most foul, most fair, farewell.
Thou pure impiety, and impious purity,.
For thee I"ll lock up all the gates of love,.
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,.
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,.
And never shall it more be gracious.
The first line illustrates Shakespear's ability to use wordplay and add double meanings to his speeches through repetition. For example, "Hero" appears two times within the first line using two separate meanings. Initially, it is used to directly address Claudio's ex-beloved. The second time, however, he uses "hero" as a comparison to an idealistic conquerer of love, as classic heroes conquered and victored great battles. In this comparison, Claudio is showing us how Hero has evaded her heroic qualities. "Fare thee well, most foul, most fair, farewell" again toys with repetition in words and brings into play the use of opposites. The word "fair" is repeated three times in the space of one line which undermines its elegance and insisting Claudio's hopelessness that Hero's "fair" outward appearance and beauty contains a "foul" spirit.
In that same line, there is a double-meaning used on the word "fair". According to Claudio, Hero has lost her "fair" physical qualities, meaning beauty, but she has also become no longer "fair" or honest.