"O THAT I WERE A MAN, I WOULD EAT HIS HEART IN THE MARKET PLACE.1 301-2) DISCUSS SHAKESPEARE'S EXAMINATION OF THE ROLES OF MEN AND WOMEN IN "MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING."".
Shakespeare's plays differ from modern morals and values, as he was writing to conform with the views of the era, which was when Elizabeth 1st was on the throne. Because of this, his characters differ, sometimes to a comical degree, with men generally being portrayed as what we, in the modern world, would consider a chauvinist, and their women being portrayed as almost inferior.
However, in the first two acts of the play, Shakespeare's two main female characters are presented with some contrast. One character, Hero, fits in the quiet and respected daughterly' image, whereas Beatrice, her cousin, appears to feel no chains tying her to conformity. She is very witty, and where Hero politely acknowledges men and their comments, Beatrice feels happy to openly criticise men, particularly Benedick, a noble friend of the Prince. We see her do this in the very first Scene of the play, when she learns that he is coming to the town, saying things like Is Signor Mountanto returned from the fight?' She calls him this as she is referring to a fencer, suggesting he lives for fencing, and not for real fighting. All of her criticism appears to be taken in good humour, and despite being very different from the stencil of a conforming woman, Beatrice does have some respect in society.
Beatrice may act in this way because she does not feel the mental pressure to act in a way which would honour her father, as it appears her father has died, and she is being looked after by her uncle. Having no father could mean men are unlikely to want to marry her, as they stand to inherit none of the father's estate. This feeling reflects authority in Shakespeare's society, as women were at the very end of the inheritance line. Added to the fact Beatrice is around 30 years old, she may feel she has nobody to impress and marry, so acts as she pleases.