chapter  7
23 Pages

Much Ado About Nothing

Leonato By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get thee a husband if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue.

Antonio In faith, she’s too curst. (II, i, 11. 16-18)

Like The Shrew, Much Ado About Nothing is a play which is at least partly based on the theme of a battle of the sexes: the sparring between Beatrice and Benedick recalls some of the sparring between Kate and her suitors, especially Petruchio. But in the years between the two plays something has changed. It is not just that Beatrice repeatedly gets the better of Benedick in their witskirmishes, in a way that Kate only rarely does of Petruchio. It is that the character of the independent woman is no longer demonized: in the earlier play Kate’s independence was perceived as a threat to male power, and she was therefore seen as an unruly hoyden who had to be, literally, ‘tamed’. But in Much Ado About Nothing the taming metaphor would be completely inappropriate. The patriarchal authority of a Petruchio is not ascribed to Benedick; his point of view is no more valid than Beatrice’s, since he is also a descendant of the love-refusing lords in Love's Labour's Lost.