Honor and Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 2032 |

Pages: 4|

11 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Words: 2032|Pages: 4|11 min read

Published: Aug 31, 2023

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Gender Dynamics in Much Ado About Nothing
  3. Impact of Honor on Characters' Lives
  4. Honor and Gender Roles
  5. Conclusion
  6. Works Cited


Honor involves having great respect for someone, while also presenting them with great admiration. Using honor is important, since it defines someone’s status. Honor was important because it gave the family a right to be respected and admired, and during the Elizabethan era, honor could be easily lost or regained. Throughout the play, Much Ado About Nothing, anyone can see a lot of this happen; the setting involves and surrounds the true meaning of honor, and where each character stands with it. During the play, it delves into the complex interplay of gender roles in Much Ado About Nothing, discussing the differences in social classes, and what one man, or woman is capable of, while also witnessing the true meaning of love, and how far jealousy will take someone. Hero and Claudio are both called into question when Hero’s honor is thrown out of context over the wrong reasons. Not only are they mainly affected, but everyone’s honor around them is greatly harmed by association. In the play, the main characters fight to earn and disturb the alliances, while also learning the differences in honor between men and women.

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Gender Dynamics in Much Ado About Nothing

In the article by Jacqueline Beatty called, American Honor: The creation of the nation’s Ideals During the Revolutionary Era by Craig Bruce Smith (Review), she spoke of having honor be about “race, class, gender” (1 Beatty) Honor dealt with many different aspects about a person. It dealt with which kind of race and background a person originated. If that race was favored during that era, then their honor would be a lot higher than most people. Many people during the Elizabethan era who were also born into having a lot of money had a higher sense of honor and had a higher reputation. Being a male or a female also made a huge difference in what type of honor was given. If the person was a male, they had to be strong and fearless to have a high worthiness and be associated with great honor. If it was a woman they had to be saved for marriage and could not do anything that could jeopardize their standards of where their honor was. Their honor also did affect many people around them and did not just associate themselves. If women were unfaithful, they could be sent away, maybe even be killed. Men could also strip away the honor of women if they were not being faithful, or even respectful to a man, and a woman was meant to be obedient to her father. Women’s honor did not matter as much as it was for a male. A man’s honor mattered to everyone, and was about killing, and doing things that involved justice. Having a man’s honor stripped away far worse to be accomplished back, than it would have been with a woman.

Although women did not matter as much as male’s, honor played a huge impact in everyone’s lives. The meaning of honor in women is vastly different, then in men. Women were held to a much higher standard than men, especially throughout the play. A women’s honor was based on purity fidelity, and obedience. Honor dealt with everything and described exactly where the someone was on a social status. In the beginning of the play, when Claudio first lays his eyes on Hero he calls Hero “the sign and semblance of her honor.” (33) Claudio thought Hero was one of the best girls he had ever laid eyes on, and compared her to the very definition of honor, before he ever knew what she was like. In the article The Sign and Semblance of Her Honor: Reading Gender Differences in Much Ado About Nothing, writer Carol Cook discusses the Honor that is displayed regarding the characters, especially between Hero, and Claudio. Cook writes “Her place in the world of this play is most apparent scene, where, nearly silent and finally subsiding into unconsciousness under the onslaught of abuse, she becomes a sign to be read and interpret by others” (Cook 194) Cook is stating that Hero is being interpreted by others as a great, kind girl for everyone, and Claudio goes in falling in love with her, with that mindset. Once he openly meets her and falls for her, then hears about what she has done he is furious, because she has fooled him, and her own appearance fooled him, but in reality she has not.

Impact of Honor on Characters' Lives

Honor did not just affect the women, but also affected the family, specifically the father. The father of Hero, In Much Ado About Nothing, was vastly ridiculed when people suspected that Hero had done infidelity towards Claudio. It was Leonato’s duty to make sure Hero would remain chaste until she be wed. Since Claudio believed that Hero had been dishonest with him, Leonato’s honor suffered, by being publicly shamed by Claudio and Don John in front of what was supposed to be Claudio and Hero’s wedding. Once Leonato thought he had been betrayed by his own daughter, he started calling her horrible names, because he then realized that his own honor was being jeopardized. Although Hero did not do anything, because there was a nasty rumor around her everyone around her was affected. Women’s honor is able to be taken away and given back with the good grace of a man. Males played a huge role in the honor of women due to the fact that, they were the ones that took away the honor. Just like Claudio did when he believed he was being lied to. He ridiculed her in front of everyone and stripped her and her father from any type of good reputation. Once the rumor was cleared and people had thought that Hero had died, her honor had been revived, and Hero and her father were able to live life out of shame. A women’s honor also meant to be obedient and follow the rules of their father. In the play, Leonato says “Daughter, remember what I told you. If the prince do solicit you in that kind. You know your answer” (54-55) Leonato expected Hero to act in a certain way toward the prince since the prince has the highest honor of everyone in the play. Hero knew what she was supposed to do, and if the prince had an interest in her, she would have jumped at that option, knowing that her and her father’s honor would have been effected.

Honor and Gender Roles

Although the honor in women was vastly affected throughout the play, the men’s honor was also harmed in a different way. A male’s honor mainly dealt with bravery, while being away at war. Men had to show others that they were strong, fearless, and courageous to prove their honor. Male’s honor dealt with a very different aspect, and having honor awarded certain people for their achievements. In the play, Claudio came into Messina very well respected, and with great honor displayed across him. Claudio too usually had to show Hero that his actions away at war guaranteed that he had been a fearless leader, killing all of his enemies along the way. Instead of questioning how many he had killed away at war, Hero trusted the words of her father and the prince. Not inquiring any other motive from Claudio. From the beginning of the play Claudio had kept his honor at a very high point, and was a very well respected man as the right hand man of the prince. The messenger informs “I find here that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honor on a young Florentine called Claudio.” (8-10) In the play, the messenger mentions how Don Pedro brings much honor on Claudio. As of this point, everyone in Messina is able to accept the fact that Claudio is in fact very honorable. Since Claudio had very high honor, he never wanted anything to tarnish it, including marrying a girl who was unfaithful. Since Claudio thought that, it was about to be tarnished, was about to ruin anyone who was about to make this happen. This is why at the wedding, he was about to ruin the reputation and honor of Hero and her father. He ruined it by treating her horribly and telling everyone what they believed she did at the wedding. Even though Claudio and Don Pedro were wrong, in accusing Hero of being unfaithful their reputations were never greatly affected over their news, that their accusations were wrong. Throughout the play, Claudio’s honor was all that he had going for him, for nobody knew anything else about him, and it was what he most cared about, while it was never greatly affected.

Honor can cause both bad and good in people’s lives. Disrupting people’s lives one at a time or bringing someone to a high social class if someone is given a higher sense of honor. In the lives of the characters in the play, all characters are affected by honor in either way. Hero was vastly negatively affected by honor. When Hero was shamed for people believing she had been unfaithful, her honor was taken away. Since honor affects everyone around them, including the father, Leonato was vastly affected as well, and Claudio blamed him for his so for Daughter’s actions. Leonato was incredibly angry at Hero for what they thought were her actions, and he also called her names, while shaming her. A person who experienced a good type of honor was the guard who found the person guilty of spreading the rumor in falsely accusing hero. The guard brought the prisoner to court, and also brought him to Leonato. He experienced good honor because he was the one who cleared Hero’s name and saved her from being brought into shame for the rest of her life. If a person has a high reputation, and is of higher class, we suspect that their honor is very high, and they can use it to bring shame upon someone. Since Claudio had high honor, he could use his reputation for bad like degrading and insulting someone like Hero.

I believe that having honor, and focusing too much on it, in someone’s life can disrupt, and throw their life out of proportion. Throughout the play, having honor involved so much into the characters’ lives does more harm than good. By the looks of it, most of the characters would have been able to have a worry-free life if they would not have focused so much on it. Hero would not have had to pretend she died of grief and would have been able to speak with Claudio regarding his false accusation. Claudio on the other hand would not have been so embarrassed when he accused Hero of doing the wrong thing. Both characters could have handled the situation a lot better; talking to each other regarding the situation without having to worry about what it would do to their honor.


In the play Much Ado About Nothing, the characters all had to worry about their honor throughout the play. Honor dealt with the social classes, while also involving gender, and impacting something that no one is able to control, race. Women had to worry about their own integrity, while also thinking about how their actions would also impact their families. While men had to show how strong and committed, they were to the war, before they were about to have great honor and integrity. Hero, and her father both were negatively impacted by the harmful effects of honor. While Claudio was never greatly affected but did win the love of hero over his incredibly high stance in honor. Although the two did end up together, having honor greatly impacted their lives, and having dealt without it would have easily improved Hero and Claudio.

Works Cited

  1. Shakespeare, William, et al. Much Ado about Nothing. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks, 2009.

  2. Cook, Carol. 'The Sign and Semblance of Her Honor: Reading Gender Differences in Much Ado About Nothing.' Leatherby Libraries,

  3. 'Much Ado About Nothing Critical Analysis & Literary Criticism.',,

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  4. Beatty, Jacqueline. 'American Honor: The Creation of the Nation’s Ideals During the Revolutionary Era by Craig Bruce Smith (Review).' Journal of Southern History, 2019,

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This essay was reviewed by
Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

Cite this Essay

Honor and Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing. (2023, August 31). GradesFixer. Retrieved December 3, 2023, from
“Honor and Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing.” GradesFixer, 31 Aug. 2023,
Honor and Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 3 Dec. 2023].
Honor and Gender Roles in Much Ado About Nothing [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2023 Aug 31 [cited 2023 Dec 3]. Available from:
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