So, for some reason everyone likes to get really cynical about Shakespeare’s love stories these days. The weird thing is I’m like the most cynical of all the cynics and I don’t quite get it. Yeah, I think Claudio and Hero are absolutely in love, they’re both just morons. I’m not saying it’s a perfect example of a healthy relationship, but if there’s no genuine feeling there, the stakes aren’t very high, and high stakes are crucial onstage. Shakespeare–as both an actor and a master playwright–would have known that. One of our biggest rules in theatre is called the “Yes, and,” rule, which basically means that you can’t deny what the text gives you. You take it, accept it as truth, and then build upon it by saying, “Yes, and,” until you have something deep and complex and real.
If you don’t take lovers’ love at face value you lose a lot of the sense of urgency: the worst that could happen is they don’t end up together. But Hero actually swoons when Claudio reneges on his promise to marry her. I think she cares a lot, and there’s much more to it than humiliation. (Not to mention, if she doesn’t love him, why does she agree to marry him in the first place? It’s not like she wouldn’t have had other offers.) Just my opinion, of course.