nothing personal man

Misogyny in Much Ado About Nothing

I’ve read a lot of scholarly articles on Much Ado About Nothing that dismiss Don John as a terrible villain, or criticise Shakespeare for the lack of finesse in constructing him, but honestly, I’ve always felt like that’s the point.

Don John is no sly, silver-tongued Iago – he is crude, brash and malicious. He makes statements like “I am a plain-dealing villain,” goes about attended by idiot henchmen, and takes advice and inspiration for his plots from others around him.

But even so, this weak caricature of a villain nearly brings ruin upon all of Messina.

How?

Because, even before he had made plans to trick Claudio into thinking Hero was unfaithful, the culture of Messina had already done most of the work for him. Don John is not the true villain of this play; he is merely an agent. The real villain of Much Ado About Nothing is the culture of misogyny in Messina.

From the moment Benedick and the soldiers return to Messina, they engage in lewd sexual banter and joke about horns, adultery and cuckoldry. Leonato’s first instinct upon greeting them is to make such a joke, for when Don Pedro politely inquires if Hero is his daughter the old gentleman immediately quips, “Her mother hath many times told me so.” This banter speaks volumes about the underlying misogyny and anxieties about female sexuality that the men share, and it works to create an atmosphere that is ripe for Hero’s shocking rejection.

Thus, all Don John has to do is suggest to Claudio that Hero is unfaithful, offer him a sliver of proof, and the prince and Claudio, made susceptible by popular myths of female inconstancy, find the rest of the proof themselves. Claudio starts to see certain cues as evidence of Hero’s guilt where before they were badges of honour. He declares, “Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.” And so Hero, by the simple machinations of a cardboard cutout villain, is publicly disgraced, left for dead, and threatened with death by her own father, showcasing how quickly those seemingly harmless jokes about women can escalate to actual violence.

What’s more, this culture of misogyny is what keeps Benedick and Beatrice apart. These two dorks start the play madly in love with each other, but their shared fear of horns and cuckoldry divides them. Beatrice is also repelled by Benedick’s attitude as a self-confessed “tyrant” to her sex, and patriarchal culture has convinced her that no marriage could ever be happy, and no man faithful. Both of them (but especially Benedick) must thus overcome and abandon patriarchal values and the culture of misogyny they are entrenched in. Again, the culture of Messina is the antagonist, not Don John.

Beatrice has the advantage of being resentful and rebellious towards patriarchal culture from the very beginning, and so it is Benedick’s conquering of his sexist attitude that becomes the axis on which the rest of the play turns. He starts off entrenched in a culture of toxic masculinity, but once he acknowledges his love for Beatrice, and after he sees Hero disgraced and left for dead, he becomes sickened by the views he once held. Beatrice flies into a rage at her cousin’s treatment, and in no uncertain terms rails against misogyny and the patriarchy and the culture that nearly killed Hero. She wishes she “were a man for his [Claudio’s] sake,” telling us that, were she a man, she would use her position of privilege and power to protect women rather than abuse them. Her next wish, “that I had any friend would be a man for my sake” is a challenge to Benedick to do what she, as a woman, cannot: defend her cousin with action, not words, and publicly oppose the culture of misogyny in Messina.

This makes her initial request, “Kill Claudio,” less a demand that Benedick murder his friend and more a plea that he break with the toxic culture of male camaraderie. And Benedick agrees. In the midst of a play saturated with jokes about women’s volubility and defined by the rejection of a supposedly unfaithful woman, he then makes the monumental decision to trust Beatrice. He listens to her when she grieves and finally asks her a single question: “Think you, in your soul that Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?” When she replies in the affirmative, her word is all the proof he needs to part with the prince and challenge his best friend.

When he meets with Don Pedro and Claudio, they are keen for him to validate their treatment of Hero with his witticisms, plainly desiring to hear the japes about cuckoldry he had trotted out at the start of the play. But with Hero almost “done to death by slanderous tongues,” Benedick knows tongues are as deadly as swords in Messina, and so leaves his wit in his scabbard. He challenges Claudio and informs the prince he intends to discontinue his company, officially cutting his ties with their little boys’ club.

Speaking to Margaret shortly after, Benedick claims he has “a most manly wit… it will not hurt a woman.” He no longer uses his tongue to scorn or denigrate women. Instead, he uses it to delight them, turning his efforts to poetry and song, and courting Beatrice with the jokes and witticisms he once reserved for his male friends. Shakespeare uses Beatrice to convince Benedick, and by extension the audience, of the shortcomings of masculine culture and shows us that true valour comes from men using their strength to protect women rather than hurt them: for this alone may Benedick call his wit “manly.”

Through their love, Benedick and Beatrice conquer the true villain of the play: misogyny. Don John, who is merely the agent, is instead undone by Dogberry and his idiot watchmen, who discover the plot and bring the truth to light. With all put right, the end of the play provides the denouement where Benedick, having proved his valour and cast off misogyny, is at last free to marry the woman he adores. He makes a speech where he mocks the old views about women and marriage he held, gaily advises the prince the marry, and tells Claudio “love my cousin,” the implication being that the only way Claudio and Hero will live happy is if Claudio follows Benedick’s example, throws off misogyny and loves and trusts his new wife as Benedick does Beatrice.

Much Ado About Nothing, quite simply, mocks the hypocrisy of patriarchal society at every turn. It questions why men should demand chastity in women when they display none themselves, and why women are thought of as sexually insatiable when experience generally showed the opposite. The play’s accompanying song Sigh No More is even about the unfaithfulness of men. The lyrics declare “Men were deceivers ever… to one thing constant never,” and the men of Much Ado tend to live up to this, being generally lusty and faithless while the women are constant and faithful. Shakespeare disproves common myths about female inconstancy by making Hero the blameless victim of men’s obsession with female chastity, a scapegoat onto whom all their repressed fears are projected. And Don John, the active agent of the culture of misogyny, is a bastard, living proof of men’s infidelity and unfaithfulness.

So yes, Don John is a terrible villain – but that’s precisely the point. His weak characterisation feeds neatly into the play’s subversive agenda. For what could this bitter, scheming man have accomplished had the culture of misogyny not predisposed Don Pedro and Claudio to suspect unfaithfulness? What power did he have over Benedick and Beatrice, and how did he serve as their antagonist?

Don John is not the true villain. Misogyny is. Hero’s shocking rejection and near-death proves how dangerous misogyny is, and how easily violent words lead to violent actions. Meanwhile, the witty, sparkling lovers journey together to overcome their internalised prejudices, and provide vivid proof of what happiness a marriage based on trust and true equality can bring.

Much Ado About Nothing is play about a battle of the sexes – and only once the two sides call a truce and join forces to overcome the real villain, misogyny, may the happy ending be achieved.

Do you ever feel like you don’t really belong anywhere? Not with your friend group or family or clubs, and it’s not the people there it’s you. Like you’re just sorta there and missing out on some joke everybody gets but you and it’d all be okay if you never were there 

8

WELL THERE GOES THE DAMN CARD GAME. GAWD.

Drifting comic- UT!Household is being held hostage and now the Papyrus’ (and Undyne’s) are kind of stuck in the Undercurrent card game.

…This was pretty predictable really.

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I LOVE IT WHEN YOU JUST CLICK WITH SOMEONE AND IT DOESN’T FEEL LIKE YOU WERE EVER STRANGERS.

How in the world do you guys keep up with shows/books/fandoms? I can barely keep up with life haha

We’re watching Arab idol and my moms like “I really hope you marry someone as hot as Yacoub. He’s perfect for you cause he’s Christian and he’s your age 👀. I’m making duaa that you marry someone like him”

  • 1957: eisenhower sends the national guard into little rock to uphold supreme court ruling saying segregation is unconstitutional
  • 2017: trump considers sending the national guard into indiscriminate, mostly liberal or heavily black cities to 'uphold' his dubious immigration policies which the courts have struck down twice

i dont know guys but somehow “Love Like You” from Steven Universe is giving me VegeBul vibes

My boyfriend expresses mild jealousy about my attraction to James McAvoy, so I told him I find him more attractive than the McAvoy and he said ‘hell yeah!’ triumphantly.

Me: 'I’m glad you believe me because if you told me you found me more attractive than Megan Fox I would tell you where to shove your bullshit.’

Him: 'Yeah, but James McAvoy isn’t exactly Brad Pitt! It’s actually believable that you prefer me.’

Me: 'WHY DO MEN THINK HE IS NO BIG DEAL?! I’m telling you that me and thousands of other people would sell our left foot to suck on his dick and you still just don’t get it! HE IS SEX PERSONIFIED! He is a filthy Scottish gingerbearded sex magnet who could make me orgasm with a GLANCE!’

more demi!steve
  • there’s a large possibility he never thought about trying to experiment with himself, or anyone else, when he was younger. it was never something he ever remotely thought of doing or experiencing. bucky always joked life was passing him by when he spent so much time with his pencils and paints.
  • he might not be 100% comfortable with nudity with himself and in others. in the army there were things you couldn’t help, and the trust he had in his team eased that feeling. but he really isn’t the type to strip down to his underwear (or less) even in front of people he’s very close with.  he will avert his eyes, turn himself around, etc if needed. he gets more comfortable with it when he’s got some intimate partners and it might be solely with just them when it happens.
  • a young skinny steve getting worked up by an encouraging bucky barnes every few double-dates. “hey steve i think she likes you!” he would proclaim and it would set steve into a sort of existential crisis because he doesn’t particularly feel anything for this nice girl who keeps coming back around. he always assumed she came back around for bucky (and was often proven right).
  • but there were those few times he follow buck’s lead  and worked himself up to the idea that this was it, this girl was the whole deal. it was almost as if he tricked himself into thinking he must like her, since she liked him, and was always sorely disappointed when it never turned out that way.
  • heartbreak feeling so devestating. because finally working up to that idea of love and attraction as the world thinks it should be felt finally made him feel included in this experience he always thought he missed out on. then when it’s gone, he feels like he messed up his once in a lifetime opportunity. and that he will never, ever, feel that way again.
  • steve getting embarrassed when he has to explain to the commandos that he finds people attractive, but attraction doesn’t mean he actually would rip their clothes off and crawl into bed with them in a hot second. no one can really believe it when they hear it out loud, or further explanations using pin-up girls from jacket pockets and popular attractive starlets of the time period for further clarification.
  • people give him shit for not having much to share about himself, but he has no problems listening to other people go into explicit details about their sex life. he’ll even joke with them.
  • he doesn’t like the adorning kisses he gets from the girls sometimes when he’d go into town during the war, during his USO tour,  that one time with private lorraine, or on avengers/shield missions. he feels so violated, but he was never really able to articulate that feeling of unease and disgust in his gut when the men near him would boisterously praise his luck, or wish that they could be him.
  • steve never feeling 100% comfortable with random, unwarranted shows of physical affection from strangers, and sometimes, from friends.
  • accepting offers for dates, and propositions from people to be their significant other, even if he’s not sure he 100% wants it. most times, the thinking is well maybe if they like me, i will like them in time. he’s always willing to give it a go and never feels right rejecting the person right off the bat, just in case they might be “the one.”
  • he never fully trusts his own feelings when it comes to romance, dating, and relationships. its a constant struggle between his gut instinct vs outside influences of “how this thing really works”. but in the end, he is always sorry he didn’t go with his initial gut feeling once the dust settles and people, perhaps more than himself, end up hurt.
  • steve rogers feeling like he’s broken when he measures his own experiences against common practice of the everyday person with their sexuality. he feels like his broken pieces damage anything he comes into contact with. he also thinks people will be unwilling to adapt and understand to his oddities. no matter how much they may like/love him, his strangeness is an impassable obstacle for anyone of potential interest.

i am always unreasonably proud of myself when i finish a load of laundry and still have all my socks