During my reading of act four I was surprised how quickly Leonato changes his opinion of Hero’s virtue. His only daughter whom he loves and treasures so dearly he turns on her with only the word of three visiting men. He is angered and wishes death upon her to cover her shame before addressing her to see if the accusations hold any ground. Hero time and time again denies these accusations, telling the truth but having no way to official prove where she was at the hour she is completely shamed. She denies but because she is a woman the only proof needed to sully her reputation is a man’s word. However when Don Pedro attempts to bring in the name of the man who sullied her virtue Don John is quick to jump in to say “Fie, Fie, they are/ Not to be named, my lord, not to be spoke of/ there is not chastity enough in language/ without offence to utter them.” Saving his own ass and further besmirching Hero without cause. The crowd, including Leonato, does not seem concerned about the ruffian Hero has supposedly laid with but solely concerned with Hero’s vile acts.
Hero literally faints from the grief caused by all of these false accusations. When she awakes Leonato has only become increasingly shocked and angered. “Do not live, Hero, do not open thine eyes…why she, O she is fallen/ into a pit of ink, that the wide sea/hath drops too few to wash her clean again/and salt too little which may season give/ to her foul tainted flesh.” Some terribly harsh words to hear from your father knowing you have been falsely accused. Beatrice comes to her aid stating she has been her bedfellow for a whole year unfortunately not on the accused night. Leonato is convinced saying “would the two princes lie? And Claudio lie?” but does not listen to Hero’s truth.
The only two men in the scene that give Hero some credit are Benedick and the Friar. Benedick has just been delivered to love so this may allow him to see the good in people. Asking Leonato to have patience and to listen to advice the Friar gives. The Friar is able to formulate a plan fairly quickly and objectively by observing Hero, understanding she is genuinely effected and scorned. These two men are Hero’s heroes. The Friar by objectively viewing Hero’s despair as true and noting her virtue as fair. Benedick by not jumping to conclusions with his brethren and understanding Don John villainous spirits.