Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

The similarities between Leonato and Brabanzio are so astounding. Both men made me cringe while I was reading the plays, it made me sick that they could treat their daughters the way in which they did. Both men believed their daughters disgraced them, and because of that, they felt the need to disown them, and insult them.

In Much Ado About Nothing when the cruel trick is played, and Claudio stupidly falls for it, he goes above and beyond to insult Hero, and refuse her hand in marriage. In the midst of his accusations toward her, her father, Leonato, gets beyond angry. He believes every word that he is hearing about Hero, and he too now believes that she is an unfaithful woman, who has been sleeping around. One of the lines that Leonato said that really got me angry was “O fate, take not away thy heavy hand./Death is the fairest cover for her shame/that may be wished for” (4.1.112-114). He basically said to not punish her lightly, and that killing her would be acceptable. What father says that, and means it whole heartedly?! He later goes on to say “O one too much by thee! Why I had one?/Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes?/Why had I not with a charitable hand/took up a beggar’s issue at my gates,/who smirched thus and mired with infamy,/I might have said ‘No part of it is mine,/This shame derives itself from unknown loins.’” (4.1.128-134). When he says this, he’s asking himself why he even had a child? If he had ‘adopted’ one that a beggar had left, then he wouldn’t have to admit that this child was his blood. After this was said, I was completely unable to like, or trust Leonato no matter what he would say.

Then there’s Brabanzio in Othello, he’s another father that so easily makes me hate him. When he hears that his daughter, Desdemona, is married to Othello, a black man, he accuses Othello of witchcraft. But then he also goes on to emphasize that he is so angered with her, and hates that he had a child to begin with. When Brabanzio goes to the Duke about his issues with his daughter and Othello, the Duke asks him if his daughter is dead. His response: “Ay, to me.” (1.3.59) Again I must ask, what kind of father says these things?! Later in this scene, after Desdemona gets her chance to talk, Brabanzio has a few more words that he just has to say to her. Because clearly he wouldn’t be a father in Shakespeare’s work if he didn’t insult his daughter some more. “For your sake, jewel,/I am glad at soul I have no other child,/for thy escape would teach me tyranny,/to hang clogs on ‘em” (1.3.193-196). Here he is practically disowning his daughter, while insulting her more. He’s saying, like Leonato that he is grateful for only having on child, because if he had had another, he would treat them badly after her behavior. His behavior made me sick to my stomach.

Yet, I wanted to look more into if Shakespeare had personal experience in this area, because where else would he have gotten the inspiration? I did some brief research and I found out that Shakespeare did have a daughter, Suzanne. She was in fact married, but instead of disowning her and hating her for marrying, I found that he gave her his all prior to his death. He seemed to trust her, which is the difference between him and his characters. So, I am left wondering where Shakespeare got this idea for, but I really hope this is the last time seeing it, because I hate the father characters thus far.

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6 thoughts on “Why You Gotta Be So Rude?

  1. michaeldrago

    Disapproving fathers do seem to be a theme in Shakespeare’s works. These two are pretty extreme in their disapproval, but they most certainly are not the only ones to make cruel judgments of their daughters (King Lear is pretty much filled with that, although the judgments are occasionally semi-warranted in that case). It seems as though Shakespeare simply viewed it as a compelling dramatic relationship.

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  2. gerouc1

    I feel that Shakespeare is always giving commentary on disapproving (and those who jump to conclusion) fathers and husbands. It’s almost like he is saying “you are all idiots for treating your wives and daughters like that, when you don’t have the full story”. The fathers are concerned, not with their daughters well being, but with their own standing in society after she has “disgraced” him, which is utterly sickening for us to hear now days (and it still happens to this day)!

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  3. melissav92

    I think that the comparison between father-daughter relationships in both of these works is an interesting topic to think about. I, too, believe that the father’s behavior involving their daughters is sickening and I’m so glad I wasn’t alive during this time to experience a father-daughter relationship that. I guess we’ll never really know why Shakespeare portrays fathers in this way, considering his own life, but I hope this is the last we will see of it also, though it is probably unlikely 😦

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  4. Michelle Cavitolo

    Sometimes I feel like Shakespeare’s plays are like Aesop fables–you learn from them before you attempt them. I like that you brought up Shakespeare’s actual daughter and compared his treatment to her with the treatment of the father characters to their daughters because it makes it seem like Shakespeare was living vicariously through his characters through many alter egos.

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  5. n02392155

    Good catch on the comparison of Leonato and Barbanzio. Like the other replies, I assume Shakespeare is making a commentary on the social norms of the time. Many of his plays feature the disapproving father (Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Taming of the Shrew, Much Ado, etc.), and it speaks volumes as to the value of women within these societies. In a weird Fruedian way the Father was the gatekeeper and owner of his daughter’s virginity, and any autonomy or other expression of sexuality by the daughter was seen as a direct insult to the father’s authority and property. It does make me happy to know, however, that Shakespeare broke this norm with his own child.

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