Claudio

Claudio, featuring labels that highlight him as idealistic and conventional

Claudio is an honourable soldier and friend to Benedick and Don Pedro. He falls in love with Hero at first sight, showing his romantic nature (although it could be argued that this hastiness reveals an immaturity).

He asks for Hero's hand in marriage but is then tricked by Don John into believing that his wife-to-be has been unfaithful. His behaviour at the wedding is cruel as he accuses Hero of dishonesty in front of the congregation.

Later, when he hears Borachio's confession and realises his mistake, he is repentant. He apologises to Leonato and agrees to marry Hero's cousin without even meeting her. He is delighted at the second marriage to unveil his new wife and find she is actually his beloved Hero.

How is Claudio like this?EvidenceAnalysis
ConventionalHe admires Hero for her modesty and beauty."Is she not a modest young lady?" (Act 1 Scene 1)Whereas Benedick will fall in love with Beatrice and her sharp wit, Claudio falls in love with Hero who demonstrates all the conventional aspects of the ideal Elizabethan woman.
Easily influencedWhen Don John suggests that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself, Claudio is quick to move to jealousy."Farewell, therefore, Hero!" (Act 1 Scene 1) Although he has agreed for Don Pedro to woo Hero on his behalf he still reacts quickly to Don John's claim. This also shows his immaturity.
HurtfulWhen he learns from Don John that Hero has been unfaithful, he denounces her at the altar."Give not this rotten orange to your friend." (Act 4 Scene 1)His rejection of Hero is made worse because he does it publicly.
RepentantWhen he admits his mistake, Claudio is grateful for Leonato's understanding."Your over-kindness doth wring tears from me!" (Act 5 Scene 1) Claudio claims that Leonato's generosity moves him to tears. He agrees to marry Antonio’s daughter to make up for his mistake.

Social and historical context

Shakespeare often used plots and storylines from other writers and re-wrote his own versions. It's a bit like the practice of turning a novel into a film today.

The story of Hero and Claudio is based on the Italian Matteo Bandello's tale of Sir Timbreo who falls in love with Fenicia, the daughter of Lionato. In this version of the tale, Timbreo is tricked into thinking his wife has been unfaithful to him. Where Shakespeare has Hero faint, Bandello's story sees his leading lady fall into a death-like coma. Her father holds a funeral for her. Later Timbreo discovers the truth and in a gesture of repentance he marries Fenicia's sister, who, of course, turns out to be Fenicia herself.

Analysing the evidence

Claudio
Thou thinkest I am in sport: I pray thee tell me
truly how thou likest her.
Benedick
Would you buy her, that you inquire after her?
Claudio
Can the world buy such a jewel?
Act 1 Scene 1
Question

What do we learn about Claudio from his dialogue with Benedick?

CLAUDIO

Thou thinkest I am in sport: I pray thee tell me

truly how thou likest her.

BENEDICK

Would you buy her, that you inquire after her?

CLAUDIO

Can the world buy such a jewel?

  • "I pray thee tell me" - Claudio is well-mannered and polite in the way he speaks. He has respect for Benedick and his measured talk differs from the wordplay and mocking tones that characterise Benedick.
  • "Would you buy her, that you inquire after her?" - Benedick responds with a question that seems to taunt Claudio. We can assume that Claudio is showing his love for Hero.
  • "Can the world buy such a jewel?" - He questions whether there could be another woman as beautiful as Hero, though of course, this is unrealistic.