She's His Only Heir

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 10th grade April 2001

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"She's his only heir (I.i.285)." William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is a play teeming with seeming truths. When Claudio and Don Pedro are talking, Claudio hints that Don Pedro can do him a favor by answering what he wants to know. Don Pedro replies that he will help achieve this favor in any way he can, and Claudio asks Don Pedro to tell him whether Leonato, the prince of Aragon, has a son. Don Pedro reveals that Hero is Leonato's only child, and thus the only heir to Leonato's fortune. It is apparent that this fact intrigues Claudio to the point that he has a newfound love for Hero. This is a primary example of a seeming truth; Claudio's motives in marrying Hero go no deeper than for selfish personal gain. Claudio's selfishness and superficiality, exemplified perfectly in Claudio's actions following the revelation of Hero being an only child, reverberate with alarming boldness throughout the play.

This quotation's importance lies in how it sets up the rest of the play. Although the sentence is short and constructed of simple words, the meaning they imply to Claudio is anything but simple. Once he realizes Hero is Leonato's only heir, Claudio all-too-conveniently realizes his love for her. Claudio's shallowness is so apparent that Don Pedro realizes Claudio's lies and even blatantly tells Claudio such. The underlying connotations this sentence begets are the lifeline of the play and what not only drives Claudio, but other characters as well, to weave a story based on confusion, miscommunication, and lies.

This quotation functions not only in its scene, but throughout the entire play. As it compels Claudio to reveal his supposed love for Hero, in turn it causes Don Pedro to reveal his plan to help Claudio win Hero. However, their conversation is overheard "" and misunderstood "" and word gets to many different people who interpret it differently and devise their own plans of action. Now there are multiple groups of people operating on false information and trying to accomplish different goals that do not rest harmoniously with anyone else. Don Pedro's seemingly innocent comment has caused a whirlwind of confusion and misunderstanding amongst everyone. After the initial confusion over who actually loves Hero is settled, the topic of Hero's virtue comes into question. This, too, was caused by the misunderstanding of Don Pedro's and Claudio's conversation when word gets to Don John, the antagonist of this play. Because Don John finds out that Claudio wants to marry Hero, and because Don John is an evildoer, he decides to devise a plan to ruin Hero's reputation in front of Claudio. It works, and Claudio shames Hero in front of everyone at their wedding. All of this "" essentially the entire content of the play - began with the simple words informing Claudio of Hero's fortune to come.

Claudio's motive is made even more obvious because of how he reacts to the information he receives about Hero. When he believes she is not pure, he immediately wants to shame her. He is not saddened by the news, he is not heartbroken as a true lover would be, and he does not even consider talking to her or confronting her about the situation. Instead, he does something entirely uncaring: shames her in front of her friends and family. Then when Claudio believes Hero is dead, and thus has nothing to gain from sucking up to Leonato, he changes his attitude entirely, turning disrespectful and rude. And when the story takes another twist and Claudio realizes that Hero is not, in fact, dead, he reverts to his sicophant mannerisms, suddenly ashamed of his previous actions, suddenly apologetic to Leonato. Through his behavior throughout the play, Claudio proves himself to be a shameless, see-through character who lacks the self-respect and honor to earn something through honest methods. Instead, he follows the information, "She is his only heir," and causes confusion, shame, and strife among people who previously were doing just fine.