Question: English & Literature

Why is Hero's "honor," or virginity, so important? Why does everyone react so strongly when they believe she is no longer a virgin?

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In English & Literature | Asked by bookragstutor
Asked from the Much Ado About Nothing study pack
Answers
In a sense, Hero's honor is important for two reasons. One is easily understandable for modern readers, and one is best understood in the context of Shakespeare's time. In the play, she is supposedly having an affair with Borachio, while engaged to Claudio. This "cheating" would, of course, have been as scandalous then as it is now. However, there are additional aspects of this supposed affair that make it all the more lewd. A woman's honor was the most important thing she brought to a marriage. Women who were not virgins on their wedding night were considered spoiled. In a society where women were traded or made to marry against their will for reasons benefiting their fathers, this was one sign of value. In addition, the fact that Hero would sleep with Borachio, a man far below her in social rank, also upsets the social order to a disturbing degree. If the affair was with Don Pedro, for example, it still would have been scandalous, but most likely less so.
bookragstutor | 298 days ago