"Hath Leonato any son, my Lord?" (1.1.273)

Don Pedro understands Claudio's meaning at once and answers him in kind:

"No child but Hero; she's his only heir." (1.1.274)

The fact that Claudio has to ask about Hero's family shows us just how little he knows her. However, as the play goes on to demonstrate, he does not need to know more of her than that she is wealthy, pretty and a virgin. In this scene Don Pedro emphasises Hero's virtue and beauty: he calls her "worthy" twice and describes her twice as "fair Hero". Claudio echoes this, saying,

"But now I am returned and that war-thoughts
Have left their places vacant, in their rooms
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
All prompting me how fair young Hero is,
Saying I liked her ere I went to wars." (1.1.280- 84)

Claudio describes his love as a phase into which he can now enter fully; before this point he has been too busy with the war to think seriously of Hero as his wife. Don Pedro tells Claudio, "thou shalt have her": it was standard in Renaissance literature to describe a man as "having" a woman in the sense of winning her, and should not inflame any post- feminist sensibilities. However, Shakespeare was too skilful a playwright not to challenge the language of his day, and there is no doubt that the tone of this phrase is meant to make us distrust Don Pedro and Claudio. The Prince then proposes that he woo Hero on Claudio's behalf. The audience can only wonder why this should be necessary apart from as a plot contrivance; the answer is so that Shakespeare can expose Don Pedro as over- fond of meddling in other people's business and Claudio as easily persuadable. These are crucial elements in their characters that Shakespeare will explore fully over the course of the play.

In fact the wooing plan goes disastrously wrong, thanks to the intervention of the villain Don John. He persuades Claudio to think that "the Prince woos for himself" (2.1.159), and sends Claudio into a disappointed sulk. In his soliloquy Claudio makes the point that he neglected in the earlier scene when the plan was made:

"all hearts in love use their own tongues.
Let every eye negotiate for itself,
And trust no agent..." (2.1.162- 64)

Claudio has not been betrayed by Don Pedro; as Benedick says a few lines later when he enters to find Claudio looking melancholy, "the Prince hath got your Hero" (2.1.176). The ambiguity of the line means that Claudio can reply, "I wish him joy of her", but the audience knows that Don John is not to be trusted (he said in 1.3.62-63 that "if I can cross him [Claudio] any way, I bless myself every way"). Claudio's false assumption that Don Pedro has betrayed him acts as a prelude to his later, more serious belief that Hero has been unfaithful, and reinforces our impression of Claudio as being vulnerable to persuasion. The engagement of Claudio and Hero takes place entirely independently of Leonato. In 1.2 Antonio tells Leonato that,

"The Prince and Count Claudio, walking in a thick-pleached alley in mine orchard, were thus much overheard by a man of mine: the Prince discovered to Claudio that he loved my niece your daughter, and meant to acknowledge it this night in a dance; and if he found her accordant, he meant to take the present time by the top and instantly break with you of it." (1.2.7-14)

Leonato therefore operates under the false assumption that Don Pedro wants to marry Hero. At the beginning of 2.1 he says to Hero,

"Daughter, remember what I told you. If the Prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer." (2.1.58- 60)

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