Concept of Honor Throughout History

Throughout history the concept that a of honor is seen everywhere. It can mean different things depending on the situation and person you are talking about. For someone of a higher-class honor might be in relation to their family or business that they are in. To someone of lower class it could be a moral standing or just a way the live one’s life.

Honor for males vs females

Honor can also be portrayed differently when dealing with males and females.

A man’s honor usually is in correlation to his pride. While a female’s honor is more so related to how she is perceived socially. In Shakespeare play “much ado to nothing”, the concept of one’s honor and what it truly means to be honorable is developed throughout the story.

Honor in Much Ado About Nothing

One’s own honor can take many different shapes and forms depending on how one looks to define the word. In Shakespeare “much ado about nothing”, the characters in this play all represent their own form of honor.

According to the Marriam Webster dictionary, one of the definitions of the word honor is ‘good name or public esteem or “reputation” (Merriam Webster). In Many of the charters fall into this category of what it means to be honorable. The charter of Hero fits this definition well. Hero, the daughter of Governor of Messina Leonato, portrays herself in a way fitting the ideal image of a woman in this time period. She’s beautiful, quiet, and seems to follow any orders her father gives.

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Her honor or reputation as a woman is based on her own purity, and obedience. Hero’s obedience is shown in Act 2 of the play when her father Leonato tells her “daughter remember what I told you. If the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.”(Shakespeare)

However, for men, honor is seen very differently than it is for women. For men, honor is based on one’s noble standing an achievement while at war. In the past men were expected to be brave and show courage and strength. Many of the male characters in the play show these traits well, however the character of Claudio fits the role well. In the play Claudio is a man of honor who has proven himself in the war. In the opening scene of the play it is shown how a man can truly gain honor”

Leonato: how many gentlemen have you lost in this action?

Messenger: but few of any sort, and none of name.

Leonato: a victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers. I find that that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honor on a young Florentine called Claudio” (Shakespeare 1.2)

This exchange between Leonato and the messenger, make it clear that one can gain much honor if he comes from a good family name and does well in battle and makes it home alive.

Role of honor socially and politically

Throughout history honor has always played a role socially and politically to some extent. In the past honor was something that would make or break a person. It was the reputation that one held in society that allowed them to make a living of themselves. However, of a person did ever tarnish their honor in some form, it was always difficult to erase the mark it left. In terms of females during this era of the importance of honor, a woman would almost never rid themselves of the shame. In mark Roberta and Roth Spalter article on honor they state that “A woman who lost her honor will usually never be looked at the same again” (Roberta and Spalter).

Ways to restore honor

Hero is called into question on her honor during the wedding between her and Claudio. Hero is accused of being unfaithful to Claudio on the night before their wedding. When someone’s honor is questioned and tarnished it’s difficult to change that. For women during this period the loss of her honor would not only affect her but her whole family and those associated with her. Leonato states that “O fate, take not away thy heavy hand! Death is the fairest cover for her shame that may be wished for.”(Shakespeare 4.1). Leonato in this scene has disowned her and clams the only solution to this is her death. Once a woman has lost her honor in many cases she would live with the shame for the rest of her life. The only way for a woman to regain her honor was if a man fought for it. In the play Beatrice confides in Benedickt and asked him to kill Claudio. She asks this of him because only man can win back a women’s honor. “a villain hath slandered, scorned, dishonored my kins-woman. O, that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they come to take hands, and then, with rancor-O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace.”(Shakespeare 4.1). only another man could defend someone’s honor by challenging the person to a duel, which was a practice used for that sole purpose.

In this period a man would have many opportunities to regain his lost or tarnished honor. Unlike the woman of the time, the men didn’t need the assistance of another to improve one’s reputation. In fact, it was required that a man regain his honor through his own means. Men in the period could whip the stain of dishonor through the accomplishment of something so grad that it overshadows anything negative to do with one’s honor.

“Much Ado about Nothing” explores the inner workings of honor in the patriarchal society of Messina by dwelling into the major establishments and destructions of honor. The play shows how men’s honor is a matter of reputation and social standards and how women’s honor is based on their sexuality and the status of their male family members. While to a certain extent these forms of honor have not changed even currently, it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

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Concept of Honor Throughout History. (2022, Feb 07). Retrieved from

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