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Abstract

The ultimate trajectories of characters in literature are often quite similar despite their existence in differing social, cultural, and historical environments. To this end, the following essay will examine Beatrice from Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing and Elizabeth Bennet from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice as related archetypal female heroines. Both women display a similar basic character structure: each proves to be witty, intelligent, and feisty, actively diverging from the passive model female character created by respective female counterparts. Beatrice and Elizabeth are also continuously coupled with a masculine counterpart throughout the texts, and are arguably driven by the actions of these men; however, both representations of the archetypal ‘witty woman’ establish strength with their refusals to be tamed until their masculine counterparts are transformed into suitable marriage partners. Despite being more transgressive than the stereotypical heroines of their societies, in requiring this transformation of their masculine counterparts the women’s conformation to societal expectations for marriage is an assertion of their power and establishes their success within their societies.

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