Thou thinkest I am in sport. I pray thee tell me truly how thou lik’st her. (A1,S1)
When Benedick makes fun of Claudio’s confession of love for Hero, Claudio begs his friend to take the matter seriously and give him advice. Claudio here reveals his youthful timidity, showing none of the bluster or confidence one might expect of a decorated soldier. Claudio constantly defers to the advice and approval of others, which ultimately makes him a pawn in the story’s romantic chess game.
‘Tis certain so, the Prince woos for himself. Friendship is constant in all other things Save in the office and affairs of love. Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues. Let every eye negotiate for itself And trust no agent, for beauty is a witch. (A2,S1)
After Don John tells Claudio that Don Pedro intends to steal Hero’s affections, Claudio instantly loses all trust, exclaiming that in matters of love every man is for himself. Claudio is so easily swayed that he believes Don John’s lie without question, displaying a troubling inability to think for himself, as well as an inherent suspicion of even his closest friends.
If I see anything tonight why I should not marry her, tomorrow in the congregation, where I should wed, there will I shame her. (A3,S2)
Here, following the lead of Don John’s accusatory nature, Claudio declares that he will publicly shame Hero as revenge for her betrayal. Claudio hasn’t yet seen any evidence, but mimics the fervor of his peers, appearing almost excited by the “noble” idea of punishing his betrothed. This susceptibility to manipulation casts doubt on the quality of Claudio’s moral compass.
Done to death by slanderous tongues Was the Hero that here lies. Death, in guerdon of her wrongs, Gives her fame that never dies. (A5,S3)
Claudio reads an apologetic epitaph at Hero’s funeral. Hero’s father Leonato mandated the reading as punishment for Claudio’s treatment of his daughter, and here we see Claudio at his most embarrassingly boyish. Aware now of his mistake, but still at the mercy of the nearest authority figure, Claudio dutifully carries out his punishment like a schoolboy in detention.
Give me your hand before this holy friar. I am your husband, if you like of me. (A5,S4)
Claudio offers his hand in marriage to a new bride who is essentially a replacement Hero. At this point, we question whether Claudio truly has any convictions: First he allowed a friend to court his wife for him, then he allowed a different friend to convince him to condemn his wife, and now he blindly marches into a different arranged marriage without protest. The eventual reveal that the new bride is actually Hero in disguise is barely a happy ending, given what we now know about Claudio’s moral makeup.