That Hero serves a catalyst for the play’s action often eclipses her agency as a character. This is evident both in Don John’s plot, and in the scheme to get Beatrice and Benedick to admit their feelings for one another. Her early actions mirror Claudio’s; the two of them fall in love with ordinate strength and speed. As both are equally naive and earnest, they serve as a foil to the relationship of Beatrice and Benedick, both of whom are more markedly guarded and cynical. The scheme with Benedick and Beatrice sometimes allows Hero the space to assert her agency—while staging a conversation with Ursula and Margaret for Beatrice to overhear, for instance—but it’s notable that her character still serves as a vehicle by which the plot is kept moving.

Often, Hero serves as both a pawn and a prop in the machinations of others. The other characters are constantly treating her as an object to be won, using her to further their agenda, or speaking on her behalf. Even Beatrice, her cousin and the person closest to her, takes it upon herself to translate Hero’s affections to Claudio when Hero herself is unable to find the words, thereby rendering Hero little more than a passive bystander in her own love story. When Don John levels accusations that cast doubts upon Hero’s virginity, the extent to which the other characters genuinely ask Hero about what happened is minimal; Claudio makes demands intended to publicly humiliate her, and to trap her into admitting a transgression of which he is already fully convinced. She ultimately faints, allowing the other characters to accuse and argue amongst themselves in her stead. Leonato even states he’d prefer she be dead rather than disgraced, indicating that she’s only useful to him when she is marriageable.

That the other characters see her as a prop mirrors her function within the play as a whole. Even in the end, Hero’s return is the result of the other characters’ contrivances. Though Beatrice and the friar stand by her, Hero plays a minimal role in her own return from the “afterlife.” That her salvaged reputation hinges on her “death” suggests her very personhood depends on her approval in the eyes of society, and that she is only permitted to re-enter the play once her place on the pedestal on which she originally stood is once again secure.