Sibling discord in both Much Ado About nothing and Pride & Prejudice can be seen as a result of a rivalry that has been fostered due to the inequality of Social Status and consequently a desire to ascend in the Social Hierarchy. Shakespeare’s depiction of the conflict and increasing tension between Don John and Don Pedro is representative of their disparity of the class and reputation due to Don John’s illegitimate birth. Hence Don John’s impassioned declaration that he has ‘Decreed not to sing in [his] cage’ which highlights that Don John is confined by his illegitimate birth and is restricted from moving up the social hierarchy. The metaphor ‘caged’ is indicative of the restrictions and the defining nature of his birth, which ultimately reduced his status in society.
The contemporary audience would condemn Don John’s birth as he was born out of sin and this was considered to be as result of lechery in Elizabethan England, therefore they would expect his behavior and demeanor to be sinful, whereas a birth out of wedlock in the twenty first century would be considered entirely acceptable. Similarly, In Pride & Prejudice Austen utilises the character of Lydia to demonstrate the discrimination afforded to married women, despite the means of marriage being considered scandalous. Lydia confidently asserts ‘ I am a married Woman, you go lower than me, I take your place’ to Jane, highlighting her condescension of her elder sibling now that she has risen in the social hierarchy due to her marriage status. Her Hasty and brash retort magnifies her desperation to celebrate her new position and the idea that the rest of her siblings are now ‘lower’ than her. A contemporary reader in Regency England would sympathise with Jane‘s humiliating position of being the elder unmarried sibling, as in Regency England it was a woman’s prime objective in life to obtain a suitable and ideal husband.
Whereas, a modern reader would be greatly appealed by Lydia’s biting remarks as her justification for marriage seems to be lacking affection and admiration for her husband and appears to be simply means of improving her social status. In essence, both Austen and Shakespeare exploit sibling rivalries to reveal deep rooted resentment between family members due to social inequality and a keen desire to improve an individual reputation through the social standing and advancement.