Claudio, of Florence ; a count, companion of Don Pedro, friend to Benedick. Leonato, governor of Messina; Hero's father Antonio, brother of Leonato. Balthasar, attendant on Don Pedro, a singer. Borachio, follower of Don John.
Conrade, follower of Don John. Innogen, a ghost character in early editions as Leonato's wife Hero, daughter of Leonato Margaret, waiting-gentlewoman attendant on Hero.
Ursula, waiting-gentlewoman attendant on Hero. Dogberry , the constable in charge of Messina's night watch. Verges, the Headborough, Dogberry's partner Friar Francis, a priest. Beatrice, Leonato 's niece, asks the messenger about Benedick, Don Pedro's companion, and makes sarcastic remarks about his ineptitude as a soldier.
Leonato explains that "There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her. Claudio's feelings for Hero, Leonato's only daughter, are rekindled upon seeing her, and Claudio soon announces to Benedick his intention to court her. Benedick, who openly despises marriage, tries to dissuade his friend but Don Pedro encourages the marriage.
Benedick swears that he will never get married. Don Pedro laughs at him and tells him that when he has found the right person he shall get married. A masquerade ball is planned in celebration of the end of the war, giving a disguised Don Pedro the opportunity to woo Hero on Claudio's behalf.
Don John uses this situation to get revenge on his brother Don Pedro by telling young Claudio that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself. A furious Claudio confronts Don Pedro, but the misunderstanding is quickly resolved and Claudio wins Hero's hand in marriage. Meanwhile, Benedick disguises himself and dances with Beatrice.
Beatrice proceeds to tell this "mystery man" that Benedick is "the prince's jester, a very dull fool. Don Pedro and his men, bored at the prospect of waiting a week for the wedding, harbour a plan to match-make between Benedick and Beatrice.
They arrange for Benedick to overhear a conversation in which they declare that Beatrice is madly in love with him but afraid to tell him; that their pride is the main impediment to their courtship. Meanwhile, Hero and her maid Ursula ensure Beatrice overhears them discuss Benedick's undying love for her. The tricks have the desired effect: Meanwhile, Don Pedro's brother Don John, the "bastard prince", plots to stop the wedding, embarrass his brother and wreak misery on Leonato and Claudio.
He informs Don Pedro and Claudio that Hero is unfaithful, and arranges for them to see John's associate Borachio enter her bedchamber where he has an amorous liaison actually with Margaret, Hero's chambermaid. Claudio and Don Pedro are taken in, and Claudio vows to humiliate Hero publicly. Her humiliated father Leonato expresses the wish that she would die. The presiding friar intervenes, believing Hero to be innocent.
He suggests the family must fake Hero's death in order to extract the truth and Claudio's remorse. Prompted by the day's harrowing events, Benedick and Beatrice confess their love for each other. Beatrice then asks Benedick to slay Claudio as proof of his devotion, since he has slandered her kinswoman.
Benedick is horrified and at first denies her request. Leonato and his brother Antonio blame Claudio for Hero's apparent death and challenge him to a duel. Benedick then does the same. Benedick is following the commands of Beatrice and is one of the few who believe Hero. Luckily, on the night of Don John's treachery, the local Watch apprehended Borachio and his ally Conrade. Despite the comic ineptness of the Watch headed by constable Dogberry , a master of malapropisms , they have overheard the duo discussing their evil plans.
The Watch arrest the villains and eventually obtain a confession, informing Leonato of Hero's innocence. Though Don John has fled the city, a force is sent to capture him. Claudio, stricken with remorse at Hero's supposed death, agrees to her father's demand that he marry Antonio's daughter, "almost the copy of my child that's dead"  and carry on the family name. At the wedding, the bride is revealed to be Hero, still living.
Beatrice and Benedick, prompted by their friends' interference, finally and publicly confess their love for each other. As the play draws to a close, a messenger arrives with news of Don John's capture — but Benedick proposes to postpone his punishment to another day so that the couples can enjoy their new-found happiness.
Don Pedro is lonely because he hasn't found love. Thus Benedick gives him the advice "Get thee a wife. The earliest printed text states that Much Ado About Nothing was "sundry times publicly acted" prior to and it is likely that the play made its debut in the autumn or winter of — The play was published in quarto in by the stationers Andrew Wise and William Aspley. This was the only edition prior to the First Folio in Analysis and criticism[ edit ] Style[ edit ] The play is one of the few in the Shakespeare canon where the majority of the text is written in prose.
Sicily was ruled by Aragon at the time the play was set. Act II, Scene v: Benedick and Beatrice quickly became the main interest of the play, to the point where they are today considered the leading roles, even though their relationship is given equal or lesser weight in the script than Claudio and Hero's situation.
While this was reflected and emphasized in certain plays of the period, it was also challenged. It seems that comic drama could be a means of calming such anxieties. Ironically, we can see through the play's popularity that this only increased people's interest in such behavior. Benedick wittily gives voice to male anxieties about women's "sharp tongues and proneness to sexual lightness". This stereotype is turned on its head in Balthazar's song "Sigh No More," which presents men as the deceitful and inconstant sex that women must suffer.
Infidelity[ edit ] A theme in Shakespeare is cuckoldry or the infidelity of a wife. Several of the characters seem to be obsessed by the idea that a man has no way to know if his wife is faithful and therefore women can take full advantage of that fact.
Don John plays upon Claudio's pride and fear of cuckoldry, which leads to the disastrous first wedding. Many of the males easily believe that Hero is impure and even her father readily condemns her with very little proof. This motif runs through the play, often in references to horns, a symbol of cuckoldry. In contrast, Balthasar's song " Sigh No More " tells women to accept men's infidelity and continue to live joyfully. Some interpretations say that Balthasar sings poorly, undercutting the message.
This is supported by Benedick's cynical comments about the song, where he compares it to a howling dog. However, in the Branagh film Balthasar sings beautifully, the song is also given a prominent role in both the opening and finale and the message appears to be embraced by the women in the film. The games and tricks played on people often have the best intentions—to make people fall in love, to help someone get what they want, or to lead someone to realize their mistake. However, not all are meant well, such as when Don John convinces Claudio that Don Pedro wants Hero for himself, or when Borachio meets 'Hero' who is actually Margaret, pretending to be Hero in Hero's bedroom window.
These modes of deceit play into a complementary theme of emotional manipulation and the ease with which the characters' sentiments are redirected and their propensities exploited as a means to an end. The characters' feelings for each other are played as vehicles to reach an ultimate goal of engagement rather than seen as an end in themselves. Masks and mistaken identity[ edit ] People are constantly pretending to be others or being mistaken for other people.
An example of this is Margaret who is mistaken for Hero, which leads to Hero's public disgrace at her wedding with Claudio. However, during a masked ball in which everyone must wear a mask, Beatrice rants about Benedick to a masked man who turns out to be Benedick himself but she acts unaware of this at the time. During the same celebration, Don Pedro, masked, pretends to be Claudio and courts Hero for him. After Hero is announced "dead," Leonato orders Claudio to marry his "niece," who is actually Hero in disguise.
Noting[ edit ] A watercolor by John Sutcliffe: Beatrice overhears Hero and Ursula. Another motif is the play on the words nothing and noting, which in Shakespeare's day were near- homophones. The title could also be understood as Much Ado About Noting. Much of the action is in interest in and critique of others, written messages, spying , and eavesdropping. This is mentioned several times, particularly concerning "seeming," "fashion," and outward impressions. Nothing is a double entendre ; "an O-thing" or "n othing" or "no thing" was Elizabethan slang for " vagina ", evidently derived from the pun of a woman having "nothing" between her legs.
Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signor Leonato? I noted her not, but I looked on her. Hear me a little, For I have only been silent so long And given way unto this course of fortune By noting of the lady. Thou knowest that the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak is nothing to a man. A triple play on words in which noting signifies noticing, musical notes and nothing occurs at 2. Nay pray thee, come; Or if thou wilt hold longer argument, Do it in notes. Note this before my notes: There's not a note of mine that's worth the noting.
Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks — Note notes, forsooth, and nothing! Don Pedro's last line can be understood to mean, "Pay attention to your music and nothing else! The following are puns on notes as messages: I pray you leave me. Ho, now you strike like the blind man — 'twas the boy that stole your meat, and you'll beat the post. Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a pretty jest your daughter told us of.
O, when she had writ it and was reading it over, she found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet? The play was very popular in its early decades, as it would be later: