Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare (1564 - 1616)
Much Ado About Nothing
by William Shakespeare
(1564 - 1616)
Type of Work:
Messina, Italy; sixteenth century
Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon
Don John, his jealous brother
Clatidio, a young Florentine lord loyal
to Don Pedro
Benedick, a witty bachelor and another
ally of Pedro
Leonato, governor of Messina
Hero, Leonato's daughter
Beatrice, Hero's cousin, also known for
her sharp wit
Borachio, aide to Don John
After quashing the attempt of his bastard
brother John to take control of Arragoii, Don Pedro, bound for home with
his two friend s Claudio and Benedick, neared Messina. There, Governor
Leonato, his daughter, Hero, and her cousin Beatrice, waited at the city
gate to welcome both the victors and the defeated. Don John, as part of
the truce, had agreed that Pedro would indeed rule Arragon; Pedro in turn
agreed to permit John to return to his holdings there in peace Leonato
beamed to see Pedro on his way home with few casualties - and reconciled
with his brother as well. Beatrice, on the other hand, felt mixed emotions
on greeting Benedick, Pedro's ally and her own wordy rival. "There is a
merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her... " Leonato noted. "A skirmish
of wits between them."
After formally greeting the victorious
Pedro, the governor invited him and his entourage to stay in Messina with
his family for a few days before pushing on to Arragon. On the way to Leonato's
house, however, Benedick and Claudio, lagged far behind; Claudio wished
to solicit Benedick's opinion of Hero. To Claudio she was the sweetest
lady he had ever laid eyes on. When Pedro, returning to hurry the two along,
was told of Claudio's infatuation with Hero, he consented to help him gain
favor with her; he would act as intermediary on Claudio's behalf.
Now, a passerby loyal to Don John happened
to overhear this conversation, and promptly informed his master of Claudio's
desires to marry Hero. "That young upstart hath all the glory of my overthrow,"
John sneered. "If I can cross him any way, I bless myself every way." And
so, Don John launched his plot against Claudio - and his attack against
his powerful brother.
That night at a masked celebration, it
was agreed that Pedro would woo Hero for Claudio. All went as planned -
until Don John made insinuating remarks, well within Claudio's range of
hearing, hinting that Pedro, even as he ostensibly courted Hero on Claudio's
behalf, actually intended to keep her for himself. Claudio became distraught.
By the time Pedro arrived to break the good news - Hero and Claudio were
to be married - Claudio had fled, irate and humiliated, acting like "a
schoolboy who, being overjoyed with finding a bird's nest, shows it his
companion and he steals it." But at length Beatrice found the pouting Claudio,
reasoned with him, and brought him back.
Later, in a gleeful, mischievous plan,
Hero, Claudio, Pedro and Leonato decided to do some further matchmaking.
They resolved that Benedick, a confirmed and contented bachelor, and Beatrice,
a girl equally opposed to matrimony, would be impossible to match as husband
and wife. So they undertook the devious challenge of bringing these two
argumentative souls together before resuming their journey to Arragon.
That very afternoon, while Benedick strolled
in the palace's garden, Claudio, Pedro and Leonato, pretending not to see
him, sat lamenting poor Beatrice, so tortured by her love for Benedick.
At the same time, Hero and her handmaiden walked through an orchard, and,
knowing that Beatrice was hidden there, solemnly talked of how inwardly
tormented Benedick was by his unrequited love for Beatrice. The plan worked
perfectly. The next time the two "merry rivals" united, instead of trading
the usual insults and quarrels, each determined to console the other's
Meanwhile, John, having learned of the
forthcoming marriage of Claudio and Hero, conspired anew. He sent his aide,
Borachio, to foot Claudio into believing that Hero had another lover.
That evening, John lured Claudio and Pedro
to a place near the window of Hero's bedchamber. Borachio had persuaded
one of Hero's servants to dress in her mistress' clothing. In pretense
of wooing Hero, Borachio then went through the motions of seducing the
maid, casting their embracing shadow on the window. Upon witnessing this,
Claudio and Pedro grew livid, but decided to wait until the weddin to properly
denounce the faithless Hero.
A nightwatchman later overheard Borachio
bragging about his duplicity and arrested him. But in their stupidity,
the town officials failed to reveal the plot in time to stay Hero's fall
from grace. On the next morning,