niece and Hero’s cousin. Beatrice is “a pleasant-spirited lady”
with a very sharp tongue. She is generous and loving, but, like
Benedick, continually mocks other people with elaborately tooled
jokes and puns. She wages a war of wits against Benedick and often
wins the battles. At the outset of the play, she appears content
never to marry.
in-depth analysis of Beatrice.
aristocratic soldier who has recently been fighting under Don Pedro,
and a friend of Don Pedro and Claudio. Benedick is very witty, always
making jokes and puns. He carries on a “merry war” of wits with Beatrice,
but at the beginning of the play he swears he will never fall in
love or marry.
in-depth analysis of Benedick.
young soldier who has won great acclaim fighting under Don Pedro
during the recent wars. Claudio falls in love with Hero upon his
return to Messina. His unfortunately suspicious nature makes him
quick to believe evil rumors and hasty to despair and take revenge.
beautiful young daughter of Leonato and the cousin of Beatrice.
Hero is lovely, gentle, and kind. She falls in love with Claudio
when he falls for her, but when Don John slanders her and Claudio
rashly takes revenge, she suffers terribly.
important nobleman from Aragon, sometimes referred to as “Prince.”
Don Pedro is a longtime friend of Leonato, Hero’s father, and is
also close to the soldiers who have been fighting under him—the younger
Benedick and the very young Claudio. Don Pedro is generous, courteous,
intelligent, and loving to his friends, but he is also quick to
believe evil of others and hasty to take revenge. He is the most
politically and socially powerful character in the play.
respected, well-to-do, elderly noble at whose home, in Messina,
Italy, the action is set. Leonato is the father of Hero and the
uncle of Beatrice. As governor of Messina, he is second in social
power only to Don Pedro.
illegitimate brother of Don Pedro; sometimes called “the Bastard.”
Don John is melancholy and sullen by nature, and he creates a dark
scheme to ruin the happiness of Hero and Claudio. He is the villain
of the play; his evil actions are motivated by his envy of his brother’s
serving woman, who unwittingly helps Borachio and Don John deceive
Claudio into thinking that Hero is unfaithful. Unlike Ursula, Hero’s
other lady-in-waiting, Margaret is lower class. Though she is honest,
she does have some dealings with the villainous world of Don John:
her lover is the mistrustful and easily bribed Borachio. Also unlike
Ursula, Margaret loves to break decorum, especially with bawdy jokes and
associate of Don John. Borachio is the lover of Margaret, Hero’s
serving woman. He conspires with Don John to trick Claudio and Don
Pedro into thinking that Hero is unfaithful to Claudio. His name
means “drunkard” in Italian, which might serve as a subtle direction
to the actor playing him.
of Don John’s more intimate associates, entirely devoted to Don
John. Several recent productions have staged Conrad as Don John’s
potential male lover, possibly to intensify Don John’s feelings
of being a social outcast and therefore motivate his desire for revenge.
constable in charge of the Watch, or chief policeman, of Messina.
Dogberry is very sincere and takes his job seriously, but he has
a habit of using exactly the wrong word to convey his meaning. Dogberry
is one of the few “middling sort,” or middle-class characters, in
the play, though his desire to speak formally and elaborately like
the noblemen becomes an occasion for parody.
deputy to Dogberry, chief policeman of Messina.
elderly brother and Hero's uncle. He is Beatrice’s father.
waiting man in Leonato’s household and a musician. Balthasar flirts
with Margaret at the masked party and helps Leonato, Claudio, and
Don Pedro trick Benedick into falling in love with Beatrice. Balthasar
sings the song, “Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more” about accepting
men’s infidelity as natural.
of Hero’s waiting women.