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Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare

Act IV, scenes i–ii

Act III, scenes iv–v

Act IV, scenes i–ii, page 2

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O Hero! What a Hero hadst thou been
If half thy outward graces had been placed
About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!

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Summary: Act IV, scene i

Everyone gathers inside the church to celebrate the wedding of Claudio and Hero. But when Friar Francis asks Claudio whether he wishes to marry Hero, Claudio breaks into an outraged speech. He tells Leonato that he sends Hero back to Leonato again, for though she seems outwardly pure and blushes with innocence, her outward features belie her inward corruption and that she is, in fact, an unchaste, unfaithful whore. The happy wedding transforms itself into a chaotic uproar. Leonato and the shaken Hero ask what Claudio means. Claudio tells Leonato, in front of everyone in the church, that the night before Claudio, Don Pedro, and Don John watched Hero “tal[k]” with a vile man at her window (IV.i.82). This man has also “[c]onfessed” to having had sexual encounters with Hero many times before (IV.i.92). Don Pedro supports Claudio’s accusations, and they, together with Don John, accuse Hero of sexual looseness. Leonato cries out in despair, asking for a dagger with which to commit suicide. The overwhelmed Hero sinks to the ground, unconscious. Benedick and Beatrice rush to offer her their assistance, while Claudio, Don Pedro, and Don John leave the church without looking back. Leonato, weeping, tells Benedick and Beatrice to let Hero die, since that would be better than for her to live in shame. Beatrice, however, remains absolutely convinced that her cousin has been slandered.

Suddenly and unexpectedly, the friar steps in. A quiet observer to the whole proceeding, he has wisely determined from the expressions of shock he has seen on Hero’s face that she is not guilty of unfaithfulness. Hero regains consciousness and insists that she is a virgin, that she has been entirely faithful to Claudio, and that she has no idea what her accusers are talking about. The intelligent Benedick realizes that if the accusation is a lie, it must originate with the troublemaking Don John, who would happily trick these two to spoil their happiness.

The friar comes up with an unexpected plan: he suggests that Hero’s existence be concealed, and that Leonato tell everyone she has died of shock and grief. When her accusers hear that an innocent woman has died, their anger will turn into regret, and they will start to remember what a virtuous lady Hero was. If the accusation really is a trick, then perhaps the treachery will expose itself, and Hero can return to the world. In the worst-case scenario, Hero can later be taken off quietly and placed in a convent to become a nun. The grieving, confused Leonato agrees to go along with the plan.

The others depart with Hero, leaving Benedick and Beatrice alone together. Benedick, trying to comfort Beatrice, asks if there is any way he can show his friendship to her. He suddenly confesses that he is in love with her, acknowledging how strange it is for his affections to reverse so suddenly, and she, equally startled and confused, replies in similar terms. But when Benedick says that he will do anything for Beatrice, she asks him to kill his friend Claudio. The shocked Benedick refuses. Angry, Beatrice denounces Claudio’s savagery, saying that if she were a man she would kill him herself for his slander of her cousin and the cruelty of his trick. After listening to her, Benedick changes his mind and soberly agrees to challenge Claudio—for the wrong that he has done to Hero and for Beatrice’s sake.

Summary: Act IV, scene ii

Elsewhere, Dogberry, Verges, and the Watch interrogate Borachio and Conrad. Borachio confesses that he received money from Don John for pretending to make love to Hero and then lying about it to Claudio and Don Pedro. When they hear about what has happened at the wedding, the watchmen tie up the captives and take them to Leonato’s house.

Dost thou not suspect my place?
Dost thou not suspect my years?
O that he were here to write me down an ass!
But masters, remember that I am an ass.

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Analysis

With the wedding scene—the climax of the play—the tone takes an abrupt turn, plunging from high comedy into tragedy. Claudio’s rejection of Hero is designed to inflict as much pain as possible, and Hero’s and Leonato’s reactions to it seem to make things even worse. Few accusations could cause a woman more harm in the Renaissance than that of being unchaste, and Claudio uses deliberately theatrical language to hurt Hero publicly, in front of friends and family. The rejection scene also throws other relationships in the play into question: Claudio and Don Pedro both suggest that it reflects badly on Leonato’s social manners to have tried to foist off a woman like Hero on Claudio, and Don Pedro implies that his own reputation has suffered by way of the apparent discovery that he and Claudio have made regarding Hero’s virginity. Claudio assaults Leonato by denigrating Hero: “Give not this rotten orange to your friend. / She’s but the sign and semblance of her honour” (IV.i.30–31).

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Don Pedro's Romantic Feelings

by CDGirvin, December 06, 2012

In this SparkNote, it mentions that Don Pedro "seems to have no romantic interest of his own," although in Act 2, Scene 1 (beginning around line 275) Don Pedro is talking with Beatrice about her views on marriage after the masquerade. Beatrice makes a joke, saying, "I would rather have one of your father’s getting. / Hath your grace ne'er a brother like you? / Your father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them." Don Pedro responds, "Will you have me, lady?" which is potentially another joke, although it may also be quite a se... Read more

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Don Pedro-infatuated with Beatrice?

by GoblinMaiden, April 23, 2013

I think that at the end of the day, Don Pedro is more inclined to try be of any help and see his friends happy. Don Pedro offers himself to Beatrice lightly, but with the obvious intent of wanting to secure her own happiness, especially since she is so fickle about men in the first place. He doesn't seek her hand with his own interest so much as in the interest of her own well being. It illustrates just how selfless his character is.

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8 out of 13 people found this helpful

Mistake - Antonio is not the father of Beatrice

by ---VeVe---, June 16, 2013

There is a mistake in the summary: at the very beginning, it says Antonio would be the father of Beatrice. Actually, he is most likely only her uncle, just as Leonato. Why else is Leonato the first who concerns of her marriage instead of Antonio? (He tries to convince her (2.1) and Don Pedro addresses him with this issue (2.1).) It is because he is her closest male relative (in the printed edition I have this is even written within an annotation) and therefore responsible for her.
These are only evidences but I could not find any indic... Read more

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