Of all the main characters in Much Ado About Nothing, Don Pedro seems the most elusive. He is the noblest character in the social hierarchy of the play, and his friends Benedick and Claudio, though equals in wit, must always defer to him because their positions depend upon his favor. Don Pedro has power, and he is well aware of it; whether or not he abuses this power is open to question. Unlike his bastard brother, the villain Don John, Don Pedro most often uses his power and authority toward positive ends. But like his half-brother, Don Pedro manipulates other characters as much as he likes. For instance, he insists on wooing Hero for Claudio himself, while masked, rather than allowing Claudio to profess his love to Hero first. Of course, everything turns out for the best—Don Pedro’s motives are purely in the interest of his friend. But we are left wondering why Don Pedro feels the need for such an elaborate dissimulation merely to inform Hero of Claudio’s romantic interest. It seems simply that it is Don Pedro’s royal prerogative to do exactly as he wishes, and no one can question it. Despite his cloudy motives, Don Pedro does work to bring about happiness. It is his idea, for instance, to convince Beatrice and Benedick that each is in love with the other and by doing so bring the two competitors together. He orchestrates the whole plot and plays the role of director in this comedy of wit and manners.
Don Pedro is the only one of the three gallants not to end up with a wife at the end. Benedick laughingly jokes in the final scene that the melancholy prince must “get thee a wife” in order to enjoy true happiness (V.iv.117). The question necessarily arises as to why Don Pedro is sad at the end of a joyous comedy. Perhaps his exchange with Beatrice at the masked ball—in which he proposes marriage to her and she jokingly refuses him, taking his proposal as mere sport—pains him; perhaps he is truly in love with Beatrice. The text does not give us a conclusive explanation for his melancholy, nor for his fascination with dissembling. This uncertainly about his character helps to make him one of the most thought-provoking characters in the play.