Much Ado About Nothing
Type of work
Time and place written
Date of first publication
Valentine Simmes for Andrew Wise and William Aspley
Shakespeare’s attitude toward courtship and romance
combines mature cynicism with an awareness that the social realities surrounding
courtship may detract from the fun of romance. The need to marry
for social betterment and to ensure inheritance, coupled with the
importance of virginal chastity, complicates romantic relationships.
Although this play is a comedy ending in multiple marriages and
is full of witty dialogue making for many comic moments, it also
addresses more serious events, including some that border on tragedy.
The sixteenth century
Messina, Sicily, on and around Governor Leonato’s estate
Claudio, Hero, Beatrice, and Benedick
Don John creates the appearance that Hero is unfaithful
to Claudio, and Claudio and Don Pedro come to believe this lie. The
real conflict that underlies all of this “ado about nothing” may
be that Claudio, Don Pedro, and Benedick share a suspicion of marriage
as a trap in which husbands are bound to be controlled and deceived,
but they also deeply desire to be married.
Claudio falls in love with Hero; Benedick, Don Pedro,
and Claudio express their anxieties about marriage in jokes and
witty banter; Don Pedro woos Hero on Claudio’s behalf; the villainous Don
John creates the illusion that Hero is a whore.
Claudio rejects Hero at the altar, insulting her and
accusing her of unchaste behavior; Don Pedro supports Claudio; Benedick, who
was most opposed to women and love at the beginning of the play,
sides with Hero and his future wife Beatrice.
Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel for slandering
Hero; Leonato proclaims publically that Hero died of grief at being falsely
accused; Hero’s innocence is brought to light by Dogberry; Claudio
and Don Pedro repent.
By blindly marrying a masked woman whom he believes
he has never met, Claudio shows that he has abandoned jealous suspicions
and fears of being controlled, and that he is ready to marry. He
is rewarded by discovering that his bride is actually Hero.
The ideal of social grace; deception as a means to
an end; loss of honor; public shaming
Noting; entertainment; counterfeiting
The taming of wild animals; war; Hero’s death
Don John’s plan to cross Claudio out of jealousy in
Act I; Benedick and Beatrice’s witty insults foreshadow their falling in love.