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Much Ado About Nothing

William Shakespeare

Key Facts

Main ideas Key Facts

full title  · Much Ado About Nothing

author  · William Shakespeare

type of work  · Drama

genre  · Comedy

language  · English

time and place written  · 1598, England

date of first publication  · 1600

publisher  · Valentine Simmes for Andrew Wise and William Aspley

tone  · 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.

setting (time)  · The sixteenth century

setting (place)  · Messina, Sicily, on and around Governor Leonato’s estate

protagonists  · Claudio, Hero, Beatrice, and Benedick

major conflict  · 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.

rising action  · 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.

climax  · 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.

falling action  · 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.

resolution  · 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.

themes  · The ideal of social grace; deception as a means to an end; loss of honor; public shaming

motifs  · Noting; entertainment; counterfeiting

symbols  · The taming of wild animals; war; Hero’s death

foreshadowing  · Don John’s plan to cross Claudio out of jealousy in Act I; Benedick and Beatrice’s witty insults foreshadow their falling in love.