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All You Need To Know About Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing

Romeo And Juliet
Twelfth Night
The Tempest
A Midsummer Night's Dream
As You Like It

Leonato- an old noble of Messina, Italy
Don Pedro- a respected, young noble of Aragon;  he is referred to as prince
Don John- the scheming brother of Don Pedro;  he is referred to as the bastard;  he recently tried to over throw his brother
Hero- the young daughter of Leonato;  she falls in love with Claudio
Beatrice- the niece of Leonato;  she is engaged in a war of words with Benedict
Benedict- a soldier for Don Pedro;  he is the friend of Claudio and Don Pedro;  he is in a war of words with Beatrice
Claudio-  a soldier for Don Pedro who has recently gained fame for his fighting;  he falls in love with Hero
Margaret- serving woman to Hero
Borachio- a "friend" friend of Don John
Conrade- a closer friend to Don John
Dogberry- a comical constable who has a habit of using the wrong words;  he is a great source of laughs in the play
Verges- a police man who answers to Dogberry
Antonio- Leonato's brother;  Hero's and Beatrice's uncle
Balthasar- servant to Leonato;  he is also a musician
Ursula- waiting woman to Hero

Plot:  Leonato, noble of Messina, gets word that Don Pedro is coming.  With perfect hospitality, he lets Don Pedro and his men stay at his house.  Along with Don Pedro is Claudio, Benedict, Don John, Borachio, Conrad, and all of Don Pedro's men.  Benedict and Beatrice immediately engage in verbal combat, and Claudio and Hero silently fall in love.  Both pledge love to each other at a masked ball, and it is decided that they are to be married.  During the ball, Benedict in disguise dances with Beatrice and finds out exactly what she thinks of him.  It's not necessarily to his liking, and what he says proves it.  In his words to Don Pedro, "Will your grace command me any service to the world's end? I will go on the slightest errand you any embassage to the Pigmies,rather than hold three words' conference with this harpy."  He storms off.  Moments later Don Pedro proposes marriage to Beatrice.  Holding fast to her anti marriage beliefs, she turns him down.  Soon after, perhaps to disguise his sadness about being refused, Don Pedro comes up with a grand scheme: to have Benedict and Beatrice fall in love.
    Their plan works tremendously.  Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato stroll the garden speaking loudly about how Beatrice is "in love" with Benedict.  Benedict is nearby and overhears it all.  He believes it to be truth, and promptly falls in love with Beatrice for real.  After Benedict is tricked, Hero and Ursula begin another loud conversation, swearing that Benedict is in love with Beatrice.  Beatrice eavesdrops and laps up every word.  She falls in love with Benedict as planned.  What started as mere entertainment to pass the time until Claudio and Hero's marriage becomes very real.
    However, Don John can't really watch happy people, so he decides to mess things up for everyone.  Don John has his "friend" Borachio meet with Margaret, Hero's serving woman, on the balcony of Hero's bedroom.  Don John brings Claudio and Don Pedro to a place where they can see the everything.  Both become convinced that it was Hero, not Margaret.  The next day at the wedding, Claudio publicly brings the matter to question, and walks away with Don Pedro.    
     All Hero's family is convinced of her innocence, so they decide to pretend that Hero died of shock and grief, until they figure out what really happened.  There is even a funeral staged, in which Claudio must read the epithet hung on Hero's grave.  He by this time has begun to feel remorse.  
    Luckily for everyone (except perhaps Don John) the night watch overhears Borachio give Conrade a blow-by-blow account of what  really happened.  Dogberry and Verges, the heads of  police, arrest and eventually jail both Borachio and Conrade.  Borachio and Conrade are both brought before Don Pedro, Claudio, Leonato, and Antonio.  Hero and her family know the truth, and come up with a way to have Claudio and Hero married.  Leonato informs Claudio of another niece of his, one that looks very much like Hero.  Claudio agrees, as he feels bad about Hero dying.  
    A wedding is arranged.  Claudio is to marry the mystery woman.  Little does he know, Hero is the woman he is to marry.  That day, Claudio swears to marry Hero, not knowing it is she.  She reveals herself, and Claudio and Don Pedro are soundly amazed.  Benedict stops the wedding briefly, for he wishes to marry Beatrice.  Beatrice and Benedict argue with each other about being in love, but Claudio and Hero produce writings by them (Beatrice and Benedict) proving that they are really in love.  All are happy and the world is right.

That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she
brought me up, I likewise give her most humble
thanks: but that I will have a recheat winded in my
forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick,
all women shall pardon me. Because I will not do
them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the
right to trust none; and the fine is, for the which
I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor.
act i;  scene i

Just, if he send me no husband; for the which
blessing I am at him upon my knees every morning and
evening. Lord, I could not endure a husband with a
beard on his face: I had rather lie in the woollen.


You may light on a husband that hath no beard.

What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel
and make him my waiting-gentlewoman? He that hath a
beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no
beard is less than a man: and he that is more than
a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a
man, I am not for him: therefore, I will even take
sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his
apes into hell.
act ii;  scene i

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.
Sing no more ditties, sing no more,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leafy:
Then sigh not so, but let then go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny nonny.
act ii;  scene iii

Review:  This play's core plot of Beatrice and Benedict starts out as entertainment to keep everyone occupied until Claudio and Hero's wedding.  At first glance that may seem petty and even absurd.  Toying with people's emotions like that seems almost cruel.  (Don't try this at home, kids.)  Somehow, Shakespeare makes it work.  The idea of tricking people into love is actually comparable to what Don John does to Claudio and Don Pedro.  People are tricked into believing something that is untrue, and only their actions after the fact make it have any real truth.  The main difference is that Don Pedro's plan is good hearted and has only Benedict and Beatrice's happiness at heart.  Don John's plot is based on cruel intentions and ill wishing.  
    Another important element of Don Pedro and Don John's plots is eavesdropping. Eavesdropping in its best light (Don Pedro's plan) is showed as a means to bring people together.  In its worst light (Don John's plot) it tears people apart.  In these stark contrasts  we can see the differences of two characters, Don Pedro and Don John.  As the master minds of their respective plans, they are shown to be opposites of each other.  One is the villain and the other is a saint.  These divisions are clearer in the play than in real life, but one idea remains: two things can have the same roots, but how they are used can bring destruction or love.

Much Ado About Nothing (1993):

Much Ado About Nothing dvd
Directed by:  Kenneth Branagh
Written by:  Kenneth Branagh and William Shakespeare (Shakespeare did the play, Branagh the adaptation)

Signor Leonato- Richard Briers  
Antonio- Brian Blessed
Don Pedro of Aragon- Denzel Washington
Don John- Keanu Reeves
Benedict- Kenneth Branagh
Beatrice- Emma Thompson
Hero- Kate Beckinsale 
Claudio- Robert Sean Leonard
Dogberry- Michael Keaton

Review:  In this movie, the script is closely followed.  Minor changes are made, but over all even the most literal Shakespeare fan will be pleased.  All the actors do a fine job, even Keanu Reeves.  A highlight of the play no doubt is Michael Keaton's Dogberry.  With capering perfection, Keaton becomes the very essence of Dogberry.  Personally, I attribute his performance (which I saw at the tender age of 7) to my love of Shakespeare now.  Yes, it's that good.

Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare