Much Ado About Nothing is a play about two sets of lovers who must overcome rumors of infidelity and denial of their own feelings in order to finally let true love win.
Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, has just been victorious in a great battle against his illegitimate brother Don John. John surrenders and travels with Pedro’s entourage home, but he secretly vows revenge. Don Pedro arrives at his friend Leonato’s estate, Governor of Messina, to stay for a month with all of his followers in tow. One of his soldiers, Claudio, is in love with Leonato’s daughter Hero and wishes to marry her. He asks Pedro to help him woo Hero at the masquerade ball that evening. Don John sees an opportunity to start mischief by suggesting to Claudio that Pedro is wooing Hero for himself. The misunderstanding is quickly resolved, but John continues to plot against the couple. Meanwhile, Leonato’s niece Beatrice has struck up a flirtatious insult relationship with Benedick, another of Pedro’s officers. The two deny their attraction to one another and insist that they will never get married. Don Pedro and a few of his officers plot to get the two together. They have conversations within earshot of Benedick and Beatrice talking about how each is madly in love with the other. Beatrice and Benedick are flattered that the other person loves them, and their hearts begin to soften.
Don John comes up with a scheme to divert the wedding of Claudio and Hero. He takes Claudio to Hero’s window, outside of her bedroom. There, they see two people making love, which Claudio believes to be Hero and another man. In fact, it is actually John’s friend and Margaret, Hero’s servant. Claudio waits until the day of the wedding to dramatically dump Hero at the altar, turning everyone in attendance against her except for a few who decide to hide her and say that she is dead until the truth can come out. Ironically, it is this moment that finally allows Beatrice and Benedick to confess their feelings for each other, as they both defend Hero against the accusations. The local police overhear John’s friend bragging about the scheme and they arrest him. Don John flees the city. When the plot is revealed, Claudio still believes Hero is dead. Leonato insists that Claudio marry his niece who is almost a twin of Hero.
At the wedding, the niece is revealed to be Hero, and Claudio is overjoyed that she is not dead. Beatrice and Benedick announce their love for each other, and their intention to be married. It is also revealed that Don John has been captured, but Leonato decides to wait until after the wedding to punish him.
Date Published: 1598
Major Themes: Jealousy; Deceit; Redemption
Famous Quote: “Friendship is constant in all other things, save in the office and affairs of love.”