365 Days of Shakespeare

That's right – the Bard in a year.

277. “Much Ado About Nothing” summary

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One of Shakespeare’s best-crafted comedies, “Much Ado About Nothing” has been winning the hearts of audiences for centuries. It strikes a perfect balance between light and dark humor, and naturally employs plenty of that wily wit that Shakespeare is so known for.

The story begins in Messina, a merry town in Italy, at the house of Leonato. A group of soldiers will be returning triumphantly after the wars. Among these soldiers is the prince, Don Pedro, his bastard brother, Don John, the lovesick Claudio, and the hero of the story, Benedick. Claudio expresses his love for Leonato’s beautiful daughter, Hero, and Benedick meets his own match: the sharp-tongued Beatrice, with whom he engages in an epic battle of the wits.

Don John is bitter about the love between Claudio and Hero and intends to find a way to destroy it. He hatches a plan to make it look as though Hero is not the virtuous girl she really is. Meanwhile, Don Pedro hatches his own plan: to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love. They set up a ruse so that Beatrice is told that Benedick loves her and Benedick is told that Beatrice loves him, and both are finally able to admit their affection to themselves (if not each other quite yet).

Unfortunately, this fun is soon brought to a screeching halt when Claudio, enraged at the idea that Hero is unfaithful, shames her on their wedding day. Hero swoons, and the soldiers (save for Benedick, who alone was not privy to the false rumors) storm away, believing she has died of disgrace. When Hero comes around, the friar tells her to hide out and let the men believe that she is indeed dead. When her innocence is proven, surely Claudio will only remember her fondly and regret how he shamed her.

Beatrice and Benedick finally tell each other of their love, and Beatrice entreats him to challenge Claudio as revenge for how he treated her cousin. Benedick does so, and soon after, Claudio learns of Hero’s innocence. Leonato tells Claudio that he may make up for such a grievous offence by marrying his “niece”, whom he claims to be almost a copy of Hero (of course, the audience knows that it will, in fact, be Hero herself). Claudio agrees.

All the while this is happening, the most hilarious character Shakespeare ever wrote is getting plenty of stage time. He is Dogberry, the head of the night watchmen, responsible for catching the knaves who plotted against Hero and conducting their trial. There really are no words to describe the utter genius that is the character of Dogberry…so trust me when I say you have to read it to believe it.

The play ends with the wedding of Claudio to who he thinks is a cousin of Hero’s…but who reveals herself to be the true Hero. Much happiness ensues, and even more when Hero and Claudio show off letters that Benedick and Beatrice had written to each other. Benedick and Beatrice are to be married, and Don John will be brought to justice. The conclusion of the play is one of song and dance, and of the unrelenting joy that only the end of a Shakespearean comedy can bring!

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Written by Caroline Mincks

July 5, 2010 at 11:22 PM

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