Much Ado
About Nothing

Two of Shakespeare’s greatest characters steal the limelight in this often joyous but sometimes scathing critique of love and gossip.

Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.

Hero, Act 3, Scene 1

Love is in the air in Messina when Don Pedro and his men return victorious to spend a month at the home of the Governor, Leonato.

Leonato’s niece Hero has caught the eye of a young soldier, Claudio, and the careful process of their courtship is set in motion. At the same time Beatrice, who has sworn against love forever, and Benedick, confirmed bachelor, are reunited and resume their accustomed sparring. Their friends see through their cynicism, however, and in a series of staged conversations convince Beatrice and Benedick that they are desperately in love with each other.

The course of love is interrupted when Don John, the bitter half-brother of Don Pedro, and his followers concoct a plan to deceive Claudio into believing that Hero has been unfaithful. Claudio publicly shames his bride-to-be and allegiances are destroyed over questions of honour and integrity.

True to comedic form, the couples are reunited and the villain gets his comeuppance, but Shakespeare brilliantly leaves the audience in a quandary over the foundations of the various relationships in the play and the nature of true love.

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Will McDonald as Claudio, Vivienne Awosoga as Hero and David Whitney as Leonato (2019)

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Will McDonald as Claudio, Duncan Ragg as Benedick and Danny Ball as Don Pedro (2019)


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I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.

Beatrice, Act 1, Scene 1

Don Pedro, the Prince of Aragon, has been at war to put down an uprising by his half-brother, Don John. The two princes agree to a truce, and Don John reluctantly joins Don Pedro to travel to the home of Leonato, the Governor of Messina, Sicily. There they plan to stay for at least a month of rest and relaxation. Travelling with them are Count Claudio of Florence, a young soldier, and Benedick of Padua, a more seasoned campaigner. Benedick is a confirmed bachelor but has some history in Messina with Leonato’s niece, Beatrice. As soon as the soldiers arrive, Beatrice and Benedick quickly resume their battle of wits. Claudio is instantly smitten with Leonato’s daughter Hero which he confides in Benedick, who mocks him for even considering becoming a husband.However, Don Pedro endorses the match and agrees to help Claudio woo Hero. That evening there is to be a masquerade ball and Don Pedro suggests that he woo Hero on behalf of Claudio and then seal the deal with her father, Leonato.

In the first of many moments of misheard gossip in this play, Antonio, Leonato’s brother, tells Leonato that he has heard that Don Pedro is in love with Hero and plans to woo her for himself at the party. Leonato wisely replies that he will believe it when he sees it, but that he will tell Hero about this news so that she can be prepared.

Conversely, Borachio, one of Don John’s henchmen, has also overheard, understands the plan perfectly well and brings news of it to Don John. Determined to get some revenge on his brother and fulfill his self-proclaimed role of villain, Don John decides to use this intelligence to cause mischief.

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Much Ado About Nothing (2019)

Famous lines

O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart
in the marketplace.

Beatrice, Act 4, Scene 2

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Historical background

Shakespeare relied on two sources to write the play – Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Matteo Bandello’s La Prima Parte de le Novelle.

Fast facts

Much Ado About Nothing is by far the most prose-heavy play that Shakespeare wrote.

Only a quarter of the lines are in verse.

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Debatable points

Should Claudio be forgiven so easily?

After making such a public, cruel, unfounded accusation, it comes as a surprise that Claudio is not only forgiven, but reconciles with Hero so swiftly.

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