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Much Ado character and summary

Much Ado
About Nothing
William Shakespeare
Much Ado About Nothing
• Was written by William Shakespeare
sometime between 1596-1599
• It is a comedy. What does this mean?
Discuss with a partner…
• In dramatic terms: a comedy is a play
with a happy ending in which things
could possibly turn tragically wrong but
don’t. There will be some humour in a
In fact Much Ado About Nothing
is a Romantic Comedy
• Romantic comedies are very popular films
today, here are a few examples of Romantic
• Just Like Heaven
• 10 Things I Hate About You
• Four Weddings and a Funeral
• Notting Hill
• Can you think of any more similar films which
you would call a Romantic Comedy?
Women in the 1500’s
Women had very few rights during this time. Society in
both England and Italy was very patriarchal – this means
that society was dominated by men: girls had to obey
their fathers and then their husbands. For daughters of
noblemen (such as Leonato) their marriages were often
arranged. Most importantly, a woman MUST be a virgin
when she is married.
The fact that Claudio believed (wrongly) that Hero was not
a virgin; A belief which caused him to publicly humiliate
Hero on her wedding day; was, during the 1500’s a
perfectly acceptable reaction. The fact that Leonato was
so angry and violent towards Hero when she was
declared a ‘loose’ woman was, again, a perfectly
acceptable reaction in the 1500’s.
Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy
written by William Shakespeare. It is set
in Messina, Italy in the sixteenth century.
In lines 1-24 (Act 1, Scene 1) the audience
learn that the Prince of Aragon is coming
to Messina and that Claudio fought well in
the recent battle.
Shakespeare uses language in Much Ado About Nothing in
particular ways.
The title of the play could be a pun on the word "nothing",
which in Shakespeare's times may have been pronounced as
"noting". In turn "noting" meant to "observe" or to "watch".
The key feature of the play is that it is built on
misunderstandings - where things are not quite as they seem.
People are misled or misheard (mis-noted), and this leads to
comedy and drama.
Shakespeare's characters use language to insult each other, to
deceive and to entertain - the following are some of the
techniques he uses to achieve this.
Jokes and Puns
• A pun is a form of
word-play, which
involves words that
sound the same but
have more than one
Ideas, Themes and Issues
• The play as a whole is built around a number of key
ideas, themes and issues.
Trickery and deception - characters trick others into looking
foolish, getting angry, becoming jealous, or falling in love.
Self-deception and delusion - characters cannot see the
obvious, and have an unrealistic view of themselves (good or bad).
Love and marriage - described within a society where women
have little power and little say in whom they marry.
Status and honour - described within a society where anyone
of low birth gives way to those of higher status, and where everyone
is meant to keep to a strict social code.
Creating moods through actor’s words
• In Much Ado About Nothing,
the voices of characters are
• In the First Key Extract,
Beatrice's use of words and
tone of voice paint a negative
picture of Benedick before the
audience even sees him.
• In the Second Key Extract,
Benedick's description of how
Beatrice treated him at the
masked ball makes the
audience feel sorry for him,
and like him more.
Who is Beatrice?
She is the orphaned and unwed niece of
She is strong-willed and quick-witted
She is continually sniping at and challenging
She is not afraid of taking men on, in jest or
in anger
She is considered by Don Pedro and
Leonato to be of a cheerful temperament
She is a good friend to her cousin Hero,
Leonato's daughter
She has already had an unfortunate
relationship with Benedick.
The Characters
Who is Benedick?
He is a gentleman (by rank if not by
behaviour) and a soldier
He is a close friend of Count
He is quick-witted and can be relied
upon to entertain his colleagues
He is committed to being a bachelor
He is vain and arrogant about his
attractiveness to women
He may be hiding his deeper
feelings for Beatrice
He is a fair man who likes to see
justice done
He is not a romantic at heart, but a
The Characters
What does Hero do in the play?
She is secretly hidden, and
believed ‘dead’ by Don John, Don
Pedro and Claudio.
She is unmasked at the
wedding, and agrees to marry
She produces the love letter or
poem proving Beatrice’s feelings
for Benedick.
The Characters
• L eonato, a kindly, respectable nobleman, lives in the
idyllic Italian town of Messina. Leonato shares his house
with his lovely young daughter, Hero, his playful, clever
niece, Beatrice, and his elderly brother, Antonio (who is
Beatrice's father). As the play begins, Leonato prepares
to welcome some friends home from a war. The friends
include Don Pedro, a prince who is a close friend of
Leonato, and two fellow soldiers: Claudio, a wellrespected young nobleman, and Benedick, a clever man
who constantly makes witty jokes, often at the expense
of his friends. Don John, Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother,
is part of the crowd as well. Don John is sullen and bitter,
and makes trouble for the others.
• When the soldiers arrive at Leonato’s home,
Claudio quickly falls in love with Hero.
Meanwhile, Benedick and Beatrice resume the
war of witty insults that they have carried on with
each other in the past. Claudio and Hero pledge
their love to one another and decide to be
married. To pass the time in the week before the
wedding, the lovers and their friends decide to
play a game. They want to get Beatrice and
Benedick, who are clearly meant for each other,
to stop arguing and fall in love. Their tricks prove
successful, and Beatrice and Benedick soon fall
secretly in love with each other.
• But Don John has decided to disrupt everyone’s
happiness. He has his companion Borachio
make love to Margaret, Hero’s serving woman,
at Hero’s window in the darkness of the night,
and he brings Don Pedro and Claudio to watch.
Believing that he has seen Hero being unfaithful
to him, the enraged Claudio humiliates Hero by
suddenly accusing her of lechery on the day of
their wedding and abandoning her at the altar.
Hero’s stricken family members decide to
pretend that she died suddenly of shock and
grief and to hide her away while they wait for the
truth about her innocence to come to light. I
• In the aftermath of the rejection, Benedick
and Beatrice finally confess their love to
one another. Fortunately, the night
watchmen overhear Borachio bragging
about his crime. Dogberry and Verges, the
heads of the local police, ultimately arrest
both Borachio and Conrad, another of Don
John’s followers. Everyone learns that
Hero is really innocent, and Claudio, who
believes she is dead, grieves for her.
• Leonato tells Claudio that, as punishment, he
wants Claudio to tell everybody in the city how
innocent Hero was. He also wants Claudio to
marry Leonato’s “niece”—a girl who, he says,
looks much like the dead Hero. Claudio goes to
church with the others, preparing to marry the
mysterious, masked woman he thinks is Hero’s
cousin. When Hero reveals herself as the
masked woman, Claudio is overwhelmed with
joy. Benedick then asks Beatrice if she will marry
him, and after some arguing they agree. The
joyful lovers all have a merry dance before they
celebrate their double wedding.
Benedick claims that all women love him except Beatrice. However
he dismisses them, saying that no woman is good enough to tie him
down in marriage. He appears more experienced in the ways of the
world than Claudio. He is strong enough to actually challenge Don
Pedro's attempt to influence events.
Leonato and Don Pedro treat Beatrice and Hero differently. They
respect Beatrice's strong will. Leonato appears to be her guardian,
and no doubt would like to see her married, but there's no question
of an arranged marriage. Rather, the two men are going to contrive
that she falls in love with Benedick, as a prelude to marriage. They
treat her as a person in her own right, but treat Hero as a daughter
first, and a person second.