Course Hero. "Much Ado About Nothing Study Guide." Course Hero. 2 Dec. 2016. Web. 21 July 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Much-Ado-About-Nothing/>.
Course Hero. (2016, December 2). Much Ado About Nothing Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved July 21, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Much-Ado-About-Nothing/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "Much Ado About Nothing Study Guide." December 2, 2016. Accessed July 21, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Much-Ado-About-Nothing/.
Course Hero, "Much Ado About Nothing Study Guide," December 2, 2016, accessed July 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Much-Ado-About-Nothing/.
William Shakespeare divided Much Ado About Nothing into five acts. This study guide provides a summary and analysis of each scene within each act.
Much Ado About Nothing opens at the home of Leonato, the governor of Messina, Italy. A messenger brings word to him, his daughter, Hero, and his niece, Beatrice, that Don Pedro, the Spanish Prince of Aragon, is due to arrive any moment with his battalion. The warriors are returning home from war victorious, thanks in particular to young Claudio, who "hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion." Also amongst Don Pedro's men will be Benedick, a young lord of Padua about whom Beatrice is particularly curious—and prickly. Although the messenger informs Benedick also performed well during battle, Beatrice twists his words into insults about Benedick. Leonato tells the messenger there is "a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick" and Beatrice.
Don Pedro and his men arrive. They are warmly welcomed by Leonato, who invites them to stay for at least a month. Beatrice and Benedick immediately start their war of words, which will continue throughout the play. As Benedick insists he loves no one and will never marry, Beatrice vows, "I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me." Benedick gets in one more jibe and ends the conversation, irking Beatrice.
The group disperses, leaving Benedick and Claudio alone. Claudio tells Benedick he is suddenly consumed with love for Hero, but Benedick can see the appeal of neither Hero nor the idea of marriage itself. Nevertheless Claudio is intent on making Hero his bride. Don Pedro returns and approves the match while Benedick rants about being "yoked" to another. This results in a lot of good-natured ribbing from Claudio and Don Pedro. Annoyed, Benedick leaves. Claudio repeats his wish to marry Hero and beseeches the prince for help. Don Pedro promises to disguise himself as Claudio and woo Hero in Claudio's name.
Much Ado About Nothing takes place in Messina, Italy. At the time of the play's writing, it was a small port town under Spanish rule (which is why Don Pedro is Spanish while everyone else is Italian). As governor of Messina, Leonato is the most important man in town. His home is most likely the grandest around, and its orchards hint at a rural backdrop. This is a change from the battlefields Don Pedro and his soldiers recently left behind. For them being in Messina is a holiday. A mood of revelry informs their actions at the beginning of the play.
Most of the characters in the play have met before. Don Pedro and Leonato are friends of old, and Claudio remembers looking upon Hero before he left for the war. It is Benedick and Beatrice, however, who have the most intriguing history. The nature of their relationship isn't explicitly stated, but it most certainly has something to do with romance—the main subject they talk about. Beatrice and Benedick have known each other a long time—she reminds him "I know you of old"—and their squabbles indicate a backstory never fully revealed.
Act 1, Scene 1 also establishes two of Much Ado About Nothing's important themes: