Much Ado About Nothing | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Much Ado About Nothing | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Don Pedro plans to leave Messina after the wedding. Claudio offers to accompany him to Aragon, but Don Pedro insists Claudio stay with his new bride. He will travel with Benedick instead. Benedick seems out of sorts. Don Pedro wonders if he's sad, while Claudio crows Benedick must be in love. He says he has a toothache. Claudio and Don Pedro tease Benedick about being in love, noting the disappearance of his beard and signs he washed his face. Benedick soon tires of their tomfoolery and asks Leonato for a private word. Don Pedro and Claudio are sure that Benedick is asking Leonato for permission to marry Beatrice.

Don John enters. After assuring Claudio he holds him in high regard, he tells him and Don Pedro that Hero has been "disloyal" or worse. Don John asks them to join him outside her bedroom window at midnight where they will "see her chamber window entered, even the night before her wedding day." If Claudio still loves Hero the next day, he can marry her, though it would do a disservice to his honor.

Don Pedro and Claudio aren't sure they believe this accusation about Hero, but they agree to go with Don John to confirm it. Claudio vows to shame her at the wedding ceremony the next day if any of this proves to be true; Don Pedro seconds the idea. They wait until midnight.

Analysis

Like Beatrice in Act 3, Scene 1 Benedick also goes through a transformation upon falling in love. The changes are both emotional and physical. He has shaved off his beard—he has most likely heard Beatrice doesn't like beards—and Claudio and Don Pedro tease him about having washed his face for once. His demeanor has changed as well. Instead of entering a battle of wits and wills with his friends as he's been known to do, he endures their playful banter with an air of suffering. This could be because of the toothache he claims to have. In Elizabethan times toothaches were often attributed to diseases of the head or brain—one of which was love. This new Benedick is much more serious than when he was so against love just a day ago.

Though Claudio and Don Pedro find Benedick's lovelorn persona amusing, they immediately become sober upon hearing Don John's accusations about Hero. Neither of them fully believe Don John, but nor do they attempt to verify this claim with Hero herself. One of the recurring ideas in Much Ado About Nothing is that women are untrustworthy, as exemplified by Benedick's fears of becoming a cuckold and Claudio's easy persuasion to thinking Hero is unchaste. In reality it's the men's own insecurities that are the cause of all of the problems. Don John is insecure about his position with his brother, and Claudio is insecure in his social standing. Even Don Pedro, a prince, is insecure about how others perceive him.

Though they are not technically villains, Don Pedro and Claudio prove themselves to be some of the ugliest characters in the play. They respond to Hero's alleged affair not by calling off the wedding, but by making plans to publicly shame her during it. Claudio, so blinded by rage at being dishonored, never pauses to question whether Hero would do something so terrible. Though Don John's lie slanders the woman Claudio loves, Claudio accepts it as fact because somebody else says it is. His romantic life relies more on the input of others than it does on his own analysis.

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