Much Ado About Nothing | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Much Ado About Nothing | Act 5, Scene 4 | Summary

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Summary

Leonato's family, their servants, the friar, and Benedick all gather before the wedding ceremony. Leonato declares Don Pedro and Claudio to be just as innocent as Hero, but says "Margaret was in some fault for this," though Borachio insists she knew nothing about it. He instructs the women to put on masks as they go to another room to make final preparations. With Beatrice out of earshot, Benedick asks Leonato for her hand in marriage. Leonato confesses to the scheme, but Benedick doesn't seem to understand what he is saying.

Don Pedro and Claudio enter. Claudio promises to marry whomever Leonato presents to him, even "were she an Ethiope." The women come into the room wearing their masks, and Claudio asks to see his bride's face. Leonato says no. Claudio takes her hand and says "I am your husband, if you like of me," and Hero removes her mask. She tells him, "One Hero died defiled, but I do live,/And surely as I live, I am a maid." Everyone rejoices.

Benedick interrupts to ask which woman is Beatrice. She unmasks herself. By this point he's figured out what Leonato was trying to tell him before the wedding. He asks, "Do you not love me?" Beatrice says "Why no, no more than reason." They quickly unravel the plot conceived to make them fall in love and agree they love each other only as friends. Nobody believes them, and Claudio and Hero both produce sonnets Benedick and Beatrice wrote to one another. Benedick declares, "Here's our own hands against our hearts." He says he'll take Beatrice for his wife out of pity, and she agrees but only because she heard he was dying of consumption. They kiss.

Don Pedro asks Benedick if he'll enjoy being married, and Benedick revokes all of his previous thoughts about marriage. He and Claudio joke about how it's a good thing they are going to become relatives, or else they would have beaten the tar out of each other. Everyone is happy save Don Pedro, whom Benedick thinks looks sad. "Get thee a wife, get thee a wife," he tells the prince. News arrives of Don John's capture, and Benedick promises to think of a suitable punishment for him. The play ends.

Analysis

Leonato's declaration of Don Pedro's and Claudio's innocence indicates he has forgiven them for their role in Hero's dishonor. This is probably for the best. Don Pedro is Leonato's superior in both government and social class, and Claudio is going to marry Leonato's daughter. Life will be a lot easier for Leonato if he can forgive and forget. The one person he doesn't forgive is Margaret, who he says "was in some fault for this,/Although against her will." Margaret is a servant in Leonato's household, so he can afford to take out his anger on her.

Though Leonato has forgiven Claudio, he doesn't exactly trust him. That's why he tells Claudio to take his new bride's hand "and swear to marry her." It's a literal handshake contract to ensure Claudio will go through with the ceremony no matter what. Leonato has every right to expect this of the man who humiliated his daughter and who still doesn't seem very remorseful. When the veil is removed from Hero's face, all he says is "Another Hero!" He does not apologize to her, and he does not beg for her forgiveness. He doesn't even say he loves her. Because of this Claudio is one of Shakespeare's least sympathetic romantic leads. For him the idea of Hero is more exciting and deserving of his love than Hero herself.

The plot to bring together Beatrice and Benedick is made public in this final scene of the play, and for a moment it looks like they're going to forget all thoughts of love and go back to where they began. They are both embarrassed to have fallen for such a simple ruse, and they're also made uncomfortable by the idea of publicly admitting they have changed their minds about love and marriage. But the sonnets discovered by Claudio and Hero serve as proof that what the heart wants is sometimes different than what the mind wants. Beatrice and Benedick didn't want to fall in love with one another, yet found themselves writing love poems to express their feelings. Against their better judgment they fell in love and reconsidered their previous stances against matrimony.

Much Ado About Nothing ends with everyone happy except the suddenly melancholy Don Pedro. His boys' club has disbanded in favor of marriage, leaving him the sole bachelor. In a complete reversal from the beginning of the play, Benedick urges Don Pedro to find himself a wife, for such is the way to happiness. In just a few short days, Benedick has completely reversed his ideas about marriage. Though he had feared the embarrassing horns of the cuckold, he now embraces his wife, whom he refers to as a "staff ... tipped with horn." Benedick is certain Beatrice will always remain true.

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