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Much Ado About Nothing | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero. "Much Ado About Nothing Study Guide." December 2, 2016. Accessed May 30, 2023.


Course Hero, "Much Ado About Nothing Study Guide," December 2, 2016, accessed May 30, 2023,

Plot Summary

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University explains the plot summary of William Shakespeare's play Much Ado About Nothing.

Much Ado About Nothing | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Much Ado About Nothing takes place in Messina, Italy, in the late 1500s. The play opens as Don Pedro and his soldiers arrive at the home of Leonato, the governor of Messina. Leonato has a modest and virtuous daughter, Hero. He is also the guardian of Beatrice, Hero's quick-witted, sharp-tongued older cousin. Beatrice has been long engaged in a "merry war" of words with Benedick, one of Don Pedro's soldiers. They are back to their verbal battle within a matter of moments of the soldiers' arrival, each declaring they do not believe in love or marriage. Meanwhile Claudio, a young soldier from Florence, falls instantly in love with Hero. He asks Don Pedro to help him woo her during the evening's festivities.

Also returning from battle is Don John, Don Pedro's illegitimate half brother and self-described villain. Don John despises Claudio and intends to make him miserable at every turn. Don John and his friends devise a plan to convince Claudio that Don Pedro wants Hero for himself. Easily duped, Claudio first believes this lie and sulks, but he is all smiles when he realizes Don Pedro has wooed Hero for Claudio. Although Claudio wants to marry Hero as soon as possible, Leonato convinces him it will take at least a week to make the wedding preparations. Don Pedro decides they will pass the time by convincing Beatrice and Benedick they are secretly in love with each other.

Benedick is the first victim of this scheme, for he overhears Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio talking about how much Beatrice loves him. Benedick is certain his friends tell the truth, particularly the elderly Leonato. He vows he will requite Beatrice's love and make her his wife despite his previous vehemence against marriage. Hero and Ursula play the same trick on Beatrice, and she falls for it just like Benedick.

As Beatrice and Benedick come to grips with their secret feelings for one another, Don John tries to figure out a way to stop Hero and Claudio's wedding. Borachio crafts a plan to slander Hero's good name. Don John will tell Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero isn't as virtuous as everyone thinks, then take them outside at midnight to prove it. Borachio will be at Hero's window with Margaret, Hero's gentlewoman, who will be dressed in Hero's clothing, suggesting that Hero has taken a lover behind Claudio's back. Claudio will think Margaret is Hero, Hero's reputation will be ruined, and the wedding will be called off. The plan works, and Claudio vows to shame Hero at the wedding the next morning.

After the deed is done, Borachio goes into town and blabs to Conrade about what happened. Their conversation is overheard by the night watch. Borachio and Conrade are arrested for slander by the clownish constable, Dogberry. He proceeds to Leonato's home the next morning, but between Leonato's impatience and Dogberry's overwhelming desire to impress, he ends up being sent away without telling Leonato what he came to tell him—Hero's life is about to be ruined.

The day of the wedding is ugly. Claudio accuses Hero for being unchaste and having relations with another man. Don Pedro backs him up. Leonato is furious with Hero since he believes Claudio and thinks that her actions have ruined his reputation. Claudio and Don Pedro leave the church, but Benedick stays behind. Beatrice swears to him Hero is innocent of the charges brought against her. Friar Francis comes up with a way to clear her reputation. They will pretend she has died from the shame of Claudio's accusations. Her death will make Claudio remember how much he loved her and he will see the error of his ways.

In the midst of all this, Benedick and Beatrice confess their love for one another. Beatrice is distraught about her cousin's fate, and Benedick promises he will do all he can to make things right. He ends up agreeing to challenge Claudio to a duel, and he's not the only one. Leonato's brother, Antonio, tries to fight Claudio. Although Claudio feels no remorse over the news of Hero's death, things change when Dogberry and the watch arrive with Conrade and Borachio in tow. Borachio confesses to the plot to slander Hero. Don Pedro and Claudio feel horrible about the role they played in Hero's death, and they pledge to do anything they can to make it up to Leonato. Leonato tells Claudio he must marry Antonio's daughter, who looks very much like Hero.

The makeup wedding takes place the next day. Claudio is presented with a masked bride he vows to marry. The woman removes the mask, revealing herself as the very alive Hero. Everyone is delighted. Benedick, who had been planning to marry Beatrice, has figured out he and Beatrice were duped into falling for one another. They agree their feelings run no deeper than friendship. But nobody believes this and Claudio produces a love poem written by Benedick while Hero shows one written by Beatrice. Outed by their own hands, Benedick and Beatrice give in and agree to marry. The happy couples dance as news arrives of Don John's arrest.

Much Ado About Nothing Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 The soldiers arrive in Messina.

Rising Action

2 Beatrice and Benedick resume their "merry war" of words.

3 Claudio falls in love with Hero.

4 Don John tells Claudio that Don Pedro woos Hero.

5 Borachio comes up with a plan to slander Hero.

6 Benedick loves Beatrice after hearing she loves him.

7 Beatrice loves Benedick after hearing he loves her.

8 Don John reveals that Hero is unfaithful.

9 The night watch arrest Conrade and Borachio.

10 Leonato turns away Dogberry on the morning of the wedding.


11 Claudio publicly shames Hero at their wedding.

Falling Action

12 Hero pretends to be killed by Claudio's slander.

13 Borachio admits to his misdeeds; Hero is innocent.

14 Claudio mourns Hero's death.


15 Claudio and Hero and Beatrice and Benedick are to marry.

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