The Commedie of much A doo about nothing a booke was entered in the Stationer's Register, the official record book of the London Company of Stationers (booksellers and printers), on August 4, 1600 as a play of My lord chamberlens men (Shakespeare's acting company) and stayed (not published) without further permission, to prevent unauthorized publication of this very popular play. This quarto text, generally regarded as having been set from Shakespeare's own manuscript, was the copy used for the First Folio of 1623, which is lightly annotated, with minimal and mostly typographic emendation. Since Will Kempe, the great comic actor who played Dogberry, left the Chamberlain's Men in 1599, it is generally agreed that Shakespeare completed this play no later than 1598-1599. Although scholars have attempted to trace the play's roots to Ariosto's tragedy, Orlando Furioso, to Bandello's twenty-second story from the Novelle, or to Spenser's poetic work, The Fairie Queen, in truth, no play ever existed quite like this one, with its interwoven plots, the wit and verve of Benedick and Beatrice, and the highly inventive comic element of Dogberry and his watch, which gives the Claudio-Hero plot most of its vitality. Much Ado About Nothing is a subtler version of Taming of the Shrew, transposed from farce to high comedy, and it is the scaffolding upon which Othello is built.
Well known and often presented to packed houses before its publication, Much Ado...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Leonato’s house. Home of Leonato, the governor of Messina on the island of Sicily, which during the thirteenth century in which the play is set was an important European cultural center. The governor would have had rooms enough in his house lavishly to entertain and host nobles from the artistic and intellectual Italian cities of Florence and Padua, as well as the one of the most powerful independent kingdoms in medieval Spain, Aragon. Although most of the governor’s guests are Italians, they are regarded as foreigners in Messina, and as such, are easily duped.
The grounds around the house contain an elaborate orchard described in act 1, scene 2, as having a “thick-pleached alley” or an arched walkway lined with trees whose boughs are interwoven. The thickness of the boughs would hide anyone who wanted to overhear a conversation; in this way, Shakespeare could present secrecy and comedic intrigue.
Act I, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. Who was victorious in the battle that preceded the opening of the play?
2. What is the relationship between Don Pedro, Claudio, and Benedick?
3. Why is the speech of Leonato, Don Pedro, and Claudio so rigid? What does their style tell us about their characters?
4. How does Beatrice cover up her concern for Benedick?
5. What simile does Beatrice use to describe Benedick's faith?
6. During their wordspar, what accusations do Benedick and Beatrice hurl on each other?
7. What is the greatest fear of Claudio and Benedick?
8. Have the characters met before?
9. What about Hero is of major concern to...
(The entire section is 222 words.)
Act I, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. Who overheard the conversation between Claudio and Don Pedro, and where did he hear it?
2. Why does Antonio tell his brother about this conversation?
3. What is the misinformation conveyed in this scene?
4. How quickly does news travel in Messina and in what manner?
5. How did this misinformation probably come about?
6. How is "nothing" used as a pun in the title of this play?
7. Is there any other word used in the title of the play which might also be a pun?
8. What does the action of the scene tell us about hearsay?
9. Leonato prefers to treat the information he received in this scene as a...
(The entire section is 303 words.)
Act I, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. How is Don John related to Don Pedro?
2. What is Don John's mood in this scene?
3. Under what planet is Conrade born?
4. What kind of advice does Conrade give Don John?
5. How does Don John respond to Conrade's advice?
6. What information does Borachio bring to Don John?
7. What effect does this information have on Don John?
8. Why are Conrade and Borachio willing to assist Don John?
9. Where does Don John go at the end of the scene?
10. How does Shakespeare use repetition and contrast in this scene?
1. Don John is Don Pedro's illegitimate...
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Act II, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. To what dances does Beatrice compare wooing, wedding and repenting?
2. Whom does Ursula dance with and how does she recognize him?
3. What statement of Benedick preceded Beatrice's put-down of him during the dance?
4. Whom does Don John purposefully mistake for Benedick?
5. Which characters have soliloquies in this act?
6. Would Benedick marry Beatrice if she were "endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed"?
7. Was Don Pedro able to win Hero for Claudio?
8. When will Claudio and Hero's wedding take place?
9. Whom does Don Pedro think would be an excellent wife for Benedick?...
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Act II, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. What is the first thing that Borachio tells Don John?
2. Who is the architect of the plan to slander Hero?
3. What does Don John state would be medicinable to him?
4. What did Borachio tell Don John a year ago?
5. What role has been assigned to Don John in this plan?
6. Who will be mistaken for Hero?
7. What role will Borachio play?
8. What effect do the plotters expect to have on the prince, Claudio, Hero, and Leonato?
9. How is the only way the plan will succeed?
10. How much will Don John pay Borachio for his deceit?
1. The first thing...
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Act II, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. What is orthography? Who has turned orthography?
2. What graces does Benedick seek in a woman?
3. To what does Benedick liken Balthasar's singing?
4. When does Shakespeare reference the title of the play?
5. Why does Benedick dismiss the thought that he is being gulled?
6. From whom do the plotters claim to have received their information?
7. Who fears that Beatrice will die and why?
8. How in love with Beatrice does Benedick declare he will be?
9. Did Beatrice call Benedick into dinner on her own initiative?
10. At the end of the scene, what does Benedick spy in Beatrice?
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Act III, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. On whom do Hero and Ursula play the gull?
2. Where is Beatrice during this scene?
3. Who told Hero that Benedick was in love with Beatrice?
4. What character defects does Hero ascribe to Beatrice?
5. How would Beatrice treat a fair-faced man?
6. Why does Hero say it is useless to mention these defects of character to Beatrice?
7. What counsel does Hero intend to give to Benedick?
8. Which scene in the play does this one parallel?
9. How does Cupid kill?
10. Which faults does Beatrice willingly give up in her soliloquy?
1. Hero and Ursula play...
(The entire section is 199 words.)
Act III, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. When does this scene take place?
2. What is Benedick's observation about grief?
3. Has anyone seen Benedick at the barber's?
4. What does Claudio say about Benedick's jesting spirit?
5. What malady does Benedick claim to have?
6. Who shall be buried with her face upwards?
7. Who invites Leonato to walk aside with him?
8. Why does Don John include Claudio in his conversation?
9. What does Don John tell Don Pedro and Claudio?
10. What invitation does Don John extend to Don Pedro and Claudio?
1. This scene takes place the night before the...
(The entire section is 198 words.)
Act III, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. Who gives the charge to the watch?
2. How does Dogberry instruct: the watch to handle a thief?
3. What is the meaning of the phrase, "my elbow itched"?
4. In what manner does Borachio utter all to Conrade?
5. What does Borachio call a thief?
6. From where did Don John, Don Pedro, and Claudio witness Borachio wooing Margaret in Hero's name?
7. Who believed the staged deceit?
8. What did Claudio swear to do and why?
9. Who charges Borachio and Conrade?
10. How does the watch describe Borachio and Conrade?
1. Dogberry gives the charge to the...
(The entire section is 210 words.)
Act III, Scene 4 Questions and Answers
1. Who does Hero send to wake up Beatrice?
2. What piece of clothing does Margaret try to talk Hero out of wearing?
3. Who does Hero call a fool?
4. Who is not feeling well?
5. Approximately what time is it?
6. What are Beatrice's symptoms?
7. Who attempts to wordspar with Beatrice in this scene?
8. What remedy does Margaret suggest for Beatrice's malady?
9. What is another name for benedictus?
10. What announcement does Ursula bring at the end of the scene?
1. Hero sends Ursula to wake up Beatrice.
2. Margaret tries to talk Hero out...
(The entire section is 165 words.)
Act III, Scene 5 Questions and Answers
1. Where does this scene take place?
2. Who visits Leonato in this scene?
3. Why doesn't Leonato listen to them carefully? 4.When Dogberry describes Verges' wits as not so blunt, what did he really mean?
5.What is Dogberry's response when Leonato tells him he is tedious?
6. What is Leonato's response when he finally understands that they have apprehended two people?
7. What hospitality does Leonato offer Dogberry and Verges before he leaves?
8. What message is brought to Leonato?
9. What direction does Dogberry give to Verges?
10. Why does Dogberry want a learned writer?
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Act IV Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. How does Claudio reject Hero?
2. What does Don Pedro call Hero?
3. What fate does Leonato wish upon his daughter, Hero, after she swoons away? And what extreme measure is he willing to take to bring it about?
4. Did Beatrice sleep with Hero the night before?
5. Who declares his belief that Hero is innocent?
6. Whom does Benedick intuit as the author of the slander?
7. What does Friar Francis direct Leonato to do?
8. For whom does Beatrice weep?
9. Who confess their love for each other?
10. Who will Benedick challenge?
1. Claudio rejects Hero...
(The entire section is 190 words.)
Act IV, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. Who is provided with a stool and a cushion?
2. Is Dogberry's examination of the prisoners direct and to the point?
3. Who moves the examination along and keeps it on point?
4. What does Dogberry whisper into Borachio's ear?
5. What is the testimony of the watch?
6. What is Dogberry's response upon hearing the watch testify that Count Claudio intended to accuse and refuse Hero?
7. Who confirms the testimony of the watch?
8. Who leaves to show Leonato the examination?
9. Does the news of Hero's death upon wrongful accusation have any effect on Conrade?
10. What does Dogberry want...
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Act V, Scene 1 Questions and Answers
1. What kind of philosopher does Leonato say never existed?
2. Which characters challenge Claudio?
3. What is Benedick's reply when asked by Claudio if he will use his wit?
4. What does Benedick tell Claudio and Don Pedro about Don John?
5. What does Borachio tell Don Pedro about the watch?
6. Does Leonato accept Borachio's claim to be solely responsible for Hero's death?
7. Does Borachio name Margaret as a co-conspirator in the slander of Hero?
8. What penance does Leonato give to Claudio and Don Pedro?
9. What does Dogberry want Leonato to remember when punishing Conrade?
10. Whom will...
(The entire section is 261 words.)
Act V, Scene 2 Questions and Answers
1. Who does Benedick meet at the opening of the scene?
2. Was Benedict born under a rhyming planet?
3. Does Beatrice come when she is called by Benedick?
4. What news did Beatrice want to find out?
5. What does Benedick tell Beatrice about Claudio?
6. For which of Benedick's bad parts did Beatrice first fall in love with him?
7. Why does Benedick suffer love for Beatrice?
8. Why can't Benedick and Beatrice woo peaceably?
9. Who is Don Worm?
10. What news does Ursula bring?
1. Benedick meets Margaret at the opening of the scene.
(The entire section is 208 words.)
Act V, Scene 3 Questions and Answers
1. Where does the action take place?
2. What is the action?
3. Who reads the epitaph to Hero?
4. After reading the epitaph, what does Claudio do with the scroll?
5. Who sings the hymn to Hero?
6. Who is the goddess of the night?
7. How often does Claudio vow to perform this rite?
8. At what time of day do they end their rite?
9. Who dismisses the mourning company?
10. What will Claudio and Don Pedro do next?
1. The action takes place at the tomb of Hero, in the monument of Leonato.
2. The action is a public rite of mourning....
(The entire section is 163 words.)
Act V, Scene 4 Questions and Answers
1. Who is declared innocent?
2. When Benedick asks Leonato for Beatrice's hand and Leonato reveals the double gull, what is Benedick's response?
3. Who is the masked lady that Claudio swore to marry and how does he respond when she unveils herself?
4. What paper does Claudio produce?
5. How does Benedick stop Beatrice's mouth?
6. What is Benedick's conclusion?
7. Who wants to dance and why?
8. What advice does Benedick give Don Pedro?
9. What news does the messenger bring?
10. Which plays of Shakespeare end with a dance?
1. Hero, the prince, and...
(The entire section is 198 words.)
Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Bloom, Harold, ed. William Shakespeare’s “Much Ado About Nothing.” New York: Chelsea House, 1988. Contains eight significant articles from the 1970’s and 1980’s. See especially the essays by Richard A. Levin, who looks beneath the comedic surface to find unexpected, troubling currents, and Carol Thomas Neely, who contributes an influential feminist interpretation.
Evans, Bertrand. Shakespeare’s Comedies. Oxford, England: Clarendon Press, 1960. Important critical study. Concludes that Shakespeare’s comic dramaturgy is based on different levels of awareness among characters and between them and the audience. The comedy...
(The entire section is 259 words.)