What are the differences between Don John and Don Pedro in Much Ado About Nothing?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Shakespeare uses Don Pedro and Don John as foil characters, each being the exact opposite of the other. To put it simply, the difference is that Don John is a bad man, and Don Pedro is a good man. The two are half-brothers, Don Pedro the Prince of Aragon, and...

See
This Answer Now

Start your subscription to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Start your Subscription

Shakespeare uses Don Pedro and Don John as foil characters, each being the exact opposite of the other. To put it simply, the difference is that Don John is a bad man, and Don Pedro is a good man. The two are half-brothers, Don Pedro the Prince of Aragon, and Don John his bastard brother. At the start of the play, the reader is informed that Don Pedro and Don John have only recently become agreeable.

Don Pedro is portrayed as a good and honorable prince, and when he is introduced it is said he has just returned from the winning of a war. Don John, on the other hand, is the cause of said war and is who Don Pedro had to fight against.

This is part of why it is strange for Don Pedro to be kind and accepting of his brother. In Shakespeare’s day, illegitimate children were always thought to be dishonest and were usually ostracized. Don Pedro’s willingness to care for Don John, especially right after they fought, shows a sense of trust and respect. Meanwhile, Don John reveals that he hates Don Pedro, and then calls himself “a plain-dealing villain” (act 1, scene 3).

This villainy comes to light when Don John plans to ruin Don Pedro’s matchmaking. While Don Pedro is trying to find love for his friend Claudio, Don John enacts a plot to pull the couple apart. Don Pedro is also taking care to find Beatrice a match in Benedick, though Don John doesn’t trouble himself with them.

When Don John first tries to prevent Claudio’s being with Hero, he claims that Don Pedro is wooing her for himself. Despite Don John’s blatant lie, Don Pedro merely refutes the claim, and does nothing to prevent Don John from further villainy. Don Pedro kindly gives Don John a second chance, and when Don John lies for a second time, Don Pedro believes him. Don John accuses Hero of being unfaithful, and this is a quality the righteous Don Pedro would not tolerate. Hence, he believes the lie, despite Don John being untrustworthy.

In the end, though, Don John’s schemes are revealed, and he is arrested. Don Pedro admits his fault for trusting Don John and begs forgiveness for having believed in his brother. This show of heartfelt emotion helps to restore his own damaged honor.

Don Pedro is exactly what the people of Elizabethan England would have wanted in their royals, while Don John is exactly how they viewed illegitimate children. The people usually considered those of a royal line to be good men who are respectable, and illegitimate children were always seen as a threat to the throne, and therefore in a villainous light. This is precisely how Shakespeare presents Don Pedro and Don John, and Shakespeare uses these contrasts to create nearly all of the drama that occurs within the play.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

William Shakespeare presents these half-brothers as foil characters. Legitimacy was an essential factor in the right of an individual—usually a son—to inherit a title. Illegitimate birth, though it carried a stigma, did not automatically ensure that the person would become a social outcast. Appropriate behavior could elevate a “bastard” to a higher social status.

In this play, Don John is the illegitimate half-brother. He cannot overcome his resentment of Pedro and, rather than focus on proving his merits, he challenges his half-brother’s rulership of Aragon. His treasonous activities, as the head of a rebellion in support of his usurpation, mark him as a dishonorable man. Additional actions support Shakespeare’s presentation of John as a villain. Having been defeated in battle, he vows to exact revenge on Pedro and has no scruples about harming others along the way: he deliberately targets Claudio just because he is Pedro’s friend.

Don Pedro, in contrast, is generally presented as an upstanding, honorable man. These qualities support his indictment of Hero for her supposed infidelity to Claudio, of whom he is genuinely fond, although he shows the human flaw of self-righteousness. His fundamentally good nature is shown through his expression of deeply felt regret when she is proven virtuous at the end.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Don John and Don Pedro are brothers in Much Ado About Nothing. Well, half-brothers. The play begins as the soldiers return from a skirmish between the two of them. Don John was attempting to mount a rebellion, which Don Pedro and the others successfully suppressed.

At first glance, there is not a lot of commonality between these two. But as you dig a little deeper, certain similarities arise. For starters, they are both leaders (even if Don Pedro is leading an army and Don John is leading a band of miscreants). They also both seem keen to, and have a good hand for, manipulating others through deception. Don John successfully drives a wedge between Hero and Claudio, leading to much chaos and confusion in the play. Somewhat similarly, Don Pedro helps construct a scheme to get Beatrice and Benedick together. The deceptions of the two brothers mirror each other, one using his skills for good, and the other for mayhem.

Going hand in hand with these schemes, both brothers display tactical minds, and seem surprisingly adept at reading matters of the heart (excluding, perhaps, Don Pedro’s out of nowhere marriage proposal to Beatrice). Still, they both must have a high aptitude and emotional intelligence to understand the romantic relationships around them so well.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This is a very interesting question, because I actually believe that there are far more similarities between these two characters than we would at first suspect. Clearly, overtly at least, they are very different. Don Pedro is a legitimate son, and Don John his bastard half-brother, which of course means that he will never possess the same power and prestige as Don Pedro. In addition, we know that Don John has just tried to mount a rebellion against his brother, which has been repressed. Don Pedro is seen as representing law and order, whereas Don John himself admits when we first see him in Act I scene 3 that he is "a plain-dealing villain," setting the two characters in opposition with each other.

However, in spite of the way that we might easily conclude that one is "good" and the other "bad," let us focus on the way in which they are similar. One of the key themes of this play is that of deception, and we can see that both Don John and Don Pedro show themselves to be masters of deception, though of very different kinds. Don Pedro at the end of Act I scene 1 swiftly tells the lovestruck Claudio that he will assume the guise of Claudio and woo Hero for him, effectively deceiving Hero about his identity:

I will assume thy part in some disguise,

And tell fair Hero I am Claudio.

And in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart

Amnd take her hearing prisoner with the force

And strong encounter of my amorous tale.

After succeeding in this act of deception, he is quick to suggest another in making Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with each other. In the same way, we see his brother shares his talent for deception, at first convincing Claudio that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself, and secondly tricking both Claudio and Don Pedro into believing that Hero is unfaithful. The play thus confronts us with a very complex question: is deception always bad? The similiarities between these two characters and their different motives for carrying out acts of deception make this question very difficult to answer.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team