Illustration of Hero wearing a mask

Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

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What is significant about Don John's interruption of the conversation about Hero's alleged offenses in Much Ado About Nothing?

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In Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing, Claudio falls in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero. Don Pedro's illegitimate brother, Don John, conspires against the group. Borachio has wooed Hero's gentlewoman, Margaret, and will be with her in Hero's bedchamber, so when Claudio and Don Pedro look in the window they will believe Hero is unfaithful. In act 3, scene 2, all he needs to do is claim she is disloyal and then show them the alleged proof.

Claudio chooses to confront Hero at the wedding in act 4, scene 1. Of course Hero attempts to defend herself, since she is innocent. At first she is confused, since she has no idea what they are talking about and accusing her of. She denies being with another man.

Claudio: Marry, that can Hero;
Hero itself can blot out Hero's virtue.
What man was he talk'd with you yesternight
Out at your window betwixt twelve and one?
Now, if you are a maid, answer to this.

Hero: I talk'd with no man at that hour, my lord.

Don Pedro: Why, then are you no maiden. Leonato,
I am sorry you must hear: upon mine honour,
Myself, my brother and this grieved count
Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night
Talk with a ruffian at her chamber-window
Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
Confess'd the vile encounters they have had
A thousand times in secret.

Don John: Fie, fie! they are not to be named, my lord,
Not to be spoke of;
There is not chastity enough in language
Without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,
I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.

Don John interrupts here, saying these things are "not to be spoke of," which is his attempt to shut down the conversation before it becomes too detailed. He does not want them to figure out that this is a false accusation, since that would ruin his plans and also make them realize that he orchestrated this. He does not talk much, especially in group settings, but he interrupts here to prevent them from discovering the truth. It works, because soon after, Hero faints and is no longer able to speak up for herself.

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