Much Ado About Nothing Act I, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis

William Shakespeare

Act I, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis

New Characters: Conrade: Don John's companion, who assumes the position of advisor

Borachio: Don John's companion, recently employed by Leonato, who will play a major role in the slander of Hero

Summary
We are still at Leonato's house. Conrade greets Don John, only to find him in a foul mood. When he attempts to reason Don John out of his misery; Don John takes a perverse and self-willed stance. Conrade advises Don John that he needs to bide his time, reminding him that he is too recently taken back in Don Pedro's good graces, after having confronted him in battle, before resuming his mischief. Don John insists on following his own course, stating that his plain-dealing villainy is more virtuous than flattery and reveals his bitterness at any expectation of humility on his part. As Conrade suggests that he make use of his discontent, Borachio enters to inform Don John that his brother is being entertained by Leonato and that, while employed at Leonato's, he overheard the prince tell Claudio that he will woo Hero for himself, then give her to him. Envious of Claudio's standing as the prince's right-hand man, Don John engages Conrade and Borachio to help him to destroy the count, and goes to the party.

Analysis
The counterplot to the Hero-Claudio plot is introduced through the mean-spirited character of Don John, illegitimate heir to Prince Don Pedro's throne, revealed with pounding alliterative phrases, "moral medicine" and "mortifying mischief," who, although accepted back into the prince's good graces after challenging his throne, is incapable of any gratitude and marinates in his one-dimensional misery. His hanger-ons, Conrade and Borachio, are willing to assist him in any mischief in order to be in his good graces. Don John's casual use of astrological language in his allusion to Conrade being born under the planet Saturn, a signature of cold ambition and sullenness, indicates its common usage in Shakespeare's time.

We learn that news of the marriage is still being overheard and travelling quickly, and Don John intends to take advantage of it to ruin his adversaries. In contrast to the preceding scenes, the only allusion to music here is Don John's out-of-tune statement that he has decreed "not to sing in my cage." This prose scene shows traces of verse (18-24).