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“Much Ado About Nothing” – Plot Summary/Synopsis

Much Ado About Nothing" - Summary

Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy by William Shakespeare. Count Claudio falls in love with Hero under her father Leonato’s protection. Claudio tells Leonato he wants to marry Hero, but Leonato says that Hero is not of an age to marry and they should wait two years. Claudio reluctantly agrees to this and continues wooing Hero at the same time. Meanwhile, Don John and his assistant Borachio plan on making trouble for the newly betrothed couple by telling Claudio that Hero has been unfaithful by arranging meetings with men at night; instead of following them, Don John sends Borachio as a decoy to meet with her.

Act I;

It begins in Messina, Sicily, with Don Pedro, Claudio, and the prince of Aragon’s court deciding to go to war with the King of Naples. Don Pedro is leaving for Spain and wants Claudio to accompany him there. Claudio says he will go if his betrothed, and Hero accepts his proposal. At that exact moment, Leonato arrives with Messina’s governor, Lord Antonio, and another lord from Leonato’s estate at Belmont to seek help from Don Pedro in a local dispute.

Leonato has two daughters, Beatrice and Hero. He says that the eldest, Beatrice, is his favorite. He is, therefore, very pleased when he hears that Claudio has decided to propose to Hero and that she accepts. One day in church, Don Pedro asks Claudio why he never marries Beatrice as he did to Hero. Claudio explains that Leonato prefers the younger girl and never allows them to match. Leonato returns home and hears this conversation between Don Pedro and Claudio; Leonato says both girls are of good families and have excellent and noble marriages. Being a good father, he wants both daughters to marry, although Beatrice is his favorite.

Act II;

Leonato invites many people to the party; the Duke and Duchess of Medina, Antonio and Claribel, and Borachio, who is in love with Hero and Don John. Also attending are Lord Montague and his son Kit, Lord Bastardo and his son Lord Sebastian and Benedict. While things are going pretty well, on a side entrance at the ball, Moorish soldiers tell Claudio that they are on Claudio’s father’s side of the family.

Soon after this news is announced, Don Pedro arrives to reveal that he, too, is Claudio’s relative; he learned this from Leonato while discussing Hero at dinner one night. Now Don Pedro wants Claudio to marry his daughter, Dulcinea. He tells Claudio that he is the King’s right-hand man, and if anyone opposes him, they will hear of it.

It soon emerges that Borachio has been unfaithful to Hero by meeting with another woman and revealing this to Claudio. Meanwhile, Antonio has arranged for Claudio and Hero to meet in the park on a moonlit night; however, while they are talking, they hear someone coming across the fountain and decide to sneak away from each other instead of being seen together. Lisette hides in the bushes as part of her plot against Leonato.

Act III;

Leonato is woken in the middle of the night by his maid with a message that Claudio is upset and wants to see him. Leonato goes to Claudio and demands an explanation of why he was coming out of Hero’s bedroom on a moonlit night. Claudio tells him that he is going to meet with Don Pedro. Leonato says that if this is true, then he must talk to Don Pedro about this but meanwhile, he has arranged for Beatrice and Benedick to meet for the first time. However, they find they are well-matched in their wit and humor when they meet.

At the same time, Claudio has managed to arrange a date with Hero. However, on the day it is placed for them to meet, Lisette arrives dressed as Hero. She tells Claudio that she isn’t his promised wife but is pregnant by him, and if he doesn’t marry her, she will tell everyone about this news and destroy his reputation. Claudio agrees to marry her and so fools Don Pedro into thinking he has married Hero. Don Pedro is so angry that he sends his soldiers to beat Claudio up. However, Don Pedro’s soldiers are beaten by Benedick, who takes Beatrice home with him and leaves Claudio alone so that he can face the army alone. As for Hero, she is forced by Don Pedro to marry his lieutenant Borachio; Borachio has been planning this all along as a way of ruining Claudio and making him look like a fool.

Act IV;

Claudio and the Prince of Aragon’s court arrive at the church in time for Hero’s wedding, only to see that she is marrying Borachio instead of him. At this point, Don Pedro admits that he has been deceived. He tells Claudio that Hero never betrayed him, and as proof, he shows them a letter from her telling her father what Lisette was up to.

While all this has been happening, Don John has been conspiring against the other characters to bring about their downfall. He wants to dishonor Hero once more to get his own back for not being given any jobs in the court. However, when he overhears a conversation between Claudio and Don Pedro, he realizes they know what he has been doing and no longer trust him.

In conclusion, Don John decides that the best thing to do is to kill Claudio. He arranges for Borachio to arm himself to take Claudio’s life at their first meeting outside the church. However, he loses his nerve and lets Borachio fall into the ocean, where he drowns. He then disguises himself as a friar and grabs a vial of poison; however, he drops it when Borachio emerges from the water and is caught by Don Pedro’s soldiers.

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