|I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.|
Act 2, scene 1, lines 322–23
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
Act 2, scene 3, lines 64–67
Much Ado About Nothing includes two quite different stories of romantic love. Hero and Claudio fall in love almost at first sight, but an outsider, Don John, strikes out at their happiness. Beatrice and Benedick are kept apart by pride and mutual antagonism until others decide to play Cupid.
Over the centuries, the Beatrice-Benedick plot has most captivated audiences and readers. It is, however, the conjunction of Beatrice and Benedick with Hero and Claudio that makes Much Ado so rewarding. As Beatrice and Benedick learn to “suffer love” together, Claudio and Hero become acquainted first with life’s darkness and then with unexpected joy. While the play calls itself "Much Ado about Nothing,” its stories are actually about life at its most important.
Much Ado About Nothing was printed as a quarto in 1600, and was probably written in 1598–99. Shakespeare relied upon many sources, including Ariosto's Orlando Furioso and Edmund Spenser's The Faerie Queene.
Adapted from the Folger Library Shakespeare edition, edited by Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. © 1995 Folger Shakespeare Library
Carol Thomas Neely. Broken Nuptials in Shakespeare’s Plays. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1985.
Tanja Weiss. Shakespeare on the Screen: Kenneth Branagh's Adaptations of Henry V, Much Ado About Nothing, and Hamlet. New York: P. Lange, 1999.
Much Ado About Nothing (2012, Bellwether Pictures). Directed by Joss Whedon. Cast includes Amy Acker, Alexis Denisof, Nathan Fillion, and Sean Maher.
Much Ado About Nothing (1993, British Broadcasting Corporation, Renaissance Films, and Samuel Goldwyn Company). Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Cast includes Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Denzel Washington, Robert Sean Leonard, Keanu Reeves, Kate Beckinsale, Michael Keaton, and Imelda Staunton.
Rachel Leslie as Beatrice and Doug Brown as Leonato.
On Stage: Much Ado About Nothing
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Much Ado About Nothing
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