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Much Ado About Nothing

A photograph of a performance of Much Ado About Nothing

Introduction to the play

One of Shakespeare’s most frequently performed comedies, 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.

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Cover of the Folger Shakespeare edition of Much Ado About Nothing

The Folger Shakespeare

Our bestselling editions of Shakespeare's plays and poems

… 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 in our collection

A selection of Folger collection items related to Much Ado About Nothing. Find more in our digital image collection

Photograph of a production of Much Ado About Nothing starring E.H. Sothern and Julia Marlowe.
Act 5, scene 3: The penitent Claudio, Don Pedro, etc. at the supposed tomb of Hero. By Alexandre Bida.
Mary Jo Tydlacka. Chesapeake Shakespeare Company's Much Ado About Nothing at the Patapsco Female Institute. Watercolor, 2005
Boston Museum Theatre. Much Ado About Nothing and Loan of a Lover. Playbill, 13 October 1858

Essays and resources from The Folger Shakespeare

Much Ado About Nothing

Learn more about the play, its language, and its history from the experts behind our edition.

About Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing
An introduction to the plot, themes, and characters in the play

Reading Shakespeare’s Language
A guide for understanding Shakespeare’s words, sentences, and wordplay

An Introduction to This Text
A description of the publishing history of the play and our editors’ approach to this edition

Shakespeare and his world

Learn more about Shakespeare, his theater, and his plays from the experts behind our editions.

Shakespeare’s Life
An essay about Shakespeare and the time in which he lived

Shakespeare’s Theater
An essay about what theaters were like during Shakespeare’s career

The Publication of Shakespeare’s Plays
An essay about how Shakespeare’s plays were published

Related blog posts and podcasts

Teaching Much Ado About Nothing

Early printed texts

Much Ado About Nothing was first published in 1600 as a quarto (Q1) and then included in the 1623 First Folio (F1). There is little difference between the dialogue of the two texts, although Q1’s stage directions and speech prefixes are often more confusing than those in F1. The Folger Shakespeare edition is based on Q1, with changes to the text indicated in half-brackets.