Plot in Much Ado About Nothing

Plot Examples in Much Ado About Nothing:

Act I - Scene I 1

"Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?..."   (Act I - Scene I)

This line sparks the central romantic thread of the play: Claudio’s courting of Hero. The line also reveals the significant difference in personality between Claudio and Benedick. Claudio is straightforward, and unafraid to express his interest in Hero.

"Speak low if you speak love...."   (Act II - Scene I)

Don Pedro suggests that there is a romantic element to secrecy in courtship, but pay attention to the ways in which the play illustrates that secrecy can be highly destructive. Claudio worries that his good friend Don Pedro is secretly plotting to court Hero for himself. Throughout the play, secrets lead to jealousy in general.

"The poison of that lies in you to temper. Go you to the prince your brother; spare not to tell him that he hath(20) wronged his honour in marrying the renowned Claudio whose estimation do you mightily hold up, to a contaminated stale, such a one as Hero...."   (Act II - Scene II)

In Elizabethan times, it was expected that middle- and upper-class women retain their virginity until they were married. If a women did lose her virginity before marriage, she would be subject to social scorn, ridicule, and would bring shame on her family and future husband. Here, Don John suggests that after his plot Hero will seem “contaminated” to Claudio because she will no longer be a virgin. It would then be shameful for Claudio to marry her.

"Any bar, any cross, any impediment will be medicinable to me. I am sick in displeasure to him, and(5) whatsoever comes athwart his affection ranges evenly with mine. How canst thou cross this marriage?..."   (Act II - Scene II)

When Don John asks Borachio “How canst thou cross this marriage?”, he is asking how the marriage can be prevented. Notice that this scene opens with Don John deciding to destroy a marriage while the previous scene ended with Don Pedro designing a plan to spark one. By placing these two plots in contrast to one another, Shakespeare emphasizes how vastly different Don John and Don Pedro are in character. Don Pedro’s well-intentioned scheme shows his benevolent nature, whereas Don John’s plot shows his destructive and malevolent character.

"Note this before my notes; There's not a note of mine that's worth noting...."   (Act II - Scene III)

Balthazar’s off-key singing also hints that there is something that is “off” about this conference, which the audience of course knows to be true. Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato, are not fooled by Benedick’s hiding. They know he is there. The entire conversation that occurs is part of their trick.

"For others say thou dost deserve, and I Believe it better than reportingly...."   (Act III - Scene I)

Beatrice claims to believe in Benedick’s worth “better than reportingly.” Her use of the word “reportingly” is intriguing, and suggests that the reports she heard about Benedick are not responsible for her new opinion of him. Either she is mistaken, or she has held affections for Benedick since the beginning of the play’s events.

"Signior Benedick, For shape, for bearing, argument, and valour, Goes foremost in report through Italy. HERO: Indeed he hath an excellent good name...."   (Act III - Scene I)

Ursula and Hero describe Benedick’s reputation, which, according to Ursula’s word, “goes foremost in report through Italy.” Hero, despite holding a higher opinion of Claudio, agrees with Ursula with the intention of tricking Beatrice into loving Benedick.

"There will she hide her To listen our propose. This is thy office...."   (Act III - Scene I)

The events of Act III, scene 1 closely mirror those of Act II, scene 3. Just as Don Pedro planned for Benedick to overhear his false account of Beatrice’s love for him, Hero will spin the opposite story to a not-so-hidden Beatrice.

"Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps...."   (Act III - Scene I)

Hero and her attendant Ursula have planned to have Beatrice overhear their staged conversation, which will trick her into believing that Benedict loves her (as he does in reality). Hero and Ursula’s plan represents a Cupid’s trap. Moreover, the execution of this plan indirectly shows how Beatrice and Benedick are both stubborn and in self-denial regarding love and matrimony.

"Go but with me to-night, you shall see her chamber window(95) ent'red, even the night before her wedding day...."   (Act III - Scene II)

While the other characters have thus far staged fake conversations for their schemes, Don John stages visual deception, relying on the eyes instead of the ears, which would seem even more reliable.

"Well, every one can master a grief, but he that has it. ..."   (Act III - Scene II)

Benedick points out that it is easy for someone to give advice on overcoming anguish when they are not the person affected by it. This line underscores the way in which the characters are entangled in each other’s affairs: Claudio has Don Pedro court Hero for him and the entire group is plotting for Benedick and Beatrice’s engagement. It is easy for everyone to meddle in the romantic lives of others, but the characters’ often have trouble navigating their own affairs.

"Take their examination yourself and bring it me. I am(45) now in great haste, as it may appear unto you...."   (Act III - Scene V)

Leonato does not take Dogberry seriously because of his demonstrated lack of education and tedious social behaviors. He is “now in great haste” because Dogberry has wasted so much time with idle talk.

"Neighbours, you are tedious...."   (Act III - Scene V)

This exclamation by Leonato demonstrates his growing frustration with these two simpletons. This foreshadows that he will not take their information seriously when they finally get around to saying it.

"There is not chastity, enough in language(100)..."   (Act IV - Scene I)

When Don Pedro starts to describe what he witnessed, Don John interrupts and says not to speak of it, since there "is not chastity enough in language.” Don John is essentially suggesting that Hero’s villainy is too terrible to be articulated, but this is actually a ploy to prevent Don Pedro from revealing details that would lead to Hero’s acquittal. Don John’s strategies once again involve performance and manipulation of language, underscoring the theme that language can determine one’s perception of reality.

"My soul doth tell me Hero is belied;..."   (Act V - Scene I)

By saying that “Hero is belied,” Leonato here reveals that he believes that Hero has been wrongly accused of being unfaithful. His emphasis on what his “soul” tells him illustrates a rare moment in the play in which a character trust’s their feelings over the words and perceptions of others.

"monument..."   (Act V - Scene III)

A “monument” in this context is the family’s tomb. In Elizabethan England, rich families would be buried together in a single tomb or mausoleum. Claudio and the Prince are here because they believe Hero is dead.

"Nothing certainer. One Hero died defiled; but I do live,(65) And surely as I live, I am a maid...."   (Act V - Scene IV)

“Maid” in this context means virgin. In order to rid herself of slander, Hero died a metaphorical death. This marriage to Claudio marks her rebirth as a chaste wife to a nobleman.