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Theatre / Much Ado About Nothing

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As the play is Older Than Steam and most twists in Shakespeare's plots are now widely known, all spoilers on this page are unmarked.

"You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her; they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them."

A forerunner to the Romantic Comedy genre by William Shakespeare, the plot of Much Ado About Nothing centers on two couples: Hero and Claudio, whom the villain Don John spends the play trying to drive apart, and Beatrice and Benedick, whom most of the other characters spend the play trying to bring together.

Like all of Shakespeare's plays, it is much-adapted. Some of those adaptations include:

Benedick is the source of the word "benedict," for a man who marries after a long bachelorhood.

Tropes from the original play:

  • Actor Allusion: The part of Dogberry was written for William Kempe, the actor who played Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream, which adds a whole new level to the "I am an ass" rant.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking:
    Beatrice: Will you go hear this news, Signior?
    Benedick: I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes—and moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle's.
  • Artists Are Attractive: One of Benedick's criteria for a perfect woman is to be musically talented.
  • Badass Boast: "O that I were a man, I would eat his heart in the market place."
  • Belated Love Epiphany: Invoked. Hero is falsely accused of cheating on her fiancé Claudio and he stops their wedding to call her a whore in front of everyone. The friar, who believes Hero is innocent, comes up with a plan to fake her death. His reasoning is that grief will make people forgive her for her alleged infidelity. In particular, he hopes to make Claudio regret publicly rejecting her. Incredibly, it works.
    The Friar: She dying, as it must so be maintain'd / Upon the instant that she was accused / Shall be lamented, pitied and excused / Of every hearer: for it so falls out / That what we have we prize not to the worth / Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost / Why, then we rack the value, then we find / The virtue that possession would not show us / Whiles it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio
  • Belligerent Sexual Tension: Benedick and Beatrice, a couple who spends most of their time together having "a merry war" with each other.
  • Berserk Button: Dogberry reacts this way to being called an ass.
    • Oddly, in the film and many productions, it's also an Insult Backfire.
    • His other Berserk Button is Malicious Slander of a lady.
    • Beatrice does not take Claudio's insulting Hero well.
    • Benedick can't stand to see another man in love. This is undone later when he himself realizes his love for Beatrice.
  • Bastard Bastard: Don John, the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro, seeks to ruin his and Claudio's lives.
  • Beta Couple: Either Beatrice and Benedick or Claudio and Hero, depending on your view of the play. Beatrice and Benedick are the lead roles (they get far more lines than anyone else), but Claudio and Hero's relationship drives the main plot.
  • Blasphemous Boast: Don Pedro makes two in rapid succession in Act 2, Scene 1, referencing Roman deities:
    "I will in the interim undertake one of Hercules' labours; which is, to bring Signior Benedick and the Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection the one with the other."
    (a few lines later)
    "If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer: his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods."
  • Blatant Lies: After Hero and Claudio are married at the end, Benedick and Beatrice start trying to say they don't love each other. It's not very convincing and doesn't last long.
  • Bluff the Eavesdropper: Used to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love with each other. Benedick and Beatrice's reactions to what they overhear are prime opportunities for physical comedy.
  • Bride and Switch: Inverted. Claudio has been led to believe that Hero has died of grief over his accusations of sluttery, and to atone he has promised to marry her cousin sight unseen. But it turns out that it really is Hero.
  • Captain Obvious: Benedick helpfully tells us that Claudio rejecting Hero and calling her a slut "looks not like a nuptial". In his defence, he has just that second walked in on it.
  • Card-Carrying Villain: Don John even admits by way of his dialogue that he's the villain of the play, because that's the role in which he has been cast.
    Don John: It must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain. If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do my liking: in the meantime let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.
  • Changing Yourself For Love: The first sign that Benedick had fallen in love with Beatrice is when he shaved his beard. Earlier in the play Beatrice had mentioned how she could not stand the thought of kissing a man with a beard.
  • The Chessmaster: Borachio, who conceives and executes the plot to make Hero look untrue by tricking Claudio into thinking that Hero is the woman in Borachio's arms at the window. Were he not overheard by the watch he would have gotten away with it all.
  • Cool Big Sis: Beatrice to Hero, though they're actually cousins.
  • Counter Zany: Like a pingpong ball.
    • Don Pedro comes up with a scheme to woo Hero in Claudio's stead. Don John tries to thwart it by telling Claudio that Pedro means to woo Hero for himself.
    • When that fails, John's evil scheme is to slander Hero by using Margaret as a pawn to make Claudio think Hero is sleeping with someone else (i.e. loving/fooling around with another guy). It's the Evil Counterpart of the scheme Don Pedro, Claudio, Leonato, Hero, Ursula, and Margaret herself is in on, to trick Benedick and Beatrice into thinking one is madly in love with the other.
    • The slander succeeds, but is countered by having Hero pretend to be dead in order to get Claudio to repent and marry her.
  • Counting to Potato: The incompetent constable Dogberry has just caught a pair of criminals, and is trying to tell Don Pedro what they did in a speech that combines this trope with getting stuck in a revolving door at the Department of Redundancy Department:
    Constable Dogberry: Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.
    • Made better when Don Pedro hilariously responds in kind:
      Don Pedro: First, I ask you what they’ve done; thirdly, I ask you what offense they’re charged with; sixth and lastly, I ask you why they’ve been committed here; and, in conclusion, I ask what they’re accused of.
  • Couple Theme Naming: Beatrice and Benedick are both variants of the Latin word for "blessed".
  • Coupled Couples: With the requisite double wedding at the end — Claudio and Hero, followed by Beatrice and Benedick.
  • Dance Party Ending: "Let’s have a dance ere we are married, that we may lighten our own hearts and our wives’ heels... Strike up, pipers!"
  • Deconfirmed Bachelor: Benedick more or less embodies this trope. Beatrice is a female example.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Dogberry's list of his prisoners' offences:
    Dogberry: Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.
  • Dirty Coward: After the plan to ruin Hero works, Don John abandons his arrested henchmen and skips town. He is arrested offscreen during the ending.
  • Disorganized Outline Speech: Dogberry, in the very same quote as noted above. His sixth charge against the prisoners comes before his third, he skips four and five entirely, and he says "sixth and lastly" then lists another charge.
  • Does Not Like Men: Beatrice, at least at first, finds men to be boorish and unappealing. After falling in love with Benedick she grows out of this mindset.
  • Double Entendre: Even in the title, which is possibly a sextuple entendre. As noted under Get Thee to a Nunnery, "nothing" was Elizabethan slang for the female genitalia, and noting (a homophone with nothing in the Elizabethan period) was Elizabethan slang for sex. Noting was also used to refer to singing (especially sight-reading). Shakespeare also used noting as a synonym for noticing in multiple passages (1.1.131-132 and 4.1.154-157), and the meaning of a note as a written message is referred to at various points in the play as well.
  • The Dragon: Borachio, whose antics with Hero's lady-in-waiting give credence to Don John's claims of Hero's infidelity.
  • Due to the Dead: As part of Claudio and Pedro's penance, Leonato has them visit her tomb and publicly declare that she died innocent of the infidelity she was accused of. Hero's actually Faking the Dead, but Claudio and Pedro don't know that.
  • Dramatic Irony: Hero says that she'll "devise some honest slanders to stain [her] cousin with: one doth not know how much an ill word may empoison liking." She's unaware that Don John has concocted a plan to slander her and empoison Claudio's liking for her. This also serves as ironic Foreshadowing: Beatrice, said cousin, is the first person to believe Hero was wronged.
  • Easily Forgiven: Claudio by Hero. To their credit, the other characters force him to go to some lengths to show he's repentant for what he did to Hero before they forgive him.
    • And the ShakespeaReTold version has Hero refusing to take him back, even though she forgives him.
  • Everyone Can See It: Beatrice and Benedick. Dear god, Beatrice and Benedick. No one is fooled by the sniping between the two of them and everybody is eager to participate in the little scheme to match them together.
  • Exact Words: During Claudio and Hero's ill-fated first wedding, Leonato attempts to smooth things over using this trope when Claudio begins to derail the event. Unfortunately, it doesn't take.
    Friar Francis: You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady?
    Claudio: No.
    Leonato: To be married to her — Friar, you marry her.
  • Expy: Friar Francis is Friar Laurence all over again. He's the one who suggests that a girl faking her own death will make everything better (although his Zany Scheme fares better than that of his counterpart).
  • Faint in Shock: Hero faints when she's falsely accused of infidelity, and publicly denounced and humiliated at her own wedding. She faints so deeply that others at the scene believe her to have died.
  • Fatal Flaw: Claudio's is jealousy; Don John easily tricks him into thinking that Hero is being unfaithful. Twice.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Benedick and Claudio. Lampshaded by Beatrice when she points out he seems to have a new sworn comrade all the time..
  • The Fool: Messina's entire police force are shown as total buffoons. Miraculously, they save the day.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • Benedick and Beatrice both have lines that indicate their affections for each other well before the Zany Scheme: Benedick says that Beatrice "exceeds [Hero] as much in beauty as the first of May doth the last of December," and Beatrice teases a disguised Benedick saying that she wishes Benedick had "boarded" her. Also noteworthy is that Beatrice's first line involves asking after Benedick's wellbeing under the pretense of mocking his military service.
    • When Don Pedro asks Leonato if Hero is his daughter, he answers, "Her mother hath many times told me so.", prompting Benedick to ask "Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?" The theme of infidelity comes back to bite everyone later on when Don John slanders Hero and convinces Claudio that she has cheated on him.
  • For the Evulz: Don John is pretty one-dimensional for a Shakespeare villain. Biding his time to re-consolidate his power would probably have been a better move than petty vindictiveness.
  • Funny Background Event: The Tennant/Tate version turns the Zany Scheme to get Beatrice and Benedick to realize their affection for each other up to eleven. As the conspirators loudly state how sick with love the Slap-Slap-Kiss couple are for each other, Benedick and Beatrice go through a hilarious Humiliation Conga right behind their backs. To wit:
    • Benedick: While dancing mockingly to "Sigh No More", he trips into the supply cart and plants his right hand into white paint. He tries to wipe it off unsuccessfully. Upon hearing Beatrice is in love with him, he knocks a paint tray over with a thunderous CLANG. Claudio's "recounting" of Beatrice's outpouring of love for him causes Benedick to wipe a hand down his face, getting white paint all over it and his shirtfront. He tries to take a drink from his can, only to spray it out (because Claudio and Don Pedro had discarded their cigarettes in it when they found it earlier). While he's reeling from the "news", the boy he had enlisted earlier to get him a book finds him, and chases him down to give him said book. Benedick even attempts to hide his face by holding up a piece of cloth while running at full tilt! There's another CLANG, the boy walks away without the book, and Benedick emerges from the background with white paint splattered all over him.
    • Beatrice: Matching Benedick, she kicks over two paint cans with a CLANG when she first hears about his affection. She then tries to hide under a piece of cloth that "magically" scuttles across the stage, fooling exactly no one. Ursula and Hero enlists one of the painters to hook their pulley system to Beatrice's belt, dragging her up and down and all over again while the Blatant Lies are going on in the foreground. Beatrice spends a few minutes struggling with the cloth, and finally gets it off her as she's aloft. She vainly tries to keep her balance, at points making hilarious swimming motions. Her furious expressions as she reacts to the banter takes the cake.
  • Geeky Turn-On: It's all but outright stated that Benedick and Beatrice fell so hard for each other at least partly because they're the only people who can keep up with their verbal fencing matches.
  • Gentleman Ranker: Conrade, who describes himself as a Gentleman when arrested and, like the others, has served under Don Pedro in the military.
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery: The title itself has an obsoleted Double Entendre, "nothing" being a sixteenth-century euphemism for "lady parts". And "noting" being a sixteenth-century euphemism for "doing the deed". So it's "much ado about noting" as well...
  • The Ghost: Leonato's wife Imogen, possibly. Depending on the text, she may appear in person, but given she has no lines, it's very likely that she doesn't, and is relegated to being mentioned early on, and not even by name. However, some versions will give a small rewrite, changing Leonato's brother Antonio into his wife Imogen. Without altering much of the play, this change actually works surprisingly well.
  • Good Cannot Comprehend Evil: Don Pedro just doesn't seem to understand that as Don John has betrayed him before, he is untrustworthy and any accusation he makes should be viewed with suspicion.
  • The Guards Must Be Crazy: Dogberry and his troop certainly are!
  • He-Man Woman Hater: Subverted by Benedick, who tells all and sundry how much he hates women and immediately proves the exact opposite by being the only man at the infamous wedding, save for the priest, to immediately believe Hero and defend her from everyone else. He generally affects this trope as a cover for his feelings for Beatrice.
  • Heroic BSoD: All over the place after the slandering. ("Hath no man's dagger here a point for me?")
  • Hidden Depths: Dogberry and his troop, again. A reluctant watch they may be, but they have little hesitation in arresting Borachio and Conrade. Dogberry may be an idiot, but once he knows something is going on, he is dogged, when it comes to finding out what.
  • Hot And Cold: Beatrice.
  • Honorable Marriage Proposal: Claudio thinks that he's caused Hero to die of sadness after wrongly accusing her of betraying him with another man on the eve of their wedding. Hero's father Leonato says that he can make it right by marrying his niece, who just happens to look exactly like Hero. (Apparently this is meant to be a different niece than Beatrice, whom Claudio already knows.) Claudio agrees.
  • Honor-Related Abuse: Leonato makes dire threats against Hero after she is abandoned at the altar. He tells her that if she doesn't die of shame, he might kill her himself and may even strike her, depending on the production. Even after Benedick and the Friar talk him down, Leonato says that he'll wait to see what is proven—if it's slander, he'll strike at her slanderers, but if it's true, "these hands shall tear her."
  • Horrible Judge of Character:
    • Don Pedro brings his brother John along to Leonato's, even though he had just been rebelling against him. Could easily be chalked up to brotherly love. Pedro is a very Nice Guy and likely wants to successfully bury the hatchet with his half brother. This pops up again later on when he believes John's lie that Hero has cheated on Claudio, though to be fair, while his better judgement should take over there, he believe he's seen the affair with his own eyes.
    • Claudio has this problem as well, even more so than Don Pedro. Claudio was personally responsible for defeating Don John, but doesn't question his former foe's interest in his love life and believes both of Don John's lies about Hero being wooed by other men. In the first case, Benedick is also under the impression that Pedro has "stolen" Hero and says so, but after it's proven that Don John has lied once, you'd think Claudio would be skeptical about the scene Don John shows him.
  • Hurricane of Puns:
    • In scenes with Beatrice and Benedick.
    • Margaret has her moments, as well.
  • Humiliation Conga: Poor Hero endures this ON HER WEDDING DAY. First Claudio humiliates her with his accusations, then Don Pedro backs him up and finally her own father turns on her in front of everyone.
  • Hypercompetent Sidekick: Borachio to Don John, being the one to come up with the Evil Plan. This is subverted later when he grabs the idiot ball and reveals his plan where the watch can hear him.
    • Possibly justified as him being drunk, as Borachio means drunkard.
  • Idiot Ball:
    • Claudio is awfully ready to think the worst of his bride.
    • Also Don Pedro, for believing his already proven untrustworthy brother over Hero's dishonour.
  • I Gave My Word: Benedick wrestles with his repeated declaration that he would never marry and whether he should be bound by them. (No, he concludes.)
  • I Kiss Your Hand: Benedick, to Beatrice. Possibly the saddest use of this trope ever in a comedy! After they admit their attraction to one another, Beatrice tells Benedick that she can't be with him until he's sought justice for Hero's insult, on Beatrice's behalf. Benedick kisses her hand, sadly and solemnly, to seal his word.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: The 2011 RSC production starred David Tennant and Catherine Tate as Benedick and Beatrice. As always seems to happen when Tate is playing opposite Tennant, She Really Can Act ensued.
  • Imagined Innuendo: Once Benedick's convinced that Beatrice is in love with him, he decides that everything she says to him must have a hidden meaning.
  • Important Haircut: After they convince Benedick that Beatrice is in love with him, Don Pedro and Claudio run into Benedick and notice that he has shaved. They start teasing him about his sudden clean-shaven appearance, seeing this as proof that their ploy to get him to fall for Beatrice has worked. Not used in many productions, but used to great effect in the Joss Whedon film version. This may also be combined with Beatrice's earlier jabs about not liking men with beards or clean-shaven men, perhaps having Benedick shave his beard into a mustache in a clever nod to that earlier scene (he doesn't have a beard anymore, but neither is he clean shaven!).
    • In the original production, as Shakespeare's company would almost never perform the same play two days in a row, the actor playing Benedick would probably just not shave for the week if he knew he'd be playing the part later that week, and then quickly shave backstage between the two scenes. For obvious reasons, this approach is not in common practice any more.
    • The 2017 Globe production uses this, but the actor only grows a mustache, and the beard is done with makeup. It's not very convincing from up close, but it serves its purpose, and makes for a brilliant scene during which Benedick is teased for shaving and wearing a scent.
  • I Need to Go Iron My Dog: Benedick trying to escape a conversation with Beatrice, by means of a series of insane quests. Later in the same scene and even more obvious, Leonato sends Beatrice to "look to those things I told you of" to get her out of an awkward conversation with Don Pedro.
  • Informed Attribute: Don John calls himself "a plain dealing villain" when his onstage villainy comes from deception, which is first seen literally one scene after he says this. It is worth noting though, that almost every production depicts John as Obviously Evil, even when he pretends to be a good guy. And it's possible that he's only just starting to lie during his villainy. Right before the play starts he was in direct conflict with his brother Pedro, and the first time he's shown attempting to cause drama through deceit, any harm that the lie causes is undone later in the same scene when it's proven false. This poor attempt could imply that he's just starting out, which is backed up by his henchman Borachio being the one to come up with a far more successful trick on Claudio and Pedro.
  • It's Personal: Don John says that Claudio "hath all the glory of my overthrow", so he wants a plan of vengeance that will hurt both him and Pedro.
  • Jealous Romantic Witness: The evil Don John tricks Claudio into believing that he sees his fiancée Hero making love to another man the night before his wedding (it is actually Hero's maid Margaret dressed in her clothes). This enrages Claudio so much that he calls of the wedding from the altar the next day.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Benedick (Played for Laughs) and Claudio (Played for Drama).
  • Jerkass Façade: Benedick talks a big game about how he's such a He-Man Woman Hater, yet he never falls for the trick that Hero is a whore, choosing her side instead of that of his friends. Contrasting with the characters' first impressions, this makes him look far more progressive than Claudio, Don Pedro, and Leonato.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Yes, what Claudio did was horrible, but he thought Hero was cheating on him with another man the night before their wedding. What's more, he thinks he's seen it with his own eyes.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: "Speak, Count! 'Tis your cue."
  • The Load: Conrade is on Don John's side. He says he'll stand by his master, but he doesn't do anything to help him during his Evil Plan, not even being aware of the new scheme until Borachio tells him that it worked.
  • Love Informant: Don Pedro to Hero on behalf of Claudio.
    Don Pedro: Here, Claudio, I have wooed in thy name, and fair Hero is won.
  • Love Revelation Epiphany: Beatrice and Benedick are tricked into admitting they are in love with each other because they both believe the other is in love with them.
  • Madonna-Whore Complex: During his denunciation of Hero, Claudio swings between the pure maid he thought her yesterday and the impure woman he thinks her today, going from "Dian in her orb" to "intemperate as Venus", a chaste bud versus beasts of the field, and concluding by calling her most foul, most fair, of "pure impiety and impious purity."
  • Malaproper: Dogberry, oh so very much. Occasionally his troupe, too—but they also seem to understand what he means by his malapropisms, because when he asks for the most "desertless" man, they name one who would be good at the job.
  • Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Played for laughs, in that Leonato says that his wife has told him that Hero is his daughter. The Tenant/Tate version which replaces Antonio with Imogen has her shoot him a look that screams "What the fuck?"
  • Mandatory Fatherhood: One reason Benedick cites for his change of mind is that the world must be peopled.
  • Manipulative Bastard: Borachio again. He manipulates Don John into paying him huge amounts of money to cause mischief, he convinces Margaret to pretend to be Hero whilst he seduces her, he convinces Claudio and Don Pedro that he has seduced Hero and at the end of the play he convinces Don Pedro that it was all Don John's fault and that Claudio is as much to blame for Hero's apparent suicide. And he seems to get away with it all too.
  • Masquerade Ball: In which Don Pedro pretends to be Claudio and courts Hero.
  • The Matchmaker: Don Pedro just loves getting other couples together, whether it's courting Hero for the too-shy Claudio, or tricking Benedick and Beatrice into admitting their feelings for each other.
  • Meaningful Funeral: The memorial service (of sorts) given by Claudio and Don Pedro.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Nearly averted. Don John is merely spiteful and petty, content to cause minor trouble now that he's been defeated. He's also rather stupid, and his minion Borachio comes up with all the evil plots, and fleeces his boss while he's at it. But in the end, he's the one who expresses remorse and confesses, while John flees for freedom.
  • Mistaken for Cheating: Claudio thinks Hero is cheating, thanks to Don John's plots.
  • Mood Whiplash: Goes from zany romantic comedy to drama in a matter of seconds when Claudio jilts Hero at the altar, and then bounces about from sweet romance (Beatrice and Benedick) to comedy (Dogberry's interrogations) to tragedy (Claudio mourning what he thinks is Hero's death) until everything is finally resolved.
  • Morality Pet: Margaret to Borachio.
  • My Girl Is Not a Slut: Claudio flips out when he thinks that Hero has been unchaste. Not content with merely canceling the wedding, he decides to bring her to the altar and then publicly denounce her as a whore.
  • My God, What Have I Done?:
    • Claudio and Don Pedro after Leonato gives them proof that they "killed" Hero over a lie.
    • Borachio is also upset that the scheme he cooked up ended with the death of the woman he slandered and confesses all, including that he was working for Don John.
  • My God, You Are Serious!: Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel after the wedding. Claudio and Don Pedro assume he's joking around, and it takes quite a bit of repetition on Benedick's part for the other two to say "wait, I think he means it."
  • Not So Stoic: Invoked by Leonato as he vents his grief over the slanders against his daughter:
    "I pray thee, peace. I will be flesh and blood;
    For there was never yet philosopher
    That could endure the toothache patiently,
    However they have writ the style of gods
    And made a push at chance and sufferance."
  • No Sympathy: Leonato's initial confrontation with Don Pedro and Claudio after the aborted wedding has very little effect on them. Depending how it's played, they may engage in an effort to disavow any guilt, or they can practically ignore him as he blames them for Hero's death.
  • Only Sane Man: Beatrice and Benedick are the only ones who don't believe the incredibly flimsy accusations against Hero. This is ironic in Benedick's case, at the beginning of the play he was a self-professed He-Man Woman Hater. Also, Friar Francis only appears briefly, but when he's on stage he's the most reasonable person there. Additionally, Antonio and and handmaidens often stay behind with Hero, possibly not believing it either, or at the very least, still caring for Hero regardless.
  • Pair the Spares: In some productions Don Pedro will pair off with either Margaret or another female extra, right after Benedick tells him, "Get thee a wife."
  • Paper-Thin Disguise: Subverted in the masked ball. Few of the masked gentlemen actually succeed in disguising themselves. Hero knows that the gentleman speaking to her is either Claudio or Pedro pretending to be him (having been informed by her father that Claudio intends to court her). Ursula instantly sees through Antonio's disguise because of his mannerisms, and Don John pretends to take Claudio for Benedick, Borachio having recognized Claudio by his stance. Only Benedick's disguise can be taken for successful and he hears more insults from Beatrice for his success. (And since what she says "about" Benedick is no different than how she speaks to him unmasked, it's still subject to actor interpretation.)
  • Pet the Dog: Borachio may have come up with the plan that framed Hero, but he vehemently defends his Unwitting Pawn lover Margaret when Don Pedro asks if she was aware of the plot.
  • Playing Cyrano: Not only does the Prince provide the words for Claudio to woo Hero, the Prince actually does the wooing — pretending to be Claudio while talking to Hero at a masquerade. Naturally, the villainous Don John convinces Claudio that the Prince has actually fallen in love with, and become engaged to, Hero. Unusually, this plot twist lasts only one scene, until the next time Claudio sees the Prince — and the Prince assures him that he did, indeed, woo Hero on Claudio's behalf. (In fact, since the plan got back to Leonato and he told Hero about it, it's likely that she knew all along that (a) she was really talking to the Prince, and (b) he was pretending to be Claudio as a favour.)
  • Police Are Useless: Interestingly played. Dogberry and his crew are based on the amateur police forces of the time, which were made up of untrained citizens who were each assigned a certain number of nights a year to "protect the public peace" and were often ineffectual. Dogberry's instruction to his watchmen boils down to "bid them good night and leave them be" for any possible scenario. However, his constables do catch Borachio and Conrade red-handed and thus manage to—eventually—save the day.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The whole debacle at the wedding, and a lot of heartache, could have been averted if Leonato had actually taken some time to listen to Dogberry's and Verges' report of the arrest of Borachio and Conrad.
  • Pun-Based Title: Believe it or not, among the many possible meanings of the word "nothing" in Shakespeare's day, the word was sometimes a reference to female genitalia ("an o thing", and also in reference to women not having anything between their legs). Making this seemingly harmless title possibly an, erm, quite colorful one, to say the least. "Nothing/Noting" can also refer to music (songs play a decently large part, and the play ends by striking up the pipers), eavesdropping (the heart of both the matchmaking plot and the evil plot), actual physical notes (the play opens with a letter, and right at the end Benedick and Beatrice are shown their own love letters to stop their playful bickering), and noticing or understanding (which the Friar, Benedick, and Beatrice are good at, thank God). It is also important to note that, according to the script, the audience never sees the pivot point in the play: the observation of Borachio and Margaret (dressed as Hero) that leads to the accusations of adultery. It happens right in the middle and everything else grows from it, but it is not actually shown. So the play literally revolves around nothing. Basically, the title contains a Hurricane of Puns in one word.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: "YOU! ARE! AN! ASS!"
  • Pragmatic Villainy: Conrade doesn't morally object to Don John's villainy, but he does try to convince him that it's in his best interests to behave for now. When John makes it clear that won't happen, Conrade joins him in causing mischief, though he actually doesn't contribute anything.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Claudio and Don Pedro get a ton of these, not without reason. First Beatrice calls them out in absentia, then Benedick calls Claudio out in person, then Leonato and Antonio call them out, then they call them out again when the truth of the matter is revealed.
  • Right in Front of Me / Right Behind Me: Beatrice makes fun of Benedick at the feast, not realizing the guest she's talking to is actually Benedick in disguise. (In fairness, he'd also just made fun of her) He then complains to the prince about it, not realizing Beatrice is behind him. Once he does, he asks the prince for an excuse to leave.
  • Shipper on Deck: Don Pedro thinks Benedick and Beatrice would make a great couple, and sets out to make it happen. Most of the characters, in fact, ship both Claudio/Hero and Benedick/Beatrice.
  • Shipping Torpedo: The major conflict comes from Don John's attempt to wreck Claudio and Hero's relationship. Partly to embarrass his Shipper on Deck brother, but mostly For the Evulz.
  • "Shut Up" Kiss: Benedick to Beatrice.
    Peace! I will stop your mouth.
    • Invoked by Beatrice (for the other couple) even earlier in a bit of foreshadowing:
    Speak, cousin, or if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss and let him not speak neither.
  • Slap-Slap-Kiss: Beatrice and Benedick. As with Belligerent Sexual Tension above, possibly the Ur-Example.
  • Slut-Shaming: Claudio goes off on Hero, essentially calling her a whore in the middle of their wedding.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: Benedick and Beatrice's typical interactions.
  • Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Played with; see above. The groom himself objects.
  • Spirited Young Lady: An early example: Beatrice is independent, intelligent and has quite the rapier wit.
  • Staging the Eavesdrop: This is how Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into falling in love (or admitting that they love each other). First Claudio, Don Pedro, and Leonato stage a conversation about how Beatrice is in love with Benedick while Benedick is eavesdropping, then Hero and her maidservants do the same thing to Beatrice. In each case, the eavesdropper is convinced that if the other is in love with them then they should requite the love.
  • Stupid Evil: Don John isn't the smartest villain in town. He's already known for his wrongdoings, so what does he do? Get involved in two schemes to frame Hero For the Evulz.
    • Borachio pretty much does all his thinking, and ultimately turns on him when he believes Hero to be dead.
  • Stupid Good: Don Pedro. He knows Don John is untrustworthy, yet he still brings him to Leonato's house and believes the rumours spread about Hero.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Beatrice and Benedick talk a lot about how they'd never marry anyone, and certainly not each other. It's not very convincing.
    • Of course, when Benedick realizes he loves Beatrice after all, he tells himself that he only swore he'd never marry because he expected to die young.
  • Taking the Veil: It is suggested that Hero do this, to escape the slander.
  • Tempting Fate: Near the climax, Don Pedro defends his and Claudio's actions at the first wedding by insisting their accusations were "full of proof". Cue the guards bring Borachio to them and confessing what really happened.
  • That Liar Lies: Dogberry gives five different charges, all of which amount to Those Liars Lie.
  • Took a Level in Jerkass:
    • Claudio goes from a sweet, naive Nice Guy to an abusive fiancé after he believes Hero has cheated on him, giving her no opportunity to defend herself. Again, in all fairness he thinks he's seen her cheating with his own eyes. And frankly he's not all that bright anyway. To his credit, when he's proven wrong, he loses his douche attitude and does what he can to make things right.
    • After behaving in a kind, giving, and cordial manner throughout the play, this then applies to Don Pedro to a lesser extent, as he mostly remains silent at the wedding, but backs up Claudio when called out on this. However, his behavior is far less abhorrent, being more of a bystander. And like Claudio, he truly thinks he saw the crime and makes sure that his friend follows through with righting his wrong when it's clear they're wrong.
    • Leonato also goes from being a pleasant man who loves his daughter to saying she deserves death, and in some versions, ''striking her'' after being told she's a whore. Again, this is due to misinformation, and to his credit, he doesn't turn against her until his dear friend and the man who rules over him backs up what Claudio's saying by declaring they saw it happen. But to be fair, while his attitude is brutal, he's just hearing this news and doesn't have the same amount of time to process as the others, and not long after he's heard reason, he directs his anger towards the men who ruined his daughter instead. Though even then this trope is still somewhat in action, as Leonato comes across as a bit of a Hypocrite for his highly confrontational demeanor there, even if he's now back on the side of good.
  • The Trickster: One can certainly interpret Borachio this way. Notice he's the one who comes up with all the evil ideas, yet he's willing to be second fiddle to Don John, and is quick to claim he's only acting on his orders. However, he's also quick to clear Margaret of blame when his and Don John's plan is discovered.
  • Tsundere: Both Beatrice and Benedick towards each other. Their regular interaction is Snark-to-Snark Combat, but with undertones of Suspiciously Specific Denial and Belligerent Sexual Tension. Because of this Everyone Can See It and actually try to make them a couple.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: Claudio wanted to marry Hero the very next day but Leonato insisted that they marry on the coming Monday. Had they married the very next day, John never would have had the time to concoct the plan to make Hero seem unfaithful.
  • Unwitting Pawn: Margaret to Borachio. He makes sure to say that she had no idea she was part of a plot against her mistress and would have refused to participate if she did.
  • Verbal Backspace: In the 2012 RSC production with David Tennant: Catherine Tate, a redhead, played Beatrice, so when Benedick described his ideal wife, he declared, "And her hair shall be re...whatever color it please God!"
  • Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: Initially, the bubbly atmosphere seems oddly at variance with Don John's dark and humourless character, although this changes with the play's Mood Whiplash.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Benedick and Beatrice. "There's a double meaning in that!"
  • Volleying Insults: It's implied that this is the favored mode of communication for Beatrice and Benedick. Leonato mentions their "skirmish of wit" from the beginning. They each get quite a few zingers in there, too.
    Beatrice: Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were.
  • Wedding Finale: The final scene takes place over Claudio and Hero's wedding, culminating in their marriage and Claudio realizing that Hero didn't die when she collapsed upon being abandoned at their first wedding.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Literally, as the one being called out is actually named Hero.
    • Don Pedro and Claudio were the ones doing it, but under false information. Then immediately after they are told that Hero has died and don't really care. It's their turn to get called out on for this, by both Hero's father and Benedick.
      Leonato: I thank you, princes, for my daughter’s death. / Record it with your high and worthy deeds. / 'Twas bravely done, if you bethink you of it.
  • You Meddling Kids: "What your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light."
  • You Need to Get Laid: At the very end of the play, Benedick tells Don Pedro, "Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife."
  • Zany Scheme: The plan to convince Beatrice and Benedick that they're in love certainly qualifies; arguably, having Don Pedro court Hero for Claudio does as well.
    • And faking Hero's death, just because... just because.

Tropes from the Berlioz operatic adaptation:

  • Adaptational Heroism: Claudio does not make the rash and unfair decision to shame Hero on flimsy evidence in this version; the wedding goes as planned.
  • Beta Couple: In this version, it is unambiguously Claudio and Hero, to Benedick and Beatrice's "Alpha couple".
  • Compressed Adaptation: This adaptation is focused only on the development of Benedick and Beatrice's relationship.
  • Lighter and Softer: The dark and dramatic subplot involving the slander of Hero is omitted.
  • Name and Name: This adaptation is called Béatrice et Bénédict.


Video Example(s):


Much Ado- Benedick's Soliloquy

Benedick realizes he's in love with Beatrice when he's tricked into thinking she's in love with him.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (3 votes)

Example of:

Main / LoveRevelationEpiphany

Media sources: