Much Ado About Nothing | 2015, 2010
About the Play by John Dunlap
“I never really was exposed to Shakepeare but after last night the actors’ performance gave me a different outlook on how I approach Shakespeare literature and plays….their performance was beyond comparison… it was a learning experience…”
“The acting was amazing and the jazz theme and the ballads fit seamlessly into the play.”
– E-mail from our
Much Ado, 2015 Attendees
“Excellent! From the costumes, the set, the music, to the performances. Really enjoyed it.”
“Awesome job at making me laugh till I cry… Your number one, ‘never missed a play yet’ LOL fan of the century.”
“Thank you for a wonderful evening!”
– Notes from our
Much Ado, 2010 Guestbook
The likely date for the earliest performance of Much Ado About Nothing is the winter of 1598/1599, when Shakespeare was 34 and well into the middle period of his career. The setting is the port city of Messina on the east coast of Sicily in an era following the expulsion of the Saracens, when Spain controls Sicily.
Returning from a military campaign, Don Pedro, the Spanish prince of Aragon, visits the elderly Leonato, governor of Messina. Don Pedro is accompanied by two young noblemen who have served as his officers, Claudio and Benedick. Also in the prince’s entourage is Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother, the malcontent Don John, soon to figure as the play’s villain. On a previous visit, the young Claudio had felt some vague interest in Hero, Leonato’s daughter, and Benedick had entered into what Leonato calls “a merry war” of wits with Leonato’s niece, the sharp-tongued Beatrice. While Benedick and Beatrice resume their unsentimental badinage, Claudio’s rather sentimental love for Hero is rekindled. Benedick, who fancies himself a confirmed bachelor, pokes fun at Claudio for courting Hero, but Don Pedro approves of the match, laughing at what he shrewdly takes to be Benedick’s contrived cynicism.
In disguise as Claudio at a masquerade ball, the gallant Don Pedro woos Hero to further the romance between his young officer and the lovely Hero, at which point Don Pedro’s envious and malicious brother, Don John, tells Claudio that Don Pedro is trying to steal Hero. The impetuous Claudio confronts Don Pedro–but is easily mollified by the prince so that marriage plans may ensue for Claudio and Hero.
Don Pedro meanwhile contrives to play matchmaker between Benedick and Beatrice. In a feigned conversation within earshot of Benedick, the prince and his confederates report that the sarcastic Beatrice is secretly in love with Benedick. Hero and her maids pull the same stunt on Beatrice, so that Benedick and Beatrice are now separately persuaded that each loves the other.
But even as Benedick and Beatrice are being drawn together, the villainous Don John is plotting to destroy the wedding of Claudio and Hero. Don John’s henchman Borachio woos Hero’s handmaiden Margaret, who is tricked into standing at Hero’s open bedroom window in the guise of Hero late at night, conversing with the deceptive Borachio while Claudio and Don Pedro, at Don John’s instigation, witness the apparent tryst from the shadows.
Claudio again displays his impetuosity when, on the following day at the wedding, he publicly denounces his bride-to-be, the innocent Hero, for infidelity. He also displays a kind of shallow courtly conventionality, the romantic state of what Augustine calls ―being in love with being in love and a recurring target of Shakespeare’s wit. In the rest of this comic play, the deeper and more interesting love between Benedick and Beatrice comes to the rescue.