by William Shakespeare
The scene is set in Messina, Italy. In this state there is a wealthy landowner who is also the Governor named Leonato. He is a good natured man that has one child, a daughter named Hero. He also has a niece named Beatrice who is quick witted and, as Don Pedro points out, “a pleasant spirited lady”, although she is secretly a scorned woman that is bitter at being left by a man named Benedick years before. We learn about Beatrice’s distain and long time feud with Benedick, whom is also a master of prose and banter. There is a very important Nobleman coming to visit his longtime friend Leonato on his way to return home from victory in war. This man is Don Pedro, who is called “Prince” by those that know him. Don Pedro arrives with his soldiers two of which are his close friends, Claudio and Benedick. When they arrive at Messina we find that Don Pedro has favored Hero in the past and that Beatrice and Benedick can play insults off each other like expert tennis players using slander and jest as their projectiles. Beatrice and Benedick both establish their distaste and disgust with the idea of marriage and both vow to die as a bachelor and an old maid. Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother, Don John also called “the Bastard” is introduced during the exposition. He is envious of his brother and wants nothing more than to see Don Pedro suffer.
Claudio confesses to Benedick in a shy manner that he has always been madly in love with Hero, even when he was very young. Benedick feels that he should realize how ridiculous his notion of trying to get married is and tells Don Pedro about Claudio’s foolishness. Don Pedro learns that Claudio is too timid and afraid to woo Hero for himself. Wanting to help his friend Claudio, Don Pedro says that he will pretend to be Claudio at the masked ball that evening and ask her to marry Claudio instead of Don Pedro. This is the inciting incident that brings conflict, confusion, jealousy, misunderstanding, distrust, love via disinformation, and makes us as the audience want to watch more to see if Claudio will in fact get to marry his lifelong object of passion Hero.
Once Don John hears about this selfless act of charity that his brother is going to perform he decides that he must keep Hero and Claudio from getting married to thwart his brothers plan. He first tells Claudio that he overheard Don Pedro saying that he was really going to take Hero for himself. This makes Claudio angry and he almost gets into a fight with Don Pedro before it was made clear that Don John was “mistaken”. Claudio and Hero are officially engaged and wish to be married immediately. Leonato refuses to have the marriage so soon and tells them they can wait three days and then it will be done. To pass the time while waiting Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio decide that they will make Beatrice and Benedick eat their own words and get them to fall in love with each other. They contract the help of Hero and her Ladies in waiting Margaret and Ursula. Through well timed comments and loudly spoken secrets, they are able to convince Benedick that Beatrice is madly in love with him as well as convince Beatrice that Benedick is hopelessly in love with Beatrice. They are both pleased at this and decide they would like marrying each other. Meanwhile, Don John discovers that his first attempt at stopping the betrothing of Claudio and Hero failed. He is very upset and becomes more determined than ever to stop the wedding from happening. His very close and loyal associates Conrad and Borachio create a plan where they can trick the Prince and Claudio into thinking Hero is immoral and promiscuous. Borachio has many times used Hero’s bedroom to have sexual relations with the lady in waiting Margaret. The Prince and Claudio do not know that Hero always sleeps in the same room as her cousin Beatrice. So Don John goes and tells Don...