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... [continues]
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