Much Ado About Nothing


Act 1: Scenes 1 to 3

Summary: Act 1, Scene 1

Leonato, the governor of Messina, receives news from a messenger that Don Pedro, prince of Arragon, intends to visit Leonato’s house that evening. The messenger also reports that Don Pedro has just completed a successful military action, losing only a very few men in his efforts to quell an uprising by his illegitimate brother, Don John. Count Claudio of Florence performed especially well in battle and is currently a favorite of Don Pedro’s. Leonato’s niece Beatrice mockingly inquires after another member of Don Pedro’s company, one Benedick of Padua. Somewhat confused by her tone, the messenger replies that Benedick is returning with Don Pedro and, like Claudio, is a good soldier who performed well. Leonato laughingly explains to the messenger that “there is a kind of merry war” between Beatrice and Benedick, and that whenever they meet there is a “skirmish of wit between them.”

Don Pedro arrives with his company, including Don John, with whom Don Pedro has apparently reconciled. Leonato and the prince greet each other warmly and, after a hospitable exchange, it is settled that Don Pedro and his men will stay in Messina for at least a month. Benedick and Beatrice almost immediately launch into one of their well-known exchanges of witty insults, to everyone’s amusement. Beatrice’s final comment indicates that she knows Benedick “of old” and, in spite of her apparent lightheartedness, was hurt by him in the past.

 When Leonato leads Don Pedro and the others into his house, Claudio stays behind to speak privately to Benedick. Claudio confesses that he is in love with Leonato’s daughter, Hero, whom he met just before going to war. Now that the fighting is over, Claudio is overcome by his feelings and wants to marry her. Benedick reacts to Claudio’s talk of marriage with disgust, wondering why Claudio would wish to “thrust [his] neck into a yoke.” Don Pedro is much more receptive to Claudio’s feelings and...

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