Much Ado About Nothing


Act 4: Scenes 1 to 2

Summary: Act 4, Scene 1

          Everyone is gathered for the wedding. Friar Francis asks Claudio if he has come to marry Hero, and Claudio replies, “no.” Laughingly, Leonato adjusts the friar’s phrasing, clarifying that Claudio has come to “be married to” Hero; the friar has come to marry her. Claudio demands of Hero whether she knows any reason why they should not marry. In total confusion, Hero assures him that she does not. Claudio then confronts Leonato and, with Don Pedro’s encouragement, returns Hero to her father, saying that she is a “rotten orange.” Claudio rejects and denounces Hero completely, saying that she is “no maid” (not a virgin) and that her show of modesty and surprise is only an act. Don Pedro calls her a “common stale,” or a whore. Claudio, Don John, and Don Pedro interrogate Hero, demanding to know what man she “talked with” at her window the night before. Of course, she denies having talked with any man at her window, but the words of the prince, his brother, and Count Claudio all have greater weight than Hero’s. She is unable to defend herself; in her horror and shock, Hero faints. Even Leonato is convinced of her guilt. Seeing Hero faint, he expresses the hope that she is dead and says that if she is not, he will kill her himself.

          After Hero’s accusers depart, Benedick attempts to calm Leonato and make sense of what has happened. Beatrice passionately defends her cousin’s honor, and Hero swears her innocence again. Benedick theorizes that Claudio and Don Pedro may have been deceived by Don John. The friar suggests a plan: they must all pretend that Hero had died from the shock and grief of her public shaming. When her innocence is proven, Claudio and the prince will be overwhelmed with remorse. In the pretense of Hero’s death, her reputation can be restored. The friar advises Hero that her wedding...

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