Don John is the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro, the prince. Because of this, he doesn’t have the same power or position as Don Pedro. Don John has argued with Don Pedro in the past but Don Pedro has started to forgive him and Don John is welcomed into Leonato's house. However, Don John is bitter and angry and wants to make trouble for Don Pedro. He is also jealous of Claudio, who Don Pedro has recently rewarded, thinking he has all the glory that should be his. Using his two followers, Borachio and Conrad, Don John plots against Claudio and Don Pedro, not caring that it will hurt other innocent people. When this plot is discovered, Don John runs away but is eventually arrested by Don Pedro's men.
Facts we learn about Don John at the start of the play:
- He is the illegitimate brother of Don Pedro and is very bitter.
- He has recently been forgiven by Don Pedro.
- He is welcomed by Leonato into his home.
- He admits he is a villain and wants to cause trouble.
- He is jealous of Claudio and his relationship with Don Pedro.
Things they say:
‘I cannot hide what I am. I must be sad when I have cause, and smile at no man's jests; eat when I have stomach, and wait for no man's leisure’ (Don John, 1:3)
Don John refuses to put on an act for anyone. What you see is what you get.
‘it better fits my blood to be disdained of all, than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any. In this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain.’ (Don John, 1:3)
Don John would rather be hated by everyone than make an effort to be liked. In this way, he sees himself as an honest villain, rather than a pretend friend.
‘am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog; therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage. If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do my liking.’ (Don John, 1:3)
Don John is not free to say and do what he wants in Don Pedro’s company.
Things others say about them:
‘it is impossible you should take true root, but by the fair weather that you make yourself’ (Conrad, 1:3)
Don John will only strengthen his friendship with Don Pedro if he behaves himself.
‘How tartly that gentleman looks! I never can see him but I am heart-burned an hour after.’ (Beatrice, 2:1)
Don John appears sour-faced and unpleasant in public.
‘He is composed and framed of treachery.’ (Don Pedro, 5:1)
There is no good to be found in Don John at all.