Plot

A quick overview of what happens in Much Ado about Nothing. 
  • Leonato lives with his daughter, Hero, and niece, Beatrice, in Messina. Don Pedro arrives at their house with his army of returning soldiers, including Claudio and Benedick.

    Did you know? Leonato's wife

    In early versions of the play, Leonato’s wife, Innogen, is given a name and entrances in the text but she never speaks. In most contemporary productions she is cut completely.

  • Claudio immediately falls in love with Hero and Don Pedro helps to arrange their marriage. Benedick can’t understand why Claudio wants to marry and constantly fights with Beatrice.

  • Don Pedro's half-brother Don John is also travelling with him. Don John plots to ruin the wedding of Claudio and Hero by damaging Hero’s reputation and making Claudio believe she is unfaithful.

    Did you know? Noting

    A lot of the play is based on people overhearing things or misunderstanding rumours. Even the play’s title is a play on the word “noting” which means gossip or overhearing.

  • Benedick’s friends believe he secretly loves Beatrice and that she loves him. With the help of Hero and Leonato, they play a trick on them to stop them fighting and bring them together.

  • On the night before the wedding, Don John takes Claudio to Hero’s window where he sees Don John’s servant Borachio with Hero’s maid. As Don John planned, Claudio thinks the maid he has seen is Hero and that she is unfaithful.  

    Did you know? Lovers

    Stories of lovers tricked into thinking each other unfaithful were very popular in 16th-century Italy. There were plenty of examples for Shakespeare to get his inspiration from including Matteo Bandello’s La prima parte de le novella (1554).

  • With the support of Don Pedro, Claudio publicly tells everyone at their wedding that Hero has been unfaithful. Hero faints and her family say that she has died.

  • Beatrice and Benedick finally declare their love for each other and Beatrice asks Benedick to fight Claudio for what he’s done to her cousin. Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel.

  • The Watch overhear Borachio bragging about what he did to help Don John ruin the wedding. The Watch arrest him and Hero’s innocence is declared.

  • Leonato tells Claudio that he can make up for his actions by marrying his niece who looks just like Hero. Claudio agrees and is overjoyed when the real Hero is revealed instead.

  • Claudio and Hero are reunited. Beatrice and Benedick are made to admit their love for each other in front of everyone and everybody celebrates a double wedding. 

Teacher Notes

The following activity is a great way to introduce the story of Much Ado about Nothing to a group of students who are getting to know the play and introduces them to the plot.

The Story in 10 scenes (2014)

The activity can be found on page 3 and takes approximately 30 minutes.

You can also print the ten lines on this page and ask students to work in pairs to arrange them in the order they take place in the play.