Much ado about nothing
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Much Ado About Nothing. Looking back at Act I. FRIENDS Benedick, Claudio and Don Pedro seem to be good friends. They have after all, just fought together against Don John. Make a large outline drawing of your character and inside it write: Your status in relation to your two friends

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Looking back at act i
Looking back at Act I


Benedick, Claudio and Don Pedro seem to be good friends. They have after all, just fought together against Don John.

Make a large outline drawing of your character and inside it write:

  • Your status in relation to your two friends

  • What you have in common with your friends

  • The ways in which you are different to your friends

  • What binds you together

Looking back at act i1
Looking back at Act I


Characters in Shakespearean comedy often behave like figures in a dance, forming patterns of relationships which dissolve and re-form as the play progresses. Act I is concerned with young people (Claudio, Benedick, Hero & Beatrice) and the seriously enjoyable matters of friendship, falling in love and getting married.

Looking back at act i2
Looking back at Act I

Create Double Bubble Maps showing the patterns of relationships forming between these four characters.

  • How does the ‘love’ pair, Claudio and Hero, compare with the ‘love-hate’ pair, Beatrice and Benedick?

  • How does Beatrice contrast with her cousin Hero?

  • How much alike are Benedick and Claudio?

Act ii scene iii
Act II Scene iii


Benedick discusses the feminine virtues he is immune to and the qualities which might tempt him if they were all to be found in one woman.

Write a list of the qualities you seek in an ideal partner. Then incorporate your list into a speech which uses word patterns similar to Benedick’s (e.g. ‘another is … yet I am well’, ‘wise or I’ll …’).

In groups of 4 share your ideas and then write a combined version to present to the class.

Looking back at act ii
Looking back at Act II


Look back through Act II and choose three or four lines that appeal to you.

In a group share your lines and then present your version of this act to the class using some or all of your favourite lines.

Act iii scene iii
Act III Scene iii

malapropism = the ludicrous misuse of words, especially through confusion caused by resemblance in sound.

Act iii scene iii fashion appearance reality truth
Act III Scene iii “Fashion & appearance, reality & truth”

Nearly everyone in the play finds it hard to distinguish appearance from reality. The drunken Borachio has just seen how a rich villain (DJ) can simply buy the ‘truth’ he wants. Now he ponders on the behaviour of young aristocrats of the day, giddily seeking the latest fashions.

Fashion appearance reality truth
“Fashion & appearance, reality & truth” truth”

“What a deformed thief this fashion is”

This remark is said twice and echoed a third time, so we are meant to “note” it. Elizabethan fashions with their padding and strange shapes certainly ‘deformed’ the human figure. But what other meanings might this remark have?

E.g. what has fashion or costume ‘stolen’ from Hero and Benedick?

The Watchman is completely confused. What does he think Borachio is talking about?

Looking back at act iii
Looking back at Act III truth”

Tease the melancholy lovers

Claudio and Don Pedro enjoy teasing Benedick the lover about his ‘toothache’. Likewise, Margaret enjoys herself with jokes at the expense of the ‘sick’ Beatrice.

Act iv scene i
Act IV scene i truth”

In Greek legend, Hero was the true love of Leander who drowned whilst swimming across the Hellespont to meet her. She in turn drowned herself for love of him. In Shakespeare’s time, the name Hero would have suggested faithfulness in love.

Act iv scene i1
Act IV scene i truth”

Beatrice trusts Hero and knows with all her heart that Hero is innocent. Other characters desperately attempt to now the truth by judging or ‘noting’ the outward signs. Leonato and Friar Francis are two such people.

Act iv scene i2
Act IV scene i truth”

  • Leonato: list all the outward signs you have observed in Hero and Claudio. What do these signs lead you to believe?

  • Friar Francis: List all the outward signs you have observed. What are your conclusions and why should people trust you?

Looking back at act iv
Looking back at Act IV truth”

Outward signs and inner truths

Many characters try to judge inner truth by outward signs. Leonato, Don Pedro, Claudio and the Friar have all ‘noted’ different things about the lady. Leonato ‘notes’ Claudio’s tears (4:1), which he interprets as a sign of the young man’s sincerity. Dogberry lists all the outward signs of his own dignity and wealth (4:2).

Create a T-Chart headed “truth” and “signs” and list all the examples you can think of.

Act v
Act V truth”

In Shakespeare’s plays the pronouns ‘Thou/ thee/ thine’ and ‘you/ your’ send clear social signals.

When addressing one person ‘you’ implies distance. ‘Thou’ can imply closeness or superiority. It can signal friendship to an equal or superiority over a servant. Used to address one of a higher rank, it can be aggressive and insulting.

Act v scene i
Act V scene i truth”

  • Borachio’s account of how he deceived Claudio and Don Pedro is extremely perceptive. The central preoccupation of the play is the problem of telling truth from illusion, appearance from reality. What comment do the following sentences make about this problem?

  • “I have deceived your very eyes.”

  • “what your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to life.”

  • “you … saw me court Margaret in Hero’s garments”.

Looking back at act v
Looking back at Act V truth”


Rewrite Act 5 as a mini-saga (tell the story in exactly 50 words)


Act 5 contains many changes of mood: grief, despair, anger, vengeance, repentance, love, mockery, celebration.

Show where these changes in mood occur.

Looking back at the play
Looking back at the play truth”

Tangled Webs

The play has THREE major dramatic plots or stories (the Hero/ Claudio love story, the tricking into love of Beatrice and Benedick, the Don John plot which is discovered by the Watch). The close-knit nature of Messina society, where everybody wants to know everybody else’s business, is reflected in the way in which these three plots are so closely interwoven.

Tangled webs
Tangled Webs truth”

On the grid briefly record, scene by scene, each stage in the development of each plot and the names of the characters involved in the action.

Qs to help:

  • Which characters are most entangled in the events of all three plots?

  • Which characters are the catalysts or initiators of events?

  • The Beatrice and Benedick subplot was traditionally regarded as a sub-plot, and the Hero/ Claudio plot seen as the main plot. Can you explain why?

Looking back at the play1
Looking back at the play truth”

Tricks, hoaxes & deceptions

Compile a list of the malevolent and benevolent plots, deliberate and accidental deceptions.

Looking back at the play2
Looking back at the play truth”

Nothing and noting, truth and illusion:

The pun on ‘nothing’ and ‘noting’ in the title suggests from the start that the play will be concerned with ways in which people perceive one another. Characters are continually faced with the question: ‘Can I be certain that what I see, or hear, or know is true?’ their difficulties are often caused by the deliberate deceptions of others, but equally often stem from self-deception or their own human fallibility.

Nothing and noting truth and illusion
Nothing and noting, truth and illusion: truth”

  • Make a list of the problems facing the characters in the play and then put them into the following categories: deliberate deception, self-deception, human fallibility.

  • Do you think the play gives us any answers to the problem that we all face: ‘How can I ever know the truth for certain?’

Looking back at the play3
Looking back at the play truth”

‘Men were deceivers ever’

  • How does the song sung by Balthasar in Act II scene iii catch the spirit of the whole play?

Much ado about nothing

Is this painting (inspired by truth”Much Ado About Nothing) Hero and Claudio OR Beatrice and Benedick? Explain your choice.

Act ii scene i there s a little of the melancholy element in her
Act II Scene i “There’s a little of the melancholy element in her”

Many Elizabethans still held to the old belief that there were four humours (or fluids) in the human body. They gave rise to four basic types of personality, depending on which humour was predominant:

Much ado about nothing

  • Melancholy (cold and dry) element in her”

    cold, gloomy, depressed (melancholic)

  • Choler (hot and dry)

    angry, quarrelsome, violent (choleric)

  • Phlegm (cool and moist)

    cool, sluggish, apathetic (phlegmatic)

  • Blood (warm and moist)

    warm, hopeful, confident (sanguine)

    Assign each character in the play their most appropriate humour

Looking back at act iv1
Looking back at Act IV element in her”

Beatrice probably anticipated that the wedding would be a difficult time for her. She had been ‘exceeding ill’ that morning and faced the prospect of her first meeting with Benedick since learning of his love for her. However, she could not have foreseen the shocks in store for her.

Looking back at act iv2
Looking back at Act IV element in her”

  • Quickly note down a chronological list of what happens to Beatrice in Act IV. After each item, write what you think Beatrice is feeling.