William Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing in the complete original text.
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Much Ado about Nothing

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Much Ado about Nothing Play

Much Ado about Nothing begins with Don Pedro, The Prince of Arragon returning from victory against his brother, the rebellious Don John. One of Don Pedro's officers, Claudio has distinguished himself greatly in this campaign. The rebellious Don John had tried to take over Arragon. Though beaten, as part of the truce negotiated, Don John agreed to let Don Pedro rule Arragon if Don John may also return to his property in peace.

Don Pedro visits the Governor of Messina, Leonata on his way home. In Messina, Claudio falls deeply in love with Hero, Leonata's daughter whilst his officer Benedick, trades barbs and witty rejoinders with the Leonata's niece, Beatrice. Leonato notes the merry war of words these two have... In love with Hero, Claudio seeks Benedick's opinion, Benedick only teasing him about her, making Claudio determined to marry her. Knowing Claudio loves Hero, Don Pedro nobily arranges to court Hero on Claudio's behalf.

Playing matchmaker, Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio decide to try to make ever the bachelor Benedick fall in love with Beatrice, equally opposed to any nuptials. Hero too gets in on the act, helping to matchmake with the aide of her waiting women. The plan is to trick both Benedict and Beatrice into thinking each has declared their deep love for the other!

Meanwhile, Claudio's marriage to Hero is planned but though Don Pedro has made peace with his brother Don John, Don John, jealous of Claudio's reputation is determined cause him harm....

That very night during a masked party, Don John mischieviously allows Claudio to overhear remarks that he believes Don Pedro, Claudio's friend actually wants Hero for himself. Devastated, Claudio runs off before Don Pedro can tell him the good news that Claudio and Hero will be married. Beatrice finding Claudio, makes him see reason.

Learning of Claudio's eminent marriage to Hero, Don John uses a waiting woman of Hero and his aide Borachio to make it look like Hero is not the fair lady Claudio and Pedro believe her to be. Claudio takes the bait, rejecting and denouncing a heartbroken Hero on the altar!

Friar Francis, believing in Hero's virtue, helps the grief stricken Hero away with her father Leonata's help who soon afterwards announces the death of his daughter from grief at being rejected.

Borachio, however has drunkenly boasted not only of his part in Don John's plan but also about the ducats he received, his subsequent confession restoring Hero's virtue and good name. A public apology is demanded by Leonata from Claudio professing Hero's good virtue. Additionally, an epitagraph is to be hung at Hero's grave then sung by Claudio. In return, Leonata allows Claudio to marry one of his nieces instead of Hero who just so happens to be an almost exact copy of his dead daughter.

This niece reveals herself to be none other than Hero, the planned wedding now marrying two couples, Claudio and Hero and Benedick and Beatrice. At the wedding Benedick and Beatrice question why neither declared their love to each other directly. They learn that they were tricked but realise they loved each other all along... Meanwhile news comes that Don John who had gone into hiding has been taken captured, the play ending with Benedick telling Pedro, now single amongst his friends to "Get thee a wife, get thee a wife!"

Contents

Dramatis Personæ

Act I
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act II
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III

Act III
Scene I,
Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV, Scene V

Act IV
Scene I,
Scene II

Act V
Scene I, Scene II, Scene III, Scene IV

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