Antonio in Much Ado About Nothing: Character Analysis & Quotes

Instructor: Joseph Altnether

Joe has taught college English courses for several years, has a Bachelor's degree in Russian Studies and a Master's degree in English literature.

Antonio, brother of Leonato, assumes many roles in Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing'. He provides his brother with information and advice. He protects his brother and he defends his niece's honor. He is a multi-faceted character.

Family Man

Family is an important theme in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Antonio, Leonato's brother and Hero's uncle, is seen in the first part of the play as having a strong capacity for diplomacy and counsel and is always looking out for his family's interest. It is Antonio who tells Leonato some news he has heard regarding Leonato's daughter, Hero.

Antonio had learned that the Prince, Don Pedro, ''loved my niece your daughter and meant to acknowledge it this night in a dance.'' Although Leonato is skeptical of this news, Antonio counsels Leonato that he is certain of it since he heard it from ''a good sharp fellow.'' He even counsels Hero, telling her ''I trust you will be ruled by your father.'' He is strongly advising Hero to behave in a proper manner that honors her father and her family.

Antonio's dedication to family becomes even more apparent when Hero is publicly denounced by Claudio as an ''approved wanton.'' Although Leonato initially believes what Claudio has said, he is quickly swayed by the friar's belief in Hero's innocence and approves the friar's plan to ''Let her awhile be secretly kept in,/And publish it that she is dead indeed.''

Therapist

All still is not well, however, as Leonato is deeply grieved and angry about the wicked actions that have ruined Hero's reputation. Antonio recognizes this and attempts to calm him down and raise his spirits. He knows a great tragedy has befallen his brother, but he also knows that Leonato has a duty as the governor of Messina. He needs to be strong not only in appearance, but mentally as well. He counsels Leonato and tells him ''If you go on thus, you will kill yourself.'' Antonio is direct and to the point, telling Leonato what he needs to hear.

Antonio further advises Leonato that '' 'tis not wisdom thus to second grief/Against yourself.'' He is telling Leonato that his actions could lead to greater harm. Although Antonio is trying to protect Leonato, Leonato is not appeased. He tells Antonio to ''give me no counsel./My griefs cry louder than advertisement,'' meaning that the crying from his grief is too loud to hear Antonio.

Antonio, wanting Leonato to relieve his grief, gives Leonato some advice. Rather than surrender to grief, ''bend not all harm upon yourself./Make those that do offend you suffer too.'' Antonio is no longer the advocate for diplomacy. Rather, he encourages Leonato to exact revenge under the Old Testament proverbial ''eye for an eye.'' Leonato agrees with Antonio's suggestion stating, ''There thou speak'st reason; nay, I will do so.'' As fate would have it, Claudio appears.

Bodyguard

Leonato confronts Claudio saying, ''Thou dost wrong me; thou dissembler, thou.'' The confrontation becomes more heated with Leonato challenging Claudio. Antonio, ever the protector, intervenes on behalf of his brother, and it is at this point that Antonio's emotions have taken over, and the voice of reason has left him, culminating in a desire for revenge.

He challenges Claudio, declaring that if Claudio wants a fight ''He shall kill two of us.../Win me and wear me; let him answer me.../I'll whip you from your foining fence.'' Antonio is letting Claudio know that when he challenges one brother, he challenges them both, and he will gladly fight him with his sword.

Not only does Antonio step in to help his brother, but he also defends the honor of his niece. He tells Claudio ''God knows I lov'd my niece;/And she is dead, slander'd to death by villains.'' Antonio is riled up, and it is Leonato who must now calm him down. He pleads with Antonio to stop, but Antonio resists. He answers Leonato ''Do not you meddle; let me deal in this.'' Antonio has taken charge to defend Hero's honor. Leonato eventually pulls Antonio away.

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