Leonato in Much Ado About Nothing: Character Analysis & Traits

Instructor: Beth Hendricks

Beth holds a master's degree in integrated marketing communications, and has worked in journalism and marketing throughout her career.

One of the first characters we meet in ''Much Ado About Nothing'' is Leonato. In this lesson, you'll learn more about Leonato's role in William's Shakespeare's tale and get a glimpse of his character.

Who is Leonato?

Leonato, in Much Ado About Nothing, is first. He is the first character we're introduced to, the first character to speak, and his home is the first - and primary - location used as the backdrop for the story. Leonato is the governor of Messina, Italy, where the play is set (although he's second in social hierarchy to Don Pedro). Regardless, Leonato is treated with reverence and is well-respected.

Leonato is the father of Hero, who is described throughout the play as both sweet and kind, and he is the uncle of Beatrice, Hero's witty, sometimes cynical cousin (and friend). As the story opens, Leonato is awaiting Don Pedro's return from war. As the play progresses, the bulk of the action takes place under Leonato's roof and watchful eye, including the courtships of his daughter and his niece, and the deception perpetrated against them, which Leonato investigates and remedies. In short, Leonato is the glue that holds the storyline together, through his seniority, stability and wisdom.

What are some other traits of Leonato's that can be assessed? Read on for a few possibilities.

Leonato's Traits

1. Easily influenced: In Much Ado About Nothing, we see Leonato let himself be influenced somewhat by the activities and events around him, including the ideas and opinions of the other characters. For example, he initially consents to a relationship between his daughter and Don Pedro; later, that becomes a relationship between his daughter and Claudio. When Don John plots against Hero and Claudio, Leonato initially believes the accusations, then changes his mind. He is also part of the 'plot' to convince Beatrice and Benedick to fall in love. All of these are indicators that, despite his wisdom, his thoughts can be easily guided by the individuals around him.

2. Just: Leonato seems interested in seeing justice done in the wake of the accusation against his daughter, Hero. His punishment for Claudio is to require the man to declare Hero's innocence to everyone in town, and to marry a mysterious family member believed to be Hero's cousin (revealed to be Hero herself).

Leonato also stops Don Pedro and Claudio from fleeing his home after the accusation against Hero is made, until he is able to discern the truth of the situation - whatever that may be. This indicates his patience and wisdom. He leads the investigation into the matter, with others falling in line behind him. This illustrates not only Leonato's quest for answers, but also his desire to protect his family.

3. Hospitable: When the play first begins, Leonato is awaiting guests to arrive at his home and making preparations for just that. By requesting shelter at Leonato's home, the men returning from battle show readers that Leonato is someone to be considered important. Leonato's willingness to house these individuals shows his hospitality and compassion.

Throughout the play, Leonato also treats all individuals with the same courtesy, even Dogberry (the play's antagonist) and lower class citizens. Regardless of their standing relative to Leonato's social power, he treats everyone respectfully.

4. Important: Leonato serves, in some ways, as a narrator of the play, introducing the various characters and keeping the action moving. Moreover, we see Leonato's importance in the way the play's various characters revere him, including the men who request lodging after returning from battle. The way Leonato helps his family members and his response following the dishonoring of Hero also illustrate his important role.

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