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Much Ado About Nothing Act 1 Summary

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

What happens in the first act of Shakespeare's 'Much Ado About Nothing'? Who are the first characters we're introduced to, and what is important to them? In this lesson we will answer these questions and then some. Read on to get the scoop.

So Much Drama

If you've ever been on the receiving end of gossip, you probably already know how it can get twisted and out of hand. Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing could very easily be about high school students rather than soldiers and governors. It features lying, crushes, scheming and a lot of gossip. Let's take a look at what goes down in the first act of Much Ado About Nothing.

Act 1 Scene 1: Introductions

Much Ado About Nothing opens with Leonato, the governor of Messina, receiving a letter about a recent battle led by a man named Don Pedro. Leonato chats about the war and comments that a battle is much better when all the soldiers return home. The messenger agrees and tells Leonato about a brave soldier named Claudio who was honored by Don Pedro. The messenger says that Claudio has ''the figure of a lamb' but performs 'the feats of a lion.'' In other words, he is young and innocent-looking like a lamb, but performs like a lion.

As the men are gossiping about the battle, Beatrice, Leonato's niece, asks about a man named Signior Benedick. It turns out he's fine and has already returned home. Beatrice asks how many men Signior Benedick killed, revealing that she promised to eat any men he killed as a joking wager against him. Beatrice continues picking on Benedick for awhile. When the messenger defends him by saying he is ''stuffed with all honorable virtues,'' Beatrice comments that he is definitely stuffed with something. She also observes that he changes friends like other people change hats.

After Beatrice is done making fun of Benedick, Don Pedro and the army arrive on the scene, thanking Leonato for hosting them. Since Benedick is also in the crew, we see more of the banter between Beatrice and Benedick. When Benedick makes a sarcastic comment about Beatrice's mom, she responds with ''I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick. Nobody marks you.' In other words, she finds it fascinating that he is still talking since no one cares what he has to say. Benedick gets her back by saying he wishes his horse could move as fast as Beatrice's mouth.

Claudio and Hero, Up in a Tree

Later, when everyone settles down for the night, we find Claudio (the brave young man) and Benedick having a chat. Claudio asks Benedick what he thinks of Hero (Leonato's daughter) and Benedick teases him, asking if he is assessing her because he wants to buy her. Claudio's response to this ribbing is to say that he could not imagine being able to buy a jewel so precious. In other words, Claudio has a massive crush on Hero. Benedick finds this irritating and wonders why all men have to give up their bachelorhood and ''yoke'' themselves to a woman.

Don Pedro finds the two boys and asks them what they are tittering about. Benedick proceeds to reveal Claudio's crush on Hero. Don Pedro thinks this is fine and even comments that they would be a cute couple. Okay, he actually says ''the lady is very well worthy,'' but we are pretty sure he means that they would be super-cute together. Benedick says that he thinks it is a bad idea. When Don Pedro and Claudio say that Benedick never seemed to like women, he replies that he loves his mother, but that no other women should be trusted.

At the of the scene, Don Pedro promises Claudio that he will talk to Hero's dad (Leonato) and get him to promise that Hero will marry Claudio.

Act 1 Scene 2; He Said She Said

Act 1, Scene 2 opens with Antonio telling Leonato he has ''strange news that you yet dreamt not of.' In other words, he has some juicy gossip. He reveals that a servant overheard Don Pedro saying he was going to woo Hero and ask her to marry him. In case you missed it, this is totally incorrect and is a good example of how gossip goes wrong. What really happened is that Don Pedro promised he would speak to Hero on Claudio's behalf. Oh well. In response to this information, Leonato says that he will speak to his daughter so that Don Pedro's proposal doesn't come as a surprise.

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