Much Ado About Nothing Act 4 Summary

Instructor: J.R. Hudspeth

Jackie has taught college English and Critical Thinking and has a Master's degree in English Rhetoric and Composition

Don John's plan to ruin Hero's wedding and embarrass his half-brother Don Pedro is full steam ahead! Can Dogberry and Verges figure out the plot and stop it in time? Will Hero's reputation be ruined? What about Beatrice and Benedick getting together as a couple? Read on for a summary of Act Four in Shakespeare's ''Much Ado About Nothing!''

Our Story So Far

While Don Pedro has one of his friends and fellow soldier, Claudio, ready to marry the lady Hero, he plots to get another, Benedick, to end up with Beatrice. Don Pedro's scheming half-brother Don John would rather break up Claudio and Hero and ruin everyone's lives! He puts his plan to do so into motion, but it might be all for nothing if the dimwitted detective duo of Dogberry and Verges can figure out the scheme. They have to do it quickly, though, because it's wedding day for Claudio and Hero, and Don John's scheme will soon be successful.

Scene One: In Which Claudio Wrecks a Wedding

Hero and Claudio are at the church for a brief ceremony. When the clergyman overseeing the wedding (Friar Francis) asks if there is anything that should keep Hero and Claudio from being married, Hero and her father Leonato do not say anything, but Claudio viciously insults Hero, calling her beautiful on the outside, but rotten on the inside. Don John has tricked Claudio into believing that Hero has been cheating on him. Hero is so shocked that she faints.

Because women are harshly punished for breaking the strict social rules that society assigns to them in Shakespeare's time, this is an even bigger deal than it would be in modern times. Don Pedro is disgraced for making Claudio a match with a woman who would sleep with others before her marriage, just as Don John hoped for. Leonato is also shamed for having a daughter who sleeps around to the point that he openly states that he will murder her. Much worse, poor Hero is basically a social outcast because of Claudio's claim.

A depiction of Claudio accusing Hero of cheating on him. Hero reacts with such shock that she faints.
claudioaccusation

More of Scene One: The Friar's Crazy Plan

Hero is overcome with emotion, and Beatrice tries to defend Hero. Friar Francis also claims that he can tell just from looking at Hero's face that the accusations against her are not true. Benedick suspects that it's Don John who has somehow created this story to use against Hero because Don John always causes trouble. However, Don Pedro and Claudio storm out of the wedding.

Friar Francis then comes up with a crazy plan: He tells Leonato to keep Hero hidden in the house and to pretend that she died because of these accusations. The friar argues that maybe the men who plotted against her will feel guilty, or maybe that Claudio will feel guilty for believing that Hero would ever cheat on him. At worst, the Friar says, Hero can be sent away to become a nun if it's true, as at least that will keep her out of the public eye and away from ever having sex again.

A Thomas Francis Dicksee painting of Beatrice. Beatrice asks Benedick to prove his love for her by challenging Claudio in Act Four
beatrice2

Even More of Scene One: Beatrice and Benedick

After Hero, Leonato, and Friar Francis leave, Benedick talks to Beatrice. At first, they talk about Hero, but then, Benedick professes his love for Beatrice. Beatrice is shaken because of what happened to her cousin Hero, and after seeing Claudio's behavior, she doesn't trust that Benedick is telling the truth.

Benedick swears that he loves her and that he would even kill someone who claimed otherwise. Beatrice wants him to prove his love to her by killing Claudio, whom she is angry at for ruining Hero's reputation and life. Benedick refuses at first, so Beatrice turns him down completely, going on a rant about how she wishes that she were a man so that she could fight Claudio herself, or that at least there were a man around who would step up and do it for her.

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