Overview / Summary

Written by William Shakespeare

Leonato, is a respectable nobleman, who lives in the Italian town of Messina with his daughter Hero and niece Beatrice and elderly brother Antonio.

At the start of the play Leonato prepares to welcome his friends from war – his friends include Don Pedro – a prince and close friend of Leonato and two soldiers Claudio and Benedick.

Claudio is a well respected nobleman.

Benedick is a clever witty man who makes jokes often to ridicule his friends.

Don John is Don Pedro’s illegitimate brother who is also part of the group. Don John unlike his brother is sullen and bitter looking to make trouble for others.

The soldiers arrive at Leonato’s home and Claudio falls in love with Hero. Whilst Benedick and Beatrice flirt through their exchange of witty insults.

Claudio and Hero quickly decide to get married. To pass their time before the wedding the group of friends decide to get Benedick and Beatrice to stop fighting and to fall in love with each other, the trick is successful and the two secretly fall for each other.

Don John in his sullen mood decides to disrupt the fun. He has his friend Borachio make love to Margaret, Hero’s serving women in Hero’s room late at night. The make love in the window and Don John brings Claudio and Don Pedro to watch – thus accusing Hero of having an affair.

Claudio in his anguish accuses Hero of having an affair and abandons her on the altar on the day of their wedding. Hero’s humiliated family decide to pretend she has died of grief and shock, and they hide her away.

Benedick and Beatrice finally get together.

The night watchmen overhear Borachio bragging about his crime and as a result Dogberry and Verges, the heads of the local police, arrest both Borachio and Conrad another accomplice.

It becomes apparent that Hero is in fact innocent.

Claudio who believes Hero is dead, grieves for his loss. Leonato tells Claudio that to pay for his treatment of Hero he must publicly apologise and tell everybody that she is in fact innocent.

Leonato tells Claudio that he must also marry his niece – a young girl who looks similar to Hero. Claudio goes to the church preparing to marry the mysterious niece.

Hero reveals herself as the mysterious niece. Claudio is overwhelmed with joy.

Benedick then asks Beatrice if she will marry him. The joyful lovers celebrate with a dance and a double wedding.

This is one of Shakespeare’s comedies.


  • The play is one of Shakespeare's comedies and the resolution ends in the marriage of both couples.
  • The play is set in Messina in Italy.
  • The action takes place at Leonato’s house.
  • Leonato is Hero’s father and Beatrice’s uncle.
  • Don Pedro, Claudio and Benedick return from war at the start of the play.
  • Don Pedro is the social supreme in the play.
  • Don John is the illegitimate bastard brother of Don Pedro.
  • Benedick and Beatrice fall in love.
  • Hero and Claudio fall in love.
  • The play focuses on the love stories.
  • The main plot centres around the love and deception of Hero and Claudio’s relationship.
  • The sub plot follows the fanciful and playful love between Beatrice and Benedick.
  • Both Hero and Claudio are deceived by Don John and Borachio.
  • The play centres around deception – deception has negative and positive effects in the play.
  • Leonato is Hero’s father and as a result suffers the shame and deception of Don John and Borachio.
  • The play reflects many of the social circumstances of the time such as honour, love, social standing and social grace.
  • The use of language is important throughout the play.
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