The Much Ado About Nothing play is set in Messina, Sicily, in a beautiful, sumptuous villa with elaborate gardens, parks and other leisure areas that provide the many hiding places that are required for a plot that is moved forward by everyone’s eavesdropping on each other. One of the later scenes takes place in a stately graveyard.
Date written: 1598-1599
Genre classification: Much ado About Nothing is regarded as a Comedy
Main characters in Much Ado About Nothing: Leonato, the owner of the villa, is the Governor of Messina. He has a daughter, Hero. His brother, Antonio lives with them, as does his niece, Beatrice.
Don Pedro, the Prince of Arragon, is a friend of Leonato, who passes through Messina every time he returns from the wars. He has an illegitimate brother, Don John, the bastard. Don Pedro brings his officers with him and one of them, Claudio, falls in love with Leontes’ daughter, Hero.
Another officer, Benedick, has had an antagonistic relationship with Beatrice for years, each with a strong dislike of each other. Several of the other characters determine to manipulate them into falling in love, which they do, becoming the central characters. See a full list of characters in Much Ado About Nothing.
Much Ado About Nothing themes: The word ‘nothing’ would have been pronounced ‘noting’ in Shakespeare’s time, so the play is as much about noting and seeing as being about a lot of fuss about nothing. One of the themes is about what we see and making judgments on that, even though what we’re seeing may not be what it seems – Shakespeare’s old favourite, appearance and reality.
Other themes are gender, infidelity, deception and, of course, the nature of love.