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School of the Nations IGCSE Literature

Study Questions For Much Ado About Nothing

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These Questions Will Help You To Prepare For Any Examination On This Play.

First Things First 

Think about the title for a moment.  To Shakespeare's audience, "Nothing" would have been pronounced "noting" and meant more than just  "nothing."  The word also meant "to note" as to take notice of something, or "noting" as in musical notation.  Is the play just a little romance about "nothing" that is truly important?  What are we to think about the mis-use of "noticing" (eavesdropping, gossip, slander, mistaken views)?  Does music have a message for the audience? 

Act 1 - Falling In Love 

1. Claudio first mentions Hero in Act 1, Scene 1 "Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?" (1.1.158).  What is it about her that catches his interest?  Does he truly "fall in love at first sight?"
2. Claudio, Don Pedro (the Prince), and Benedick are great friends.  How do Don Pedro and Benedick react to Claudioís interest in Hero?  "Pals before Gals"? 
3. What is going on with Beatrice and Benedick?  She calls him Sir Mountanto; he calls her my dear Lady Disdain. Do you think they have met previously?  What is their relationship? 
4. Why does Don Pedro offer to woo Hero for Claudio? 
5. Leonato's brother overhears a conversation in Scene 2 and completely misunderstands the meaning.  What does he do with this mis-information, and what is the result of his action? 
6. In Scene 3, Don John proposes a plan to undermine the Princeís plans for Claudio and Hero.  Why does Don John care what happens to Claudio? 

Act 2 - You Can't Believe Everything You Hear 

1. When Don Pedro talks with Hero, are we certain he woos her for Claudio, and not for himself?  How is this conversation conducted?  Do we hear the entire conversation, or only a portion?  How are other conversations in this scene conducted?  Who are the eavesdroppers to the masked ball in Scene 1? 
2. Think about masks and what they might symbolize.  What happens when people wear a mask or costume to a party? 
3. Does Beatrice recognize Benedick behind the mask?  Does he THINK she recognizes him?  How does he react to their conversation, and what does this reveal about him? 
4. Why does Don John's plan against Don Pedro and Claudio fail?  Why does he continue plotting? 
5. Don Pedro succeeds in bringing together Claudio and Hero, and then turns his attention to uniting another couple?  Why is he so interested in everyone's love life? 
6. In Scene 3, Benedick retreats to the garden to think about love?  What is his reaction to Claudioís engagement to Hero? 
7. What is the message of Balthasarís song and how is it significant to the action of Scene 3? 
8. The Prince, Claudio, and Leonato carefully stage their conversation to make Benedick think that Beatrice is in love with him?  Why does Benedick believe what he hears? 

Act 3 - You Can't Believe Everything You See 

1. Don Pedro continues his plan to unite Beatrice and Benedick.  How does the conversation Beatrice overhears compare with what Benedick heard?  How do Hero, Margaret, and Ursula appeal to Beatrice's sense of belief? 
2. In Scene 2, Benedick appears to act like a courtly lover.  Can we believe his actions? 
3. Also in Scene 2, Don John informs his brother of Hero's dishonor; why is the Prince willing to believe Don John? 
4. What happens at the window?  Does the audience witness this scene?  How do you think this scene might be effectively staged? 
5. What is the purpose of Constable Dogberry and the Watch?  Do they understand each other?  Does Leonato understand them? 
6. Think about each of the deceptions presented thus far in the play.  Who planned each trick and why?  Was the trick successful?  Do you think the deception was ethical (good/acceptable or bad/unacceptable)? 

Act 4 - The Power of Words 

1. Claudio waits to denounce Hero publicly at the wedding.  Why?  and Why doesn't Hero defend herself?  Even Leonato does not defend his own daughter, but believes the accusations of Claudio and the Prince.  What does the importance men place on Hero's virtue tell us about women in this society? 
2. Beatrice is more vocal than Hero; how does she react to Hero's humiliation?  How do you think she would react if SHE were accused instead of Hero? 
3. The Friar and Beatrice seem to be the only ones who believe in Hero's innocence.  Examine the text for clues as to why they feel this way. 
4. Why does Benedick move away from his pals, Claudio and the Prince, to support Beatrice in the Friar's plan?  Is Beatrice's request, "Kill Claudio" understandable? 
5. In this act, the play moves from a legal wedding to a legal hearing.  The language of one scene is orderly but creates chaos, and the language of the other IS chaos but creates order.  What is Shakespeare telling us about language and how it is used? 

Act 5 - Happily Ever After? 

1. Leonato and Antonio try to challenge Claudio to a duel, but they are ignored.  When Benedick presents the challenge, the Prince and Claudio seem surprised.  What does this change in the menís relationship signify? 
2. When Dogberry brings in the prisoners Borachio and Conrade his explanation is still garbled and confusing; yet, he is able to bring out the truth.  Does this mean he is smarter than everyone else?  Or, is he just "an ass"? 
3. Claudio apologizes to Leonato and agrees to hang a memorial to Hero and to marry Leonato's niece.  Is it really fair for Leonato to continue the deception about Hero's death?  Why doesn't he just tell Claudio that she is alive? 
4. Think about the second wedding as The Test of Claudio ? he agrees to marry a woman he has never seen before, yet he fell in love with Hero "at first sight."  He is tossed back and forth like a piece of property; what does this notion of social status bring to mind? 
5. Beatrice and Benedick agree to marry out of pity to the other until they are shown their own sonnets and realize they really do love each other.  What will their marriage be like?  How do you think it might differ from Claudio and Hero's marriage? 
6. Let us not forget the Prince. . . he is all alone at the end of the play.  Recall how the play opened with news of Don Pedro's arrival in Messina accompanied by his soldiers.  Is his status unchanged or strengthened by his experience in Messina? 

Essay Questions and Model Answers.

1. Why might it be hard to believe that Hero and Claudio really love each other?
Answer: Many readers have difficulty accepting the romantic relationship between Hero and Claudio. After all, they have barely met before they fall in love and decide to get married, and then Claudio betrays Hero viciously. But the idea of love at first sight was popular in Shakespeare’s day. Romeo and Juliet, for instance, fall in love at first sight. Moreover, Claudio’s methods of courting Hero through other people would have been an accepted tactic among Elizabethan nobility.
Claudio’s belief that Don John’s trick is reality is a much bigger problem. Some readers feel that it is impossible to sympathize with Claudio after he rejects Hero in the church. One fact that defends Claudio is that he is young and inexperienced. Also, Don John is very clever—even the older, more experienced Don Pedro is deceived by his ruse. Hero’s willingness to forgive Claudio is just as disturbing as Claudio’s rejection of Hero. She does not challenge his behavior toward her but instead marries him willingly. In the end, though, Claudio is awestruck and delighted by Hero’s -unexpected reappearance.
2. Speech and conversation are important in the play, and many of the characters have distinctive ways of speaking. How do the characters’ speech patterns differ?
Answer: The speech patterns of the play’s characters vary widely. Some speak with elegance and passion. Two examples of particular eloquence are Leonato’s speech after Hero is betrayed and Beatrice’s expression of her anger at Claudio. But Benedick and Beatrice also share a special way of speaking all their own, in which they are constantly making jokes and puns; this verbal sparring highlights their special gift of wit. Other characters have no such skill with words. Dogberry is always getting his words wrong to very humorous effect. However, his mistakes hinder communication, as in Act III, scene v, when Dogberry and the Watch try to tell Leonato that they have caught Borachio but cannot make themselves understood. Finally, some characters seldom speak at all, like the sullen and bitter Don John or the gentle but usually shy Hero and Claudio.
3. How do gossip, conversation, and overhearing function in the play?
Answer: Much of the plot is moved along by characters eavesdropping on a conversation and either misunderstanding what they overhear or being deceived by gossip or by a trick. Hero, Claudio, and the rest trick Benedick and Beatrice by setting them up to overhear conversations in which their friends deliberately mislead them. Don John’s spiteful gossip makes Claudio and Don Pedro suspicious that Hero is disloyal. The window trick, in which Borachio and the disguised Margaret make love at Hero’s window, is itself a sort of overhearing. In this case, two people spying on the scene, Claudio and Don Pedro, misunderstand what they see, because Don John has set it up to deceive them. The window scene restages the trick played upon Beatrice and Benedick, but with the opposite effect. Instead of causing two people to fall in love, it causes Claudio to abandon Hero. Finally, at the end of the play, overhearing restores order. The men of the Watch, hearing Borachio brag about his crime to Conrad, arrest him and bring him to justice (III.iii).
4. What does the play say about relationships between women and men?
Answer: Much Ado About Nothing features one of Shakespeare’s most admired and well-loved heroines, Beatrice. Her strength of spirit, sense of independence, and fierce wit place her among the most powerful female characters Shakespeare ever created. But her self-sufficiency does not prevent her from accepting love. Although both she and Benedick have vowed that they will never marry, they change their minds quickly, and both decide that marriage is better than being single. However, Claudio and Hero do not enjoy the strong and egalitarian relationship that Benedick and Beatrice do. Hero’s plight reminds us that a woman in the Renaissance was vulnerable to the accusations or bad treatment of men—including her own male relatives. Leonato, in his grief, gives orders to let his daughter die after Claudio abandons her in Act IV, scene i. If not for the intervention of Beatrice and the friar, it is not clear what might have happened to Hero.