When word arrives that Don Pedro, prince of Aragon, is returning home to Messina following a successful campaign, Leonato, the governor of the town, invites the soldiers to stay. This re-kindles feelings between Claudio, a young soldier, and Hero, Leonato’s daughter. This also re-kindles an entirely different sort of feelings (disdain, disgust, a general sense of can u not) between Benedick, another soldier, and Beatrice, Leonato’s niece.
Beatrice has something of a history with Benedick. They are constantly sparring with each other verbally, and basically everybody can tell that they’re two idiots in love except for them. Hero and Claudio fall in love and plan their wedding, and the friends of both scheme to get Beatrice and Benedick to admit their true feelings so they can pair up too. But Don John, who hates fun and happiness, conspires to ruin everything, and sets a plan in motion that erodes Claudio’s belief in Hero’s fidelity. And on the day of their wedding, Claudio refuses hero, calls her a whore, and Hero falls unconscious due to grief.
New evidence comes to light, thanks to the bumbling yet oddly observant Watch, headed by the ridiculous constable Dogberry, and the truth of Don John’s actions is revealed. Claudio makes amends, the ‘dead’ Hero comes back to life, and Beatrice and Benedick admit their love for each other. [Read the original play here.]
Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonored my kinswoman? Oh, that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they come to take hands and then, with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancor—O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace.
—Beatrice, Act 4, Scene 1
Much Ado About Nothing is one of my favorite plays. It’s arguably the Ur-Romcom, the font of so many tropes, and it lends itself incredibly well to adaptations and modernizations. This is probably because the themes of the play are so primal and timeless: Love, trust, infatuation, suspicion, betrayal, jealousy. The whole slap-slap-kiss romantic comedy thing is alive and well and living in Messina.