Much Ado About Nothing is a comedy written by William Shakespeare. It tells the story of Benedick and Beatrice, who have a sort of 'merry war between them,' and Hero and Claudio, two lovers who will soon marry. While they wait, they decide to try and trick Benedick and Beatrice to fall in love with each other, along with the help of such characters as the prince Don Pedro. Meanwhile, the jealous Don John, illegitimate brother to Don Pedro, decides to trick Claudio into thinking Hero is disloyal.
In the small Sicilian harbor city of Messina, a messenger brings news to the city governor Leonato that his old friend Don Pedro, a prince from the Spanish region of Aragon, will be returning that night from a successful battle with his deputies Benedick and Claudio. When the three soldiers arrive, the proud governor offers Don Pedro to stay for a month, to which the Don accepts. Leonato's niece Beatrice continues her verbal battles with Benedick, vowing never to marry him and making sarcastic remarks about his ineptitude as a soldier, and Claudio rekindles his feelings for her cousin Hero upon seeing her, announcing to Benedick his intentions to court her. Benedick tries to dissuade him, only for Don Pedro to persuade them both otherwise, telling the skeptical deputy that he will find the right person and end up married eventually.
A masquerade ball is planned in celebration, giving a disguised Don Pedro the opportunity to woo Hero for Claudio. His illegitimate brother Don John becomes jealous and decides that he will tell Claudio that Don Pedro must be wooing Hero for himself. Claudio at first gets angry and confronts Don Pedro, but the misunderstanding is quickly resolved and he wins Hero's hand in marriage. Meanwhile, Benedick disguises himself to dance with Beatrice, who accepts his courtship but describes him as a dull fool. Enraged by her words, he sheds off the disguise and swears revenge. Don Pedro and his men, bored at the prospect of waiting a week for the wedding, harbour a plan to make the two rivals fall in love with each other. They arrange for Benedick to hide and eavesdrop on a conversation declaring that Beatrice is madly in love with him but afraid to tell him, and that their pride is the main impediment to their courtship. Hero and her maid Ursula ensure that Beatrice overhears them talking about Benedick's undying love for her. As both tricks desire affect, both Beatrice and Benedick are struck by the fact that they are apparently thought to be too proud to love each other and neither willing to bear the reputation of pride, each deciding to requite the love of the other.
Meanwhile, Don John plans to ruin Claudio and Hero’s wedding by tricking Claudio into thinking Hero is unfaithful. His follower Borachio courts Margaret, Hero's chambermaid, calling her “Hero”, at Hero’s open bedroom window while Don John leads Don Pedro and Claudio to spy below. The prince and Claudio mistake Margaret for Hero and become convinced that Hero is betraying Claudio. Claudio refuses to marry Hero on the day of the wedding. He and Don Pedro humiliate Hero in front of all the guests. Margaret does not speak up, and when the two leave, the dismayed and confused Hero faints with shock. When she wakes up, her father is furious with her, and says that he would rather that Hero die. The presiding Friar interrupts, believing Hero to be innocent, and he convinces the family to fake Hero's death to discover the truth, and make Claudio change his mind and lose his fury at his almost-wife. Leonato and Antonio, Hero's uncle, blame Don Pedro and Claudio for Hero’s 'death,' and both challenge Claudio to duels. Beatrice is sad and enraged, and, after a romantic scene with a possible kiss, Benedick, prompted by Beatrice, does the same.
However, the local Watch has apprehended Borachio and his ally Conrade. The Watch is lead by Dogberry, a man who always gets words mixed up because he doesn't know what everything means (such as 'dissembly' for 'assembly.') they have overheard the duo discussing their evil plans. The Watch arrest them and eventually get Borachio and Conrade to confess, Borachio explaining that it was not Margaret's fault at all, and they inform Leonato of Hero's innocence. Don John has already fled the city, but some are sent to go and catch him back. Claudio, though maintaining he made an honest mistake, is repentant; he agrees to not only post a proper epitaph for Hero, but to marry someone else in her place, as asked by Leonato, a son of Leonato's brother that supposedly looks a lot like the dead Hero.
During Claudio’s second wedding, however, as the dancers enter, the girl is unmasked as Hero herself, to a most surprised and thrilled Claudio. Beatrice and Benedick tell everyone that they only pretended to love each other because they were each told the other would die if they weren't in love with each other. Beatrice and Benedick, prompted by their friends’ interference, finally confess their love for each other, though, after their friends show them love notes they had planned to give to each other. With their own hands against them, the two kiss each other and a messenger arrives with news of Don John’s capture – but his punishment is postponed another day so that the couples can enjoy their newfound happiness. The play ends as a dance begins.
- Beatrice and Benedick might have been in love with each other before Much Ado About Nothing- Beatrice says that she lent her heart to Benedick for a while, but Benedick had won it of her with 'false dice.'
- Beatrice is an orphan.
- Don Pedro is one of the few main characters that looks like he is going to get married but in the end doesn't
- There was a character named Innogen often taken out of the play. She was Leonato's wife, and was either mute, since she never talked, or a character taken out of the play by Shakespeare.
- The earliest printed text states that Much Ado About Nothing was "sundry times publicly acted" prior to 1600 and it is likely that the play made its debut in the autumn or winter of 1598–1599.