So my kids will be seeing Much Ado About Nothing for the first time on Wednesday. I’ve told them the story generally, but wanted to write something down that attempted to touch on the major plot points and characters a little more thoroughly. I was surprised that, while I could find plenty of summaries that walked right through the play front to back, I couldn’t find any that I would actually have a child read.
With that, I whipped this up. It is literally first draft right from brain to fingers to Microsoft Word. If I have time I will edit it up a bit, but I was running out of time and wanted to get something written that I could print out and let them read. I sometimes wonder if I should sit down and make a handful of these that I’m actually happy with, and make them available for download for other parents in my situation who want something that a 6yr old could read.
Beatrice and Hero, two young ladies of the city of Messina, were excited to meet their father’s guests. Don Pedro had come home from the war and brought with him two heroes of the battle, Claudio and Benedick. Beatrice had actually known Benedick for a long time, and though she was secretly glad to see him again, she wouldn’t tell anybody. Don Pedro would also be bringing his brother Don John, who had been getting himself into trouble lately and needed to be kept where Don Pedro could keep an eye on him.
When Claudio meets Hero he immediately falls in love, and it is not long before he seeks out her father Leonato to ask for her hand in marriage. Benedick and Beatrice, on the other hand, do nothing but hurl insults back and forth at each other every chance they get. During a costume ball Beatrice even ends up dancing with Benedick without knowing who it is, and she continually but unknowingly insults him to his face.
Meanwhile, Don John is bored and looking to stir up some trouble. When he sees the budding romance between Claudio and Hero, Don John tries to sabotage it by spreading the rumor that Hero is in love with Don Pedro. No one believes the story, and it’s not long before everyone begins planning the wedding of Hero and Claudio. Excited that he’s already played matchmaker once, Don Pedro decides that he will cause Benedick and Beatrice to fall in love as well. With the help of Hero and the others, they make sure that Benedick hears them talking of Beatrice’s love for him. Likewise, when they know Beatrice will hear they talk about Benedick’s love for Beatrice. Separately, both of them begin to realize that maybe love is what they’ve felt for each other all along.
Don John has not given up yet, however. One of his workers, Borachio, has his girlfriend dress in Hero’s clothes and meet him in at night near Hero’s house. When Don Pedro and Claudio are walking nearby, they see this strange man with a woman who looks like Hero. Hero is to marry Claudio, so this is one of the worst possible things that Claudio could see.
Claudio is so angry that he doesn’t just call off the wedding, he lets the entire ceremony proceed until it is his time to speak. Then, in front of her family and all her friends, Claudio says that he knows of her unfaithfulness to him and calls her all manner of terrible names. Hero faints, but her father Leonato believes Claudio’s accusations. Beatrice and Benedick believe Hero, and together with the priest they calm Leonato down and convince him that it would be best for everyone to spread the word that Hero has died of grief.
While they work together to save Hero’s honor, Benedick finally tells Beatrice that he loves her. Beatrice seizes on the opportunity and tells him, “If you love me, you’ll do anything for me, right? Good, go kill Claudio.” Benedick does not have to challenge his friend, however, because Hero’s father has already done it. Just before they are about to go through with the duel, the local sheriff Dogberry marches a captured Borachio onstage and explains that he overheard him confessing the entire plan.
Everyone now understands why Claudio said what he did, and Claudio is overwhelmed with guilt. Claudio is the only one who does not know that Hero is actually still alive. He promises to do whatever Leonato asks, as penance for what he put the family through. Leonato says that Claudio must agree to marry his niece (not Beatrice), a woman that Claudio has never seen. Claudio, a man of his word, agrees to this arrangement. Of course, this “other woman” is actually Hero, who surprises Claudio at the altar.
With everyone once again in a marrying mood, the friends get together and pressure Benedick and Beatrice to admit that they are in love and should marry. Claudio shows a poem that Benedick wrote expressing his love for Beatrice, and Hero shows a similar poem that Beatrice wrote about Benedick. Still insulting each other the entire time, Beatrice and Benedick agree to marry.