A comedy by Shakespeare, written probably 1598–9, first printed 1600. Its chief sources are a novella by Bandello and an episode in Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.
The prince of Arragon, with Claudio and Benedick in his suite, visits Leonato, duke of Messina, father of Hero and uncle of Beatrice. The sprightly Beatrice has a teasing relationship with the sworn bachelor Benedick. Beatrice and Benedick are each tricked into believing the other in love, and this brings about a genuine sympathy between them. Meanwhile Don John, the malcontented brother of the prince, thwarts Claudio's marriage by arranging for him to see Hero apparently wooed by his friend Borachio on her balcony—it is really her maidservant Margaret in disguise. Hero is publicly denounced by Claudio on her wedding day, falls into a swoon, and apparently dies. Benedick proves his love for Beatrice by challenging Claudio to a duel. The plot by Don John and Borachio is unmasked by the ‘shallow fools’ Dogberry and Verges, the local constables. Claudio promises to make Leonato amends for his daughter's death, and is asked to marry a cousin of Hero's; the veiled lady turns out to be Hero herself. Benedick asks to be married at the same time; Beatrice, ‘upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption’, agrees, and the play ends with a dance.
Subjects: Shakespeare Studies and Criticism.
Related content in Oxford Index
William Shakespeare (1564—1616) playwright and poet