English 304: Shakespeare: Major Plays (Prof. Boyer)
Reading Questions for Much Ado About Nothing
Keyed to The Norton Shakespeare
The best beginning procedure is always to familiarize yourself with the cast of characters and then to read the play (or at least an act or a scene) all the way through so that you know what's happening. The notes can help if you're stuck, but try to get the big picture of a scene before getting bogged down in details. Read through, then go back and clear up details. Then you're ready to think about the questions.

Act 1
Act 2
Act 3
Act 4
Act 5
Return to list of English 304 reading questions 

ACT 1

1.1

1.

What things does Leonato learn at the beginning of the scene (1.1.1-24)?

2.

Who is Signor Montanto (1.1.25-29) and what is his relation to Beatrice (1.1.30-75)?

3.

What happens during the first meeting of Beatrice and Benedick (1.1.76-118)? What was their relationship in the past?

4.

What is decided next, and who is welcomed (1.1.119-129)?

5.

Hero enters at the beginning of the play and remains onstage until 1.1.129. How much does she have to say? How would you describe her at this point?

6.

What do Claudio and Benedick talk about when the others leave (1.1.130-164)? Pay attention to the repeated use of "note" in 1.1.130-132 (and throughout the play). The "nothing" of the play's title would have been pronounced "noting," and so we might expect the play to deal a lot with ideas of "noting."

7.

What happens when Don Pedro joins them (1.1.165-237)? What is Benedick's attitude toward marriage? From what we've seen so far, how likely is he to remain in that position for the duration of the play?

8.

What does Don Pedro agree to do for Claudio (1.1.238-276)? Note 1.1.242-243, and be sure you know what Don Pedro has agreed to do in 1.1.268-276.

1.2

1.

What has Antonio's man overheard? How accurately has the man heard (noted) what was said, given what we know from the end of 1.1?

1.3

1.

What sort of person is Don John? Why should he probably lay low for the time being? How does he describe himself (1.3.25)?

2.

What has Borachio overheard? How accurately has he heard (noted) what was said, given what we know from the end of 1.1?

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ACT 2

2.1

1.

What is happening at the beginning of the scene (2.1.1-41)? What is Beatrice's attitude toward marriage? From what we've seen so far, how likely is she to remain in that position for the duration of the play?

2.

What instructions do Leonato and Antonio have for Hero (2.1.42-69)? What do Leonaro and Antonio think will happen that evening? (Remember 1.2.)

3.

Hero is on stage from the beginning of the scene. How much does she have to say? How would you describe her at this point?

4.

Pay attention to the staging of the dance (2.1.71-133). Everyone is dancing on stage, but we hear one couple after another.

5.

What happens when Don Pedro, who is wearing a mask, talks with Hero, who is probably not wearing a mask (2.1.71-82)? Given what we've heard and seen so far (both of Hero and of the instructions she was given), are you surprised by Hero's behavior here? Does she do what her father told her to do? (Of course, they keep talking after line 82, but we can't hear them.) Does this scene change your impression of Hero?

6.

What happens between Balthasar and Margaret, and between Ursula and Antonio (2.1.83-105).

7.

What happens between Beatrice and Benedick (2.1.106-133)? Does Beatrice know she is speaking with Benedick (who is wearing a mask)? Does Benedick think she knows who she is speaking with?

8.

After the dancing, what do Claudio and Benedick think has happened between Don Pedro and Hero (2.1.161-177)? How does Benedick respond to his talk with Beatrice (2.1.178-184).

9.

What happens when Don Pedro and Benedick talk (2.1.185-239)? What does Benedick accuse Don Pedro of in lines 193-201? How does Don Pedro answer (lines 202-203), and how does Benedick take his answer (lines 204-205)? How does Benedick describe Beatrice (2.1.206-239)?

10.

What does Beatrice tell us about her relationship with Benedick (2.1.240-249)?

11.

What news does Don Pedro have for Claudio (2.1.249-265)? How do Claudio and Hero respond (2.1.266-277)? How much does Hero have to say in lines 240-277)?

12.

Read the little scene between Don Pedro and Beatrice carefully (2.1.278-294). What happens here? How serious is Don Pedro's offer (line 285)? How well does Beatrice cover hersenf in case she has offended Don Pedro? How old is Don Pedro, by the way?

13.

What does Don Pedro get Leonato, Claudio, and Hero to agree to do to pass the time until the wedding (2.1.299-356)? Is Don Pedro right in line 306? How much does Hero have to say in this part of the scene?

2.2

1.

What is Borachio's plan to stop the wedding of Hero and Claudio? Does it sound like it will work?

2.3

1.

How effective are Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio in getting Benedick to think that Beatrice is in love with him (2.3.32-195)? How effective do you imagine this scene would be on stage? Observe the play on "note" in lines 49-52, now including a musical meaning.

2.

How does Benedick respond to what he has heard (2.3.196-216) and to the arrival of Beatrice (2.3.217-232)? Is the plot working?

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ACT 3

3.1

1.

Hero talks! What sort of person is she when she is with the other women (3.1.1-33 and through the rest of the scene)? What does this scene do for her as a character in the play?

2.

How effective are Hero and Ursula in getting Beatrice to think that Benedick is in love with her (3.1.34-107)?

3.

How does Beatrice respond to what she has heard (3.1.108-117)? Is the plot working?

3.2

1.

What happens when Benedick encounters Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio (3.2.1-62)? What has Benedick done since we last saw him (3.2.36-41)?

2.

What does Don John tell Don Pedro and Claudio (3.2.66-114)? What does he arrange for them to do? How willing are they to believe him?

3.3

1.

How confident does the city's police force make you (3.3.1-83)? (These are actually citizens, not paid officers). Is Dogberry a good constable? How does this part of the scene affect the tone of the play?

2.

What do the watchmen learn from Borachio and Conrad (3.3.84-159)? What action do the watchmen take? Are they able to capture Deformed? Will what they have done save the wedding and the comedy?

3.4

1.

What is happening in 3.4? Do we still get to see the "new" Hero (3.4.6-11)? How does Hero feel (3.4.21-22)? How does Beatrice feel (33-79)? Does she get sympathy from Hero and Margaret?

3.5

1.

How effective are Dogberry and Verges in getting Leonato to understand what they have learned? Can we expect another scene with Dogberry?

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ACT 4

4.1

1.

What happens at the wedding (4.1.1-110)? How would you rate the behavior of Claudio and Don Pedro? How does Hero respond? How does Leonato respond? What happens to Hero (line 108)?

2.

In the next portion of the scene (4.1.111-254), how supportive of Hero is Leonato? Who perhaps surprisingly has not left with Don Pedro and Claudio? Who is the first person to stand up for Hero (line 145)? How well does the Friar handle this situation? What plan does he offer (4.1.199-242)? Do you think it will work? What does Benedick say he will do (4.1.243-248)? Why is he willing to support the family and the plan?

3.

What happens when Beatrice and Benedick are left alone (4.1.255-329)? Notice what Beatrice says in line 265. Is she saying that Benedick isn't a man? (Probably not; rather, it's not his fight because he's not part of the family. Compare Tybalt in Romeo and Juliet, who is part of the Capulet family.) Howe does Benedick respond to line 265?

4.

Is this a strange time for a mutual declaration of love (4.1.266-285)? What does it lead to? (See 286-287.) Were you expecting this? Was Benedick? How would you direct him to say "Ha!" in line 288? (There are at least a hundred possibilities.)

5.

Keep Beatrice's wish (4.1.299-313) in mind for our next play, Twelfth Night. What is she saying to Benedick in lines 313-321? How does Benedick respond to her request (4.1.322-323)? What is unusual about his question? (We may miss the full impact of it in our culture, but how many times do you suppose Beatrice has actually been listened to by any male on a serious issue?) What is Beatrice's response to this question, and how does Benedick respond (4.1.324-329)? Will Benedick kill Claudio? What in fact has he agreed to do? Look at 4.1.325: this won't be the sort of murder that takes place after daytime talk shows; rather, Benedick will challenge Claudio to a duel. What does it mean that Benedick is now standing for the honor of Leonato's family against his military companions? What has happened to Benedick?

4.2

1.

What most bothers Dogberry in the examination of the prisoners? Does he get it quite right in what he says? How does his last speech (4.2.67-78) affect our understanding of Dogberry? Will we hear about this again?

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ACT 5

5.1

1.

What are Leonato and Antonio saying in 5.1.1-44? How has Leonato's understanding of the situation changed? (See 5.1.42). What will Leonato do?

2.

What does Leonato try do do when Don Pedro and Claudio enter? How do they treat him? What word to Leonato and Antonio call Claudio (5.1.79-100)? How does Don Pedro respond to them (5.1.104-108)?

3.

How successful is Benedick in challenging Claudio, and how do Claudio and Don Pedro respond to him (5.1.111-175)? Do they take him seriously? Should they? What does Benedick reveal in his last speech (5.1.176-183)? Do Don Pedro and Claudio really take him any more seriously after he leaves (5.1.184-190)?

4.

What do Don Pedro and Claudio learn in 5.1.191-242? What is Claudio's reaction (5.1.235-236)? Note Dogberry's first reprise at 5.1.239-240. Will it get a laugh this time?

5.

What penance does Leonato set (5.1.255-276)? Why is marriage to Leonato's niece part of the bargain? (Whose honor has been wronged? Just Hero's? Or the entire family's?)

6.

As expected, Dogberry gets another reprise (5.1.288-308). Will these jokes get one more round of laughter? What will the audience do when Dogberry and Verges leave at line 308? What is the nature of Dogberry's humor? Does he think he is funny?

5.2

1.

How good a poet is Benedick (5.2.22-35)? How different are Beatrice and Benedick now that they are in love (5.2.36-79)?

2.

What news does Ursula bring (5.2.80-87)?

5.3

1.

How good is the memorial service (5.3.1-23)? Is there a pun on preyed/prayed in line 25?

5.4

1.

How will this marriage service be different (5.4.12)? What does Benedick ask of the friar (5.4.18-32)?

2.

Why is the "niece" veiled? What is implied by line 38? What might be the problem with a young lady in the family that no one has heard of before? Why must Claudio promise to marry her before he sees her face (5.4.52-59)? What happens when Claudio does make that promise (5.4.60-71)?

3.

How willing to Beatrice and Benedick seem to be about marrying each other (5.4.72-83)? How do the others force them to admit their love (5.4.84-90)? How serious are Beatrice and Benedick here, and how much of this is playing with the others?

4.

What is Benedick's advice to Don Pedro and Claudio (5.4.98-107)? What does he mean by "man is a giddy thing" (line 104)? How serious are Benedick and Claudio in lines 105-111?

5.

Whose plans get overruled, and by whom (5.4.112-116)? What is Benedick's advice to Don Pedro (5.4.117-118)? What might Don Pedro's reaction be? (Remember 2.1.278-294.)

6.

What will happen to Don John (5.4.119-122)? What is the effect of mentioning Don John at the end of the play? Do we need to know this information? Do we need to learn it now? (Why not, say, have his capture, rather than his flight, reported at 5.2.82-83?) What would be different about the ending if Don John were not mentioned there? (It seems as though Shakespeare has him escape earlier only so that he can be reported as captured here.)

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