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Much Ado About Nothing (film)

Much Ado About Nothing is a 1993 film based on William Shakespeare's play. It was adapted for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also played the role of Benedick.

Much Ado About Nothing was released on May 7, 1993, reaching 200 U.S. screens at its widest release. It earned $22 million at the U.S. box office and $36 million total worldwide, which, despite failing to reach the mark set by Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, made it one of the more financially successful Shakespeare films ever released.


Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon and his noblemen are visiting their good friend Leonato in Messina after having quashed the uprising led by Don John, the prince’s half-brother. Among the victors are the misogynistic and witty Benedick, erstwhile flame of Leonato’s equally sharp-tongued and somewhat fierce niece Beatrice (who is something of a misandrist), and Benedick’s “sworn brother” Claudio, a young count. Claudio has been thinking fondly of Leonato’s gentle and lovely daughter Hero ever since before he went to war, and returns to find her as attractive as ever. Don Pedro, learning of his young friend’s feelings, arranges the match, and—in spite of Don John’s cunning efforts to foil their plans—it is agreed that Hero and Claudio will marry in a week’s time. Using the excuse of needing something to pass the time until the wedding day, Don Pedro decides to arrange a similar fate for Beatrice and Benedick. Of course, both parties being such “professed tyrant[s]” to the opposite sex, this match will take a little more ingenuity.

Leonato, Claudio and the Prince stage a loud conversation containing a fictitious account of how much Beatrice is in love with Benedick; all the while, they know Benedick to be hiding well within earshot. Hero and her gentlewoman Ursula play the same trick upon Beatrice. Each of them believes the story they hear about the other. In the midst of all of this good-natured scheming, Don John and his men have been casting about for ways to stop the intended marriage between the man who “hath all the glory of [Don John’s] overthrow” and the woman for whom one may suspect he has cherished some tender feeling. The night before the wedding, his servant Borachio arranges to meet with Hero’s gentlewoman Margaret at Hero’s chamber window. John shows his half-brother and Claudio the rendezvous and makes them believe that they are seeing Hero in the act of infidelity.

Against the revelry of the evening, the constable Dogberry appoints a watch to keep the peace. The three hapless watchmen happen to hear Borachio bragging to his colleague Conrade about how he and Don John had finally succeeded in wrecking the wedding plans. They make the arrest and send Dogberry in the morning to fetch Leonato for the examination, but the old gentleman is in too much of a hurry to try to decipher what the constable would say to him. Amidst the confusion, the villain has managed to escape to parts unknown before he can get his comeuppance.

At the wedding, Claudio publicly disgraces his would-be bride and storms away along with all of the guests except for Ursula, the Friar, Leonato, Beatrice, her father Antonio, and Benedick. They all agree to the Friar’s plan to publish the tale that Hero, upon the grief of Claudio’s accusations, suddenly died. Beatrice and Benedick linger a moment, and wind up confessing their love to one another. In the wake of this declaration, Beatrice asks Benedick to do the one thing that will satisfy her outrage with what has just happened; she asks him to kill Claudio. He agrees, but it is with a heavy heart. Just after the challenge is issued, the story of Don John’s deception comes to light, and the Prince and Claudio are sorely grieved for their grave mistake. Leonato forgives Claudio on the condition that he marry Hero’s cousin on the next morning. When the bride is brought forth, she is revealed to be none other than Hero herself! All are reconciled and Don John is discovered and promised punishment.


The film received generally enthusiastic notices from critics, with most of the negative criticism focusing on particular casting choices, notably Robert Sean Leonard as Claudio, Keanu Reeves as Don John, and Michael Keaton as Dogberry.

Main characters

  • Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard) is a close friend of Don Pedro, and in love with Hero. He is rather gullible and naive. He does not believe Hero when she protests her innocence and casts her off.
  • Hero (Kate Beckinsale) is the love interest of Claudio and the sweet daughter of Governor Leonato. She is falsely accused of being unfaithful to Claudio on the night before her wedding.
  • Beatrice (Emma Thompson) is Antonio's daughter (and therefore Leonato's niece), and Hero's cousin and chambermate. She is a strong-willed woman whose strongest trait is her wit and cleverness. Beatrice believes from the beginning that her cousin Hero has never been unfaithful to Claudio. Unable to challenge Claudio herself, she impels Benedick to challenge him in order to prove his love for her. Despite all her prickly speech, in Benedick she finds a man who is worthy of her intellect and good humor and in the end agrees to marry him.
  • Benedick (Kenneth Branagh) is a nobleman in the court of Don Pedro. He is very arrogant but shows himself to have a good character during the "wedding" scene, as he is the only man apart from the Friar who implicitly believes Hero. His pride does not allow him to admit that he loves Beatrice, but at the end of the play, Beatrice and Benedick agree to marry.
  • Don Pedro of Aragon (Denzel Washington) is remarkable for being one of the few "marriageable" men in the piece who does not get married by the end of the play. He helps his two friends Claudio and Benedick to marry, but finds no lady for himself. He believes, with Claudio, in Hero's alleged infidelity, but is earnestly sorry when he learns the truth.
  • Don John (Keanu Reeves) is the evil brother of Don Pedro. His dissatisfaction with his own lot in life leads him to his attempts to foil the happiness of his perceived enemies. There is also an unspoken suggestion that he did once or does still have some kind of romantic interest in Hero. He conspires with his men Borachio and Conrade to ruin Hero and Claudio's wedding by casting severe doubt upon Hero's honor. When his plot is found out, he attempts to escape but is captured and imprisoned.
  • Governor Leonato (Richard Briers) is the father of Hero. He loves his daughter but upon hearing the false news that she was being unfaithful to Claudio, he wishes she had never been born if that would mean that he would be spared the pain of her disgrace. He is party to the plot of saying that Hero has died in order to reunite Claudio and Hero.
  • Dogberry (Michael Keaton) is the local constable. He is not half so clever as he thinks he is and specializes in hilarious malapropisms. He and his men catch Borachio boasting about his involvement with separating Claudio and Hero and his men arrest Borachio and his conspiring friends. He ultimately saves the day by doing so.
  • Antonio (Brian Blessed) is the brother of Leonato and Beatrice's father. He is very goodnatured, but is deeply aggrieved by the accusations leveled against his niece.
  • Margaret (Imelda Staunton) is a rather wordly maidservant who is tricked by Borachio, and mistaken for Hero by the Prince and Claudio.


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