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Much Ado About Nothing - Understanding the Text

See how well you understand the text in Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare by playing this enjoyable GCSE English Literature quiz. Much Ado About Nothing was written over four hundred years ago. The form of English in which it is written is known as “Early Modern”, which makes it sound as though it ought to be easy. You will have noticed, of course, that this is not the case. Sometimes the spelling is rather different, sometimes the words are unfamiliar, and very often the jokes are not easily understood unless they are first explained. It is worth persevering, however. Much Ado About Nothing is full of delightfully clever play with words, especially between Beatrice and Benedick. Reading slowly, reading sections more than once and reading aloud will certainly help with comprehension.

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This play really is about not very much at all. Two couples get married: one pair have to be tricked into it, another have to make two attempts before the wedding actually takes place. Otherwise, there is a fair amount of gossip, some dancing and an attempt by “evil” Don John to disrupt society. The play becomes somewhat stifling, however, as every character is watched and commented upon by the other characters.

As you would with any other text, pay close attention to the methods and techniques which have been used to convey meaning. Devote some time to analysing character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue. Your comprehension of the text works on several levels simultaneously. Consider the sequence of events, especially paying attention to scenes that you observe and scenes which are merely reported by characters. Do you almost feel as if you have witnessed the incident at Hero’s window, even though the audience only hears a second-hand account?

It is always useful to create a timeline of events, which will help you to picture the structure of the play. Events occur chronologically in this play and take place over very few days. The action is rather condensed. Creating act and scene summaries will help you remember and better understand the text.

Analysing beginnings and endings will be a great benefit to your understanding of the play. Consider possible reasons for the play beginning as it does. What do we learn in the first scene? What do you learn about previous events? Do we know anything about the characters and, if we do, how do we learn it? Are future events foreshadowed? How is this accomplished? Analyse individual acts and scenes in the same way. Undertaking detailed analysis of this sort will really increase your knowledge and understanding of the text!

Read the questions below on Much Ado About Nothing and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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  1. Why do Leonato, Beatrice and Benedick pretend that Hero is dead?
    The pretend death is proposed by the Friar. When Claudio later marries Hero, he at first believes that he marries a cousin of hers in order to make amends for causing Hero's death with the false accusations
  2. What does the audience learn from Beatrice and Benedick's first conversation in Act One, Scene One?
    The first conversation between these two characters ends with Beatrice remarking that Benedick has not changed: "You always end with a jade's trick. I know you of old"
  3. How do Don John and Borachio conspire to deceive Don Pedro and Claudio?
    Hero's servant Margaret plays the role of Hero. The two men spying through the bedroom window believe they have witnessed Hero being unfaithful to Claudio the night before the wedding is due to take place
  4. After Claudio decides that he is in love with Hero, how does Don Pedro propose to help him?
    Don Pedro seems to like being a matchmaker, a role he later plays with Benedick and Beatrice
  5. How is Don John's deception discovered?
    The watchman catches Borachio and Conrad after the deception has taken place, but the truth does not come out in time to prevent Hero from being disgraced at the altar
  6. Who does NOT accuse Hero at the altar?
    Hero, a very young woman, is faced at the altar with accusations by several older and more powerful men: Don Pedro, Claudio and her own father. Even the shameless Don John, full aware of her innocence, blames her
  7. Don Pedro, Claudio and Benedick have come to Messina from where?
    The messenger who brings news of their arrival reports that the battles have been a success
  8. How are Beatrice and Hero related?
    Beatrice is an orphan, a status which gives her some independence in contrast to Hero
  9. Which of the following is NOT correct?
    Don Pedro is doubly duplicitous when he addresses Claudio as Benedick in order to give himself a semblance of honesty and he plants the first seed of doubt in the young man's mind by implying that Don Pedro is wooing Hero for himself
  10. How do Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato persuade Benedick that Beatrice loves him?
    Rather convincingly, the men discuss Beatrice's usual crossness as a defence against Benedick's own habit of mockery

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