Character Directory

 

DON PEDRO

Don Pedro is the Prince of Aragon, who attempts to promote romances on behalf of two of his followers, Claudio and Benedick. Visiting the court of Leonato, governor of Messina, Don Pedro volunteers to help Claudio marry Leonato's daughter, Hero, whom he courts on the younger man's behalf. He also decides on the scheme that tricks Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love.  However, his success as a cupid is qualified at best.

The prince has just defeated an uprising led by his brother, Don John, whom he has forgiven and who accompanies him. However, Don John remains a villain, and his plot to trick Claudio into believing that Hero is promiscuous fools Don Pedro as well. The prince is offended, as is Claudio, at the dishonor involved in having courted such a woman; he encourages Claudio's humiliating rejection of his bride and coolly accepts her apparent death from shame.  Benedick, like Beatrice, remains loyal to Hero and severs his relations with Don Pedro. The prince and Claudio seem decidedly at fault, for the audience knows that Hero is innocent. When Don John's trickery is exposed, Don Pedro is genuinely remorseful, and he leads Claudio to his penitential marriage to Hero's cousin, who proves to be Hero herself. The two couples are reunited and the play ends in a spirit of reconciliation, in which Don Pedro joins. 

The original of Don Pedro in the playwright's source, Matteo Bandello’s novella, is completely insignificant; Shakespeare elaborated the character to create an elderly, dignified figure who presides over the action, thus enhancing the courtly air that suffuses the play. Although vulnerable to Don John's machinations, being too concerned with personal honor to respond humanely when presented with apparently convincing evidence of Hero's guilt, Don Pedro is otherwise a gentle and likeable figure. His initial forgiveness of Don John after subduing his revolt testifies to his good will, and he participates prominently in the celebration of renewed harmony that closes the play.  Like Claudio, he may be defended as having sinned •not but in mistaking' (5.1.268-269). With the two young couples united, Don Pedro, somewhat poignantly, is left single himself. His awareness of this misfortune is evident a few lines from the end of the play, when the exultant Benedick teasingly enjoins, 'Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife!'(5.4.121).

Shakespeare took Don Pedro's name from Bandello's tale, in which the King of Aragon, who has just conquered Sicily, is named Piero. The playwright used the Spanish form of the name, but there is no reason to believe that he was aware of the historical figure whose name he was borrowing. Aragon, one of several medieval kingdoms located in what is now Spain, ruled Sicily beginning in 1282, when a great rebellion arose there against the French. King Pedro III (1236-1285)—generally known in English as Peter the Great of Aragon—was invited by the rebels to assume the crown. He invaded and quickly drove out the French, beginning a period of Aragonese—and later Spanish—rule that was to last until 1713.

DON JOHN

Don John is the villainous brother of the prince, Don Pedro. With the help of his follower Borachio, Don John schemes to mortify Claudio by slandering his betrothed, Hero. After Borachio arranges for an incriminating impersonation of Hero, the would-be bride is humiliatingly rejected by the deluded Claudio, but by a fortuitous accident, the plot is uncovered and Don John flees from Messina, only to be captured and brought back. However, his flight and final comeuppance occur off-stage and are only reported (in 4.2.58 and 5.4.123-124); Don John himself is absent at the close of the play, for his vicious nature would be out of place amid the general spirit of reconciliation. 

Don John resents Claudio because 'that young startup hath all the glory of my overthrow. If I can cross him any way, I bless myself. . .' (1.3.62-64). Claudio's advancement in Don Pedro's court has come at Don John's expense, for Claudio has shone in the war that suppressed Don John's rebellion against his brother.  However, this motive is relatively unimportant; Don John plots to cause as much trouble to those around him as he can, apparently out of a simply evil nature. He declares that he would 'rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose' and describes himself as 'a plain dealing villain' (1.3.25, 30). His is a generalized, undirected discontent; he envies other people's happiness and is therefore misanthropic.

Although Borachio compares him to the devil in 3.3.145-151, Don John is a slight figure, a study for a portrait of a villain. He is neither as grandiose as Richard in nor as direct as Macbeth. Nor is he as threateningly mysterious as Iago, whom he anticipates in both his ill-defined motivation and his manipulation of the conventional sexual attitudes of his victims. Most important, he lacks the human complexity of any of these larger, more fully developed characters. Don John is a simple stereotype, intended chiefly to advance the plot of a Comedy, offering just enough evil to necessitate a triumph for happiness but not enough to evoke terror, as in a Tragedy. 

CLAUDIO

Claudio is the lover of Hero. Claudio falls in love with Hero on sight, but he rejects her when the deceitful Don John presents him with false evidence of her infidelity.  Once aware of his error, and believing that Hero has died of shame, Claudio repents and agrees to marry Hero's supposed cousin, who turns out to be Hero herself, and the couple is at last united. Claudio's apparent lack of awareness and his haste to mistrust his beloved make him seem shallow and insensitive, and modem audiences tend to find him one of the least likeable or interesting of Shakespeare's young noblemen. 

However, Claudio may be considered from another point of view that more likely reflects Shakespeare's intentions. Claudio, like Hero, is a model young Elizabethan. Even before he appears, he is extolled by the Messenger as a paragon of knightly virtues, 'doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion' (1.1.13-14). His youth and inexperience make him a plausible target for Don John's lies; his passive wooing of Hero, dependent on Don Pedro’s assistance, emphasizes his vulnerability. He is often faulted for a seemingly mercenary interest in Hero (1.1.274), but his inquiry about her inheritance is merely conventional: any young man of Shakespeare's day would ask such a question of a prospective bride, and the query simply demonstrates his interest in marriage. Gullible, he believes Hero has been unfaithful, but Shakespeare takes care to make his credulousness less ridiculous by having Don Pedro seem duped as well. The viciousness of Claudio's response indicates the extent to which he has been hurt by his seeming rejection. Both Claudio and Don Pedro regret the understandable anger of Leonato and Antonio in 5.1, and they refrain from a violent response. Their awkward jesting confirms their embarrassment over the situation. Claudio's repentance and atonement are sometimes regarded as cursory and hypocritical, but Shakespeare treats them seriously. Although the scene at Hero's supposed tomb is brief, it is solemn. In 5.4 Claudio's return to happiness is complete, and he is unquestionably accepted in Leonato’s generous and cheerful court. 

This more charitable interpretation of Claudio better suits the play, which is after all a comedy. Don John, the villain, is plainly saddled with all the blame.  In any case, the play revolves around Beatrice and Benedick; as Claudio's conventionality suggests, he is a relatively unimportant figure whose personality need not be well developed. Significantly, after the disguised Hero is revealed, the re-united lovers do not speak, as the focus of the play immediately shifts to Beatrice and Benedick. As Claudio's usefulness as a character is spent, he recedes into the background.

BENEDICK

Benedick is the rival of Beatrice in contests of wit and later her lover.  Benedick initially ridicules love, insisting that cuckoldry is the inevitable fate of married men, but he becomes a joyous bridegroom at the play's end. His playful dislike of Beatrice, which predates the beginning of the play, extends to all women, including Hero, whom his friend Claudio loves, but Benedick subtly reveals an underlying readiness to abandon his misogyny when he contrasts his 'custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex' with his 'simple true judgment' (1.1.154-157). Tricked by Claudio and Don Pedro into believing that Beatrice loves him, Benedick permits his own suppressed affection to emerge. At the play's climax, when Beatrice asks him to support the maligned Hero, he agrees, though this means turning from the comfortable companionship of Claudio and Don Pedro. Trusting in his certainty of Beatrice's essential decency. Benedick has grown from shallow misogyny to implicit faith in his lover. His maturation, along with Beatrice's corresponding development, is the chief psychological theme of the play. 

Benedick is essentially a comic figure. His friends value him for his sense of humor; Don Pedro says of him, 'from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot he is all mirth' (3.2.9). He is also sometimes a figure of fun. He crosses verbal swords with Beatrice, but she is too quick-witted for him, and he can only respond in her absence, as in the humorous speech that he delivers to Don Pedro in 2.1.223-245. Tricked into believing that Beatrice loves him, he comically imagines romantic double meanings in her derisive words. Even filled with passion, he can be funny: 'I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle's' (5.2. 94-96).

However, Benedick is no buffoon. His essential honor is often displayed. In 2.1, although hurt and humiliated himself, he accosts Don Pedro on Claudio's behalf when it appears that the older man is stealing Hero. When he defends the falsely accused and dishonored Hero in 5.1, Benedick manfully resigns from Don Pedro's service and challenges Claudio to a duel. At the end of the play, fully committed to marrying Beatrice, he recants his earlier misogyny with no loss of dignity whatever. He admits freely that he had been wrong and is prepared to accept any ridicule that may be attempted against him, saying, ' . . . since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it' (5.4.103-105). In acknowledgeing his earlier foolishness, he offers a motto that might well sum up Shakespeare's comedies: 'man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion' (5.4.107).  

Benedick, a common name in medieval England, comes from the Latin Benedictus, meaning 'blessed'; he is thus appropriately matched with Beatrice (from Beatrix, or 'she who blesses'). Shakespeare's character has become so firmly entrenched in the imagination of generations of readers and theatre-goers that his name, sometimes spelled 'Benedict', has become a common noun meaning a newly married man who has long been a bachelor. 

LEONATO

Leonato is the father of Hero and uncle of Beatrice. The governor of Messina, Leonato displays the formality that his position demands, but he is clearly a warm person, fond of his daughter and pleasant to all, offering avuncular advice to Beatrice and friendship even to the villainous Don John. He enjoys a joke and is quite willing to participate in Don Pedro’s ruse to trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love. But Leonato displays little real personality until the crisis of the play. The deluded Claudio rejects Hero at the altar, asserting—with the backing of the prince, Leonato's superior Don Pedro—that he has seen her with a lover.  Leonato is so sensitive about his honor that his immediate reaction is abysmal shame for himself and furious rage at his daughter. In an hysterical passage (4 1 120-154) that foreshadows the laments of King Lear.  Leonato wishes Hero dead. Friar Francis quickly restores his belief in her innocence, however, and he sternly proclaims that he shall have vengeance in 5 1 he challenges Claudio to a duel. However, in 5 4 Leonato presides over the general air of reconciliation that closes the play, orgiving the errant Margaret and accepting the repentant Claudio with a practical joke, disguising Hero as a mysterious cousin whom the sinner must marry in atonement. 

ANTONIO

Antonio is the brother of Leonato. Antonio is a charming old gentleman, especially when he flirts with Ursula at the masque in 2.1, undismayed when his identity is betrayed by his palsy. He is an unimportant member of Leonato's entourage until 5.1, when, sharing his brother's anger at Don Pedro and Claudio over their humiliation of Hero, he challenges the two younger men to a duel. His extravagant and blustery rage is somewhat comic, particularly since the audience is aware of the imminent resolution of Hero's dilemma, but it is also touching evidence of Antonio's loyalty to his brother and niece.

BALTHASAR

Balthasar is a musician and singer employed by Don Pedro. In 2.3 Don Pedro instructs Balthasar to sing the Song 'Sigh no more, ladies', though Balthasar insists he is not a good singer. In 5.3 he sings the solemn 'Pardon, goddess of the night', as Claudio mourns the supposed death of Hero. Balthasar makes feeble attempts to be witty, especially when he fishes for compliments in 2.3, but he has no real personality. He is part of the play's atmosphere of aristocratic decorum and hospitality, here expressed through courtly music, a standard feature of the great noble households of both Renaissance Italy and Elizabethan England.  In a stage direction in the First Folio edition of the play (1623), Balthasar is identified as 'lacke Wilson', a reference to the actor who played the part. It cannot be known for certain who this was, but scholars frequently propose both Jack Wilson and John Wilson. 

CONRADE

Conrade is a follower of Don John. In 3.3 Conrade listens as his friend Borachio tells of the scheme to implicate the innocent Hero as a promiscuous woman. This conversation is overheard by the Watchmen, which leads ultimately to the exposure of Don John's villainy.  Conrade is a simple pawn, needing no personality, but he does display a vehement temper when, irritated by Constable Dogberry’s interrogation, he blurts out, 'You are an ass, you are an ass' (4.2.70). This triggers one of Dogberry's best comic bits, his indignant repetition of the insult.

BORACHIO

Borachio is a follower of Don John. Borachio, Don John's chief lieutenant, receives 1,000 ducats from his master for devising a scheme to prevent the marriage of Claudio, whom Don John resents and despises, to the desirable Hero. Borachio masquerades with Hero's waiting-woman, Margaret, as Hero and a clandestine lover. This charade convinces Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero is promiscuous, and she finds herself publicly humiliated as an unfaithful fiancee. However, when Borachio brags of his success to his friend Conrade, the Watchmen overhear him, and the plot is eventually exposed. In the general reconciliation that closes the play, Borachio repents, confessing his guilt freely and adding that he duped Margaret.

Some modern editors give the lines of Balthazar in 2.1.92-102, where he flirts with Margaret, to Borachio. Errors in some of these speech prefixes suggest that the printers of the early editions were confused, and, since Borachio is elsewhere associated with the waiting-woman, he is sometimes given that connection here as well. Borachio's name comes from the Spanish borracho, meaning 'drunkard'. This rather undignified appellation reflects the petty villainy of the character, while also implying a relative innocence that makes his acknowledgement of guilt at the end of the play more believable.

FRIAR FRANCIS

Friar is a clergyman who supports the slandered Hero, restoring her father Leonato’s faith in her. The Friar officiates at the wedding of Hero and Claudio, only to see the ceremony disrupted. Claudio, misled by Don John, rejects his bride, accusing her publicly of promiscuity. Hero faints in response, and Leonato, humiliated, curses her. However, the Friar believes Hero is innocent, and his spiritual authority persuades Leonato. The Friar then proposes a plan intended to rouse Claudio's guilt and sympathy and renew his love for Hero; Hero should be said to be dead. While this plan has no effect on Claudio, it provides an interesting detour in the plot, during which Don John's scheme is exposed by other means. The Friar marries Hero to Claudio and Beatrice to Benedick as the play closes.

DOGBERRY

Dogberry is a comical rustic constable in charge of the Watchman.  Dogberry, his second-in-command Verges, and the Watchmen are humorously inept, but their apprehension of Borachio and Conrade nonetheless exposes the nefarious plot of Don John against Claudio and Hero. However, Dogberry's officious bumbling postpones this result long enough that Claudio is deceived and Hero humiliated. The tensest moment of the play occurs when Dogberry's tediousness prevents Hero's father, Leonato, from learning the truth before the wedding, where Hero is to be accused of promiscuity. We are exasperated by the constable's foolishness and infuriated by his preening when he is appointed to interrogate the suspects, but he is nonetheless endearingly amusing.

Although the ridiculous policeman who garbles language was an ancient theatrical character type Shakespeare had used the figure before in Constable Dull of Love's Labour's Lost— Dogberry is one of Shakespeare's most impressive comic creations. A typical Shakespearean clown, he affects a more pretentious vocabulary that he can master, misusing the language spectacularly. He is very much a distinctive personality, however. Preposterously long-winded, smugly self-assured, touchingly (though absurdly) incredulous that Conrade could call him 'an ass' (4.2.70), Dogberry has a naive dignity that has charmed audiences and readers for centuries.

In part, this response reflects our gratitude for the relief from melodrama that his comedy produces.  Dogberry is an important element in Shakespeare's strategy to lighten Hero's plight and maintain a comic tone throughout the play. His foolish locutions and ideas provide comic relief at several points. In 3.3, just after Don John's scheme has begun to bear fruit, we first encounter Dogberry and the Watchmen; our knowledge that the villain's plot will eventually be exposed makes Hero's humiliation less painful. Dogberry's laughable confusion during the interrogation of Conrade and Borachio takes the edge off the revelation of their evil, and in 5.1 his arrival as a comical dues ex machina resolves the plot on a note of hilarity.

In the early texts of the play, a number of Dogberry's speech prefixes in 4.2 refer to 'Kempe' or 'Kemp'; it is accordingly believed that the actor William Kempe first played the role. Dogberry's odd name refers to the fruit of the wild dogwood, a common English shrub. 'Berry' may also designate fish roe, a common Elizabethan usage. The anomalous reference thus produced—dog roe—seems appropriate to the constable's absurdity.

VERGES

Verges is constable Dogberry second-in-command. Verges is chiefly a straight man for Dogberry to play against; his eager assistance is rejected by his superior, who prefers to do things himself. Though praised as 'an old man, . . . honest as the skin between his brows' (3.5.10-12), Verges has little personality, being rather like the other Watchmen—and Dogberry—in his confusion and comical misuse of language.

Speech prefixes in 4.2 give Verges' lines to 'Cowley'. It is therefore assumed that the actor Richard Cowley first played the part. Verges' name is traditionally said to be a rustic pronunciation of the word verjuice, meaning 'the acid juice of green or unripe fruit', but the character is not notably acid. Verges name is more probably associated with his office, a verge being a rod or staff symbolizing authority, usually carried by an underling or assistant to the holder of power.

A Sexton

Sexton is a scribe who records Constable Dogberry's comically inept interrogation of Conrade and Borachio in 4.2.  Exasperated, the Sexton assumes control of the investigation and deduces that the Watchmen have uncovered the plot by which the villainous Don John has slandered Hero. His common sense thus allows the exposure of wrongdoing that Dogberry's antics cannot.  The Sexton seems to be referred to in 3.5.54, where Dogberry calls him Francis Seacoal, giving him the same distinctive surname as George Seacol, one of the Watchmen. The minor confusion brought about by this unlikely coincidence is hardly noticeable on stage; it is probably simply one of the many minor slips that Shakespeare made throughout his career.

A Boy

Boy is the servant of Benedick. In 2.3 Benedick sends the Boy on an errand whose sole purpose seems to be to permit the mention that the scene is set in an orchard or garden. The Boy flippantly asserts that his speed will be such that ‘I am here already, sir' (2.3.5), an effervescent pleasantry suited to the early action of the play.

HERO

Hero is the daughter of Leonato and beloved of Claudio. Hero is a demure and pliant maid, a conventional representative of the Elizabethan ideal of docile womanhood. She accepts an arranged marriage, first to Don Pedro and then to Claudio. She is pleasant and has enough sparkle to engage in the ploy whereby her cousin Beatrice is tricked into accepting Benedick’s love, but she largely lacks personality or spirit. A pawn, first proffered in marriage to Claudio and then rejected by him, she can only faint when unjustly accused of promiscuity. Beatrice, Benedick, and the Friar stand up for her, and Constable Dogberry’s timely exposure of the villainous Don John finally clears her, but she is herself inactive. Significantly, once she and Claudio are finally reunited, they barely speak, as the play's focus immediately shifts to Beatrice and Benedick.

Hero's name—which bears no relation to the common noun hero, though it is pronounced the same—comes from an ancient Greek tale of two lovers that was very well known in Shakespeare's day as the subject of the immensely popular poem 'Hero and Leander', by Christopher Marlowe. In naming his tractable heroine after a famous romantic lover, Shakespeare may have intended a mild irony.

BEATRICE

Beatrice is a sharp-tongued rival in wits—and later the lover—of Benedick.  Beatrice, who initially disparages love and Benedick, later rejects these attitudes and becomes his betrothed. She in fact loves him all along, as the audience knows; her own awareness comes only with the assurance that he loves her. Their relationship matures when they act together to defend her defamed cousin Hero at the crisis point of the play. 

Beatrice bluntly disdains love, sneering, 'I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me' (1.1.120-122), but her first words (1.1. 28-29) have already betrayed her interest in Benedick, although she covers it with a veneer of witty insults and teasing. She has suffered through an earlier un-happy romance with Benedick, as she suggests in 1.1.59 and 2.1.261-264, and her barbed wit is plainly defensive, disguising her true feelings even from herself. Her brashness is nicely contrasted with Hero's reticence in 2.1: Hero is twice prompted about her response to the expected courtship of Don Pedro, and on both occasions Beatrice's comments against marriage prevent her reply.  Tricked into believing that Benedick loves her, Beatrice immediately discards her cynicism, saying, 'contempt, farewell, and maiden pride, adieu!' (3.1.109-110), in a lyrical 10-line outburst—almost her only verse lines in the play—that emphasizes her elation.  Swallowing her pride, she must accept her friends' teasing in 3.4. 

When Hero is cruelly rejected on false evidence of promiscuity, Beatrice proves her essential goodness, believing in her cousin's innocence in the face of the evidence and demanding support from Benedick. The two witty lovers become involved in a serious conflict, bolstered by each other's trust. In asking for Benedick's aid, Beatrice confirms her love and acknowledges his.  Nevertheless, once Hero's problem is solved, Beatrice and Benedick briefly retreat from love in 5.4.  Their strength is almost not great enough to overcome their old habits, but when their friends produce their love poems, they are forced to reaffirm their true feelings. Beatrice's quick wit cannot resist an attempt at having the last word (5.4.94-96), so Benedick silences her with a kiss. 

This rather abrupt close to Beatrice's part suggests an important aspect of the playwright's attitude towards women: Beatrice, like other Shakespearean heroines, such as Katherina in The Taming of the Shrew, displays a spirited individuality, but in the end she willingly accepts a position subordinate to a man, as was conventionally expected of Elizabethan women. At first, denying that she wants or needs a husband, Beatrice asserts her independence, demonstrating the freedom of will that enlivens Shakespeare's most attractive female characters. However, when she seeks to defend Hero's innocence, she concedes that a male presence is required, saying of the vengeance she desires on her cousin's behalf, Tt is a man's office' (4.1.265). She asks Benedick to fulfil the role that she cannot, reminding us of the ultimately dependent position of women in Shakespeare's world.  Intriguingly, Beatrice shares two further characteristics with Shakespeare's other bold young women, including the 'Dark Lady' of the SONNETS: a sharp wit and a dark complexion. It seems plausible, though altogether unprovable, that these were the traits of a woman (entirely unidentifiable) who was romantically important to Shakespeare. 

Beatrice is sometimes seen as shrewish, but this is a misconception; Shakespeare plainly intended to present a delightful young woman—defensive about love ^but charming and candid. While her repartee can be made to seem malicious or mean-spirited in performance, it is more fittingly delivered with great mirth and gaiety; Don Pedro remarks that she is 'a pleasant-spirited lady' (2.1.320). Shakespeare took Beatrice's name from the Latin name Beatrix, meaning 'she who blesses'. She is thus appropriately matched with Benedict (from the Latin Benedictus, meaning 'blessed').

MARGARET

Margaret is an attendant to Hero. Drawn into Don John and Borachio’s plan to slander Hero, Margaret dresses in her mistress' clothes and meets Borachio at night, although this occurs off-stage. Hero's betrothed, Claudio, is lured to the scene by Don John, and, believing that Hero is seeing a lover, he refuses to marry her.  When the villainy is finally exposed, however, Margaret is judged to have been an unwitting accomplice.  An impersonator of Hero is necessary to the plot, but Shakespeare wished to minimize the villainy in Much Ado, stressing comedy over melodrama, and he provided a number of proofs of Margaret's innocence.  She is clearly a valued member of the genial circle of friends surrounding Hero; we see her only in scenes of mirthful fun, and she has a playful sense of humor—Benedick says her 'wit is as quick as the greyhound's mouth' (5.2.11). Moreover, Borachio's recruitment of Margaret, like the charade itself, is kept off-stage, and when Borachio confesses in 5.1, he insists that Margaret 'knew not what she did . . . but always hath been just and virtuous' (5.1.295-296).  Once Hero is finally cleared, Leonato remarks, 'Margaret was in some fault for this, although against her will, as it appears' (5.4.4-5). Her participation resembles, in fact, a well-known masquerading game, recorded in accounts of 16th-century courtly pastimes, in which a woman would dress herself as a bride and thereby demand more elaborate endearments from her sweetheart. In a small but telling touch, Margaret's fondness for clothes is presented in her delighted description of an elaborate gown in 3.4.17-20.

URSULA

Ursula is an attendant to Hero. A cheerful member of Leonato’s court, Ursula has no important function and little personality. She flirts with the aged Antonio at the Masque in 2.1, and she helps her mistress fool Beatrice into believing that Benedick loves her in 3.1.

Messenger

Messenger is a servant of Don Pedro. In 1.1 the Messenger tells Leonato of Don Pedro's successes in war, citing the noble deeds of Claudio and Benedick and thus providing expository material on the play's romantic leads. The mention of Benedick subjects the Messenger to Beatrice’s sharp verbal sallies; the passage (1.1. 28-83) presents one of the play's major motifs, the witty—though prickly—independence of its heroine. In 3.5.50-5 land 5.4.123-124 the Messenger presents brief reports of off-stage action.

Watchman

Hugh Oatcake is one of the Watchmen. Oatcake, with Seacoal, is nominated in 3.3.11 for the post of constable, for both are literate, but Dogberry appoints Seacoal.  Oatcake is presumably one of the Watchmen who reappear in 4.2 and 5.1, but he is not again mentioned specifically. His comical name—which helps heighten the Watchmen's comical foolishness—is typical of a Shakespearean Clown.

George Seacoal is one of the Watchmen of Messina 3.3.11 Seacoal is recommended to Dogberry, the chief constable, as a likely leader of the watch because he is literate, and he is appointed to the position. He:has no particular personality and cannot readily be distinguished from the other Watchmen. However] Seacoal may be presumed to be the speaker of cornel mands—such as 'We charge you in the Prince's name, stand!' (3.3.159)—by virtue of his office. |

A Francis Seacoal is mentioned by Dogberry at 3.5, 54; he is apparently the Sexton, who appears in 4.2, The unnecessary and unlikely coincidence of surnames is best explained as one of the many minors errors in the plays. Here, the playwright hastily gave an inconsequential character a name that happened to .be handy, forgetting that he had just used it for another such figure.

 

To view other Much Ado About Nothing sections:

Main Play Page      Play Text    Scene by Scene Synopsis     Character Directory     Commentary  

 

To view the other Plays click below:

By  Comedies    Histories    Romances    Tragedies

All's Well the Ends Well Antony & Cleopatra As You Like It Cardenio Comedy of Errors Coriolanus
Cymbeline Edward III Hamlet Henry IV, Part 1 Henry IV, Part 2 Henry V
Henry VI, Part 1 Henry VI, Part 2 Henry VI, Part 3 Henry VIII Julius Caesar King John
King Lear Love's Labours Lost Love's Labours Wonne Macbeth Measure for Measure Merchant of Venice
The Merry Wives of Windsor A Mid Summer Night's Dream  Much Ado About Nothing Othello Pericles Richard II
Richard III Romeo & Juliet Sir Thomas More Taming of the Shrew The Tempest Timon of Athens
Titus Andronicus Troilus & Cressida Twelfth Night Two Gentlemen of Verona The Two Noble Kinsman The Winter's Tale

 

To view other Shakespeare Library sections:

Biography     Plays     Poems     Sonnets     Theaters     Shake Links 

 
Send mail to jciccarelli@hudsonshakespeare.org with questions or comments about this web site.
[Home]  [Upcoming Shows]  [HSC Venues]  [Past Productions]  [Articles] [HSC Programs]
 [Shakespeare Library] [Actor Resources]   [Contact Us]  [Links]  [Site Map]