Scene by Scene Synopsis
Scene: Messina, Italy.
Act I, Scene 1: A Messenger tells Leonato, governor of Messina that Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, is approaching. He reports the prince's victories in war and tells of the knightly accomplishments of Claudio a young gentleman in Don Pedro's court. Leonato's niece, Beatrice, asks about another gentleman, Benedick- she responds to the Messenger's good report with sharp raillery, which Leonato explains as part of an ongoing rivalry of wits between his niece and the young noble-man. Don Pedro arrives, accompanied by the two young men and his brother, Dom John. Benedick and Beatrice exchange humorous insults, each of them asserting an extreme aversion to love, particularly for the other. Leonato offers a special welcome to Don John, who has lately been reconciled with his brother. Most of the group departs, leaving Claudio and Benedick alone; Claudio confesses that he has fallen in love with Leonato's daughter, Hero, and wishes to marry her; Benedick derides marriage Don Pedro returns, and Benedick reveals Claudio's desire Don Pedro teases Benedick, predicting that he will fall in love one day. Then he helpfully offers to court Hero himself, disguised as Claudio at the Masque scheduled for that evening; once assured of Hero's response he will approach her father on Claudio's behalf.
Act I, Scene 2: Leonato's brother, Antonio, reports that a servant has overheard Don Pedro telling Claudio of his intention to marry Hero.
Act I, Scene 3: Don John complains to his attendant Conrade of his bitter melancholy. Conrade replies that he should disguise his attitude to preserve his newly restored place In Don Pedro's court. Don John asserts that he can only be himself and that he wishes to be a villain, spreading discontent. Another follower, Borachio, brings news of Don Pedro's plan to woo Hero on Claudio's behalf. Don John proposes to make mischief with this information, hurting Claudio, whose advancement he envies.
Act II, Scene 1: Beatrice acidly compares the ferociously silent Don John to the overly talkative Benedick. Leonato asserts that her attitude towards men will prevent her from getting a husband. He then reminds Hero to respond to the prince's expected wooing, though Beatrice wittily preaches against marriage. Don Pedro and his courtiers arrive for the festivities, and all the participants put on masks. Don Pedro takes Hero aside as other couples flirt. Benedick and Beatrice, in disguise, trade insults, supposedly stating other people s opinions. Don John tells Claudio that he has heard the prince courting Hero. Claudio is shocked, believing that Don Pedro is stealing his prospective bride. He leaves embittered. When Don Pedro appears. Benedick berates him for betraying Claudio, but the prince assures him that he means well by their friend. The talk turns to Beatrice, and Benedick reveals that he is angered and hurt by her sharply expressed disdain for him. Claudio and Beatrice appear, and Benedick leaves Don Pedro tells Claudio that he has arranged his marriage to Hero, and Claudio rejoices. Beatrice leaves, and the prince reveals a plan to Leonato and Claudio: he will trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love with each other.
Act II, Scene 2: Borachio proposes to Don John a scheme to thwart Claudio's marriage: he, Borachio. will recruit Hero s waiting-woman, Margaret, to disguise herself as Hero and admit him into Hero's window that night. If Don John, pretending concern for Claudio's honour, can get him and Don Pedro to witness this charade they will believe that Hero has a lover and Claudio will repudiate her.
Act II, Scene 3: In the garden Benedick reflects on the seductiveness of love. when Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato appear he hides himself in an arbour. They see him, and following Don Pedro's plan, they speak loudly about Beatrice's passionate love for him. They profess to be reluctant to tell him other ardour, knowing his hostility towards her. They leave, and Benedick observes that he has misjudged matters and that he will marry Beatrice. Beatrice appears to summon him to dinner. She says that she dislikes her errand and leaves but Benedick comically imagines that he sees double meanings in her words that prove her love.
Act III, Scene 1: Ursula, a waiting-woman, is sent to tell Beatrice that Hero and Margaret are talking about her in the garden As expected, Beatrice eavesdrops on the two, and they speak loudly of Benedick's passion for her, praising him highly as they do so. They profess reluctance to tell her this news, fearing her mockery. They leave. and Beatrice decides that she will return Benedick s love, and she looks forward to happiness with him.
Act III, Scene 2: Don Pedro and Claudio tease Benedick about his changed appearance, saying that he must be in love. He claims toothache, but he takes Leonato aside to speak privately, presumably about marrying Beatrice. Don John appears and tells Claudio and Don Pedro of Hero's infidelity, offering to prove the truth of his accusation that night.
Act III, Scene 3: The rustic Constable DOGBERRY, assisted by Verges, assembles the Watchmen for their nightly patrol. In a comically confused passage they assert that all sorts of disorder and dereliction are proper procedures. Then Conrade and Borachio appear. Borachio describes the success of his plan to deceive Claudio and tells of Claudio's determination to disgrace Hero at the wedding. The Watchmen, though perplexed. realize that some villainy has been committed and they arrest the two men.
Act III, Scene 4: Margaret and Hero tease Beatrice about her seeming love sickness.
Act III, Scene 5: Leonato. late for Hero's wedding, interrupts Dog-berry's comically long-winded account of Conrade and Borachio. He tells Dogberry to interrogate the prisoners and submit a written report.
Act IV, Scene 1: During the marriage ceremony, Claudio rejects Hero asserting that he has witnessed her with a lover. This report is confirmed by Don Pedro, and even Leonato believes it. Hero faints, and Claudio and Don Pedro leave. Leonato rages at her, wishing she were dead, but Friar Francis, who had been officiating at the wedding, calms Leonato and states his belief in Hero's innocence. Beatrice and Benedick also support her, and Leonato recovers hi faith in his daughter. The Friar suggests that they pretend that Hero has died, thus silencing gossip and possibly stirring Claudio to grief and reviving his love. Then, if Hero is not exonerated, she can at least be secretly transferred to a nunnery. Leonato and the Friar leave, taking Hero into seclusion. Beatrice and Benedick reveal their feelings for each other, but Beatrice demands that Benedick prove his love by challenging Claudio to a duel in support of Hero. He agrees to do so.
Act IV, Scene 2: Dogberry tries to interrogate Conrade and Borachio, but his comical ineptitude spurs the Sexton to take
over. He questions the Watchmen, who tell of Don John's plot. The Sexton, knowing about the abortive wedding and aware that Don John has fled from Messina, realises that this story is true. He orders the prisoners bound and taken to Leonato, and he goes to report what he has learned. Conrade insults Dogberry, who responds with humorously pompous self-praise.
Act V, Scene 1: Leonato and Antonio berate Claudio and Don Pedro, exiting just as Benedick arrives. Benedick challenges Claudio to a duel and leaves, declaring that they will fight later. Dogberry arrives with his prisoners, and Borachio confesses all. Leonato returns, having been told the truth by the Sexton, and Claudio begs his forgiveness, promising to perform any penance. Leonato states that he must publicly mourn Hero and then marry Hero's cousin. Claudio assents.
Act V, Scene 2: Benedick tells Beatrice of his challenge to Claudio, and they tease each other on the subject of love. Ursula tells them that Don John's plot has been exposed.
Act V, Scene 3: Claudio reads an epitaph for Hero at Leonato's family crypt, believing that she is buried in it. Balthasar completes the rite with a mournful song. Don Pedro comes to escort Claudio to his wedding to Hero's cousin.
Act V, Scene 4: Benedick receives Leonato's permission to marry Beatrice. Claudio prepares to marry the veiled cousin, who reveals herself to be Hero. Benedick and Beatrice cannot bring themselves to admit their love for each other, returning to their barbed wit, but Claudio produces a love poem that Benedick has written about Beatrice and Hero presents a similar lyric by Beatrice about Benedick. Exposed, Beatrice and Benedick agree to be married. As plans are made for a double wedding, word comes that Don John has been apprehended. Benedick promises to devise some suitable punishment, but he turns to celebration in the meantime. The assembled people dance.
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