Much Ado About Nothing is considered to be one of William Shakespeare’s finest comedic plays and is frequently performed up to this day.
In classic Shakespearean structure, the play takes place over five acts and is defined as a comedy as the plot culminates in several weddings, rather than deaths as would be the case in the writer’s tragic plays.
Written in around 1598, the play is a comedy of errors surrounding several characters in the court of Messina. Court Governor, Leonato, welcomes victorious soldiers to his home only for one, Claudio, to fall in love with his daughter, Hero. Unfortunately Claudio’s allegiance with Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, makes him a target for the prince’s disgruntled illegitimate brother, Don John, who wishes to sabotage his relationship. The whole plot revolves around false information and mistaken identity until all is whimsically revealed in the final act. See our synopsis page for a full plot outline of Much Ado About Nothing.
The play’s name, “Much Ado About Nothing” is highly self-referential in that the action is all based on gossip and heresy; there is indeed much “ado”, or “bother”, about “nothing,” aka nothing factual. Perhaps the productions grounding in gossip is what makes the piece continually accessible in today’s culture, which is still obsessed with gossip and rumours.
Loved for its plot twists and turns and for its plethora of characters, Much Ado About Nothing has enjoyed a rich performance history. Not only was the play particularly popular in the 16th and 17th centuries, the production has enjoyed a great modern day response.
Particularly productions over the last 150 years or so have included a 1860’s production starring Henry Irving and a 1959 Broadway production starring John Gielgud in the role of Benedick and Diane Wynyard as Beatrice. The longest running version of the show was the 1972 Broadway production which ran until 1985.
More recent years have seen Felicity Kendall win an Evening standard award as Beatrice in 1989, Mark Rylance win an Olivier Award as Benedick in 1994 and Tamsin Greig win an Olivier for Beatrice in 2006.
Not only has Much Ado About Nothing succeeded time and time again as a play, it has also been adapted into a film, most notably by Kenneth Branagh in 1993. For a detailed production history, visit our Past Productions page.