Much Ado About Nothing By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act V: Scene 4

Summary

The play's final scene begins with the friar's reminder to everyone — Leonato, Margaret, Ursula, Antonio, Hero, Beatrice, and Benedick — that he never doubted Hero's innocence. Leonato excuses the actions of Claudio and Don Pedro and then reviews what is to happen next in the final deception they have planned. The ladies leave to cover their faces with veils.

After confirming Leonato's approval, Benedick asks the friar to perform a marriage between himself and Beatrice.

Claudio and Don Pedro appear, and Claudio prepares to marry "Antonio's daughter," as he promised. The veiled women enter with Antonio. As soon as Claudio vows publicly to marry this stranger, Hero reveals her identity to the amazement of Claudio and Don Pedro. Once again Claudio is overcome with love for Hero.

Meanwhile, Benedick asks which of the veiled ladies is Beatrice and asks if she loves him. Their usual denials and quick repartee continue until Claudio and Hero each produces love poems Beatrice and Benedick have written to one another. Finally, they happily accept each other. At Benedick's suggestion, dancing begins even before the marriage ceremony.

A messenger interrupts the festivities with the news that Don John has been taken prisoner and is being brought back to Messina. Benedick suggests that they think about Don John tomorrow, when Benedick will invent appropriate punishments for him.

Analysis

In the recap of what has happened, Leonato notes Margaret's part in Don John's plot — to her face, since she is on stage but silent — but he seems to forgive her because she apparently did it against her will. Also, Benedick admits he is glad that he doesn't have to duel with Claudio after all.

True to the pattern they have established, Beatrice and Benedick cannot have a straightforward conversation, even in the middle of Benedick's proposal of marriage. Benedick has obviously abandoned his Act II pledge: "I would not marry her, though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed."

Consistent with his prior behavior, Claudio readily adapts himself, first to a marriage arranged as a form of penance for his part in the denunciation of Hero. (Remember that this new woman is now sole heir to the estates of both Leonato and Antonio.) Then just as readily, he reaccepts Hero as his bride-to-be when she can keep the secret of her "death" no longer.

That both Claudio and Hero just happen to have in their wedding clothes handwritten verses written by Beatrice and Benedick is quite a coincidence since neither Claudio nor Hero knew that Benedick was planning his proposal to Beatrice. (We can wonder when Claudio had the opportunity to find and borrow Benedick's poem.)

The last-minute entrance of a messenger at the festivities provides convenient closure to the play so that the audience is not left wondering whatever happened to Don John. Note that it is Benedick (rather than Don Pedro or Leonato) who offers to design Don John's "brave punishments." We are left to imagine what those will be.

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