Study Help Essay Questions

1. Select the love story that you feel is the play's main plot. Explain why you have chosen it. Describe the main plot completely. Explain the role of the other love story.

2. List all the "pairs" you can identify in the play — for example, pairs of lovers, pairs of brothers, and pairs of maidservants. For each pair, explain why you think both members of the pair were included and how you think Shakespeare used the pairing to advantage in his development of characters and plot.

3. Who are the two or three leading characters of the play? Explain why. Who are the secondary characters, and what functions do they serve? What functions are served by the remaining characters?

4. List all the significant instances of "noting" (eavesdropping, observing, or otherwise taking special notice) in the play. For each instance, express why it was included and what it accomplishes.

5. Review the emotional highs and lows of the play. Make a list of all scenes and rate each scene on its degree of being high or low. Where a "scene" actually has several subscenes, you may find it necessary to rate subscenes separately. Then plot the highs and lows on a simple chart to illustrate how Shakespeare has used the contrast between highs and lows to "play" with the audience's emotions.

6. Identify all scenes in which verse is used rather than prose. For each of them, explain what effect the use of verse has, if any. Write your ideas about why verse is used in each of those places.

7. Citing specific lines and scenes in the play, trace Don John's plots against Claudio and Don Pedro from their earliest beginnings to the culmination of each plot.

8. To some literary analysts, Claudio and Hero as characters suffer by comparison to Beatrice and Benedick. Consider a version of the play in which Beatrice and Benedick do not appear as characters. Write a summary of the play focused on Claudio and Hero and explain what is more effective or less effective about the resulting play.

9. Write your version of several background stories that take place before the play begins — for example, the earlier relationship between Beatrice and Benedick; the family conflict and the battle between Don John and Don Pedro; the earlier encounter between Claudio and Hero.

10. Imagine what will happen in the future for Don Pedro, Don John (including what "brave punishments" Benedick might devise for him), Claudio and Hero, Beatrice and Benedick, Borachio and Margaret, Leonato.

11. Explain why Margaret participated in the window love scene with Borachio. What did he tell her about it, before or after? What did she tell Leonato when he questioned her later? Describe the events of the play from Margaret's viewpoint.

12. Consider what might have happened if several events had gone differently — for example, if the watch had not overheard Borachio and Conrade; if Leonato had listened to Dogberry and the prisoners before the wedding; if Hero and Claudio had not produced the poems during Benedick's proposal to Beatrice; if Margaret had attended the wedding.

13. Read Dogberry's lines carefully to see if you can make a case for his being a very clever man who knew exactly what he was doing all the time. Describe examples of his wisdom and cleverness.

14. If you were to revise the play, what revisions would you make? What events would you add or take out? How would you change the characters? Write a summary of your revised plot, emphasizing the changes.

Pop Quiz!

At the start of the play, who wants to marry Hero?


In The Three Musketeers by Dumas, Cardinal Richelieu is labeled as the villain. How could he be presented as a hero instead?

Back to Top