This GCSE English Literature quiz will challenge you on character. William Shakespeare’s play, Much Ado About Nothing, has a relatively small and self-contained list of dramatis personae. In Messina live Leonato, Hero and Beatrice, along with Hero’s attendants, Margaret and Ursula. Leonato also has a brother, Antonio. In this quiet place arrives Don Pedro, Claudio and Benedick, each of whom is already known in Messina. Beyond these few characters, the play also introduces a Friar, Dogberry, the constable, and some watchmen. Don John, Pedro’s illegitimate brother, and his two companions Borachio and Conrad, interfere in the seemingly smooth running of society in Messina.
The play presents two very different couples: Beatrice and Benedick, who are matched in their wit and skill with language, as well as in their cynicism about romance, and Hero and Claudio, whose romantic path seems clear until Don John decides to intervene by slandering Hero. The aftershocks of his deceit sharply reveal characteristics which had been subtle and merely hinted at before. The scene in church where several adult men turn against Hero is a shocking event in a play which is often considered light-hearted.
We understand characters in drama primarily through their speech, their actions and interactions with other characters. Although gesture and costume are for the most part left to a reader’s imagination, in performance the audience of a play has access to these additional means by which to understand characters better. Watching a production of a play is an excellent way to see how its characters have been interpreted by different people. When reading Much Ado About Nothing, pay close attention to the few asides and to private dialogues where you can learn what characters might be thinking and planning. How does the quality of Beatrice’s and Benedick’s dialogue change once they have admitted to their (possibly manufactured) love for one another?
Answer the questions below to see how well you understand the characters in Much Ado About Nothing.