Much Ado About Nothing: Act 4, Scene 1 & 2 - Summary

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Act 4, Scene 1

      Everyone is standing before the friar, who is prepared to marry Claudio and Hero. When he asks Claudio: "You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady?," Claudio surprises everyone by responding, "no." Leonato tries to clarify the situation, insinuating that the friar has asked the question incorrectly. Leonato says: "To be married to her." In other words, the friar is marrying them. But Claudio is being married to Hero. The friar then turns his question to Hero, who responds with the appropriate answer, "I do." The tension is released for a few seconds, until the friar asks if either of them knows any reason why they should not be wed. Instead of answering, Claudio turns to Hero and asks her directly if she knows any reason they should not be wed. No one understands why Claudio is acting so strangely, except, of course, Don Pedro. When Leonato asks why Claudio is acting the way he is, Claudio says that he will not be wed to an "approved wanton."

      At first, Leonato thinks that it was Claudio himself who was responsible for Hero's losing her virginity, if that is, in fact, what has happened. Claudio denies this. Then he turns on Hero, saying that she is like "pampered animals

      That rage in savage sensuality." Leonato turns to Don Pedro for help, but the prince stands by Claudio, declining to allow Claudio to be linked to "a common stale" a reference to a low-class prostitute. Claudio then bids farewell to Hero, calling her "most foul, most fair," exposing what he thinks of her now compared to what he used to think of her. Upon hearing this, Hero collapses.

      Beatrice calls for help, but Leonato says that, for her shame, Hero is best left dead. If she does wake up from the faint, Leonato swears he will kill her.

      The friar asks for their patience, stating that he thinks there is a scheme in all this. He suggests that they all pretend that Hero has, indeed, died. In this way, her shame will die with her, the truth will be found out, and then Hero can be reborn.

      Everyone leaves but Benedick and Beatrice. Benedick professes his love of Beatrice. However, Beatrice is so overwrought about Hero that she has trouble returning Benedick's love. Eventually, she reveals that she too loves Benedick, but she wants him to swear his love to her not in words but in actions. When Benedick asks how he might do this, Beatrice tells him to kill Claudio. Benedick refuses. Beatrice says that Benedick's refusal to do this kills her. She proclaims: "O, that I were a man!" (a line that is often quoted from this play). She goes on to say that if she were a man, she "would eat his [Claudio's] heart in the marketplace."

      Benedick pleads with Beatrice to be reasonable. Beatrice says that Hero is "wronged, she is slandered, she is undone." Benedick asks Beatrice to think deeply about this. Does she really believe that Count Claudio has done this to Hero? Beatrice replies, yes. If that is so, Benedick says, then he will challenge Claudio to a duel.

Act 4, Scene 2

      In a courtroom-like scene, Dogberry and his assistant Verges appear before the town sexton. The watchmen, as well as Conrade and Borachio, are there. Dogberry stumbles through his accusation of crime against Conrade and Borachio, as the sexton tries to assist Dogberry in the examination procedures. Eventually the truth comes out. Then the sexton tells Dogberry and everyone else in the room that he has just heard that Don John has run away and that the marriage between Hero and Claudio has been called off, and Hero, lost in her grief, has died.

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