Act 3 of Much Ado about Nothing
Hero uses the same ploy that Don Pedro, Claudio and Leonato used to fool Benedick. Hero pulls the same plot on Beatrice. Hero uses Ursula and Margaret as accomplices. Margaret, who we learned in an early scene will be used to dupe Claudio into believing that Hero is unfaithful to him, draws Beatrice out into the garden.
From there, Ursula and Hero talk about Don Pedro’s revelation that Benedick is madly in love with Beatrice and is wasting away in love with her. Of course, Benedick cannot tell her for fear of being mocked.
You will note how Shakespeare has cleverly used the information given in previous scenes to build on this one. Each time Beatrice and Benedick meet, they will have to misinterpret the words that are said to them.
Beatrice takes what she has heard exactly the same way that Benedick did. She will love Benedick and throw off her angry, man-hating ways. She is doing this because she can see some good qualities in Benedick and does not want him to suffer. his scene really does parallel the Benedick scene. This is the conceit we spoke of earlier that will appear on a quiz.
Benedick meets with his friends and they tease him about not getting married. They do this with full knowledge that they have played a trick on him that may have worked. They comment on how much he acts like someone in love. Normally, the mouthy talkative Benedick would respond, but he is rather quiet. This just reinforces that their plan has worked. It is possible that Beatrice and Benedick already loved each other; they are a good match. That may be true. Frequently, people do argue with people they really care about.
Don John comes to Don Pedro and Claudio and pretending to be worried about his brother’s reputation. He claims to know that Claudio’s fiancée Hero is ah . . . uhm . . . unfaithful in her affection for Claudio. She cheats on him with other men. Don John claims he is only doing this because he loves his brother Don Pedro and does not want his reputation to be hurt by his association with Claudio. He claims he will take them to Hero’s window to see how she is cheating on Claudio.
Claudio does not take this information well and says if he finds out this is true, he will disgrace Hero at the wedding saying she is a girl of questionable morals. Well something worse than that, but you get the idea.
Shakespeare does not show the scene of Margaret pretending to be Hero in the window. Shakespeare takes the audience to a scene with Dogberry and Verges. These are the “night watch.” They are there to protect the citizenry of Messina. They are the clowns, or comic relief for the play. They will do nothing they might prevent crime. They don’t want to bother anyone. If they come on a real criminal, they claim the criminals might negatively influence them, so they will leave them alone.
Shakespeare introduces these characters to counteract what the audience has seen in the previous scene. Don John is about to destroy the reputation of a perfect honest and sweet young girl, Hero. Shakespeare introduces comic characters to allow the audience to laugh and get out the tension.
The rest of the watch run into Conrad and Borachio who are talking about what Borachio has done to fool Claudio and the Prince. They arrest them. It becomes clear that they have no idea how to deal with or get information from them. Because these characters are of a lower class, they don’t speak well. Nonetheless, they are positive characters that are trying to do what is correct. Shakespeare had many of these characters. The watch decide to bring Borachio and Conrad to Dogberry for “interrogation.”
Shakespeare moves to Hero’s room with Margaret and Beatrice. Margaret teases Hero about what she will wear. She teases Beatrice about how her attitude seems to have changed. Perhaps Beatrice is in love she seems to say.
This is Shakespeare’s way of teasing the audience about what they know and what Beatrice does not. The audience has all the information; characters in the play only have bits and pieces that cause them to be fooled or to misunderstand everything.
Dogberry and Verges decide to intercept Leonato and interrogate Borachio and Conrad in front of him. Because Dogberry butchers the language so badly, Leonato has no idea what they are talking about. Leonato asks them to do the interrogation themselves. Leonato wants to go to his daughter’s wedding. If Leonato had directly questioned Borachio and Conrad at that moment the plot would be discovered and the marriage would occur. This is one of the reasons for the play's title. If they discovered the plot, then the discord, or difficulty between Claudio and Hero would never happen. It would be Much Ado about Nothing.
This is Shakespeare’s way of teasing the audience to believe Hero will not be disgraced. When Leonato sends them away, Hero’s humiliation is soon to occur.