Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on William Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.
- Full Title: Much Ado About Nothing
- When Written: 1598-1599
- Where Written: England
- When Published: 1623
- Literary Period: Elizabethan
- Genre: Comedy
- Setting: Messina, Italy in the 16th Century
- Climax: At the altar, Claudio publicly accuses Hero of unfaithfulness, sending her into a swoon.
- Antagonist: Don John
Masks and Recognition. Masked balls and disguises are common in Shakespeare. During such balls, characters sometimes have trouble recognizing even their closest friends and relatives. Critics who believe in verisimilitude—the idea that a fictional story should be believable—have sometimes criticized Shakespeare because of this. The famous Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, for instance, found it completely ridiculous that characters in Shakespeare fail to recognize even each other’s voices when in disguise.
Bastards. In the Renaissance, children born out of wedlock were often considered to be naturally evil. Sir John Fortescue wrote that “If a bastard be good, that commeth to him by chance… but if hee bee evill, that commethe to hym by nature.” The evil bastard is a common character in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama in general, and Don John is only one example—Edmund, in Shakespeare’s King Lear, is another.