much ado about nothing

Beatrice Leonato’s niece and Hero’s cousin. Beatrice is “a pleasant-spirited lady” with a very sharp tongue. She is generous and loving, but, like Benedick, continually mocks other people with elaborately tooled jokes and puns. She wages a war of wits against Benedick and often wins the battles. At the outset of the play, she appears content never to marry.
Benedick An aristocratic soldier who has recently been fighting under Don Pedro, and a friend of Don Pedro and Claudio. Benedick is very witty, always making jokes and puns. He carries on a “merry war” of wits with Beatrice, but at the beginning of the play he swears he will never fall in love or marry.
Claudio A young soldier who has won great acclaim fighting under Don Pedro during the recent wars. Claudio falls in love with Hero upon his return to Messina. His unfortunately suspicious nature makes him quick to believe evil rumors and hasty to despair and take revenge.
Hero The beautiful young daughter of Leonato and the cousin of Beatrice. Hero is lovely, gentle, and kind. She falls in love with Claudio when he falls for her, but when Don John slanders her and Claudio rashly takes revenge, she suffers terribly.
Don Pedro An important nobleman from Aragon, sometimes referred to as “Prince.” Don Pedro is a longtime friend of Leonato, Hero’s father, and is also close to the soldiers who have been fighting under him—the younger Benedick and the very young Claudio. Don Pedro is generous, courteous, intelligent, and loving to his friends, but he is also quick to believe evil of others and hasty to take revenge. He is the most politically and socially powerful character in the play.
Leonato A respected, well-to-do, elderly noble at whose home, in Messina, Italy, the action is set. Leonato is the father of Hero and the uncle of Beatrice. As governor of Messina, he is second in social power only to Don Pedro.
Don John The illegitimate brother of Don Pedro; sometimes called “the Bastard.” Don John is melancholy and sullen by nature, and he creates a dark scheme to ruin the happiness of Hero and Claudio. He is the villain of the play; his evil actions are motivated by his envy of his brother’s social authority.
Margaret Hero’s serving woman, who unwittingly helps Borachio and Don John deceive Claudio into thinking that Hero is unfaithful. Unlike Ursula, Hero’s other lady-in-waiting, Margaret is lower class. Though she is honest, she does have some dealings with the villainous world of Don John: her lover is the mistrustful and easily bribed Borachio. Also unlike Ursula, Margaret loves to break decorum, especially with bawdy jokes and teases.
Borachio An associate of Don John. Borachio is the lover of Margaret, Hero’s serving woman. He conspires with Don John to trick Claudio and Don Pedro into thinking that Hero is unfaithful to Claudio. His name means “drunkard” in Italian, which might serve as a subtle direction to the actor playing him.
Conrad One of Don John’s more intimate associates, entirely devoted to Don John. Several recent productions have staged Conrad as Don John’s potential male lover, possibly to intensify Don John’s feelings of being a social outcast and therefore motivate his desire for revenge.
Dogberry The constable in charge of the Watch, or chief policeman, of Messina. Dogberry is very sincere and takes his job seriously, but he has a habit of using exactly the wrong word to convey his meaning. Dogberry is one of the few “middling sort,” or middle-class characters, in the play, though his desire to speak formally and elaborately like the noblemen becomes an occasion for parody.
Verges The deputy to Dogberry, chief policeman of Messina.
Antonio Leonato’s elderly brother and Hero’s uncle. He is Beatrice’s father.
Balthasar A waiting man in Leonato’s household and a musician. Balthasar flirts with Margaret at the masked party and helps Leonato, Claudio, and Don Pedro trick Benedick into falling in love with Beatrice. Balthasar sings the song, “Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more” about accepting men’s infidelity as natural.
Ursula One of Hero’s waiting women.
Othello The play’s protagonist and hero. A Christian Moor and general of the armies of Venice, Othello is an eloquent and physically powerful figure, respected by all those around him. In spite of his elevated status, he is nevertheless easy prey to insecurities because of his age, his life as a soldier, and his race. He possesses a “free and open nature,” which his ensign Iago uses to twist his love for his wife, Desdemona, into a powerful and destructive jealousy (I.iii.381).
Desdemona The daughter of the Venetian senator Brabanzio. Desdemona and Othello are secretly married before the play begins. While in many ways stereotypically pure and meek, Desdemona is also determined and self-possessed. She is equally capable of defending her marriage, jesting bawdily with Iago, and responding with dignity to Othello’s incomprehensible jealousy.
Iago Othello’s ensign (a job also known as an ancient or standard-bearer), and the villain of the play. Iago is twenty-eight years old. While his ostensible reason for desiring Othello’s demise is that he has been passed over for promotion to lieutenant, Iago’s motivations are never very clearly expressed and seem to originate in an obsessive, almost aesthetic delight in manipulation and destruction.
Michael Cassio Othello’s lieutenant. Cassio is a young and inexperienced soldier, whose high position is much resented by Iago. Truly devoted to Othello, Cassio is extremely ashamed after being implicated in a drunken brawl on Cyprus and losing his place as lieutenant. Iago uses Cassio’s youth, good looks, and friendship with Desdemona to play on Othello’s insecurities about Desdemona’s fidelity.
Emilia Iago’s wife and Desdemona’s attendant. A cynical, worldly woman, she is deeply attached to her mistress and distrustful of her husband.
Roderigo A jealous suitor of Desdemona. Young, rich, and foolish, Roderigo is convinced that if he gives Iago all of his money, Iago will help him win Desdemona’s hand. Repeatedly frustrated as Othello marries Desdemona and then takes her to Cyprus, Roderigo is ultimately desperate enough to agree to help Iago kill Cassio after Iago points out that Cassio is another potential rival for Desdemona.
Bianca A courtesan, or prostitute, in Cyprus. Bianca’s favorite customer is Cassio, who teases her with promises of marriage.
Brabanzio Desdemona’s father, a somewhat blustering and self-important Venetian senator. As a friend of Othello, Brabanzio feels betrayed when the general marries his daughter in secret.
Duke of Venice The official authority in Venice, the duke has great respect for Othello as a public and military servant. His primary role within the play is to reconcile Othello and Brabanzio in Act I, scene iii, and then to send Othello to Cyprus.
Montano The governor of Cyprus before Othello. We see him first in Act II, as he recounts the status of the war and awaits the Venetian ships.
Lodovico One of Brabanzio’s kinsmen, Lodovico acts as a messenger from Venice to Cyprus. He arrives in Cyprus in Act IV with letters announcing that Othello has been replaced by Cassio as governor.
Graziano Brabanzio’s kinsman who accompanies Lodovico to Cyprus. Amidst the chaos of the final scene, Graziano mentions that Desdemona’s father has died.
Clown Othello’s servant. Although the clown appears only in two short scenes, his appearances reflect and distort the action and words of the main plots: his puns on the word “lie” in Act III, scene iv, for example, anticipate Othello’s confusion of two meanings of that word in Act IV, scene i.
Macbeth Macbeth is a Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their prophecy that he will be made thane of Cawdor comes true. Macbeth is a brave soldier and a powerful man, but he is not a virtuous one. He is easily tempted into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and once he commits his first crime and is crowned King of Scotland, he embarks on further atrocities with increasing ease. Ultimately, Macbeth proves himself better suited to the battlefield than to political intrigue, because he lacks the skills necessary to rule without being a tyrant. His response to every problem is violence and murder. Unlike Shakespeare’s great villains, such as Iago in Othello and Richard III in Richard III,Macbeth is never comfortable in his role as a criminal. He is unable to bear the psychological consequences of his atrocities.
Lady Macbeth Macbeth’s wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. Early in the play she seems to be the stronger and more ruthless of the two, as she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize the crown. After the bloodshed begins, however, Lady Macbeth falls victim to guilt and madness to an even greater degree than her husband. Her conscience affects her to such an extent that she eventually commits suicide. Interestingly, she and Macbeth are presented as being deeply in love, and many of Lady Macbeth’s speeches imply that her influence over her husband is primarily sexual. Their joint alienation from the world, occasioned by their partnership in crime, seems to strengthen the attachment that they feel to each another.
The Three Witches Three “black and midnight hags” who plot mischief against Macbeth using charms, spells, and prophecies. Their predictions prompt him to murder Duncan, to order the deaths of Banquo and his son, and to blindly believe in his own immortality. The play leaves the witches’ true identity unclear—aside from the fact that they are servants of Hecate, we know little about their place in the cosmos. In some ways they resemble the mythological Fates, who impersonally weave the threads of human destiny. They clearly take a perverse delight in using their knowledge of the future to toy with and destroy human beings.
Banquo The brave, noble general whose children, according to the witches’ prophecy, will inherit the Scottish throne. Like Macbeth, Banquo thinks ambitious thoughts, but he does not translate those thoughts into action. In a sense, Banquo’s character stands as a rebuke to Macbeth, since he represents the path Macbeth chose not to take: a path in which ambition need not lead to betrayal and murder. Appropriately, then, it is Banquo’s ghost—and not Duncan’s—that haunts Macbeth. In addition to embodying Macbeth’s guilt for killing Banquo, the ghost also reminds Macbeth that he did not emulate Banquo’s reaction to the witches’ prophecy.
King Duncan The good King of Scotland whom Macbeth, in his ambition for the crown, murders. Duncan is the model of a virtuous, benevolent, and farsighted ruler. His death symbolizes the destruction of an order in Scotland that can be restored only when Duncan’s line, in the person of Malcolm, once more occupies the throne.
Macduff A Scottish nobleman hostile to Macbeth’s kingship from the start. He eventually becomes a leader of the crusade to unseat Macbeth. The crusade’s mission is to place the rightful king, Malcolm, on the throne, but Macduff also desires vengeance for Macbeth’s murder of Macduff’s wife and young son.
Malcolm The son of Duncan, whose restoration to the throne signals Scotland’s return to order following Macbeth’s reign of terror. Malcolm becomes a serious challenge to Macbeth with Macduff’s aid (and the support of England). Prior to this, he appears weak and uncertain of his own power, as when he and Donalbain flee Scotland after their father’s murder.
Hecate The goddess of witchcraft, who helps the three witches work their mischief on Macbeth.
Fleance Banquo’s son, who survives Macbeth’s attempt to murder him. At the end of the play, Fleance’s whereabouts are unknown. Presumably, he may come to rule Scotland, fulfilling the witches’ prophecy that Banquo’s sons will sit on the Scottish throne.
Lennox A Scottish nobleman.
Ross A Scottish nobleman.
The Murderers A group of ruffians conscripted by Macbeth to murder Banquo, Fleance (whom they fail to kill), and Macduff’s wife and children.
Porter The drunken doorman of Macbeth’s castle.
Lady Macduff Macduff’s wife. The scene in her castle provides our only glimpse of a domestic realm other than that of Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. She and her home serve as contrasts to Lady Macbeth and the hellish world of Inverness.
Donalbain Duncan’s son and Malcolm’s younger brother.
Knight Chivalrous, brave, loyal, honorable, successful warrior, humble; not concerned with his appearance (not a slob, but wears clothes for a purpose)
Squire The knight’s son. A young soldier, passionate, adventurous, sings & plays the flute to impress the ladies, fashionable/cares about his appearance, well-rounded, well-educated (can joust, recite, dance, write, and draw), enjoys partying, very respectful towards his father
Nun Ranks just below the head of her convent. Physically attractive with fine clothing and jewelry; sophisticated. Not actually very religious (her “greatest oath” is not very religious). Not genuine, coy (sly), unattractive voice, does not know proper French (fakes it), has poor table manners and eats a lot; not BAD per se, but a FAKER. PRIORESS indicates that she wants to ascend the rings of the nun power-ladder
Monk Wealthy; lavish (usually think of a monk being poor, devout, simple)Monasteries are centers of literacy (monks should be reading, writing teaching), but he does not hold texts/studying in esteem or value education. Enjoys hunting (disregards the rule that “hunters are not holy men”). Owns horses and greyhoundsIs a rule-breaker, Opposed to hard toil. Fashionable. Spares no expense at having fun. Victually indulgent (glutton). Not a HORRIBLE person; does what HE wants to do & loves life. Chaucer is saying that he is in the wrong profession
Friar Is a limiter-blindly absolves sins for cash (“special license from the pope”). A smooth, eloquent talker-“glib”. Makes people feel comfortable/gets them talking. Sings & plays the hurdy-gurdy”giving each of his young women what he could afford her” (gifts–hairpins, pocketknives). “knew the taverns well in every town” (spends his nights and money drinking). Won’t associate with lepers and beggars. Even takes money from poor, shoeless widows. Wears extremely expensive clothing. Basically a first class a-hole
Oxford Cleric Studious; humble; modest; poor; hardworking. In stark contrast to the Monk and the Friar. Exactly what a person of the clergy should be, Wears worn-out clothing; not at all materialistic. Young but wise, Respectful and quiet. Well-educated; loves to read; “his only care was studying”, Unworldly (hasn’t traveled a lot). Borrows money from friends to buy his books and repays them by praying for them. Moral and virtuous
Franklin (wealthy landowner) Takes great pleasure in food; affluent; influential; “a model among landed gentry” – had food ready for the whole county each day with a generous table
Wife of Bath KNOW HER TALEShe is religious (married in a church, no one dares get in front of her in line). 5 different marriages (can assume her husbands all died). Has “remedies for heartbreak” (has had her heart broken more than once, so she knows how to deal with it). Fun-laughs and chats. Very well-traveled-has money and independence. Well-dressed
Parson Poor (makes sacrifices); humble. Benign; patient. Generous; selfless. A good example (someone who truly should be revered)Discreet. Holy and virtuous; very, genuinely religious; devoutNever contemptuous; not disdainful (doesn’t judge sinners); does not show favoritism. NOT hypocritical (shepherd/flock), Learned, Charitable, Acts as a priest truly should
Plowman A commoner; the Parson’s brother, Hardworking; honest; takes pride in his work, Loving, Pious, Generous. A good, honest, religious man (he and his brother are perfect examples of good Christian values)
Miller Strong, A loudmouth, Dishonest, a thiefArrogant, boastful, a show-off (“he liked to play his bagpipes up and down” 583)Compared to unflattering things in simile after simileGoes to bars and tells dirty storiesFoil to the Plowman (both are common laborers)
Summoner Children are afraid of him, Knobby, pimply appearance (do NOT google images of carbuncles)Enjoys garlic, onion, leeks, and drinking wine (not very intelligent when he does so)For wine, lets “any good lad” keep a concubine; aka, makes boys pay for his silence about their affairs (corrupt)When Chaucer exaggerates looks (carbuncles, drunk, his jabbering, his smell), he is saying something about their character
Cherubin playing god/trying to make people fear him. Compared to a jay–repeats what he doesn’t understand (handful of legal phrases). Nothing intelligent or deep about him. Another first-class a-hole
Pardoner KNOW HIS TALE. Sings loudly and strongly. He carries pardons from Rome with him; has a pillowcase in his trunk that he claims is Our Lady’s veil (pretentious/self-important). Rapacious; hypocritical. Hair compared to rat tails, meaning that he is slimy, untrustworthy. Nothing manly about him (not a very open-minded thought, but the idea is that for the time he doesn’t fit the ideas of how a man should be)
Host Generous, Good-natured; humorous, StrongComes up with the ideas of the pilgrims telling their tales on the way to Canterbury”unanimously thus we set him up in judgment over us” (837-838)