Much Ado about Nothing
The plot is from a novel of Belleforest, copied from one by
Bandello (18th vol.,
vi.). There is a story resembling it in Ariosto's Orlando
Furioso, bk. v., another in the Geneura of G. Turberville,
and Spenser has a similar one in the Faërie Queene, book ii.
Much Ado about Nothing.
After a war in Messina, Claudio, Benedick, and some other soldiers
went to visit Leonato the governor, when the former fell in love with
Hero, the governor's daughter; but Benedick and Beatrice, being great
rattle-pates, fell to jesting, and each positively disliked the other.
By a slight artifice their hatred was converted into love, and Beatrice
was betrothed to the Paduan lord. In regard to Hero, the day of her
nuptials was fixed; but Don John, who hated Claudio and Leonato,
induced Margaret, the lady's maid, to dress up like her mistress, and
to talk familiarly with one Borachio, a servant of Don John's; and
chit-chat was going on, the Don led Claudio and Leonato to overhear
it. Each thought it to be Hero, and when she appeared as a bride next
morning at church, they both denounced her as a light woman. The friar,
being persuaded that there was some mistake, induced Hero to retire,
and gave out that she was dead. Leonato now challenged Claudio for
being the cause of Hero's death, and Benedick, urged on by Beatrice,
did the same. At this crisis Borachio was arrested, and confessed the
trick; Don John fled, the mystery was duly cleared up, and the two
lords married the two ladies.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894