Much Ado About Nothing

Much Ado About Nothing Information

Much Ado About Nothing is a 1993 British/American romantic comedy film based on William Shakespeare's play of the same name. It was adapted for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh who stars in the film. The film also stars Branagh's then-wife Emma Thompson, Robert Sean Leonard, Denzel Washington, Keanu Reeves, and Kate Beckinsale in her film debut.

The film was released on May 7, 1993, reaching 200 U.S. screens at its widest release. It earned $22 million at the U.S. box office and $36 million total worldwide, which, despite failing to reach the mark set by Franco Zeffirelli's Romeo and Juliet, made it one of the most financially successful Shakespeare films ever released. It was also entered into the 1993 Cannes Film Festival.


The prince Don Pedro (Denzel Washington) and his noblemen are visiting their good friend Leonato (Richard Briers) in Messina after having quashed the uprising led by Don John (Keanu Reeves), the prince's bastard half-brother. With him is the misogynistic and witty Benedick (Kenneth Branagh), erstwhile flame of Leonato's equally sharp-tongued and somewhat fierce niece, Beatrice (Emma Thompson), who is something of a misandrist. Also present are Benedick's "sworn brother" Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), a young count; and Don John, who has apparently reconciled with his brother. Claudio has been thinking fondly of Leonato's gentle and lovely daughter Hero (Kate Beckinsale) since before he went to war, and returns to find her as attractive as ever. Don Pedro, learning of his young friend's feelings, arranges the match at a party. An unrepentant and ill-intentioned Don John attempts to foil it, but unsuccessfully: the match is made. Needing something to pass the time until the wedding day, Don Pedro decides to arrange a similar fate for Beatrice and Benedick. Of course, with each party being such "professed tyrant" to the opposite sex, this match will take a little more ingenuity.

Leonato, Claudio and the Prince stage a loud conversation containing a fictitious account of how much Beatrice is in love with Benedick; all the while, knowing Benedick to be hiding well within earshot. Hero and her gentlewoman Ursula play the same trick upon Beatrice. Each of them believes the story they hear about the other. In the midst of all of this good-natured scheming, Don John and his men have been casting about for ways to stop the intended marriage between the man who "hath all the glory of [Don John's] overthrow" and the woman for whom one may suspect he has cherished some tender feeling. The night before the wedding, his servant Borachio arranges a steamy liaison with Hero's gentlewoman Margaret at Hero's chamber window. John shows his half-brother and Claudio the rendezvous, leading them to believe that they are seeing Hero in the act of infidelity.

Against the revelry of the evening, the constable Dogberry (Michael Keaton) appoints a watch to keep the peace. The three hapless watchmen happen to hear Borachio bragging to his colleague Conrade about how he and Don John had finally succeeded in wrecking the wedding plans, and quickly capture them. In the morning, Dogberry shows up at Leonato's door to fetch him for the examination of the detainees. Unfortunately, the old gentleman is in too much of a hurry to try to decipher what the malapropism-prone constable is trying to tell him. Amidst the confusion, Don John quietly flees the estate.

At the wedding, Claudio publicly disgraces his would-be bride and storms away along with all of the guests except for Ursula, the Friar, Leonato, Beatrice, Antonio, and Benedick. They all agree to the Friar's plan to publish the tale that Hero, upon the grief of Claudio's accusations, suddenly died. Beatrice and Benedick linger a moment, and wind up confessing their love to one another. In the wake of this declaration, Beatrice asks Benedick to do the one thing that will satisfy her outrage with what has just happened; she asks him to kill Claudio. With a heavy heart, he agrees to challenge the younger man, which he does in deadly earnest shortly after Leonato and Antonio demand satisfaction from him but are refused. While this was going on, Borachio and Conrade are interrogated by Dogberry and his men. Despite Dogberry's incompetence, the truth of Don John's machinations is revealed.

Moments after Benedick's challenge to Claudio, Leonato is made aware of what really happened. Leonato continues to pretend to Claudio that Hero is dead. Claudio entreats Leonato to impose whatever vengeance he sees fit, for Claudio's part in Hero's disgrace and death. Leonato forgives Claudio on the condition that he publicly declare his wrongdoing, and then marry Hero's cousin the next morning. Claudio agrees to both conditions, and carries out the former by reciting an epitaph at Hero's tomb that night. When the bride is brought forth the next day, she is revealed to be none other than Hero herself. They then profess their true and undying love for each other, as do Beatrice and Benedick when faced with written evidence (acquired and produced by Hero and Claudio) found in the pockets of each, Benedick's in the form of an endearingly poorly-written song. With loud but obviously insincere protests, they agree to marry as well, and Benedick formally renounces his challenge against Claudio and embraces him as a friend once again. Moments later, Don John is marched in, having been captured before he could make his escape. The film ends with the whole of Leonato's household dancing in the courtyard, with the two happy couples at the centre of them.

Cast and characters

  • Kenneth Branagh as Benedick, a nobleman in the court of Don Pedro. He is very arrogant but shows himself to have a good character during the "wedding" scene, as he is the only man from Don Pedro's entourage who implicitly believes Hero. His pride and arrogance make his relationship with Beatrice a tumultuous one, but at the end of the film, Beatrice and Benedick agree to marry.
  • Emma Thompson as Beatrice, Leonato's niece, and Hero's cousin and chamber-mate. She is a strong-willed woman who charms and beguiles all who know her with her wit and cleverness. Beatrice believes from the beginning that her cousin Hero has never been unfaithful to Claudio. Unable to challenge Claudio herself, she impels Benedick to challenge him in order to prove his love for her. Despite all her prickly speech, in Benedick she finds a man who is worthy of her intellect and good humor and in the end agrees to marry him.
  • Robert Sean Leonard as Claudio, a close friend of Don Pedro and Benedick, and fiancé to Hero, with whom he has been in love since before the men went to war. He does not believe Hero when she protests her innocence, and humiliates her by publicly casting her off during their wedding ceremony. When Borachio finally confesses and Hero's innocence becomes clear, Claudio is devastated over his part in her "death" (as Hero's father leads him to believe). He agrees to marry Hero's cousin at Leonato's request, and is reunited with his love when it is revealed that "sweet Hero" is still alive and now his bride in truth.
  • Kate Beckinsale as Hero, the sweet, innocent only child of Governor Leonato, in love with Claudio. She is falsely accused of being unfaithful to Claudio on the night before her wedding. At the end of the play, Don John's plot against her and Claudio is revealed and they are happily married as was planned in the beginning.
  • Denzel Washington as Don Pedro of Aragon; remarkable for being one of the few "marriageable" men in the piece who does not get married by the end of the play, though he does play matchmaker for others. In the second act, when he and Beatrice are alone, he quietly asks her, "will you have me, lady?", revealing his true feelings for her. Beatrice gently rebuffs his proposal, and the two remain friends. He believes, with Claudio, in Hero's alleged infidelity, but is likewise earnestly sorry when he learns the truth.
  • Keanu Reeves as Don John, Don Pedro's evil half brother; his dissatisfaction with his own lot in life leads to his attempts to foil the happiness of his perceived enemies. He conspires with his men Borachio and Conrade to ruin Hero and Claudio's wedding by impugning Hero's honor. When his plot is found out, he attempts to escape but is captured and imprisoned.
  • Richard Briers as Governor Leonato, the father of Hero. He loves his daughter but upon hearing the false news that she was being unfaithful to Claudio, he wishes she had never been born if that would mean that he would be spared the pain of her disgrace. He eventually listens to the Friar's counsel and becomes party to the plot of saying that Hero has died in order to test Claudio's remorse over his humiliation of Hero, and finally reuniting the two young lovers in the last act.
  • Michael Keaton as Dogberry, the local constable. He is not half so clever as he thinks he is and specializes in malapropisms. He solves crimes and misdeeds accidentally, never by cleverness. He and his men accidentally catch Borachio boasting about his involvement with separating Claudio and Hero. His men arrest Borachio and his conspiring friends. He ultimately saves the day by forcing Borachio to confess his part in Don John's plot to Leonato.
  • Gerard Horan as Borachio, Don John's drunken henchmen. He assists Don John in ruining Claudio's and Hero's wedding by making Hero appear unfaithful and initially succeeds, but is caught boasting about his crime by Dogberry's men and forced to confess.
  • Imelda Staunton as Margaret, Hero's rather worldly waiting gentlewoman who is tricked by Borachio, and mistaken for Hero by the Don Pedro and Claudio.
  • Brian Blessed as Antonio, the brother of Leonato and Beatrice's father. He is very good-natured, but is deeply aggrieved by the accusations leveled against his niece.
  • Ben Elton as Verges, the local headborough and Dogberry's partner.
  • Jimmy Yuill as Friar Francis, the priest at Claudio's and Hero's wedding who later defends Hero from the accusations made against her.
  • Richard Clifford as Conrade, a henchman of Don John.
  • Phyllida Law as Ursula, Hero's other waiting gentlewoman.
  • Patrick Doyle as Balthazar, Don Pedro's musician.




The music to Much Ado About Nothing was composed by frequent Kenneth Branagh collaborator Patrick Doyle, who makes a brief cameo in the film as Balthazar singing Sigh No More Ladies and Pardon, Goddess of the Night. The soundtrack was released May 4, 1993 through Epic Soundtrax and features twenty-four tracks of score at a running time just under an hour.

  1. "The Picnic" (2:57)
  2. "Overture" (4:20)
  3. "The Sweetest Lady" (2:05)
  4. "The Conspirators" (2:39)
  5. "The Masked Ball" (1:55)
  6. "The Prince Woos Hero" (1:18)
  7. "A Star Danced" (2:43)
  8. "Rich She Shall Be" (1:42)
  9. "Sigh No More Ladies" (1:58)
  10. "The Gulling of Benedick" (3:12)
  11. "It Must Be Requited" (1:58)
  12. "The Gulling of Beatrice" (1:41)
  13. "Contempt Farewell" (1:32)
  14. "The Lady is Disloyal" (2:14)
  15. "Hero's Wedding" (0:47)
  16. "Take Her Back Again" (3:10)
  17. "Die to Live" (4:43)
  18. "You Have Killed a Sweet Lady" (3:03)
  19. "Choose Your Revenge" (1:48)
  20. "Pardon, Goddess of the Night" (4:32)
  21. "Did I Not Tell You" (1:40)
  22. "Hero Revealed" (1:26)
  23. "Benedick the Married Man" (2:06)
  24. "Strike Up Pipers" (2:41)


Much Ado About Nothing received generally enthusiastic notices from critics. The film currently holds a 91% "Certified Fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "Kenneth Branagh's love for the material is contagious in this exuberant adaptation."

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it three out of four stars, calling it "cheerful from beginning to end." Vincent Canby of The New York Times also wrote the film a positive review, praising Branagh's direction and calling it "ravishing entertainment." Desson Thomson of the The Washington Post praised Branagh's cuts to the text as giving "wonderful import to this silliness from long ago" and stated that, "Kenneth Branagh has, once again, blown away the forbidding academic dust and found a funny retro-essence for the '90s." Online critic James Berardinelli gave the film a glowing four-star review, calling it a "gem of a movie", especially praising the accessibility of the humor, the performances, and Branagh's lively direction, of which he wrote, "This film cements Branagh's status as a great director of Shakespeare, and perhaps of film in general, as well."

Conversely, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone wrote the film a negative review, praising some moments as "invigorating fun", but ultimately calling it "overripe." Most of the negative criticisms focused on particular casting choices, notably Keanu Reeves as Don John, and Michael Keaton as Dogberry. For his performance in the film, Reeves was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor.

Much Ado About Nothing was ranked #11 on Rotten Tomatoes list of Greatest Shakespeare Movies.


Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
British Academy Film Awards Best Costume Design Phyllis Dalton
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Kenneth Branagh
Evening Standard British Film Awards Best Actress Emma Thompson
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture " Musical or Comedy Kenneth Branagh
Independent Spirit Awards Best Film Kenneth Branagh, Stephen Evans, David Parfitt
Best Female Lead Emma Thompson
London Film Critics' Circle British Producer of the Year Kenneth Branagh
Golden Raspberry Award Worst Supporting Actor Keanu Reeves

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