Study Guide

Much Ado About Nothing Transformation

By William Shakespeare


Act I, Scene i

O my, lord,
When you went onward on this ended action,
I looked upon her with a soldier's eye,
That liked, but had a rougher task in hand
Than to drive liking to the name of love.
But now I am returned and that war thoughts
Have left their places vacant, in their rooms
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
All prompting me how fair young Hero is,
Saying I liked her ere I went to wars. (1.1.291-300)

Claudio says war thoughts had once dominated his mind, but that the battle is over, he’s been transformed into a lover. This transformation is not something he had any agency over—he talks about it passively, like falling for Hero is something that happened to him, as opposed to something he came to of his own volition. There’s a warning here—he’s been transformed and moved by an outside force, not his own internal feelings—it’s a sign that perhaps he’ll be easily moved against his love for Hero by an outside force too. (Which does happen. Ta da!)

Act II, Scene i

Even to the next willow, about your own
business, county. What fashion will you wear the
garland of? About your neck like an usurer's chain?
or under your arm, like a lieutenant's scarf? You
must wear it one way, for the Prince hath got your
I wish him joy of her. (2.1.185-191)

Claudio has been transformed from a lover into a victim. Though he’s proven strong in battle, he’s weak in love, and gives Hero up too easily to Don Pedro.

Act II, Scene iii

I have known when there was no music
with him but the drum and the fife, and now had he
rather hear the tabor and the pipe; I have known
when he would have walked ten mile afoot to see a
good armor, and now will he lie ten nights awake
carving the fashion of a new doublet. He was wont
to speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest
man and a soldier, and now is he turned orthography;
his words are a very fantastical banquet, just so
many strange dishes. May I be so converted and see
with these eyes? I cannot tell; I think not. (2.3.13-23)

Benedick lists of all of the terrible transformations that men undergo when in love, but it’s important to note that he doesn’t speak of the positive things love actually brings to the table. Men aren’t just transformed for the worse—they actually are giving some things up willingly, because love brings them so much more. Benedick doesn’t believe a transformation like that could ever happen to him, but it’s likely because he only sees the bad effects of love, not any of its benefits.

may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of
wit broken on me because I have railed so long
against marriage, but doth not the appetite alters? A
man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot
endure in his age. (2.3.237-242)

Benedick notes that people change, and uses it as a defense against his former hatred of marriage and claim that he would never have any other opinion on the matter. He’s simply changed his mind about his ability to change, which is perfectly respectable.

Act III, Scene ii

Yet is this no charm for the toothache.—
Old signior, walk aside with me. I have studied eight
or nine wise words to speak to you, which these
hobby-horses must not hear. (3.2.65-68)

Benedick has been transformed by love. Though he’s certainly the wittiest in his group of friends, and can usually handle as much heckling as he dishes out, he now slinks off with the gentle Leonato. Basically, in the initial stages of love, he’s become more soft, dull, and serious.

Act IV, Scene i

[Claudio, Prince, and Don John exit.]
How doth the lady? (4.1.118)

This is a monumental transformation for Benedick during the wedding scene where Hero has just fainted after being publicly denounced. As Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio storm out, Benedick surprisingly stays behind and even inquires after Hero. While this is an obvious indication that Benedick’s allegiances may have changed, it seems there is some deeper transformation at work (perhaps regarding his love for Beatrice, but perhaps also his sense of justice).

Act V, Scene i

My lord, for your many
courtesies I thank you. I must discontinue your
company. (5.1.200-202)

This is a decisive move for Benedick; as it is the moment when he explicitly breaks company with Don Pedro shows a public transformation in his allegiance.

Sweet Prince, let me go no farther to mine
answer. Do you hear me, and let this Count kill me.
I have deceived even your very eyes. What your
wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools
have brought to light, who in the night overheard
me confessing to this man, how Don John your
brother incensed me to slander the Lady Hero, how
you were brought into the orchard and saw me
court Margaret in Hero's garments, how you disgraced
her when you should marry her. My villainy
they have upon record, which I had rather seal with
my death than repeat over to my shame. The lady is
dead upon mine and my master's false accusation.
And, briefly, I desire nothing but the reward of a
villain. (5.1.240-254)

Borachio transforms from a villain into a courageous man willing to accept his guilt and pay for his crimes. The seriousness of his crimes—resulting in the supposed death of Hero—has brought about this tremendous change. It's interesting that it didn’t bring about a similar transformation in Claudio who later tries to weasel his way out of punishment.