Shakespeare wrote Much Ado About Nothing towards the middle of his career, sometime between 1598 and 1599. It was first published in quarto in 1600 and later collected into Mr. William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies in 1623. The earliest recorded performance of Much Ado About Nothing was performed for the newly-married Princess Elizabeth and Frederick the Fifth, Elector Palatine in 1613.
Shakespeare’s sources of inspiration for this play can be found in Italian culture and popular texts published in the sixteenth century. Gossip involving lovers deceived into believing each other false was often spread throughout Northern Italy. Works like Ludovico Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso and Edmund Spencer’s Fearie Queene also feature tricked lovers like Claudio and Hero. Besides these similarities, the idea of tricking a couple like Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love was an original and unusual idea at the time.
The play focuses on two couples: upon the noblemen’s return to Messina, Claudio and Hero quickly fall in love and wish to marry in a week; on the contrary, Benedick and Beatrice resume their verbal war, exchanging insults with each other. To pass the time prior to the marriage a plot to trick Benedick and Beatrice into falling in love has been set in motion. Unbeknownst to both our couples, a fouler plot to crush the love and happiness between Hero and Claudio has also begun to unfold.