Much Ado About Nothing is a comedic play by William Shakespeare about two pairs of lovers, Benedick and Beatrice, and Claudio and Hero. Benedick and Beatrice are engaged in a very "merry war"; they are both very glib and proclaim their disdain of love. In contrast, Claudio and Hero are sweet young people who are rendered practically speechless by their love for one another. By means of "noting" (which sounds the same as "nothing," and which is gossip, rumour, and overhearing), Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar. However, Dogberry, a Constable who is a master of malapropisms, discovers the evil trickery of the villain, Don John. In the end, Don John runs away and everyone else joins in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples.
The earliest printed text states that Much Ado About Nothing was "sundry times publicly acted" prior to 1600 and it is likely that the play made its debut in the autumn or winter of 1598–1599. The earliest recorded performances are two that were given at Court in the winter of 1612–1613, during the festivities preceding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth with Frederick V, Elector Palatine (14 February 1613). The play was published in quarto in 1600 by the stationers Andrew Wise and William Aspley. This was the only edition prior to the First Folio in 1623.
The play is one of the few in the Shakespeare canon where the majority of the text is written in prose. The substantial verse sections, nevertheless, are used both to achieve courteous decorum, on the one hand, and impulsive energies, on the other.