Much Ado About Nothing (1993 film)

Much Ado About Nothing

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Kenneth Branagh
Produced by Kenneth Branagh
Stephen Evans
David Parfitt
Screenplay by Kenneth Branagh
Based on Much Ado About Nothing by
William Shakespeare
Starring Kenneth Branagh
Keanu Reeves
Denzel Washington
Emma Thompson
Richard Briers
Music by Patrick Doyle
Cinematography Roger Lanser
Editing by Andrew Marcus
Studio BBC Films
Renaissance Films
Distributed by The Samuel Goldwyn Company
Release date(s) May 7, 1993 (1993-05-07) (US)
August 27, 1993 (1993-08-27) (UK)
Running time 111 minutes
Country United Kingdom
United States
Language English
Budget $8 million[1]
Box office $22,549,338

Much Ado About Nothing is a 1993 British/American romantic comedy film based on William Shakespeare's play. It was adapted for the screen and directed by Kenneth Branagh, who also played the role of Benedick.

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.[2]



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. Among the victors are 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, and Benedick's "sworn brother" Claudio (Robert Sean Leonard), a young count. Claudio has been thinking fondly of Leonato's gentle and lovely daughter Hero 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. Despite Don John's best efforts to foil it, the Prince's plan works out perfectly in the end. Needing something to pass the time until the wedding day, Don Pedro decides to arrange a similar fate for Beatrice and Benedick. Of course, both parties being such “professed tyrant[s]” 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 to meet with Hero's gentlewoman Margaret at Hero's chamber window. John shows his half-brother and Claudio the rendezvous and makes them believe that they are seeing Hero in the act of infidelity. Against the revelry of the evening, the constable Dogberry 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. They make the arrest and send Dogberry in the morning to fetch Leonato for the examination, but the old gentleman is in too much of a hurry to try to decipher what the constable would say to him. Amidst the confusion, the villain has managed to escape to parts unknown before he can get his comeuppance.

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, her father 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. He agrees, but it is with a heavy heart. Just after the challenge is issued, the story of Don John's deception comes to light, and the Prince and Claudio are sorely grieved for their grave mistake. Leonato forgives Claudio on the condition that he marry Hero's cousin on the next morning. Claudio agrees. When the bride is brought forth, 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. All are reconciled and Don John is discovered and promised punishment. The film ends with the whole of Leonato's household dancing in the courtyard, with the newlyweds at the center 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 (even Benedick eventually) 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 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.
  • 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.
  • Imelda Staunton as Margaret, a rather worldly maidservant who is tricked by Borachio, and mistaken for Hero by the Don Pedro and Claudio.


The film received generally enthusiastic notices from critics, with most of the negative criticism focusing on particular casting choices, notably Keanu Reeves as Don John, and Michael Keaton as Dogberry. The film currently holds a 90% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with the consensus "Kenneth Branagh's love for the material is contagious in this exuberant adaptation."[3] For his performance in the film, Reeves was nominated for a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actor.[4]


Much Ado About Nothing
Film score by Patrick Doyle
Released 4 May 1993
Recorded 1993
Genre Soundtrack
Length 59:02
Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
Filmtracks 4/5 stars[5]

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.[6] The music was released May 4, 1993 through Epic Soundtrax and features twenty-four tracks of score at a running time just under an hour.[7]

  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)


  1. ^ Much Ado About Nothing at the Internet Movie Database
  2. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Much Ado About Nothing". Retrieved 2009-08-22. 
  3. ^ Much Ado About Nothing at Rotten Tomatoes
  4. ^ Wilson, John (4 December 2005). "Nominees & Winners". Fourteenth Annual RAZZIE® Awards (for 1993). Golden Raspberry Award Foundation. Retrieved 9 July 2010. 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Patrick Doyle Biography (1953-) at Retrieved 2011-04-14.
  7. ^ Clemmensen, Christian. Much Ado About Nothing soundtrack review at Retrieved 2011-04-14.

External links

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