Peter Gill, playwright and theatre director
Much Ado (1981)
Home | Up | News | Pieces | Rsum | Pictures | Studio | Publications | Links

Shakespeare portraits


Bookmark and Share

Much Ado About Nothing

by William Shakespeare

National Theatre

Olivier Theatre, 14 August 1981

Length: about 2 hours, including interval

Beatrice: O God that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.

See also:

Stage History

The play, written between 1598 and 1600, was "Sundrie times publikely acted, " but there were only two officially recorded performances in Shakespeare's lifetime, both at Court, in 1612/13. These performances were part of the celebrations preceding the marriage of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of James I, to the Elector Palatine, Prince Frederick of Bohemia. For one of them the play was called "Bennedick and Betrice, " after the characters who form one half of the love plot. Charles I entered this title in his copy of Shakespeare's plays.


The story exists in numerous forms, but it is likely that Shakespeare's main source was John Harrington's translation of Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1591). Shakespeare enlivened the familiar tale by the addition of Dogberry and Verges, who became the principal means by which the villainy is unmasked. The witty exchanges of Beatrice and Benedick form a foil to the seriousness of the Hero-Claudio plot and the story of their wooing runs like a counterpoint through the play.


The Quarto edition of Much Ado was first published in 1600, and is thought to have been printed from a manuscript written by the playwright himself. Shakespeare seems not to have supervised the publication of any of his 37 plays. The Quartos (the eighteen plays published in his lifetime) are described by the editors of the Folio (the collected plays, published posthumously, in 1623) as "Diverse, stolen, and surreptitious copies, maimed and deformed by the frauds and stealth of injurous imposters that exposed them."


Much Ado has more prose in it than any other play in the canon except The Merry Wives of Windsor. The characters in the Claudio-Hero plot speak predominantly in verse, but Beatrice, Benedick, Dogberry and Verges, who were Shakespeare's own contribution to the story, speak almost exclusively in prose. It is this mixture of verse with variegated prose now free, now formal which gives the play its characteristic texture, and looks forward to the rich formlessness of the late plays.


The action takes place in Leonato's house and its environs. The play's setting is Messina, but the many detailed references to the garden and the domestic life of an Elizabethan household point inescapably to an English context.

Leonato Frederick Treves

Theatre includes: Dirty Linen (Arts), Saint Joan (Prospect at the Old Vic), The Old One-Two (Soho Poly). NT: The Passion, Plenty, The Philanderer, The Iceman Cometh. TV includes: When The Boat Comes In, The Naked Civil Servant, Destiny, An Englishman's Castle, Suez, The Cherry Orchard, PQ17, Stalky & Co, The Country, Bognor, All Creatures Great and Small, Fallen Hero, The House of Caradus. Films: Devices and Desires, Sweeney Two, The Elephant Man.

Messenger Mark Buffery

Theatre includes: in London: Tarantara, Tarantara (Westminster & Phoenix), The Journey (Roundhouse), The Government Inspector, Romeo and Juliet, The 88 (Old Vic). TV: Second City Firsts, Enemy at the Door, The Upchat Connection, The Crime of Captain Colhurst, The Borgias, Into the Labyrinth. Film: The Planet Suite. Numerous radio plays.

Beatrice, niece to Leonato Penelope Wilton

Theatre includes in London: Widowers' Houses, King Lear, The Alchemist (all transferred from Nottingham), The Philanthropist (also in New York), West of Suez, The Great Exhibition, Something's Burning, The Norman Conquests, Bloomsbury, All's Well That Ends Well, Measure For Measure, Play, Tishoo. NT: Plunder, The Philanderer, Betrayal, Othello, Sisterly Feelings, Man and Superman. TV Includes: An Affair of Honour, Mrs Warren's Profession, The Sullen Sisters (Country Matters), Song of Songs, The Pearcross Girls, King Lear, The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd, The Norman Conquests, Abie's Will, Othello. Films: Joseph Andrews, The French Lieutenant's Woman.

Hero, daughter to Leonato Caroline Langrishe

Theatre includes in London: The Cherry Orchard (Riverside), A Portrait of Dora (New End). NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan. TV: Anna Karenina, Just William, Emily, Queen Victoria's Scandals, Invitations, Wuthering Heights, Seconds Out, Tales of the Unexpected, The Flipside of Dominick Hyde. Films: Holocaust 2000, Someone is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe, Eagle's Wing, Les Miserables, Death Watch, Possessions, Hammer House of Horror.

Don Pedro Robert Swann

Theatre includes in London: Rafferty's Chant (Mermaid), Forty Years On (Apollo), My Little Boy My Big Girl (Fortune), Gone with the Wind (Drury Lane), Very Good Eddie (Piccadilly), His Monkey Wife (Hampstead), An Ideal Husband (Greenwich). NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan. TV includes: Upstairs Downstairs, The Sweeney, Minder, Fallen Hero, Anna Karenina, Hamlet, Sense and Sensibility. Film: If.

Benedick Michael Gambon

Theatre includes in London: Not Drowning But Waving (Greenwich), The Norman Conquests (Greenwich & West End), Zoo Story (Regent's Park), Otherwise Engaged, Just Between Ourselves, Alice's Boys (West End). RSC: When Thou Art King, Henry VIII, The Plebeians Rehearse the Uprising, Major Barbara. NT: Hamlet, Saint Joan, The Recruiting Officer, Andorra, Philoctetes, Othello, The Royal Hunt of the Sun, The Crucible, Much Ado About Nothing, Mother Courage, Love for Love, Juno and the Paycock, The Storm, Betrayal, Close of Play, Richard III, Othello, Sisterly Feelings, The Life of Galileo (London Drama Critics' Award for Best Actor). TV includes: Eyeless in Gaza, The Other One, The Seagull; most recently: The Breadwinner.

Don John, Don Pedro's bastard brother Partick Drury

Theatre includes in London: Events in an Upper Room (ICA), Dear Daddy (Ambassadors), Pinch Me Not (Greenwich), The Irish Hebrew Lesson (Almost Free & NT Platform), Flying Blind, The Key Tag (Royal Court), Measure for Measure (Riverside), James Joyce and Co (King's Head). NT: Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV: Shelley, I Claudius, Disraeli, Escape Into Thin Air, Film: The Awakening.

Claudio Tim Woodward

Theatre includes repertory at Glasgow Citizen's, Cambridge, Mold Theatre Clwyd, Ipswich, Ludlow Festival, Chichester Festival. In London: Stripwell (Royal Court), She Stoops to Conquer, The Rivals (Greenwich), Hamlet (Stratford East). TV includes: Chips with Everything, French Without Tears, The Cost of Loving, Wings, Diary of Bridget Hitler, Cousin Phyllis. Films: Galileo, The Europeans, Reds. Has worked extensively in radio.

Antonio, brother to Leonato Edward Jewesbury

Theatre includes in London: The Love of a Good Man (Royal Court), Look Back in Anger (Royal Court & Criterion). RSC: Cousin Vladimir, Hang of the Gaol, Coriolanus. NT: Grand Manoeuvres, Equus, Lark Rise. TV: Yes Minister, Churchill and the Generals, I Claudius, Edward and Mrs Simpson, Edward VII, Crown Court, Tales of the Unexpected. Roger Doesn't Live Here Any More, Badgers by Gaslight. Gipsy Cottage, The Wilderness Years.

Conrade, follower to Don John Robert Hamilton

Theatre includes in London: Live Like Pigs, Julius Caesar, Crete and Sergeant Pepper, Marie and Bruce (Royal Court), Fat Harold (New End), Rashomon (Stratford East), Light Shining in Buckinghamshire, Mad World My Masters, Epsom Downs, Fanshen (Joint Stock), AII Along the Watchtowers (ICA), Measure for Measure (Riverside), Tom Fool (Half Moon), Plugged Into History (7: 84). NT at the Comedy: The Crucible. TV includes: Birthday, Jamie on a Flying Visit, Jazz Age, Seven Deadly Virtues, Plugged Into History, The Roses of Eyam, Murder Must Advertise, Stronger than the Sun, One of these Nights, Light, Autumn Sunshine, Kinvig. Films: Porridge, Long Good Friday.

Borachio, follower to Don John Peter Sproule

Theatre includes in London: long association with the Royal Court, including Edward Bond Season. May Fair Theatre: Flashpoint. Riverside: Julius Caesar, Mother Country. NT: The Romans in Britain, A Month in the Country, Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV includes: Blue Skies from Now On, The Naked Civil Servant, Billy. Films: The Land That Time Forgot, The Mouse and the Woman, If.

Margaret, gentlewoman attending to Hero Louisa Rix

Theatre includes in London: The Streets of London (Stratford East), Whose Life Is It Anyway (Savoy), Time and the Conways (Greenwich). TV: Breakaway Girls, Goodbye Darling, Danger UXB, Kids, Coronation Street, The Professionals, A Fine Romance.

Ursula, gentlewoman attending to Hero Mary Macleod

Theatre includes at the Royal Court: Miniatures, Three Men for Colverton, Macbeth, Life Price, One at Night, The Farm. Riverside: Scrape off the Black, Black Man's Burden. NT: Equus, A Month in the Country, Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV includes: The Witches of Pendle. Headmaster, People Like Us, Thomas and Sarah, Three Days in Sczecyn, Three Men in a Boat, The Duchess of Duke Street, Brideshead Revisited, The Best of British (on Peter Gill). Films: If, The Final Programme, Morgan, The French Lieutenant's Woman, O Lucky Man.

Susan Porrett

Theatre includes at the Royal Court: Mother's Day, Skoolplay, The London Cuckolds; Greenwich: An Ideal Husband, Don Juan; Riverside: Scrape off the Black, Black Man's Burden. NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan. TV: Upstairs Downstairs, The Duchess of Duke Street, Malice Aforethought, Grange Hill, The Best of British (on Peter Gill). Films: One of Our Dinosaurs is Missing, Full Circle, Sir Henry at Rawlinson End.

Boy Martin Hesford

Theatre includes repertory at Crucible Sheffield, national tour of Once a Catholic; Glass Houses (Royal Court). TV: Chance of a Lifetime. Juliet Bravo, Coronation Street. Film: Absolution.

Balthasar Christopher Snell

Theatre includes national tours of These Foolish Things and Vanity; Mr Wilberforce MP (Westminster), The Italian Straw Hat (Camden Festival). NT: The Shoemakers' Holiday, Man and Superman.

Dogberry Brian Glover

Theatre includes in London: Bequest to the Nation (Haymarket), Corunna (Theatre Upstairs), The Changing Room, Life Class, What the Butler Saw (Royal Court and West End), Circle of Glory (Prospect). RSC: Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, The Taming of the Shrew, As You Like It. NT: The Passion, The Iceman Cometh, The Long Voyage Home, Lark Rise, The World Turned Upside Down, Has Washington Legs, The Crucible. TV: Shakespeare or Bust, Three for the Fancy, The Fishing Party, Sounding Brass, Porridge, The Likely Lads, Speech Day, People from the Forest, Midsummer Night's Dream, Send in the Girls. Films: Kes, Brannigan, Absolution, Trial by Combat, Quilp, Jabberwocky, The Great Train Robbery, Joseph Andrews, O Lucky Man, Sweeney, American Werewolf in London. Has written for TV: Keep an Eye on Albert, Thicker Than Water, School in Time, Sunshine in Brixton.

Verges Leonard Fenton

Theatre includes in London: Wakefield Mystery Plays, The Possessed (Mermaid), The Seagull, The Bed Before Yesterday (Lyric), Maggie (Shaftesbury), The Square (New End), Why Bournemouth (King's Head), The Irish Hebrew Lesson (Almost Free & NT Platform). Royal Court. Anarchists, Live Like Pigs, Skyvers, Magnificence, Eclipse, Happy Days. RSC: London Assurance, Major Barbara, Twelfth Night. NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV includes: plays by C. P. Taylor, Philip Purser, Don Haworth, A Legacy, A Hole in Babylon, Maria Marten. Films: Brown Ale With Gertie, Happy Days. Frequent radio work including membership of Radio Drama Company.

First Watch Al Ashton
Second Watch Richard Hope Theatre includes in London: Romeo and Juliet, Henry IV Part I (Shaw), The End is Nigh (New End), School for Clowns (Half Moon), The White Deer (Unicorn), The Warp, Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Third Policeman (ICA), Le Grand Magic Circus (Shaftesbury), Accidental Death of an Anarchist (Belt & Braces). TV includes: By Common Consent, Saturday Sunday Monday, Heartland, Brideshead Revisited. Films: Bloody Kids. Breaking Glass, The French Lieutenant's Woman.
Friar Francis John Bailey

Theatre includes work at Oxford Playhouse, Bristol Old Vic, Guildford. For Prospect: Staircase, Love's Labour's Lost, King Lear; Greenwich: Rosmersholm; Riverside: Measure for Measure. TV includes: The Forsyte Sage, and recently: The Life of Shakespeare, Frontiers of War, Henry VIII, Timon of Athens, The Winter's Tale. Films include: Running Scared, The Fourteen, Holocaust.

Sexton Paul Bentall

Theatre includes in London: Laughter, The Bukharin Play (Royal Court), Julius Caesar (Riverside). NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan, Serjeant Musgrave's Dance. TV: As You Like It, The Borgias. Film: Flash Gordon.

with Timothy Ackroyd

Theatre includes repertory at Southwold, Basingstoke, Newbury, Farnham; Charley's Aunt at Chichester; tour of The Seagull; Macbeth at Old Vic. TV: Jack Be Nimble.

Al Ashton (First Watch) Theatre includes: repertory at Belgrade Coventry, Second City Theatre Company, Birmingham, Portable Touring Company, Leicester. TV: Fallen Hero, Remembrance. Has written several plays including two for BBC radio.

Emma Jacobs

TV includes: Hunting Tower, The Voyage of Charles Darwin, Pride and Prejudice, Ann Frank, Poor Jenny, Sergeant Cribb, King Arthur, The Life of John Keats, The Other Arf, 1001 Nights. Films: The Stud, The Day Christ Died, Felix Krull.

Bill Leadbitter

Theatre includes two years with Glasgow Citizens including The Caucasian Chalk Circle, Twelfth Night, and tour to London with Don Juan; work with Impact Theatre Company Leeds.

Musicians The Broadside Band
director, recorders, virginals Jeremy Barlow
baroque violin Alastair McLachlan
viols, hurdy-gurdy Rosemary Thorndycraft
lute, mandore, cittern George Weigand
trumpet Colin Rae
percussion Laurie Morgan
Director Peter Gill

Work at the Royal Court, where he was. Associate Director from 1970 to 72, includes A Collier's Friday Night, The Local Stigmatic, The Ruffian on the Stair, A Provincial Life (which he also adapted), A Soldier's Fortune, The Daughter-in-Law, The Widowing of Mrs Holroyd, Life Price, The Duchess of Malfi, Crete and Sergeant Pepper, The Merry-Go-Round (which he also adapted), and his own plays Over Gardens Out, The Sleepers' Den, and Small Change. RSC: Twelfth Night. At Riverside Studios, where he was director from 1976 to 1980, directed As You Like It, Small Change, The Cherry Orchard, The Changeling, Measure for Measure, Julius Caesar, Scrape off the Black. Work abroad includes: Much Ado About Nothing, Hedda Gabler, Macbeth (Stratford Ontario), Landscape, Silence (Lincoln Centre, New York). NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan.

Designer Alison Chitty

Alison Chitty (Designer) Work includes designing over 40 plays at Victoria Theatre Stoke on Trent. In London: Old King Cole (Stratford East), Ecstasy, Uncle Vanya (Hampstead), Measure for Measure, Julius Caesar, Plays Umbrella Season (Riverside). Member of the British theatre designers who won 1st prize at 1979 Prague Quadriennale Exhibition. NT: A Month in the Country, Don Juan.

Music George Fenton

Theatre music includes Twelfth Night (RSC), As You Like It, The Cherry Orchard, The Changeling, Measure for Measure, Julius Caesar (Riverside), A Fair Quarrel, A Month in the Country, Don Juan (NT), Duchess of Malfi (Royal Exchange Manchester). TV includes: Hitting Town, Last Summer, Out, Six Plays by Alan Bennett, Fox, Shoestring, The History Man, Rain on the Roof, Bloody Kids, Going Gently, Camera. Films include: Private Road, Waterloo Bridge Handicap, Hussy, Dead End, Parole.

Lighting Stephen Wentworth

Recently lit shows at Oxford Playhouse, New End Hampstead, King's Head, Arts. NT: Overruled (Young Vic), Crossing Niagara, Bloody Neighbours (ICA), Emigres, Troilus and Cressida (with David Hersey), Bread (Young Vic), Strawberry Fields, Camilla Ringbinder Show, Bow Down, The Passion (with William Dudley), Half Life, Love Letters on Blue Paper, Herod (Cottesloe).

Staff Director John Burgess
Production Manager Michael Cass Jones
Stage Manager Rosemary Beattie
Deputy Stage Manager Courtney Bryant
Assistant Stage Managers Jill Macfarlane
Timothy Speechley
Lesley Walmsley
Sound Gabby Haynes
Assistant to the lighting designer Bradley Hoddinott
Assistant Production Manager Mark Taylor
Photography Zo Dominic
Programme notes compiled by Shirley Mathews
Simon Usher
John Burgess
Set built and painted by Kimpton Walker Ltd
Props and metalwork NT workshops
Furniture Stuart Simpkin
Costumes NT Workshops
Michael Kennedy
Wigs NT workshops
Shoes Anello & Davide, and Gamba
Props and wardrobe care Lever Brothers

Home | Up | Provincial Life | Breath of Life | The Aliens | Hens | Another Door Closed | Semper Dowland / Corridor | Small Change | Importance of Being Earnest | Gaslight | Look Back in Anger | The Voysey Inheritance | Epitaph for George Dillon | Days of Wine and Roses | Romeo and Juliet | Scenes from the Big Picture | Peter Gill Festival | York Realist | Radio plays | Luther | Speed-the-Plow | The Seagull | Friendly Fire | Certain Young Men | Mrs Klein | Tongue of a Bird | Cardiff East | A Patriot for Me | Uncle Vanya | New England | Way of the World | Juno and the Paycock | Marriage of Figaro | Harrison Birtwistle | Mean Tears | New Plays | Fool for Love, Lyric | Fool for Love | Antigone | Venice Preserv'd | Tales from Hollywood | Small Change (1983) | Kick for Touch | Major Barbara | Danton's Death | Much Ado (1981) | Don Juan | Month in Country | Scrape off the Black | Julius Caesar | Measure for Measure | Changeling | Cherry Orchard | Small Change (1976) | The Fool | As You Like It | Fishing | Twelfth Night | Merry-Go-Round | Schwieger Tochter | Crete and Sgt Pepper | Duchess of Malfi | Macbeth | Hedda Gabler | Landscape, Silence | Sleepers' Den (1969) | Over Gardens Out | Much Ado (1969) | Life Price | Daughter-in-Law tour | Lawrence season | O'Flaherty VC | Crimes of Passion | Daughter-in-Law (1967) | The Soldier's Fortune | A Provincial Life | O'Flaherty VC | Ruffian on the Stair | Local Stigmatic | Traverse | Albert Cobb | Collier's Friday Night | Sleepers' Den (1965)

Send mail to with questions or comments about this web site.  Copyright 1999-2012

Last modified: 2012-03-15