KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The events of the play all take place in or near the palace at Messina, Italy. There is a brief but beautiful description of flora and fauna beyond the palace walls, and a developed sense of courtliness and wealth within. The masquerade balls take place in great ballrooms, whereas later events of a more serious and less romantic nature take place in a somber graveyard. At various times, characters are able to hide so that they may eavesdrop and "note" various happenings; this suggests a setting with many hiding places, both in and out of doors.
Count Claudio - a gallant warrior. His exploits amaze the people in Leonato's court. He is heroic indeed and very romantic (he falls in love at first sight). However, he is gullible and naïve.
Hero - the sweet and graceful daughter of the governor Leonato. She becomes engaged to Claudio and is the victim of Don John's evil plot. She may be termed a passive heroine.
Beatrice - a strong-willed and bold young woman. Hero's cousin and Leonato's niece. She engages in a war of words with Benedick, but falls in love with him quite readily. In the end, she and Benedick are married.
Benedick - an outspoken man. He is an avowed bachelor, and Beatrice's sparring partner in verbal battles. His attitude undergoes a dramatic change during the course of the play as he falls in love and eventually marries Beatrice.
Don Pedro - Prince of Aragon. He returns to Messina after quashing a mutiny instigated by his bastard brother Don John. He woos Hero for Claudio by proxy. He is also instrumental in bringing Beatrice and Benedick together.
Leonato - the Governor of Messina. He is Hero's father and Beatrice's uncle. He, like Claudio, is easily swayed by appearances.
Don John - Don Pedro's illegitimate brother. Don John hates his brother and represents pure evil in the play. He conceives of and executes the intrigue in which Hero is victimized.
Borachio - a close friend of Don John, who is paid to deceive Claudio and defame Hero.
Conrade - one of two close companions assisting Don John in his scheme.
Margaret - Hero's maid-in-waiting. She is apparently an unwitting accomplice in the scheme against Hero.
Balthasar - a singer attending Don Pedro.
Ursula - another of Hero's maids-in-waiting.
Dogberry, Verges, and the Watch - Dogberry is the hapless constable. With his dim-witted and wordy companions, he investigates the intrigue and probes the conspiracy. At times, he unintentionally hinders rather than helps the investigation.