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Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing

5. Fools and Knaves

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About this Lecture


In this final module, we think about the various fools and knaves in the play, focusing in particular on Dogberry and Don John. In particular, we think about other minor authority figures in Shakespeare (particularly Elbow in Measure for Measure) and their archetype in Italian commedia dell’arte, as well as other bastards in Shakespeare, their motivations for wrong-doing, and how Don John differs from them all.


In this course, Professor John Lennard explores Shakespeare’s most urban comedy, Much Ado About Nothing. As we move through the course, we think about a number of issues, including: the setting of the play and its impact on the action; the potential meanings of “nothing” in the title; the characters of Beatrice and Benedick, their relationship with one another and what they reveal about the other older characters in the play; the mock death; and the characters of Don John and Dogberry.


Born in Bristol, and educated at Oxford and St Louis, Dr John Lennard has taught English, American, and Commonwealth Literature in Cambridge, London, and Jamaica over more than twenty years. He has written two widely used textbooks (on poetry and drama) and monographs on Shakespeare, Paul Scott, Nabokov, and Faulkner, as well as two collections of essays on contemporary genre writers in crime, science fiction and fantasy, and romance. Enthusiastic, discursive, widely knowledgeable, and a demon for punctuation (on which he has also published extensively), he has been a popular Summer School Course Leader and lecturer for the Institute of Continuing Education since 1992.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Lennard, J. (2018, August 15). Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing - Fools and Knaves [Video]. MASSOLIT.

MLA style

Lennard, J. "Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing – Fools and Knaves." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018,