Leonato, the governor of Messina, his
daughter Hero and his niece Beatrice introduce the scene. Leonato tells the ladies that Don Pedro
of Arragon will be arriving that night in Messina. Apparently, a war has been raging and peace
is a recent status quo, so many soldiers are returning home after a long interim period. The group
also learns that Don Pedro favors a young warrior named Claudio and that another soldier named Don Peter
has distinguished himself. The Lady Beatrice asks if Signior Benedick of Padua has also returned
from battle. Beatrice has enjoyed a merry war of wits between herself and Benedick; both manifest
emotions of disgust for the other. While her companions jovially extol Benedick's virtues, Beatrice
calls him a fool.
point, Leonato's nephew Don Pedro and Benedick arrive. Benedick and Beatrice engage in a war of
words. Don Pedro interrupts to tell everyone that Leonato has agreed to let Benedick and Claudio
stay in his home for at least a month. After some more chitchat, everyone goes inside except Benedick
and Claudio. Claudio has fallen in love at first sight with Hero and asks for his friend's opinion
of her. Benedick replies that she is indeed fair and compassionate, but he also compares marriage
to eternal bondage. Don Pedro reenters and Benedick informs him of this new amorous development.
The three quarrel about women and marriage, with Benedick stoutly refusing to ever fall for feminine
wiles and instead remain a bachelor. Don Pedro in turn swears to see the day when Benedick will
be married. Benedick then leaves the room in a huff. Claudio tells Don Pedro that he does
not know how to profess his love to Hero; Pedro replies that he will disguise himself as Claudio and
woo Hero. Thus, Claudio will secure her hand in marriage without having to embarrass himself in
front of her.