The original text for Much Ado About Nothing is the quarto of 1600. The play was also included in the First Folio of 1623, but the text there appears to have been typeset from the quarto itself. (It replicates virtually all of the quarto’s errors. For example, half of Balthasar’s lines in 2.1 are nonsensically assigned to Benedick in both texts.) The First Folio text includes several stage directions which are not present in the quarto, suggesting that either the theater’s prompt script was referenced or that a copy of the quarto being used as the theater’s prompt script was used. The ASR’s script is based on the quarto. Act divisions have been adopted from the Folio.
The first stage direction in Much Ado reads:
Enter Leonato, Governor of Messina, Innogen his wife, Hero his daughter, and Beatrice his niece, with a messenger.
Those of you familiar with the play may notice the unusual appearance of Leonato’s wife Innogen. She’s a “ghost” — a character referred to in the stage directions who never speaks or seems to have any impact on the action itself. Her presence here suggests that the quarto text was set from a rough draft of the play (which could also explain at least some of the play’s strange continuity).
In the 19th century someone discovered that the Elizabethan theater would frequently rewrite older plays when the time came to revive them. (Not that different from the modern practice of rewriting the script for the remake of a movie.) It became popular for a time to interpret virtually all of Shakespeare’s plays with the assumption that they had been rewritten from older sources. In the case of Much Ado, Innogen’s presence in this first stage direction was hypothesized to be evidence that Shakespeare had simply left the first page (or perhaps even the entire first scene) of some older play untouched when he sat down to write it.
This theory has not withstood the test of time. But it’s still a valuable reminder of scholastic folly: It was repeated by multiple people over the course of several decades… and none of them noticed that this wasn’t Innogen’s only appearance in the play. At the beginning of 2.1 she enters again:
Enter Leonato, his brother, his wife, Hero his daughter, and Beatrice his niece, and a kinsman.
(The identity of the “kinsman” in this stage direction is also a mystery, although it may refer to either Ursula or Margaret. If Margaret were actually kin, then it might explain why she can be so easily mistaken for Hero.)
It’s intriguing to consider the possibility of actually including Innogen in a production of Much Ado. What would the silent, never-speaking wife at Leonato’s side say about the role he expects women to play? How would it inform his reaction to Hero’s supposed trespasses? How would it contrast with Beatrice’s merry wit?
Such fancy, of course, rather rapidly runs into a wall: How could one justify her absence from Hero’s would-be wedding? And why would Shakespeare include such a character but never allow her comment on Hero’s desolation?
But Innogen’s ghost is nevertheless fascinating to consider. She offers a glimpse of the play that Shakespeare envisioned when he first sat down to write. Did he decide to remove her because the role she was originally meant to fulfill (a comforter to Hero? a confidant for Leonato?) was filled by other characters? Or was making Leonato a widower a more effective dramatic choice because it raised the value of Hero as a bride (since she was guaranteed inheritance) and heighten Leonato’s bitterness at losing faith in his only child?
Source Text: First Quarto (1600)
1. Emendations from First Folio in <diamond brackets>.
2. Original emendations in [square brackets].
3. Speech headings silently regularized.
4. Names which appear in ALL CAPITALS in stage directions have also been regularized.
5. Spelling has been modernized.
6. Punctuations has been silently emended (in minimalist fashion).