Much Ado About Nothing is a comedic play by William Shakespeare thought to have been written in 1598 and 1599, as Shakespeare was approaching the middle of his career. The play was included in the First Folio, published in 1623. Much Ado About Nothing is generally considered one of Shakespeare's best comedies, because it combines elements of robust hilarity with more serious meditations on honor, shame, and court politics. Like As You Like It and Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, though interspersed with darker concerns, is a joyful comedy that ends with multiple marriages and no deaths. The character of Benedick has been played by such actors as Henry Irving, Kenneth Branagh, and David Tennant. Much Ado About Nothing chronicles two pairs of lovers: Benedick and Beatrice (the main couple), and Claudio and Hero (the secondary couple). At the start of the play, Benedick and Beatrice are engaged in a "merry war"; they are both very witty and proclaim their disdain for love and for one another. In contrast, Claudio and Hero are a sweet young couple who are rendered practically speechless by their love. Although the young lovers Hero and Claudio provide much of the impetus for the plot, the courtship between the wittier, wiser lovers Benedick and Beatrice is what makes Much Ado About Nothing so memorable. Benedick and Beatrice banter with delightful repartee, and Shakespeare develops their journey from antagonism to sincere love and affection with psychological subtlety and a rich sense of humor and compassion. By means of "nothing" (which sounds the same as "noting," and which is gossip, rumour, and overhearing), Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into rejecting Hero at the altar on the erroneous belief that she has been unfaithful. At the end, Benedick and Beatrice join forces to set things right, and the others join in a dance celebrating the marriages of the two couples.