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Claudio and Benedick come home from the wars, having fought under Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, to suppress a rebellion by his weird brother, Don John. Leonato, Governor of Messina, welcomes Claudio and Benedick into his house. Claudio woos Hero, Leonato's daughter, while Benedick quips and quarrels with Beatrice, Hero's cousin.
Claudio and Hero get engaged to marry and try to trick Benedick and Beatrice into also falling in love. Don John sets out to make mischief and persuades Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero is a scarlet woman. Claudio denounces Hero in front of her family and refuses to marry her, Hero faints. Friar Francis helpfully suggests that Hero be said to have died until her name can be cleared.
Left alone in the church, Benedick and Beatrice exchange vows of love and Beatrice gets Benedick to promise he will kill Claudio for the harm he has done Hero. A duel is planned, but before it can take place Don John's dastardly plot is uncovered and Hero is restored to favour, then to life. For reasons best known to her, she makes it up with Claudio.
Pericles arranges for Marina to be brought up by Cleon of Tarsus and his wife Dionyza, and returns to Tyre. Fourteen years go by, and Dionyza, jealous of Marina, is about to have her murdered, when Marina is kidnapped by pirates, who send her to a brothel in Mytilene. Cleon tells Pericles that Marina is dead. Meanwhile, in Mytilene Marina's purity triumphs, startling the governor of the city, Lysimachus, and she gets honest work. Pericles visits Mytilene, where he recognizes Marina, and the goddess Diana, in a dream, tells him to go to her temple at Ephesus, where he finds Thaisa, too. Marina is betrothed to Lysimachus, and they are now to rule in Tyre, while Pericles and Thaisa retire to Pentapolis.
Octavius Caesar (later known as Augustus), Mark Antony, and Lepidus form a triumvirate to rule the Roman Empire. Antony will rule in the east and goes to Egypt, where he becomes the lover of Queen Cleopatra. When Pompey raises an army to fight the triumvirate, Antony returns to Rome and marries Caesar's sister, Octavia. Cleopatra becomes jealous and plans to win Antony back. Caesar breaks a deal with Pompey and defeats him. Antony sends Octavia home to Rome and goes back to Cleopatra, and in Egypt he raises an army and a navy to fight Caesar. Antony's forces lose a critical sea battle when Cleopatra's ship flees. Antony hears Cleopatra has committed suicide and falls on his own sword. Cleopatra is taken prisoner and kills herself.
Ancient Athenian Timon is well-known for his generosity - his many friends come to all his parties and like to get presents from him. But then Timon suffers losses and finds himself in debt, and his friends melt away. He loses faith in humanity and becomes a hermit.
The prince of Denmark discovers that his stepfather, who has seized the throne, murdered his father, the former king.
Rosalind decides to live for a time as Ganymede, and she/he finds Orlando hanging poems to Rosalind on trees (no doubt he knows what he's doing?)... Ganymede promises to cure Orlando of his love, while Touchstone woos a country girl, Audrey. Meanwhile, a shepherdess called Phebe falls in love with Ganymede, scorning the love of the bumpkin Silvius. Oliver de Boys, another brother of Orlando, arrives and falls heavily for Celia.
At the end, Ganymede turns himself/herself back into Rosalind, and all of the lovers get their hearts' desire - except for Phebe, who has to make do with Silvius. Duke Frederick chooses this moment to retire into a life of prayer, leaving the coast clear for the restoration of the true Duke to his rightful power and glory.moreless