The play opens on a threshold, spatially and metaphorically, as Leonato interrogates the messenger, with the women of his family attending. This is also a temporal threshold: the transition between war and peacetime, violence and love. The messenger’s news is materialised onstage by the letter that Leonato carries and refers to; as a physical object that epitomises meaning in transit, it effectively heralds the anticipation of imminent movement and change that characterises the atmosphere of these opening lines. The early texts do not specify where this scene takes place but it must be somewhere near the entrance to Leonato’s house since Don Pedro says to him ‘are you come to meet your trouble’ (I.i.91–92) and Antonio later claims that Don Pedro and Claudio’s conversation which ends the scene takes place in Leonato’s orchard. Borachio claims he has overheard them while he was airing a musty room. In an Elizabethan staging he could have literally overheard by entering at the gallery above the stage. A large entrance which can be left open is required so that characters can begin the process of ‘noting’ or overhearing. A physical setting near the threshold of Leonato’s house would reinforce the sense of liminality a time and place of transition.
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