Leonato, the governor of Messina, is an older man, with a white beard. He has a daughter, Hero, and is the guardian of an orphaned niece, Beatrice.
He indulges the latter in her flights of wit, and appears to greatly enjoy them. A good subject, he is delighted but cautious at the thought of his daughter marrying the prince when his brother Antonio reports that Don Pedro may woo her. He is just as happy to marry her off to Claudio at the prince’s request, and joins in with Don Pedro’s plot to bring Beatrice and Benedick together. When his daughter is accused of being a harlot at her wedding, his instinct is to believe the charges because they were made by the prince. His rage at her is however transferred to Don Pedro and Claudio when he is convinced of Hero’s innocence. He does however attempt to calm down his brother when the latter lashes out at the two young men who will not fight with them because of their advanced age. When it is discovered that the accusation was merely a well-planned slander, he decides to let the original planned marriage go ahead, but to make Don Pedro and Claudio suffer a little first, speaking to them with no little sarcasm and imposing the penance of telling the world of Hero’s innocence. He is friendly if impatient with his social inferiors such as Dogberry, but this may only be because this long-winded fellow comes to speak to him on the morning of his daughter’s wedding.