I think Prof. Mulready’s disclaimer that the relationships between these characters is important BUT confusing is entirely accurate. Their names are what confused me the most, because they're all so familiar sounding. As I was reading Act I and II I found myself stumbling a bit as characters were reading their lines. Many times I had to take a minute to remember who was who. After I finished reading I took another look at the character list and realized just how precise and calculated Shakespeare was when he named his characters. He clearly planned on his audience being confused by their names. I really loved the dynamics of the names and how they played off each other. I think once I figured out a little mnemonic key, the relationships made a little more sense. To me, at least.
Don Pedro has come back to Messina from the war. He is reunited with his old friend Leonato, whose names share a similar ending. With Pedro is Claudio and Benedick. Claudio also shares a similar name to the elder men, but his name is even more significant in its relation to the name of the women he loves—Hero, who is Leonato’s daughter. When Antonio, Leonato’s brother comes into the play, the names become all the more easy to follow, almost like the ending in their names represent their team. Benedick seems to throw a wrench in this theory, except that his character has a unique relationship with Beatrice, who name nearly resembles the female version of his. This is significant because these two characters are nearly mirror images of each other in personality. My theory doesn’t necessarily work when I read about Don Pedro’s brother, Don John (even these two 'teams' are conncected by 'Don'), and his cohorts because of their varied names, but I figure if I keep one team straight, that will help me identify the other.
The audience’s confusion in differentiating the names of the characters becomes a visual confusion, when in the play the characters put on masks on and pretend to be other characters, often for dubious reasons. I find that parallel so clever and entertaining; that the character’s names would confuse the reader/audience and that their very identities would become confusing to themselves and others in the play.