Much Ado About Nothing simplified

Synopsis

The play opens in the port city of Messina, in Sicily, as Don Pedro arrives, the Prince of Aragon, the leader of a group of soldiers.  Don Pedro, generally known here as the Prince, is warmly greeted by Leonato, Messina’s governor.  Leonato is accompanied by his beautiful daughter, Hero, and his niece, Beatrice.  The Prince lets Leonato know that their recent “action” has gone well, having lost “but few of any sort,” Leonato responding “A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers.” 

Among the soldiers who arrive with the Prince are Benedick and Claudio, the male leads in the play.  Benedick has known Leonato’s niece Beatrice for some time and for background purposes, both have snappy personalities and both claim marriage to be the last thing on their minds.  Claudio, the more innocent of the two soldiers, falls for Hero at first sight, their relationship becoming central to the play.  The play’s other central theme is the slowly improving relationship between Beatrice and Benedick.

The play moves forward quickly, Benedick soon letting the Prince know that he believes that Claudio has fallen for Hero.  As a goodwill gesture, the well-meaning Prince suggests to Claudio that during Leonato’s masquerade party that evening, celebrating their arrival, he’ll put in a good word for him with her father.  As well, he lets Claudio know that he will be attending the dinner party in disguise, with plans in fact to masquerade as Claudio, and that he’ll use the opportunity to let Hero know how much he (Claudio) loves her.  Naively, Claudio agrees to the plan and is most grateful.

The disguised Prince does dance with Hero during the party, saying such things as “speak low if you speak of love.”  Also wearing a mask is Benedick who dances with Beatrice.  But Beatrice, claiming not to know who he is, aggressively teases him saying “Benedick is the prince’s jester, a very dull fool, and men laugh at him,” upsetting Benedick to say the least.

Separately and significantly, Don John, the Prince’s brother, a first rate scoundrel, hears from his aide Borachio that the masquerading Prince has been wooing Hero on his own behalf.  Don John sees this as an opportunity to cause some real distress for people.  As expected, Don John tells Claudio that the Prince was romancing Hero during the party, saying “I heard him swear his affection.”  Claudio innocently accepts his fate.

The more Benedick thinks about Beatrice’s taunts during the masquerade party, the more frustrated and angry he becomes. The Prince tells a confused Claudio of the success he had wooing Hero on Claudio’s behalf.  Leonato, having been well prepped by the Prince, moves right ahead with wedding plans for his daughter and Claudio.  He has quickly accepted Claudio as a prospective son-in-law. 

Borachio, acting on instructions from the mischievous Don John, hatches a plan to disrupt the couple’s wedding plans.  Borachio suggests that he will have his accommodating girlfriend Margaret, who also happens to be Hero’s gentlewoman, tell him that night from behind thin curtains in Hero’s open-windowed bedroom that she loves him.  He in turn, behind the curtains and open window, will call her “Hero.”

Benedick is alone in the garden with his thoughts when the Prince, Leonato and Claudio happen to come by. Benedick tries to hide from them, unaware that they have seen him. They know he doesn’t want to be seen. They tease him without mercy, or gloriously, depending on your take, causing him to believe that Beatrice really does care for him.  He takes the bait. Benedick reflects on what he’s just heard as the three men exit.  Beatrice soon enters, inviting Benedick to dinner.  Separately Leonato, euphoric over his team’s success in the teasing of Benedick, suggests that Hero and her gentlewoman (Ursula) need to find a way to trick Beatrice just as they, the men, have tricked Benedick.  Leonato’s plan works.

Ursula and Hero soon enter, taking a leisurely walk through the orchard where they grandly (or nastily) tease Beatrice, who has hidden herself in a thick bower, having been told by Margaret that the two women were about to talk about her.  Their message to Beatrice: Benedick loves her and she should treat him more kindly.  She buys the story, saying to herself “Benedick, love on; I will requite thee, taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.”  Separately, the Prince and Claudio confront Benedick and taunt him further, Claudio saying “The youth’s in love.” 

Don John, taking this charade perhaps a step too far, talks to Claudio about Hero.  He says “The lady is disloyal.”  Claudio doesn’t believe him.  Don John tells him to come to her chamber window that night and see for himself, and he does, having asked the Prince to join him. That night, in Hero’s chambers, Borachio tells a partially hidden Margaret that he loves her, calling her “Hero.”  Margaret, pretending to be Hero and having agreed to the ruse, hugs him.

Shakespeare then adds some slapstick lightness through the actions and comments of constables and watchmen who find the men in Leonato’s garden.  Early the next evening, Dogberry, the constable, tries to tell Leonato his take on the prior evening’s events, but he is so inarticulate that Leonato dismisses him.  Leonato heads to the church for his daughter’s wedding. 

With the principals having assembled in the church, Leonato says “Come, Friar Francis, be brief.”  The ceremony begins. Claudio, shocking everyone, says “No” when asked if he will take Hero as his wife.  Following a few fitful moments and comments, Claudio asks Hero “What man was he talked with you yesternight out at your window betwixt twelve and one?”  Everyone is taken back. She’s mystified by the comment saying “I talked with no man at that hour, my lord.”  The Prince supports Claudio’s story.  Claudio says “O Hero, fare thee well, most foul, most fair.”  She faints. Claudio, the Prince and Don John hastily exit.  An angry Leonato, believing the story, irrationally says “Let her die.” Benedick suspects this could be one of Don John’s tricks.  The Friar calmly suggests that truth will out if they keep Hero under wraps and let out the word that she has died.  Leonato and Hero agree to the plan.  Friar Francis says “Come, lady, die to live.”

Beatrice and Benedick come to a truce of sorts, each acknowledging that they love each other.  However, when Benedick says “Bid me do anything for thee,” Beatrice responds “Kill Claudio.” Following some negotiation, Benedick not quite believing the request says “I will challenge him.”  Meanwhile Borachio and Conrade are brought before the Sexton.  Following some more slapstick, the Sexton lets the two of them know that Don John has “secretly stolen away” and that it is reported that Hero “died suddenly” from grief. 

Leonato and his brother Anthony are on stage when Anthony suggests to his brother that for the sake of his health, among other reasons, he should back off from the harsh criticism of his daughter.  But Leonato abruptly rejects his advice. Claudio and the Prince enter.  Leonato lashes out at them as he and his brother exit.  Meanwhile, Borachio acknowledges to Claudio and the Prince that he had deceived them, placing all the blame on Don John, telling them he was paid well to play out his role, the two of them shocked over the revelation.  Leonato enters and he too learns from Borachio of the cruel hoax played on Hero.  Leonato provides a set of instructions that the Prince and Claudio need to follow to get back in his good graces.  But he doesn’t let them know that Hero lives. The Prince and Claudio, humbled as they are, agree to the terms.  Separately, Beatrice learns from Ursula that Hero “hath been falsely accused.” 

Following Leonato’s instructions, Claudio and the Prince perform some of their penance at Hero’s purported tomb.  Another part of the deal reached with Leonato is that Claudio must marry Leonato’s brother’s daughter who is “almost the copy of my child.”  The second wedding ceremony is staged and the women enter masked.  Claudio marries the appointed masked young lady, believing her to be Anthony’s daughter.  Hero then unmasks.  Claudio is ecstatic.  Benedick and Beatrice marry, almost backing into their commitment.  For the first time Benedick appears to be happy. They all learn that Don John is to be returned to Messina to be dealt with later.  They dance.

Principal Characters

Beatrice.  Beatrice is Leonato’s niece.  She is Hero’s cousin and very good friend.  She has a strong, tart, sarcastic, quick-witted personality. Her personality never really changes throughout the play, but in the end, she and Benedick reach a peace, and marry, consistent with Shakespeare’s “all’s well that ends well” pattern in his romantic-comedies. 

Benedict.  Benedict is a young soldier in Don Pedro’s army.  He is from Padua.  He considers himself a self-styled ladies man who will never get caught and drawn into a marriage.  But Beatrice has a certain charm that draws him to her.  In the end, he, more than she, seems to be the one who wants to marry.

Borachio.  Borachio is a follower and friend of Don John, and is the rascal who suggests the plot to have Margaret, his girlfriend and Hero’s gentlewoman, impersonate Hero in Hero’s bedroom, behind thin curtains, causing Claudio and the Prince to believe Hero has been unfaithful.  It is a nasty trick that causes real mischief.  His reckless charade, pushed forward by Don John, has serious implications, but Shakespeare saves the day, as he always does in these comedies.

Claudio.  Claudio is a young soldier in Don Pedro’s army and is a Florentine.  He instantly falls in love with Hero when early in the play he first sees her.  Their marriage plans almost fall apart when Don John and Borachio play a trick on Claudio; a trick that becomes a serious issue, the central focus of this romantic-comedy.  But all ends well, as expected.

Don John.  Don John is the Prince’s brother. Shakespeare draws the two brothers as polar opposites; the Prince, always the gentleman; Don John, always the scoundrel.  Don John realizes the gravity of the trick he has played on Hero and Claudio.   He skips town, only reported at the very end to have been captured, to be returned to Messina.

Hero.  Hero is Leonato’s daughter, his only child, he being the governor of Messina, a port city in Sicily.  She is described by Benedick early in the play as too low, too brown and too little.  Others describe her as beautiful.  Claudio falls for her at first sight and proceeds to easily endure Benedict’s stream of snide comments.

Leonato.  Leonato, the governor of Messina, the father of Hero, supports his daughter’s planned marriage to Claudio, only to turn on his daughter when Claudio and the Prince tell him of her “disloyalty,” the result of the trick initiated by Don John and carried out by Borachio.  His brother is Anthony. 

Prince.   Don Pedro is known as the Prince.  He is the Prince of Aragon, a region in northeast Spain.  He is the military leader who arrives with Benedick and Claudio in Messina at the beginning of the play.  He always supports Claudio, particularly through a trying time mid-way through the play.  He remains single while both Benedick and Claudio win the women they love.  Benedick even chides the Prince at the end saying “Prince, thou art sad. Get thee a wife.”

The Play


  • Act 1, Scene 1
  • Leonato, the governor of Messina, enters along with his daughter, Hero, and his niece, Beatrice.
  • LEONATO
  • I learn that Don Pedro of Aragon comes this night to Messina.
  • MESSENGER
  • He is very near by this. He was not three leagues off when I left him.
  • LEONATO
  • I hear that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honor on a young Florentine called Claudio.
  • MESSENGER
  • Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro. He hath indeed better bettered expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how.
  • LEONATO
  • He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
  • MESSENGER
  • I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him.
  • LEONATO
  • Did he break out into tears?
  • MESSENGER
  • In great measure.
  • LEONATO
  • There are no faces truer than those that are so washed. How much better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!
  • BEATRICE
  • I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the wars or no?
  • MESSENGER
  • I know none of that name, lady.
  • HERO
  • My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.
  • MESSENGER
  • O, he’s returned, and as pleasant as ever he was.
  • BEATRICE
  • He set up his posters here in Messina and challenged Cupid to an archery contest.
  • LEONATO
  • Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much.
  • MESSENGER
  • He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
  • BEATRICE
  • He is a very valiant trencherman; he hath an excellent stomach.
  • MESSENGER
  • And a good soldier too, lady.
  • BEATRICE
  • And a good soldier to a lady, but what is he to a lord?
  • MESSENGER
  • A lord to a lord, a man to a man, stuffed with all honorable virtues.
  • BEATRICE
  • It is so indeed. He is no less than a stuffed man.
  • LEONATO
  • There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her.
  • BEATRICE
  • Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother-in-arms.
  • MESSENGER
  • Is ‘t possible?
  • BEATRICE
  • Very easily possible. We wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat.
  • MESSENGER
  • I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.
  • BEATRICE
  • No. An he were, I would burn my study. But I pray you, who is his companion?
  • MESSENGER
  • He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
  • BEATRICE
  • O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease! He is sooner caught than the pestilence. God help the noble Claudio!
  • Don Pedro, along with Claudio and Benedick, enters.
  • PRINCE
  • Good Signior Leonato, are you come to meet your trouble?
  • LEONATO
  • Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your Grace.
  • PRINCE
  • You embrace your charge too willingly.
  • He turns to Hero.
  • PRINCE
  • I think this is your daughter.
  • LEONATO
  • Her mother hath many times told me so.
  • PRINCE
  • Truly the lady fathers herself. Be happy, lady, for you are like an honorable father.
  • Leonato and the Prince move aside.
  • BEATRICE
  • Signior Benedick, nobody marks you.
  • BENEDICK
  • What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?
  • BEATRICE
  • Courtesy itself must convert to disdain if you come in her presence.
  • BENEDICK
  • Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted.
  • BEATRICE
  • I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.
  • BENEDICK
  • Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
  • BEATRICE
  • A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
  • BENEDICK
  • I would my horse had the speed of your tongue.
  • Leonato and the Prince come forward.
  • PRINCE
  • Signior Claudio and Signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him we shall stay here at least a month, and he heartily prays some occasion may detain us longer.
  • All exit except Benedick and Claudio.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?
  • BENEDICK
  • I noted her not, but I looked on her.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Is she not a modest young lady? In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on.
  • BENEDICK
  • I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter.
  • CLAUDIO
  • I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn contrary, if Hero would be my wife.
  • BENEDICK
  • Is ‘t come to this?
  •  
  •  
  • Benedick to Claudio
  •  
  • Do you question me for my simple true
  • Judgment? Being a professed tyrant to
  • Their sex, I’ll speak my truth. I think she be
  • Too low for high praise, too brown for fair praise,
  • Too little for a great praise. But if she
  • Were other than she is, she would not raise
  • Men’s eyes. I thank she that did conceive me;
  • Likewise I give most humble thanks to she
  • That brought me up. Pardon, but I’ll not do
  • Them the wrong to mistrust me, and for me
  • I’ll live a bachelor, with the right to
  • Trust none. Claudio, do I in thee see
  • An intent to turn husband? Shake your daze
  • Or wear a yoke and sigh away Sundays.
  • Don Pedro, the Prince, enters.
  • PRINCE
  • What secret hath held you here that you followed not to Leonato’s.
  • BENEDICK
  • I would your Grace would constrain me to tell.
  • PRINCE
  • I charge thee on thy allegiance.
  • BENEDICK
  • Count Claudio is in love. Mark how short his answer is: with Hero, Leonato’s short daughter.
  • CLAUDIO
  • If this were so, so were it uttered.
  • PRINCE
  • Amen, if you love her, for the lady is very well worthy.
  • BENEDICK
  • That I neither feel how she should be loved nor know how she should be worthy is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me. I will die in it at the stake.
  • PRINCE
  • Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou wilt prove a notable argument.
  • BENEDICK
  • If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me.
  • PRINCE
  • In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.
  • BENEDICK
  • The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull’s horns and set them in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write “Here is good horse to hire” let them signify under my sign “Here you may see Benedick the married man.”
  • PRINCE
  • In the meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to Leonato’s.
  • Benedick exits.
  • CLAUDIO
  • My liege, your Highness now may do me good.
  • PRINCE
  • My love is thine to teach.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Hath Leonato any son, my lord?
  • PRINCE
  • No child but Hero.
  • CLAUDIO
  • O, my lord, now I am returned from war with thronging soft and delicate desires, all prompting me how fair young Hero is.
  •  
  •  
  • Prince to Claudio
  •  
  • If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it.
  • I will reveal it tonight when I sit
  • With them at supper, and thou shalt have her.
  • ‘Twas not this the end to your story? The
  • Bridge need be just broader than the river.
  • My best gift answers the necessity.
  • However I serve thee is fit and I
  • Will fit thee with the right remedy. Thy
  • Part I will take in some disguise and tell
  • Fair Hero I am you, and privately
  • I’ll unclasp my heart, telling her I fell
  • First noting her. My prisoner she’ll be
  • Through the force of my amorous tale. Mine
  • Plan is to her father speak; then she thine.
  • CLAUDIO
  • How sweetly you do minister to love, that know love’s grief by his complexion!
  • They exit.
  • Act 1, Scene 2
  • Leonato and his older brother are on stage, the older brother passing on a story that distorts the Prince’s intentions when representing himself on Claudio’s behalf.
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • Brother, I can tell you strange news that you yet dreamt not of.
  • LEONATO
  • Are they good?
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • The Prince and count Claudio were thus much overheard by a man of mine; the Prince revealed to Claudio that he loved my niece your daughter and meant to acknowledge it this night in a dance, and if he found her accordant, he meant to take the present time by the top and instantly break with you of it.
  • LEONATO
  • We will hold it as a dream till it appear itself. But I will acquaint my daughter withal. Go you and tell her of it.
  • They exit.
  • Act 1, Scene 3
  • Don John is on stage with one of his followers, Conrade.
  • CONRADE
  • Why are you thus out of measure sad?
  • DON JOHN
  • There is no measure in the occasion that breeds. Therefore the sadness is without limit.
  •  
  •  
  • Don John to Conrade
  •  
  • I cannot hide what I am. I must be
  • Sad when I have cause; eat when I’m hungry,
  • Smile at no other man’s jests; sleep when I
  • Am drowsy; tend to no man’s business; owe
  • No man graciousness, and to all will lie
  • When it serves my reason. It better fits
  • Me to be disdained, then, as counterfeits,
  • To rob love from any. I’m rendered weak
  • With a muzzle and can’t sing, but have grown
  • Used to ‘t. Let me be that I am; seek
  • Not to alter me. In this, I’m not known
  • To be a flattering honest man; an
  • It must not be denied I’m a villain.
  • CONRADE
  • You have of late stood out against your brother, and he hath ta’en you newly into his grace. It is needful that you frame the season for your own harvest. Can you make no use of your discontent?
  • Borachio enters, another of Don John’s followers.
  • BORACHIO
  • The Prince your brother is royally entertained by Leonato, and I can give you intelligence of an intended marriage.
  • DON JOHN
  • What is he for a fool that betroths himself to unquietness?
  • BORACHIO
  • Marry, it is your brother’s right hand.
  • DON JOHN
  • Who, the most exquisite Claudio?
  • BORACHIO
  • Even he.
  • DON JOHN
  • A proper squire.
  • BORACHIO
  • Marry, on Hero, the daughter and heir of Leonato.
  • DON JOHN
  • A very forward March chick! How came you to this?
  • BORACHIO
  • I heard it agreed upon that the Prince should woo Hero for himself, and having obtained her, give her to Count Claudio.
  • DON JOHN
  • This may prove food to my displeasure. If I can cross him any way, I bless myself every way. You are both sure, and will assist me?
  • CONRADE
  • To the death, my lord.
  • DON JOHN
  • Shall we go prove what’s to be done?
  • BORACHIO
  • We’ll wait upon your Lordship.
  • They exit.
  • Act 2, Scene 1
  • Leonato, his brother, his daughter, his niece and two of his daughter’s aides, Ursula and Margaret, enter.
  • LEONATO
  • Was not Count John here at supper?
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • I saw him not.
  • BEATRICE
  • How tartly that gentleman looks! He were an excellent man that were made just in the midway between him and Benedick.
  • LEONATO
  • By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get thee a husband if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue.
  • BEATRICE
  • It is said “God sends a curst cow short horns,” but to a cow too curst, he send none. If he send me no husband, for the which blessing I am at him upon my knees every morning and evening.
  • LEONATO
  • Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.
  • BEATRICE
  • Not till god make men of some other metal than earth.
  • LEONATO TO HERO
  • Daughter, remember what I told you. If the Prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer. The revelers are entering, brother. Make good room.
  • The Prince, Claudio, Benedick, Antonio and Balthasar (in the Prince’s group of soldiers), Borachio and Don John enter.
  • PRINCE TO HERO
  • Lady, will you walk about with your friend?
  • They begin to dance.
  • HERO
  • So you walk softly, and look sweetly, and say nothing.
  • PRINCE
  • Speak low if you speak of love.
  • They move aside.
  • BENEDICK TO MARGARET
  • Well, I would you did like me.
  • MARGARET
  • God match me with a good dancer.
  • They separate. Benedick moves aside. Ursula and Antonio move forward.
  • URSULA
  • I know you well enough. You are Signior Antonio.
  • ANTONIO
  • At a word, I am not.
  • URSULA
  • Come, come, do you think I do not know you by your excellent wit? Can virtue hide itself?
  • They move aside. Benedick and Beatrice move forward.
  • BEATRICE
  • Will you not tell me who you are?
  • BENEDICK
  • Not now.
  • BEATRICE
  • That I was disdainful. Well, this was Signior Benedick that said so.
  • BENEDICK
  • What’s he?
  • BEATRICE
  • I am sure you know him well enough.
  • BENEDICK
  • I pray you, what is he?
  • BEATRICE
  • Why, he is the Prince’s jester, a very dull fool; his commendation is not in his wit but in his villainy, for he both pleases men and angers them, and then they laugh at him and beat him.
  • BENEDICK
  • When I know the gentleman, I’ll tell him what you say.
  • BEATRICE
  • Do, do.
  • The dance and exit. The others exit except Don John, Borachio and Claudio.
  • DON JOHN TO BORACHIO
  • Sure my brother is amorous on hero, and hath withdrawn her father to reveal his thoughts with him about it.
  • DON JOHN TO CLAUDIO
  • Are not you Signior Benedick?
  • CLAUDIO
  • You know me well. I am he.
  • DON JOHN
  • Signior, you are very near my brother in his love. He is enamored on Hero. I pray you dissuade him from her.
  • CLAUDIO
  • How know you he loves her?
  • DON JOHN
  • I heard him swear his affection.
  • BORACHIO
  • So did I too, and he swore he would marry her tonight.
  • They exit. Claudio remains.
  •  
  •  
  • Claudio to himself
  •  
  • Thus answer I the name of Benedick,
  • But with the ears of Claudio hear sick
  • News. ‘Tis certain so that Don Pedro woos
  • For himself, having sworn his affection
  • For her, planning for them to vow “I dos”
  • Tonight. Friendship is a loyal reflection
  • Of all things constant save the office and
  • Affairs of love. Each must use his own hand,
  • Use his own tongue and negotiate for
  • Himself with his own eye when his heart’s in
  • Love. Trust no agent, for fair beauty wore
  • A mask, melting faith to blood. This has been
  • Happening hourly, and this unseen foe
  • I mistrusted not. So farewell, Hero.
  • Benedick enters.
  • BENEDICK
  • Come, will you go with me?
  • CLAUDIO
  • Whither?
  • BENEDICK
  • What fashion will you wear the garland of lost love. You must wear it one way, for the Prince hath got your Hero.
  • CLAUDIO
  • I wish him joy of her.
  • BENEDICK
  • Did you think the Prince would have served you thus?
  • CLAUDIO
  • I pray you leave me. If it will not be, I’ll leave you.
  • Claudio exits.
  • BENEDICK
  • My Lady Beatrice should know me, and not know me! The Prince’s fool! Well, I’ll be revenged as I may.
  • The Prince, Leonato and Hero enter.
  • PRINCE
  • Now, Signior, where’s the Count? Did you see him?
  • BENEDICK
  • I found him here melancholy. I told him that your Grace had got the good will of this young lady, and I offered him my company to a willow tree, either to make him a garland, as being forsaken, or to bind him up a rod, as being worthy to be whipped.
  • PRINCE
  • To be whipped? What’s his fault?
  • BENEDICK
  • The fat transgression of a schoolboy who, being overjoyed with finding a bird’s next, shows it his companion, and he steals it.
  • PRINCE
  • The transgression is in the stealer. The Lady Beatrice hath a quarrel to you. The gentleman that danced with her told her she is much wronged by you.
  •  
  •  
  • Benedick to Prince
  •  
  • I could scarcely endure how she misused
  • Me. My very visor was so abused
  • It began to assume life and scold her.
  • Not thinking I was myself, she told me
  • That I was the Prince’s jester, duller
  • Than a great thaw, piling on so many
  • Jokes on myself that I stood like a mark
  • With an army shooting at me; her dark
  • Words stab as daggers. If her breath I fear
  • Were as terrible as her words, she has
  • Ways to infect the North Star. While she’s here
  • A man may live as quiet in hell as
  • In a sanctuary. People hither
  • Would sin upon purpose to go thither.
  • Claudio and Beatrice enter.
  • PRINCE
  • Look, here she comes.
  • BENEDICK
  • Will your Grace command me any service to the world’s end. O God, sir, I cannot endure my Lady Tongue.
  • PRINCE TO BEATRICE
  • Come, lady, come, you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.
  • BEATRICE
  • Marry, once before he won it of me with false dice. Therefore your Grace may well say I have lost it.
  • PRINCE
  • You have put him down, lady.
  • BEATRICE
  • So I would not he should do me, my lord, lest I should prove the mother of fools. I have brought Count Claudio.
  • PRINCE
  • Count, wherefore are you sad?
  • BEATRICE
  • The Count is neither sad, nor sick, nor well, and something of that jealous complexion.
  • PRINCE
  • Here, Claudio, I have wooed in thy name, and fair Hero is won. I have broached the subject with her father and his good will obtained. Name the day of marriage, and God give thee joy.
  • LEONATO
  • Count, take of me my daughter, and with her my fortunes.
  • BEATRICE
  • Speak, count, ‘tis your cue.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Silence is the perfectest herald of joy. Lady, as you are mine, I am yours.
  • BEATRICE
  • Speak, cousin.
  • PRINCE
  • In faith, lady, you have a merry heart.
  • BEATRICE
  • Yea, my lord. I thank it, poor fool, it keeps on the windy side of care. My cousin tells him in his ear that he is in her heart.
  • CLAUDIO
  • And so she doth, cousin.
  • BEATRICE
  • Good Lord for alliance! Thus goes everyone to the world but I.
  • PRINCE
  • Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.
  • BEATRICE
  • Hath your Grace ne’er a brother like you?
  • PRINCE
  • Will you have me, lady?
  • BEATRICE
  • Your Grace is too costly to wear every day. I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.
  • LEONATO
  • Niece, will you look to those things I told you of?
  • BEATRICE
  • I cry you mercy, uncle.
  • She exits.
  • PRINCE
  • By my troth, a pleasant-spirited lady.
  • LEONATO
  • She is never sad but when she sleeps.
  • PRINCE
  • She cannot endure to hear tell of a husband.
  • LEONATO
  • O, by no means. She mocks all her wooers out of suit.
  • PRINCE
  • She were an excellent wife for Benedick.
  • LEONATO
  • If they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad.
  • PRINCE
  • Count Claudio, when mean you to go to church?
  • CLAUDIO
  • Tomorrow, my lord.
  • LEONATO
  • Not till Monday, my dear son, which is hence a just sevennight, and a time too brief, too, to have all things answer my mind.
  • PRINCE TO CLAUDIO
  • Claudio, the time shall not go dully by us. I will in the interim undertake one of Hercules’ labors, which is to bring Signior Benedick and the Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection, th’ one with th’ other, if you three will but minister such assistance as I shall give you direction.
  • LEONATO
  • My lord, I am for you.
  • CLAUDIO
  • And I, my lord.
  • HERO
  • I will do any modest office, my lord, to help my cousin to a good husband.
  • PRINCE
  • And Benedick is not the unhopefullest husband that I know. And I, with your two helps, will so practice on Benedick that, in despite of his quick wit and his queasy stomach, he shall fall in love with Beatrice. If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer; his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love gods. Go in with me, and I will tell you my drift.
  • They exit.
  • Act 2, Scene 2
  • Don John and Borachio are on stage.
  • DON JOHN
  • It is so. The count Claudio shall marry the daughter of Leonato.
  • BORACHIO
  • Yea, my lord, but I can cross it.
  • DON JOHN
  • Any bar, any cross, any impediment will be med’cinable to me. How canst thou cross this marriage?
  • BORACHO
  • Not honestly, my lord, but so covertly that no dishonesty shall appear in me.
  • DON JOHN
  • Show me briefly how.
  • BORACHIO
  • I think I told your Lordship a year since, how much I am in the favor of Margaret, the waiting gentlewoman to Hero.
  • DON JOHN
  • I remember.
  • BORACHIO
  • I can, at any unseasonable instant of the night, appoint her to look out at her lady’s chamber window. Go you to the Prince your brother; spare not to tell him that he hath wronged his honor in marrying the renowned Claudio to a contaminated harlot, such a one as Hero.
  • DON JOHN
  • What proof shall I make of that?
  • BORACHIO
  • Proof enough to misuse the Prince, to vex Claudio, to undo Hero, and kill Leonato. Look you for any other issue?
  • DON JOHN
  • Only to despite them I will endeavor anything.
  •  
  •  
  • Borachio to Don John
  •  
  • Okay then, draw together Don Pedro
  • And Count Claudio. Tell them that you know
  • That Hero loves me. With a kind of zeal
  • Tell them you’re concerned for the love of a
  • Brother’s honor, arranger of this deal,
  • And with Claudio’s reputation, the
  • One likely to be tricked by the presence
  • Of her fair maid. Offer them evidence
  • By bringing them one night to her chamber
  • Window where they will hear fair Margaret
  • Call me Borachio and me call her
  • “Hero.” Seeming truth shall appear and set
  • The scene for disloyalness yond the curtain,
  • Causing just suspicion to look certain.
  • DON JOHN
  • Grow this to what adverse issue it can, I will put it in practice. Be cunning in the working this, and thy fee is a thousand ducats.
  • BORACHIO
  • Be you constant in the accusation, and my cunning shall not shame me.
  • They exit.
  • Act 2, Scene 3
  • Benedick is alone on the stage.
  • BENEDICK
  • I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love --- and such a man is Claudio.
  •  
  •  
  • Benedick to himself
  •  
  • May I be so converted? I cannot
  • Tell, but think not. To be so sworn love ought
  • Transform me to an oyster and until
  • To one, love shall never make me such a
  • Fool. The day I’m sick because of love will
  • Ne’er be, if one be fair, another the
  • Most wise, another most virtuous. Till
  • All graces be in one, one woman will
  • Not come in my grace. ‘Tis certain rich she
  • Shall be; wise, or I’ll none; virtuous, or
  • I’ll never cheapen her; fair, or she’ll be
  • One I ne’er see; noble or I not for
  • Her discourse; mild, or come not near me; an
  • Angel here, an excellent musician.
  • The Prince, Leonato and Claudio enter.
  • PRINCE ASIDE TO CLAUDIO
  • See you where Benedick hath hid himself?
  • CLAUDIO ASIDE TO THE PRINCE
  • O, very well, my lord.
  • PRINCE
  • Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me of today, that your niece Beatrice was in love with Signior Benedick?
  • CLAUDIO
  • O, ay.
  • CLAUDIO ASIDE TO THE PRINCE
  • Stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits.
  • CLAUDIO
  • I did never think that lady would have loved any man.
  • LEONATO
  • No, nor I neither, but most wonderful that she should so dote on Signior Benedick, whom she hath in all outward behaviors seemed ever to abhor.
  • BENEDICK ASIDE
  • Is ‘t possible?
  • LEONATO
  • By my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think of it, but that she loves him with an enraged affection.
  • PRINCE
  • Maybe she doth but counterfeit.
  • LEONATO
  • There was never counterfeit of passion came so near the life of passion as she discovers it.
  • PRINCE
  • Why, what effects of passion shows she?
  • CLAUDIO ASIDE TO LEONATO
  • Bait the hook well; this fish will bite.
  • PRINCE
  • I would have thought her spirit had been invincible against all assaults of affection.
  • LEONATO
  • I would have sworn it had, my lord, especially against Benedick.
  • BENEDICK ASIDE
  • I should think this a gull but that the white-bearded fellow speaks it.
  • CLAUDIO ASIDE TO PRINCE
  • He hath ta’en th’ infection. Hold it up.
  • PRINCE
  • Hath she made her affection known to Benedick?
  • LEONATO
  • No, and swears she never will. That’s her torment.
  • CLAUDIO
  • ‘Tis true indeed, so your daughter says. “Shall I,” says she, “that have so oft encountered him with scorn, write to him that I love him?”
  • LEONATO
  • She says she’ll be up twenty times a night, and there will she sit in her smock till she have writ a sheet of paper. My daughter tells us all.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Then down upon her knees she falls, weeps, tears her hair, prays, curses: “O sweet Benedick, God give me patience!”
  • LEONATO
  • She doth indeed. My daughter says so. It is very true.
  • CLAUDIO
  • To what end? He would make but a sport of it and torment the poor lady worse.
  • PRINCE
  • She’s an excellent sweet lady, and, out of all suspicion, she is virtuous.
  • CLAUDIO
  • And she is exceeding wise.
  • PRINCE
  • In everything but in loving Benedick.
  • LEONATO
  • O, my lord, wisdom and blood combating in so tender a body.
  • PRINCE
  • I would she had bestowed this dotage on me. I pray you tell Benedick of it, and hear what he will say.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Hero thinks surely she will die, for she says she will die if he loves her not, and she will die ere she make her love known.
  • CLAUDIO
  • He is a very proper man.
  • PRINCE
  • He hath indeed a good outward happiness.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Before God, and in my mind, very wise.
  • PRINCE
  • He doth indeed show some sparks that are like wit.
  • CLAUDIO
  • And I take him to be valiant.
  • PRINCE
  • Well, I am sorry for your niece. Shall we go seek Benedick and tell him of her love?
  • CLAUDIO
  • Never tell him, my lord, let her wear it out with good counsel.
  • LEONATO
  • Nay, that’s impossible; she may wear her heart out first.
  • PRINCE
  • I could wish he would modestly examine himself to see how much he is unworthy so good a lady.
  • Leonato, the Prince and Claudio begin to exit.
  • PRINCE ASIDE TO LEONATO
  • Let there be the same net spread for her, and that must your daughter and her gentlewomen carry. Let us send her to call him in to dinner.
  • The Prince, Leonato and Claudio exit. Benedick comes forward
  •  
  •  
  • Benedick to himself, No. 2
  •  
  • This can be no trick, for Hero I trust.
  • The maid’s full bent affections for me must
  • Be requited. They say I’ll act above
  • Love proudly, if I perceive love, and she
  • Would rather die than give me a sign of
  • Affection. ‘Tis true she’s fair. I agree
  • She’s virtuous and wise, but for loving
  • Me; ‘tis no claim to her folly seeing
  • I am horribly in love with her. Since
  • I have railed so against marriage, I may
  • Have some odd quirks of wit broken agains’
  • Me. When I without wit said I’d die a
  • Bachelor, I thought not I should grow old
  • And married, yet the world must be peopled.
  • BENEDICK
  • Here comes Beatrice. I do spy some marks of love in her.
  • Beatrice enters.
  • BEATRICE
  • Against my will, I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.
  • BENEDICK
  • Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.
  • BEATRICE
  • I took no more pains for those thanks than you take pains to thank me.
  • BENEDICK
  • You take pleasure then in the message?
  • BEATRICE
  • Yea, just so much as you may take upon a knife’s point and choke a crow withal.
  • She exits.
  • BENEDICK
  • Ha! “Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.” There’s a double meaning in that.
  • He exits.
  • Act 3, Scene 1
  • Hero and her gentlewomen, Margaret and Ursula, enter.
  • HERO
  • Good Margaret, run thee to the parlor. There shalt thou find my cousin Beatrice. Whisper her ear and tell her I and Ursula walk in the orchard and our whole discourse is all of her. Say that thou overheardst us, and bid her steal into the bower intertwined with boughs where she should hide to listen to our discussion.
  • MARGARET
  • I’ll make her come, I warrant you, presently.
  • She exits.
  • HERO
  • Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come, our talk must only be of Benedick. When I do name him, let it be thy part to praise him more than ever man did merit. My talk to thee must be how Benedick is sick in love with Beatrice. Now begin, for look where Beatrice runs to hear our conference.
  • Beatrice enters and hides in the bower.
  • URSULA ASIDE TO HERO
  • Fear you not my part of the dialogue.
  • HERO ASIDE TO URSULA
  • Then go we near her, that her ear lose nothing of the false sweet bait that we lay for it.
  • They walk near the bower.
  • HERO
  • No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful.
  • URSULA
  • But are you sure that Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?
  • HERO
  • So says the Prince and my new-trothed lord.
  • URSULA
  • And did they bid you tell her of it, madam?
  • HERO
  • They did entreat me to acquaint her of it, but I persuaded them if they loved Benedick, to wish him wrestle with affection and never to let Beatrice know of it.
  • URSULA
  • Why did you so?
  • HERO
  • Nature never framed a woman’s heart of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice. Her wit values itself so highly that to her all matter else seems weak. She cannot love, nor take no shape or project of affection, she is so self-endeared.
  • URSULA
  • Sure, I think so, and therefore certainly it were not good she knew his love, lest she’ll make sport of it.
  • HERO
  • Why, you speak truth. So turns she every man the wrong side out, and never gives to truth and virtue that which simpleness and merit purchaseth.
  • URSULA
  • Sure, sure, such carping is not commendable.
  • HERO
  • No, but who dare tell her so? Let Benedick, like covered fire, consume away in sighs, waste inwardly.
  • URSULA
  • Yet tell her of it. Hear what she will say.
  • HERO
  • No, rather I will go to Benedick and counsel him to fight against his passion; and truly I’ll devise some honest slanders to stain my cousin with.
  • URSULA
  • O, do not do your cousin such a wrong! She cannot be so much without true judgment as to refuse so rare a gentleman as Signior Benedick.
  • HERO
  • He is the only man of Italy, always excepted my dear Claudio.
  • URSULA
  • I pray you be not angry with me madam, speaking my fancy: Signior Benedick goes foremost in report through Italy.
  • HERO
  • Indeed, he hath an excellent good name.
  • URSULA
  • His excellence did earn it ere he had it. When are you married, madam?
  • HERO
  • Why, every day, tomorrow.
  • They move away from the bower.
  • URSULA ASIDE TO HERO
  • She’s trapped, I warrant you. We have caught her, madam.
  • HERO ASIDE TO URSULA
  • If it prove so then loving goes by chance: some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.
  • Hero and Ursula exit. Beatrice comes forward.
  • BEATRICE
  • What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true? Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much? And Benedick, love on; I will requite thee, taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.
  • She exits.
  • Act 3, Scene 2
  • The Prince, Leonato, Claudio and Benedick enter.
  • PRINCE
  • I will only be bold with Benedick for his company, for from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot he is all mirth. He hath a heart as sound as a bell, and his tongue is the clapper, for what his heart thinks, his tongue speaks.
  • BENEDICK
  • Gallants, I am not as I have been.
  • LEONATO
  • Methinks you are sadder.
  • BENEDICK
  • Well, everyone can master a grief but he that has it.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Yet say I, he is in love.
  • PRINCE
  • There is no appearance of love in him.
  • CLAUDIO
  • If he be not in love with some woman, there is no believing old signs. He brushes his hat o’mornings.
  • PRINCE
  • Hath any man seen him at the barber’s?
  • LEONATO
  • Indeed he looks younger than he did, by the loss of a beard.
  • CLAUDIO
  • That’s as much as to say, the sweet youth’s in love.
  • PRINCE
  • The greatest not of it is his melancholy. Conclude, conclude, he is in love.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Nay, but I know who loves him.
  • PRINCE
  • That would I know, too. I warrant, one that knows him not.
  • BENEDICK
  • Old signior, walk aside with me. I have studied eight or nine wise words to speak to you, which these jesters must not hear.
  • Benedick and Leonato exit.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Hero and Margaret have by this played their parts with Beatrice, and then the two bears will not bit one another when they meet.
  • Don John enters.
  • PRINCE
  • Good e’en, brother.
  • DON JOHN
  • If your leisure served, I would speak with you.
  • PRINCE
  • In private?
  • DON JOHN
  • Yet Count Claudio may hear, for what I would speak of concerns him.
  • PRINCE
  • What’s the matter?
  • DON JOHN TO CLAUDIO
  • Means your Lordship to be married tomorrow?
  • PRINCE
  • You know he does.
  • DON JOHN
  • I know not that, when he knows what I know.
  • CLAUDIO
  • If there be any impediment, I pray you discover it.
  • PRINCE
  • Why, what’s the matter?
  • DON JOHN
  • I came hither to tell you. The lady is disloyal.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Who, Hero?
  • DON JOHN
  • I could say she were worse. Go but with me tonight, you shall see her chamber window entered, even the night before her wedding day. If you love her then, tomorrow wed her.
  • CLAUDIO TO THE PRINCE
  • May this be so?
  • PRINCE
  • I will not think it.
  • DON JOHN
  • If you dare not trust that you see, confess not what you know.
  • CLAUDIO
  • If I see anything tonight why I should not marry her, tomorrow in the congregation, where I should wed, there will I shame her.
  • PRINCE
  • And as I wooed for thee to obtain her, I will join with thee to disgrace her.
  • DON JOHN
  • I will disparage her no farther till you are my witnesses. Bear it coldly but till midnight, and let the issue show itself.
  • They exit.
  • Act 3, Scene 3
  • Dogberry, the constable; Verges, his assistant, along with watchmen, have been instructed to pay attention to any unusual activity around Leonato’s house.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Are you good men and true?
  • VERGES
  • Well, give them their charge, Dogberry.
  • DOGBERRY
  • First, who think you the least deserving man to be constable?
  • FIRST WATCHMAN
  • Hugh Oatcake, sir, of George Seacoal, for they can write and read.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Come hither, neighbor Seacoal.
  • Seacoal steps forward.
  • DOGBERRY
  • To be well-favored man is the gift of fortune, but to write and read comes by nature.
  • SEACOAL
  • Both which, master constable------
  • DOGBERRY
  • You have. I knew it would be your answer. This is your charge: you shall comprehend all vagrant men; you are to bid any man halt, in the Prince’s name.
  • SEACOAL
  • How if he will not halt?
  • DOGBERRY
  • Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go, and thank God you are rid of a knave.
  • VERGES
  • If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the Prince’s subjects.
  • SECOND WATCHMAN
  • We will rather sleep than talk.
  • DOGBERRY
  • I cannot see how sleeping should offend. You are to call at all the alehouses and bid those that are drunk get them to bed.
  • SEACOAL
  • How if they will not?
  • DOGBERRY
  • You may say they are not the men you took them for.
  • VERGES
  • You have been always called a merciful man, partner.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Truly, I would not hang a dog by my will, much more a man who hath any honesty in him. If you meet the Prince in the night, you may stay him.
  • Dogberry and Verges begin to exit.
  • SEACOAL
  • Well, masters, we hear our charge.
  • DOGBERRY
  • One word more. I pray you watch about Signior Leonato’s door, for the wedding being there tomorrow, there is great turmoil tonight. Be vigilant, I beseech you.
  • Dogberry and Verges exit. Borachio and Conrade enter.
  • BORACHIO
  • What, Conrade!
  • SEACOAL ASIDE
  • Peace, stir not.
  • BORACHIO
  • Conrade, I say!
  • CONRADE
  • Here, man, I am at thy elbow.
  • BORACHIO
  • Stand thee close, then, under this penthouse, for it drizzles rain, and I will, like a true drunkard, utter all to thee.
  • SEACOAL ASIDE
  • Some treason, masters. Yet stand close.
  • BORACHIO
  • Didst thou not hear somebody?
  • CONRADE
  • No, ‘twas the vane on the house.
  •  
  •  
  • Borachio to Conrade
  •  
  • What a deformed thief this fashion is. How
  • Doth he get all of these young men to now
  • Fashion themselves as hot bloods, giddily.
  • Know that I have tonight wooed Margaret
  • As if she Hero. Claudio did see
  • The encounter, bidding me her love, yet
  • Master Don John knew of this frightful sin,
  • Placing both Prince and Claudio there in
  • The orchard, where they both thought Margaret
  • Was Hero. My villainy sent away
  • Claudio enraged, swearing he would get
  • Even before all the church the next day,
  • With what he saw, shaming her o’er the land
  • And sending her home without a husband.
  • FIRST WATCHMAN
  • We charge you in the Prince’s name, stand!
  • SEACOAL
  • Call up the right Master Constable.
  • Second Watchman exits.
  • SEACOAL
  • We have here recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever was known in the commonwealth.
  • Dogberry, Verges and the Second Watchman enter.
  • DOGBERRY TO BORACHIO AND CONRADE
  • Masters, never speak, we charge you, let us obey you to go with us.
  • BORACHIO TO CONRADE
  • We are like to prove a goodly commodity.
  • CONRADE
  • Come, we’ll obey you.
  • They exit.
  • Act 3, Scene 4
  • The scene is early the next morning. Hero is preparing for the wedding. Hero, Margaret and Ursula enter.
  • HERO
  • Good Ursula, wake my cousin Beatrice and desire her to rise.
  • URSULA
  • I will, lady.
  • Ursula exits. Beatrice enters.
  • BEATRICE
  • Good morrow, sweet Hero.
  • HERO
  • Do you speak as if you were sick?
  • BEATRICE
  • I am out of all other tune, methinks. ‘Tis almost five o’clock, cousin. ‘Tis time you were ready. By my troth, I am exceeding ill.
  • MARGARET
  • You may think perchance that I think you are in love. Yet Benedick now has become a man. Methinks you look with your eyes as other women do.
  • BEATRICE
  • What pace is this that thy tongue keeps?
  • MARGARET
  • Not a false gallop.
  • Ursula enters.
  • URSULA
  • Madam, withdraw. The Prince, the Count, signior Benedick, Don John and all the gallants of the town are come to fetch you to church.
  • HERO
  • Help to dress me, good coz, good Meg, good Ursula.
  • They exit.
  • Act 3, Scene 5
  • Dogberry and Verges try to tell Leonato about the arrest of Borachio and Conrade, but they fail to make their point. Leonato dismisses them and leaves for the wedding.
  • LEONATO
  • What would you with me, honest neighbor?
  • DOGBERRY
  • Marry, sir, I would have some confidence with you that decerns you nearly.
  • LEONATO
  • Brief, I pray you.
  • VERGES
  • Yes, in truth, it is, sir.
  • LEONATO
  • What is it, my good friends?
  • DOGBERRY
  • An old man, sir, and his wits are not so blunt as I would desire they were.
  • VERGES
  • Yes, I thank God I am as honest as any man living.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Comparisons are odorous.
  • LEONATO
  • Neighbors, you are tedious.
  • DOGBERRY
  • It pleases your Worship to say so, but we are the poor duke’s officers.
  • VERGES
  • And so am I.
  • LEONATO
  • I would gladly know what you have to say.
  • VERGES
  • Marry, sir, our watch tonight ha’ ta’en a couple as arrant knaves as any in Messina.
  • DOGBERRY
  • A good old man, sir. He will be talking. They say, “When the age is in, the wit is out.” Well, God’s a good man.
  • LEONATO
  • I must leave you.
  • DOGBERRY
  • One word, sir. Our watch have indeed comprehended two auspicious persons, and we would have them this morning examined before your Worship.
  • LEONATO
  • Take their examination yourself and bring it me. I am now in great haste.
  • DOGBERRY
  • It shall be sufficient.
  • LEONATO
  • Drink some wine ere you go.
  • A Messenger enters.
  • MESSENGER
  • My lord, they stay for you to give your daughter to her husband.
  • LEONATO
  • I’ll wait upon them.
  • Leonato and the Messenger exit.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Go, good partner, go, get you to Francis Seacoal. We are now to examination these men.
  • VERGES
  • And we must do it wisely.
  • DOGBERRY
  • We will spare for no wit, I warrant you. Only get the learned writer to set down our excommunication and meet me at the jail.
  • They exit.
  • Act 4, Scene 1
  • The Prince, Don John, Leonato, Friar Francis, Claudio, Benedick, Hero and Beatrice are in church.
  • LEONATO
  • Come, Friar Francis, be brief, only to the plain form of marriage.
  • FRIAR TO CLAUDIO
  • You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady?
  • CLAUDIO
  • No.
  • LEONATO
  • To be married to her. Friar, you come to marry her.
  • FRIAR
  • Lady, you come hither to be married to this count?
  • HERO
  • I do.
  • FRIAR
  • If either of you know any inward impediment why you should not be conjoined, I charge you on your souls to utter it.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Know you any, Hero?
  • HERO
  • None, my lord.
  • FRIAR
  • Know you any, count?
  • LEONATO
  • I dare make his answer, none.
  • CLAUDIO
  • O, what men dare do!
  • BENEDICK
  • How now, interjections?
  • CLAUDIO
  • Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave, will you with free and unconstrained soul give me this maid, your daughter.
  • LEONATO
  • As freely, son, as God did give her me.
  • CLAUDIO
  • There, Leonato, take her back again. Give not this rotten orange to your friend. Would you not swear, all you that see her, that she were a maid. But she is none.
  • LEONATO
  • What do you mean, my lord?
  • CLAUDIO
  • Not to be married, not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.
  • LEONATO
  • Dear my lord, if you in your own proof have vanquished the resistance of her youth.
  • CLAUDIO
  • No, Leonato, I never tempted her with word too large, but, as a brother to his sister, showed bashful sincerity and comely love.
  • HERO
  • And seemed I ever otherwise to you?
  • CLAUDIO
  • Out on thee, seeming! I will write against it.
  • HERO
  • Is my lord well that he doth speak so wildly?
  • LEONATO
  • What should I speak? I stand dishonored that have gone about to link my dear friend to a common stale.
  • LEONATO
  • Are these things spoken, or do I but dream?
  • DON JOHN
  • Sir, they are spoken, and these things are true.
  • BENEDICK
  • This looks not like a nuptial.
  • HERO
  • True! O God!
  • CLAUDIO
  • Let me but move one question to your daughter. And by that fatherly and kindly power that you have in her, bid her answer truly.
  • LEONATO
  • I charge thee do so, as thou art my child.
  • CLAUDIO
  • What man was he talked with you yesternight out at your window betwixt twelve and one?
  • HERO
  • I talked with no man at that hour, my lord.
  • PRINCE
  • Leonato, I am sorry you must hear. Upon mine honor, myself, my brother, and this grieved count did see her, hear her, at that hour last night talk with a ruffian at her chamber window, who hath indeed confessed the vile encounters they have had a thousand times in secret.
  • DON JOHN
  • Thus, pretty lady, I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.
  • CLAUDIO
  • O Hero, fare thee well, most foul, most fair. Farewell thou pure impiety and impious purity.
  • LEONATO
  • Hath no man’s dagger here a point for me?
  • Hero falls.
  • BEATRICE
  • Why, cousin, wherefore sink you down?
  • DON JOHN
  • Come, let us go. These things, come thus to light, smother her spirits up.
  • Claudio, Prince and Don John exit.
  • BENEDICK
  • How doth the lady?
  • BEATRICE
  • Dead, I think. Help, uncle!
  • LEONATO
  • O Fate, take not away thy heavy hand! Death is the fairest cover for her shame that may be wished for.
  • Hero stirs.
  • BEATRICE
  • Cousin Hero?
  • LEONATO TO HERO
  • Dost thou look up?
  • FRIAR
  • Yea, wherefore should she not?
  •  
  •  
  • Leonato to the Others
  •  
  • Wherefore? Doth not every earthly thing cry
  • Shame upon her? With this reproach thought I
  • Myself would strike at thy life. Hero, do
  • Not ope thine eyes. Think I chided thrifty
  • Nature, having had but one when one too
  • Much by thee! Why ever wast thou lovely
  • In my eyes? With charitable hand why
  • Had I not a beggar’s issue at my
  • Front gates taken up, who, smirched thus, I might
  • Have said “no part of it is mine.” But then
  • She’s mine, and mine I loved, and mine I quite
  • Praised with father’s pride. O, she hath fallen
  • Into such a pit of ink, that the mean,
  • Wide sea hath drops too few to wash her clean.
  • BENEDICK
  • Sir, sir, be patient.
  • BEATRICE
  • O, on my soul, my cousin is belied!
  • LEONATO
  • Let her die!
  • FRIAR
  • Hear me a little. In her eye hath appeared a fire to burn the errors that these princes hold against her maiden truth. Call me a fool, trust not my reading nor my observations, my reverence, calling, nor divinity, if this sweet lady lie not guiltless here under some biting error.
  • LEONATO
  • Friar, it cannot be. Why seek’st thou to cover with excuse that which appears in proper nakedness?
  • FRIAR
  • Lady, what man is he you are accused of?
  • HERO
  • They know that do accuse me. I know none. O my father, if you prove that any man with me conversed at hours improperly, refuse me, hate me, torture me to death!
  • FRIAR
  • There is some strange misprision in the princes.
  • BENEDICK
  • If their wisdoms be misled in this, the practice of it lives in Don John, whose spirits toil in frame of villainies.
  • LEONATO
  • I know not. If they speak but truth of her these hands shall tear her. If they wrong her honor, the proudest of them shall well hear of it.
  • FRIAR
  • Pause awhile, and let my counsel sway you in this case. Your daughter here the princes left for dead. Let her awhile be secretly kept in, and publish it that she is dead indeed. Do all rites that appertain unto a burial.
  • LEONATO
  • What will this do?
  • FRIAR
  • This is some good. She, dying, as it must be so maintained, upon the instant that she was accused, shall be lamented, pitied, and excused of every hearer.
  •  
  •  
  • Friar to Leonato
  •  
  • It so falls out that what we have we prize
  • Not to the worth whiles the joy we had lies
  • Before us, but being lacked and lost, we
  • Then better aware the value, finding
  • The virtue that with possession we see
  • Not whiles it was ours. It will have bearing
  • With Claudio, when the thought of her life
  • Shall creep into his mind’s attention, rife
  • With pleasant dreams of when she lived indeed.
  • Then shall he mourn, though he thought his word true.
  • And doubt not that the result of this seed
  • Will be better than now believed by you.
  • If all but this be leveled false, then we
  • Will end the wonder of her infamy.
  • FRIAR
  • And if it sort not well, you may conceal her out of all eyes, tongues, minds and injuries.
  • BENEDICK
  • Signior Leonato, let the Friar advise you. By mine honor, I will deal in this as secretly and justly as your soul should with your body.
  • LEONATO
  • Being that I flow in grief, the smallest twine may lead me.
  • FRIAR
  • ‘Tis well consented. Come, lady, die to live. This wedding day perhaps is but prolonged. Have patience and endure.
  • All but Beatrice and Benedick exit.
  • BENEDICK
  • Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged.
  • BEATRICE
  • Ah, how much might the man deserve of me that would right her!
  • BENEDICK
  • Is thee any way to show such friendship? I protest I love thee.
  • BEATRICE
  • You have stayed me in a happy hour. I was about to protest I loved you.
  • BENEDICK
  • And do it with all thy heart.
  • BEATRICE
  • I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
  • BENEDICK
  • Come, bid me do anything for thee.
  • BEATRICE
  • Kill Claudio.
  • BENEDICK
  • Ha! Not for the wide world.
  • She begins to exit.
  • BENEDICK
  • Tarry, sweet Beatrice.
  • BEATRICE
  • There is no love in you. Nay, I pray you let me go. You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.
  • BENEDICK
  • Is Claudio thine enemy?
  • BEATRICE
  • Is he not approved in the height a villain that hath slandered, scorned, dishonored my kinswoman? O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace.
  • BENEDICK
  • Hear me, Beatrice.
  • BEATRICE
  • Sweet Hero, she is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone. O, that I were a man for his sake! Or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! I cannot be a man with wishing; therefore I will die a woman with grieving.
  • BENEDICK
  • By this hand, I love thee.
  • BEATRICE
  • Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it.
  • BENEDICK
  • Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?
  • BEATRICE
  • Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.
  • BENEDICK
  • Enough, I am engaged. I will challenge him. Go comfort your cousin. I must say she is dead, and so farewell.
  • They exit.
  • Act 4, Scene 2
  • Dogberry and Verges, the constables, along with the Sexton, Borachio, Conrade and Seacoal, the leader of the watch, are on stage. A stool is brought in and the Sexton sits.
  • SEXTON
  • Which be the malefactors?
  • DOGBERRY
  • Marry, that am I, and my partner.
  • VERGES
  • Nay, that’s certain.
  • SEXTON
  • But which are the offenders that are to be examined?
  • Conrade and Borachio are brought forward.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Masters, it is proved already that you are little better than false knaves. How answer you for yourselves?
  • BORACHIO
  • Sir, I say to you we are none.
  • SEXTON
  • Master Constable, you must call forth the watch that are their accusers.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Yea, marry, that’s the fastest way. Let the watch come forth.
  • FIRST WATCHMAN
  • This man said, sir, that Don John, the Prince’s brother, was a villain.
  • DOGBERY
  • Why, this is flat perjury, to call a prince’s brother villain!
  • SEXTON
  • What heard you him say else?
  • SEACOAL
  • Marry, that he had received a thousand ducats of Don John for accusing the Lady Hero wrongfully.
  • SEXTON
  • What else, fellow?
  • FIRST WATCHMAN
  • And that Count Claudio did mean, upon his words, to disgrace Hero before the whole assembly, and not marry her.
  • DOGBERRY TO BORACHIO
  • O, villain!
  • SEXTON
  • What else?
  • SEACOAL
  • This is all.
  • SEXTON
  • And this is more, masters, than you can deny. Prince John is this morning secretly stolen away. Hero was in this manner accused, in this very manner refused, and upon the grief of this suddenly died. Master Constable, let these men be bound and brought to Leonato’s
  • He exits.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Come, let them be opinioned.
  • CONRADE
  • Away! You are an ass.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Dost thou not respect my place? Dost thou not respect my years? But masters, remember that I am an ass, though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass. I am a wise fellow and, which is more, an officer. O, that I had been writ down an ass!
  • They exit.
  • Act 5, Scene 1
  • Leonato and his brother are on stage.
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • If you go on thus, you will kill yourself, and ‘tis not wisdom thus to second grief against yourself.
  •  
  •  
  • Leonato to his Brother
  •  
  • Cease thy counsel, which falls into my ears
  • As profitless as a crow’s cry. Who hears
  • A comforter delight his ear ‘cept one
  • Whose wrongs match his? Bring me a father who
  • So loved his daughter, whose crushed joy doth run
  • The measure of this woe of mine. If you
  • Can, I will of him gather patience. But
  • There is no such man. Men can comfort what
  • They themselves not feel, but tasting it, their
  • Grief turns to passion, charming agony
  • With words. ‘Tis men’s need to speak patience where
  • Men writhe ‘neath the load of sorrow. But he
  • Sustains more sufficiency and virtue
  • When he alone endures what he must do.
  • LEONATO
  • Therefore give me no counsel. My griefs cry louder than advertisement.
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • Therein do men from children nothing differ.
  • LEONATO
  • I pray thee, peace. I will be flesh and blood, for there was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently.
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • Yet bend not all the harm upon yourself. Make those that do offend you suffer too.
  • LEONATO
  • There thou speak’st reason. Nay, I will do so.
  • The Prince and Claudio enter.
  • PRINCE
  • Good e’en, good e’en. We have some haste, Leonato.
  • LEONATO
  • Well, my lord, are you so hasty now?
  • PRINCE
  • Nay, do not quarrel with us, good old man.
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • If he could right himself with quarreling, some of us would lie low.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Who wrongs him?
  • LEONATO
  • Marry, thou dost wrong me, thou dissembler, thou. Know, Claudio, thou hast so wronged mine innocent child and me that I, with gray hairs and bruise of many days, do challenge thee to trial of a man, I say thou hast belied mine innocent child. Thy slander hath gone through and through her heart, and she lies buried with her ancestors, famed by thy villainy.
  • CLAUDIO
  • My villainy?
  • LEONATO
  • Thine, Claudio, thine, I say.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Away! I will not have to do with you.
  • LEONATO
  • Thou hast killed my child. If thou kill’st me, boy, thou shalt kill a man.
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • He shall kill two of us, and men indeed, but that’s no matter. Come, follow me, boy. I’ll whip you with vigorous swordplay.
  • LEONATO
  • Brother-----
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • Content yourself. God knows I loved my niece, and she is dead, slandered to death by villains that dare as well answer a man indeed.
  • LEONATO
  • Brother Anthony----
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • Do not you meddle. Let me deal in this.
  • PRINCE
  • Gentlemen both, we will not wake your patience. My heart is sorry for your daughter’s death. But, on my honor, she was charged with nothing but wat was true and very full of proof.
  • LEONATO
  • My lord, my lord.
  • PRINCE
  • I will not hear you.
  • LEONATO
  • No? Come, brother, away. I will be heard.
  • LEONATO’S BROTHER
  • And shall, or some of us will smart for it.
  • Leonato and his brother exit. Benedick enters.
  • PRINCE
  • Welcome, signior. You are almost come to part almost a fray.
  • CLAUDIO
  • We nearly had our two noses snapped off with two old men without teeth.
  • PRINCE
  • Leonato and his brother.
  • BENEDICK
  • In a false quarrel there is no true valor. I came to seek you both.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Wilt thou use thy wit?
  • BENEDICK
  • It is in my scabbard. Shall I draw it?
  • PRINCE
  • Dost thou wear thy wit by thy side?
  • CLAUDIO
  • Never any did so, though very many have been beside their wit.
  • PRINCE
  • As I am an honest man, he looks pale. Art thou sick, or angry?
  • CLAUDIO TO BENEDICK
  • What, courage, man! Thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.
  • BENEDICK
  • I pray you, choose another subject.
  • PRINCE
  • I think he be angry indeed.
  • BENEDICK
  • Shall I speak a word in your ear?
  • CLAUDIO
  • God bless me from a challenge!
  • BENEDICK ASIDE TO CLAUDIO
  • You are a villain. I jest not. You have killed a sweet lady, and her death shall fall heavy on you. Let me hear from you.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Well, I will meet you, so I may have good cheer.
  • PRINCE
  • What, a feast, a feast?
  • CLAUDIO
  • I’ faith, I thank him. He hath bid me to a calf’s head and a capon.
  • BENEDICK
  • Sir, your wit ambles well.
  • PRINCE
  • I’ll tell thee how Beatrice praised thy wit the other day. I said thou hadst a fine wit. “True,” said she, “a fine little one.” “No,” said I, “a great wit.” “Right,” says she, “a great gross one.” “Nay,” said I, “a good wit.” “Just,” said she, “it hurts nobody.” Yet at last she concluded with a sigh, thou was the proper’st man in Italy.
  • CLAUDIO
  • For the which she wept heartily and said she cared not.
  • PRINCE
  • Yea, that she did. But yet for all that she would love him dearly. The old man’s daughter told us all.
  • CLAUDIO
  • All, all. And, moreover, God saw him when he was hid in the garden.
  • PRINCE
  • But when shall we set the savage bull’s horns on the sensible Benedick’s head?
  • CLAUDIO
  • Yea, and text underneath: “Here dwells Benedick, the married man”?
  • BENEDICK
  • Fare you well, boy. You know my mind. I will leave you now to your gossip-like humor. I must discontinue your company. Your brother, Don John, is fled from Messina. You have among you killed a sweet and innocent lady.
  • Benedick exits.
  • PRINCE
  • He is in earnest. And he hath challenged thee.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Most sincerely.
  • PRINCE
  • Did he not say my brother was fled?
  • Constables Dogberry and Verges, the Watch and Conrade and Borachio enter.
  • PRINCE
  • How now, two of my brother’s men bound? Borachio one! Officers, what offense have these men done?
  • DOGBERRY
  • Marry, sir, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.
  • PRINCE TO BORACHIO AND CONRADE
  • Who have you offended, masters? This learned constable is too clever to be understood. What’s your offense?
  • BORACHIO
  • Sweet prince, let this count kill me. I have deceived even your very eyes. Don John your brother incensed me to slander the Lady Hero. You were brought into the orchard and saw me court Margaret in Hero’s garments. My villainy they have upon record, which I had rather seal with my death than repeat over to my shame.
  • PRINCE TO CLAUDIO
  • Runs not this speech like iron through your blood?
  • CLAUDIO
  • I have drunk poison whiles he uttered it.
  • PRINCE TO BORACHIO
  • But did my brother set thee on to this?
  • BORACHIO
  • Yea, and paid me richly for the practice of it.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Sweet Hero, now thy image doth appear in the rare semblance that I loved it first.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Come, bring away the plaintiffs. And, masters, do not forget to specify that I am an ass.
  • Leonato, his brother and the Sexton enter.
  • LEONATO
  • Which is the villain? Which of these is he?
  • BORACHIO
  • If you would know your wronger, look on me.
  • LEONATO
  • Art thou the slave that with thy breath hast killed mine innocent child?
  • BORACHIO
  • Yea, even I alone.
  •  
  •  
  • Leonato to Prince, Claudio and Borachio
  •  
  • Thy lie to thyself knave, not so as said.
  • Here stand men of honor, a third is fled.
  • Record my daughter’s death, men, with your high
  • And worthy deeds, if you bethink of it.
  • You cannot bid my daughter live, but I
  • Pray you hang a verse on her tomb, commit
  • To all of Messina how innocent
  • She died, and here tonight sing to content
  • Her bones. Come to me in the morning. The
  • Marriage hoped for Hero will not be filed;
  • Be yet my nephew. My brother hath a
  • Daughter, almost the copy of my child
  • That’s dead. If you give her the right you should
  • Have given her cousin, end grief I would.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Your overkindness doth wring tears from me. I do embrace your offer and dispose for henceforth of poor Claudio.
  • LEONATO
  • Tomorrow then I will expect your coming. Tonight I take my leave. This naughty man shall face to face be brought to Margaret, who I believe was packed in all this wrong, hired to it by your brother.
  • BORACHIO
  • No, by my soul, she was not, nor knew not what she did when she spoke to me.
  • DOGBERRY TO LEONATO
  • Moreover, sir, this plaintiff here, the offender, did call me ass. I beseech you, let it be remembered in his punishment.
  • LEONATO
  • I thank thee for thy care and honest pains.
  • DOGBERRY
  • Your Worship speaks like a most thankful and reverent youth.
  • LEONATO
  • Go, I discharge thee of thy prisoner, and I thank thee.
  • Dogberry and Verges exit.
  • LEONATO
  • Until tomorrow morning, lords, farewell.
  • PRINCE
  • We will not fail.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Tonight I’ll mourn with Hero.
  • LEONATO TO WATCH
  • Bring you these fellows on. We’ll talk with Margaret, how her acquaintance grew with this lewd fellow.
  • They exit.
  • Act 5, Scene 2
  • Benedick and Margaret are on stage.
  • BENEDICK
  • Pray thee, sweet Mistress Margaret, help me to the speech of Beatrice.
  • MARGARET
  • Will you then write me a sonnet in praise of my beauty?
  • BENEDICK
  • In so high a style, Margaret, that no man living shall come over it. Thou deservest it.
  • MARGARET
  • Well, I will call Beatrice to you.
  • She exits.
  • BENEDICK
  • Marry, I cannot show it in rhyme. I have tried. No, I was not born under a rhyming planet, nor I cannot woo in joyful terms.
  • Beatrice enters.
  • BENEDICK
  • Sweet Beatrice, wouldst thou come when I call thee?
  • BEATRICE
  • Yea, signior, and depart when you bid me.
  • BENEDICK
  • O, stay but till then!
  • BEATRICE
  • “Then” is spoken. Fare you well now.
  • BENEDICK
  • Only foul words, and thereupon I will kiss thee.
  • BEATRICE
  • Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is foul breath. Therefore I will depart unkissed.
  • BENEDICK
  • But I must tell thee plainly, Claudio undergoes my challenge, and either I must shortly hear from him, or I will subscribe him a coward. And I pray thee now tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?
  • BEATRICE
  • For them all together. But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?
  • BENEDICK
  • Suffer love! A good epithet. I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.
  • BEATRICE
  • In spite of your heart, I think.
  • BENEDICK
  • Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.
  • BEATRICE
  • It appears not in this confession. There’s not one wise man among twenty that will praise himself.
  • BENEDICK
  • Therefore is it most expedient for the wise to be the trumpet of his own virtues, as I am to myself? And now tell me, how doth your cousin?
  • BEATRICE
  • Very ill.
  • BENEDICK
  • And how do you?
  • BEATRICE
  • Very ill, too.
  • Ursula enters.
  • URSULA
  • Madam, you must come to your uncle. It is proved my Lady Hero hath been falsely accused, the Prince and Claudio mightily abused, and Don John is the author of all, is fled and gone.
  • Ursula exits.
  • BEATRICE
  • Will you go hear this news, signior?
  • BENEDICK
  • I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes --- and moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle’s.
  • They exit.
  • Act 5, Scene 3
  • Claudio, the Prince and others are that night at Leonato’s family tomb.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Is this the monument of Leonato?
  • FIRST LORD
  • It is, my lord.
  • CLAUDIO READING AN EPITAPH
  • Done to death by slanderous tongues was the Hero that here lies.
  • He hangs up the scroll.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Hang thou there upon the tomb. Now music, sound, and sing your solemn hymn.
  • SONG SUNG
  • Pardon, goddess of the night, those that slew thy virgin knight.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Now, unto thy bones, goodnight. Yearly will I do this rite.
  • PRINCE
  • Good morrow, masters. Thanks to you all, and leave us. Fare you well.
  • Lords and Musicians exit.
  • PRINCE
  • Come, let us hence to Leonato’s.
  • They exit.
  • Act 5, Scene 4
  • Leonato, Benedick, Beatrice, Margaret, Ursula, Leonato’s brother, the Friar and Hero are on stage.
  • FRIAR
  • Did I not tell you she was innocent?
  • LEONATO
  • So are the Prince and Claudio, who accused her upon the error that you heard debated. Well, daughter, and you gentlewomen all, withdraw into a chamber by yourselves, and when I send for you, come hither masked. You know your office, brother. You must be father to your brother’s daughter, and give her to young Claudio.
  • The ladies exit.
  • BENEDICK
  • Friar, I must entreat your pains, I think.
  • FRIAR
  • To do what, signior?
  • BENEDICK
  • To bind me, or undo me, one of them. Signior Leonato, truth it is, your niece regards me with an eye of favor.
  • LEONATO
  • That eye my daughter lent her; ‘tis most true. What’s your will?
  • BENEDICK
  • My will is your goodwill, this day to be conjoined in the state of honorable marriage, in which, good friar, I shall desire your help.
  • LEONATO
  • My heart is with your liking.
  • FRIAR
  • And my help.
  • The Prince, Claudio and others enter.
  • LEONATO
  • Good morrow, prince, good morrow, Claudio. Are you yet determined today to marry with my brother’s daughter?
  • CLAUDIO
  • I am.
  • LEONATO
  • Call her forth, brother. Here’s the Friar ready.
  • Leonato’s brother exits. Leonato’s brother, Hero, Beatrice, Margaret and Ursula enter, masked.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Which is the lady I must seize upon?
  • LEONATO
  • This same is she, and I do give you her.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Sweet, let me see your face.
  • LEONATO
  • No, that you shall not till you take her hand before this friar and swear to marry her.
  • CLAUDIO TO HERO
  • Give me your hand before this holy friar.
  • They take hands.
  • CLAUDIO
  • I am your husband, if you like of me.
  • HERO
  • And when I lived, I was your other wife, and when you loved, you were my other husband.
  • She unmasks.
  • CLAUDIO
  • Another Hero!
  • HERO
  • Nothing certainer. One Hero died defiled, but I do live, and surely as I live, I am a maid.
  • PRINCE
  • The former Hero! Hero that is dead!
  • LEONATO
  • She died, my lord, but whiles her slander lived.
  • FRIAR
  • When after that the holy rites are ended, I’ll tell you largely of fair Hero’s death. Meantime to the chapel let us presently.
  • BENEDICK
  • Soft and fair, friar. Which is Beatrice?
  • Beatrice unmasks
  • BEATRICE
  • I answer to that name. What is your will?
  • BENEDICK
  • Do not you love me?
  • BEATRICE
  • Why no, no more than reason.
  • BENEDICK
  • Why then, your uncle and the Prince and Claudio have been deceived. They swore you did.
  • BEATRICE
  • Do not you love me?
  • BENEDICK
  • Troth, no, no more than reason.
  • BEATRICE
  • Why then my cousin, Margaret and Ursula are much deceived, for they did swear you did.
  • BENEDICK
  • ‘Tis no such matter. Then you do not love me?
  • BEATRICE
  • No, truly, but in friendly recompense.
  • CLAUDIO
  • I’ll be sworn upon ‘t that he loves her. For here’s a paper written in his hand, a halting sonnet of his own pure brain, fashioned to Beatrice.
  • He shows a paper.
  • HERO
  • And here’s another, writ in my cousin’s hand, stol’n from her pocket, containing her affection unto Benedick.
  • She shows a paper.
  • BENEDICK
  • A miracle! Here’s our own hands against our hearts. Come, I will have thee, but by this light I take thee for pity.
  • BEATRICE
  • I would not deny you, but I was told you were in consumption.
  • BENEDICK
  • Peace! I will stop your mouth.
  • They kiss.
  • PRINCE
  • How dost thou, Benedick, the married man?
  •  
  •  
  • Benedick to Prince and Claudio
  •  
  • I’ll tell you what, Prince; a group of flippant,
  • Sarcastic, wisecrackers such as you can’t
  • Jest me out of my new found state of mind.
  • Dost thou think I care for satire or an
  • Epigram? Those beaten by wit will find
  • Nothing handsome about themselves and can
  • Walk from love. Since I plan to marry, I’ll
  • Hear nothing said against it even while
  • Others may choose to flout me for what I
  • Have said against it, for man is within
  • A fickle, giddy thing. Claudio, my
  • Kinsman, live unbruised, and love my cousin.
  • Let’s have a dance before each marriage seals
  • That we lighten our hearts and our wives’ heels.
  • BENEDICK
  • Come, come, we are friends.
  • LEONATO
  • We’ll have dancing afterward.
  • BENEDICK
  • First, of my word! Therefore play, music. Prince, thou art sad. Get thee a wife, get thee a wife.
  • A messenger enters.
  • MESSENGER TO THE PRINCE
  • My lord, your brother John is ta’en in flight, and brought with armed men back to Messina.
  • BENEDICK TO THE PRINCE
  • Think not on him till tomorrow. Strike up, pipers!
  • Music plays. They dance.

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