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Much Ado About Nothing by William Shakespeare [Knight edition]

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by William Shakspere

Persons Represented.

Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon.
Don John, his bastard brother.
Claudio, a young lord of Florence, favourite of Don Pedro.
Benedick, a young lord of Padua, favourite likewise of Don Pedro.
Leonato, governor of Messina.
Antonio, his brother.
Balthazar, servant to Don Pedro.
Borachio, follower of Don John.
Conrade, follower of Don John.
Dogberry, a city-officer.
Verges, a city-officer.
A Sexton.
A Friar.
A Boy.

Hero, daughter to Leonato.
Beatrice, niece to Leonato.
Margaret, gentlewoman attending on Hero.
Ursula, gentlewoman attending on Hero.

Messengers, Watch, and Attendants.


ACT 1.

Scene I. Street in Messina.

[Enter Leonato, Hero, Beatrice, and others, with a Messenger.]

I learn in this letter, that Don Pedro of Arragon comes this
night to Messina.

He is very near by this; he was not three leagues off when I
left him.

How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?

But few of any sort, and none of name.

A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full
numbers. I find here that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on
a young Florentine, called Claudio.

Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro:
He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age; doing,
in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion: he hath, indeed,
better bettered expectation than you must expect of me to tell
you how.

He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.

I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much
joy in him; even so much that joy could not show itself modest
enough without a badge of bitterness.

Did he break out into tears?

In great measure.

A kind overflow of kindness: 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!

I pray you, is Signior Montanto returned from the wars or no?

I know none of that name, lady; there was none such in the
army of any sort.

What is he that you ask for, niece?

My cousin means signior Benedick of Padua.

O, he is returned, and as pleasant as ever he was.

He set up his bills here in Messina, and challenged Cupid at
the flight: and my uncle's fool, reading the challenge,
subscribed for Cupid and challenged him at the bird-bolt. I pray
you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars? But how
many hath he killed? for indeed I promised to eat all of his

Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much; but he'll
be meet with you, I doubt it not.

He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.

You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it: he is a
very valiant trencherman, he hath an excellent stomach.

And a good soldier too, lady.

And a good soldier to a lady:--But what is he to a lord?

A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all honourable

It is so indeed: he is no less than a stuffed man: but for
the stuffing,--Well, we are all mortal.

You must not, sir, mistake my niece: there is a kind of merry
war betwixt signior Benedick and her: they never meet but there
is a skirmish of wit between them.

Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict, four of
his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed
with one: so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let
him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse; for
it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable
creature. Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new
sworn brother.

Is it possible?

Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as the fashion
of his hat; it ever changes with the next block.

I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.

No: an he were, I would burn my study. But I pray you, who is
his companion? Is there no young squarer now, that will make a
voyage with him to the devil?

He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.

O Lord! he will hang upon him like a disease: he is sooner
caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad.
God help the noble Claudio! if he have caught the Benedick, it
will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured.

I will hold friends with you, lady.

Do, good friend.

You will ne'er run mad, niece.

No, not till a hot January.

Don Pedro is approached.

[Enter Don Pedro, attended by Balthazar and others, Don John,
Claudio, and Benedick.]

D. Pedro.
Good signior Leonato, you are come to meet your trouble: the
fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it.

Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace;
for trouble being gone, comfort should remain; but when you
depart from me sorrow abides, and happiness takes his leave.

D. Pedro.
You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this is your

Her mother hath many times told me so.

Were you in doubt that you asked her?

Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.

D. Pedro.
You have it full, Benedick: we may guess by this what you
are, being a man. Truly the lady fathers herself:--Be happy,
lady! for you are like an honourable father.

If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head
on her shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she is.

I wonder that you will still be talking, signior Benedick;
nobody marks you.

What, my dear lady Disdain! are you yet living?

Is it possible Disdain should die, while she hath such meet
food to feed it as signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must
convert to disdain if you come in her presence.

Then is courtesy a turncoat:--But it is certain I am loved of
all ladies, only you excepted: and I would I could find in my
heart that I had not a hard heart: for, truly, I love none.

A dear happiness to women; they would else have been troubled
with a pernicious suitor. I thank God, and my cold blood, I am
of your humour for that; I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow,
than a man swear he loves me.

God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some gentleman
or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face.

Scratching could not make it worse, an 't were such a face as
yours were.

Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.

A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.

I would my horse had the speed of your tongue; and so good a
continuer: But keep your way o' God's name; I have done.

You always end with a jade's trick; I know you of old.

D. Pedro.
That is the sum of all, Leonato.--Signior Claudio, and signior
Benedick,--my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell
him we shall stay here at the least a month; and he heartly
prays some occasion may detain us longer: I dare swear he is
no hypocrite, but prays from his heart.

If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.--
Let me bid you welcome, my lord: being reconciled
to the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.

D. John.
I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you.

Please it your grace lead on?

D. Pedro.
Your hand, Leonato; we will go together.

[Exeunt all but Benedick and Claudio.]

Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of signior Leonato?

I noted her not: but I looked on her.

Is she not a modest young lady?

Do you question me as an honest man should do, for my simple
true judgment; or would you have me speak after my custom, as
being a professed tyrant to their sex?

No, I pray thee, speak in sober judgment.
Why, i' faith, methinks she's too low for a high praise,
too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise;
only this commendation I can afford her: that were she other
than she is, she were unhandsome; and being no other but as she
is, I do not like her.

Thou thinkest I am in sport; I pray thee tell me truly how
thou likest her.

Would you buy her, that you enquire after her?

Can the world buy such a jewel?

Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this with a sad
brow? or do you play the flouting Jack; to tell us Cupid is a
good hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare carpenter? Come, in what key
shall a man take you, to go in the song?

In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on.

I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter:
there's her cousin, an she were not possessed with a fury,
exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of May doth the
last of December. But I hope you have no intent to turn
husband; have you?

I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the
contrary, if Hero would be my wife.

Is't come to this, i' faith? Hath not the world one man but
he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall I never see a
bachelor of three-score again? Go to, i' faith: an thou wilt
needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it, and
sigh away Sundays. Look, Don Pedro is returned to seek you.

[Re-enter Don Pedro.]

D. Pedro.
What secret hath held you here, that you followed not to

I would your Grace would constrain me to tell.

D. Pedro.
I charge thee on thy allegiance.

You hear, count Claudio: I can be secret as a dumb man, I
would have you think so; but on my allegiance,--mark you this, on
my allegiance:--He is in love. With who?--now that is your
Grace's part.--Mark how short his answer is:--With Hero,
Leonato's short daughter.

If this were so, so were it uttered.

Like the old tale, my lord: 'it is not so, nor 't was not so;
but, indeed, God forbid it should be so.'

If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it should be

D. Pedro.
Amen, if you love her; for the lady is very well worthy.

You speak this to fetch me in, my lord.

D. Pedro.
By my troth I speak my thought.

And in faith, my lord, I spoke mine.

And by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I spoke mine.

That I love her, I feel.

D. Pedro.
That she is worthy, I know.

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.

D. Pedro.
Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the despite of beauty.

And never could maintain his part but in the force of his

That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up,
I likewise give her most humble thanks: but that I will have
a recheat winded in my forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible
baldrick, all women shall pardon me: Because, I will not do them
the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust
none; and the fine is (for the which I may go the finer,) I will
live a bachelor.

D. Pedro.
I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.

With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord; not with
love: prove that ever I lose more blood with love than I will get
again with drinking, pick out mine eyes with a ballad-maker's
pen, and hang me up at the door of a brothel house for the sign of
blind Cupid.

D. Pedro.
Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith thou wilt
prove a notable argument.

If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat, and shoot at me; and
he that hits me let him be clapped on the shoulder and called

D. Pedro.
Well, as time shall try:
'In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.'

The savage bull may; but if ever this 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.'

If this should ever happen thou wouldst be horn-mad.

D. Pedro.
Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice, thou
wilt quake for this shortly.

I look for an earthquake too then.

D. Pedro.
Well, you will temporize with the hours. In the meantime,
good signior Benedick, repair to Leonato's: commend me to him,
and tell him I will not fail him at supper; for indeed, he
hath made great preparation.

I have almost matter enough in me for such an embassage; and
so I commit you--

To the tuition of God: From my house (if I had it)--

D. Pedro.
The sixth of July: Your loving friend, Benedick.

Nay, mock not, mock not: The body of your discourse is
sometime guarded with fragments, and the guards are but slightly
basted on neither: ere you flout old ends any further, examine
your conscience; and so I leave you.

[Exit Benedick.]

My liege, your highness now may do me good.

D. Pedro.
My love is thine to teach; teach it but how,
And thou shalt see how apt it is to learn
Any hard lesson that may do thee good.

Hath Leonato any son, my lord?

D. Pedro.
No child but Hero, she's his only heir:
Dost thou affect her, Claudio?

O my lord,
When you went onward on this ended action,
I look'd upon her with a soldier's eye,
That lik'd, but had a rougher task in hand
Than to drive liking to the name of love:
But now I am return'd and that war-thoughts
Have left their places vacant, in their rooms
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
All prompting me how fair young Hero is,
Saying I lik'd her ere I went to wars.

D. Pedro.
Thou wilt be like a lover presently,
And tire the hearer with a book of words:
If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it;
And I will break with her; [and with her father,
And thou shalt have her:] Was't not to this end,
That thou begann'st to twist so fine a story?

How sweetly do you minister to love,
That know love's grief by his complexion!
But lest my liking might too sudden seem,
I would have salv'd it with a longer treatise.

D. Pedro.
What need the bridge much broader than the flood?
The fairest grant is the necessity:
Look, what will serve is fit: 't is once, thou lovest;
And I will fit thee with the remedy.
I know we shall have revelling to-night;
I will assume thy part in some disguise,
And tell fair Hero I am Claudio;
And in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart,
And take her hearing prisoner with the force
And strong encounter of my amorous tale:
Then, after, to her father will I break;
And the conclusion is, she shall be thine:
In practice let us put it presently.


Scene II.--A Room in Leonato's House.

[Enter Leonato and Antonio.]

How now, brother? Where is my cousin, your son? Hath he
provided this music?

He is very busy about it. But, brother, I can tell you
news that you yet dream not of.

Are they good?

As the event stamps them; but they have a good cover, they
show well outward. The prince and count Claudio, walking in a
thick-pleached alley in mine orchard, were thus overheard by
a man of mine: The prince discovered 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.

Hath the fellow any wit that told you this?

A good sharp fellow; I will send for him, and question him

No, no; we will hold it as a dream, till it appear itself:--but
I will acquaint my daughter withal, that she may be the better
prepared for an answer, if peradventure this be true. Go you and
tell her of it.

[Several persons cross the stage.]

Cousins, you know what you have to do.--O, I cry you mercy,
friend: go you with me, and I will use your skill:--
Good cousins, have a care this busy time.


Scene III.--Another room in Leonato's house.

[Enter Don John and Conrade.]

What the good year, my lord! why are you thus out of measure

D. John.
There is no measure in the occasion that breeds, therefore
the sadness is without limit.

You should hear reason.

D. John.
And when I have heard it, what blessing bringeth it?

If not a present remedy, yet a patient sufferance.

D. John.
I wonder that thou, being (as thou say'st thou art), born
under Saturn, goest about to apply a moral medicine to a
mortifying mischief. I cannot hide what I am: I must be sad when
I have cause, and smile at no man's jests; eat when I have
stomach, and wait for no man's leisure; sleep when I am drowsy,
and tend on no man's business; laugh when I am merry, and claw no
man in his humour.

Yea, but you must not make the full show of this, till you may
do it without controlment. You have of late stood out against
your brother, and he hath ta'en you newly into his grace; where
it is impossible you should take root, but by the fair
weather that you make yourself: it is needful that you frame the
season for your own harvest.

D. John.
had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace;
and it better fits my blood to be disdain'd of all than to
fashion a carriage to rob love from any: in this, though I cannot
be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but
I am a plain-dealing villain. I am trusted with a muzzle, and
enfranchised with a clog; therefore I have decreed not to sing in
my cage: If I had my mouth I would bite; if I had my liberty, I
would do my liking: in the meantime, let me be that I am, and
seek not to alter me.

Can you make no use of your discontent?

D. John.
I make all use of it, for I use it only. Who comes here?
What news, Borachio?

[Enter Borachio.]

I came yonder from a great supper; the prince, your brother, is
royally entertained by Leonato; and I can give you intelligence
of an intended marriage.

D. John.
Will it serve for any model to build mischief on?
What is he for a fool that betroths himself to unquietness?

Marry, it is your brother's right hand.

D. John.
Who? the most exquisite Claudio?

Even he.

D. John.
A proper squire! And who? and who? which way looks he?

Marry, on Hero, the daughter and heir of Leonato.

D. John.
A very forward March-chick! How came you to this?

Being entertained for a perfumer, as I was smoking a musty
room, comes me the prince and Claudio, hand in hand, in sad
conference: I whipt me behind the arras; and there heard it
agreed upon, that the prince should woo Hero for himself,
and having obtained her give her to Count Claudio.

D. John.
Come, come, let us thither; this may prove food to my
displeasure: that young start-up hath all the glory of my
overthrow; if I can cross him any way, I bless myself every way:
You are both sure, and will assist me?

To the death, my lord.

D. John.
Let us to the great supper: their cheer is the greater that
I am subdued: 'Would the cook were of my mind! Shall we go prove
what's to be done?

We'll wait upon your lordship.


ACT 2.

Scene I.--A hall in Leonato's house.

[Enter Leonato, Antonio, Hero, Beatrice, and others.]

Was not Count John here at supper?

I saw him not.

How tartly that gentleman looks! I never can see him but I am
heart-burned an hour after.

He is of a very melancholy disposition.

He were an excellent man that were made just in the mid-way
between him and Benedick; the one is too like an image, and says
nothing; and the other too like my lady's eldest son, evermore

Then half signior Benedick's tongue in count John's mouth,
and half count John's melancholy in signior Benedick's face,--

With a good leg, and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in
his purse, such a man would win any woman in the world,-- if he
could get her good will.

By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get thee a husband if
thou be so shrewd of thy tongue.

In faith, she is too curst.

Too curst is more than curst: I shall lessen God's sending
that way: for it is said, 'God sends a curst cow short horns;'
but to a cow too curst he sends none.

So, by being too curst God will send you no horns.

Just, if he send me no husband; for the which blessing I am
at him upon my knees every morning and evening: Lord! I could not
endure a husband with a beard on his face: I had rather lie

You may light upon a husband that hath no beard.

What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel and make
him my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a
youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that
is more than a youth is not for me; and he that is less than a
man I am not for him: Therefore I will even take sixpence in
earnest of the bearward, and lead his apes into hell.

Well then, go you into hell?

No; but to the gate; and there will the devil meet me, like an
old cuckold, with horns on his head, and say, 'Get you to heaven,
Beatrice, get you to heaven; here's no place for you maids:' So
deliver I up my apes, and away to Saint Peter: for the heavens,
he shows me where the bachelors sit, and there live we as merry
as the day is long.

Well, niece, [to Hero] I trust you will be ruled by your

Yes, faith; it is my cousin's duty to make courtesy, and say,
'Father, as it please you:' but yet for all that, cousin, let him
be a handsome fellow, or else make another courtesy, and say,
'Father, as it please me.'

Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.

Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would
it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant
dust? to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl?
No, uncle, I'll none: Adam's sons are my brethren, and truly I
hold it a sin to match in my kindred.

Daughter, remember what I told you: if the prince do solicit
you in that kind, you know your answer.

The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not wooed
in good time: if the prince be too important, tell him there is
measure in everything, and so dance out the answer. For, hear
me, Hero: Wooing, wedding, and repenting is as a Scotch jig, a
measure, and a cinque-pace: the first suit is hot and hasty, like
a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical; the wedding,
mannerly-modest, as a measure full of state and ancientry; and
then comes repentance, and, with his bad legs falls into the
cinque-pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave.

Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewdly.

have a good eye, uncle; I can see a church by daylight.

The revellers are entering, brother. Make good room.

[Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthazar;
Don John, Borachio, Margaret, Ursula, and others, masked.]

D. Pedro.
Lady, will you walk about with your friend?

So you walk softly, and look sweetly and say nothing,
I am yours for the walk; and, especially, when I walk away.

D. Pedro.
With me in your company?

I may say so when I please.

D. Pedro.
And when please you to say so?

When I like your favour; for God defend the lute should be
like the case!

D. Pedro.
My visor is Philemon's roof; within the house is Jove.

Why, then your visor should be thatch'd.

D. Pedro.
Speak low if you speak love.

[Takes her aside.]

Well, I would you did like me.

So would not I, for your own sake, for I have many ill qualities.

Which is one?

I say my prayers aloud.

I love you the better; the hearers may cry, Amen.

God match me with a good dancer!


And God keep him out of my sight, when the dance is done!
--Answer, clerk.

No more words; the clerk is answered.

I know you well enough. You are signior Antonio.

At a word, I am not.

I know you by the waggling of your head.

To tell you true, I counterfeit him.

You could never do him so ill-well, unless you were the very
man. Here's his dry hand up and down; you are he, you are he.

At a word, I am not.

Come, come; do you think I do not know you by your excellent
wit? Can virtue hide itself? Go to, mum, you are he: graces
will appear, and there's an end.

Will you not tell me who told you so?

No, you shall pardon me.

Nor will you not tell me who you are?

Not now.

That I was disdainful, and that I had my good wit out of the
'Hundred merry Tales;'--Well, this was signior Benedick that said

What's he?

I am sure you know him well enough.

Not I, believe me.

Did he never make you laugh?

I pray you, what is he?

Why, he is the Prince's jester: a very dull fool; only his
gift is in devising impossible slanders; none but libertines
delight in him; and the commendation is not in his wit but in
his villany; for he both pleaseth men and angers them, and then
they laugh at him and beat him: I am sure he is in the fleet;
I would he had boarded me.

When I know the gentleman, I'll tell him what you say.

Do, do: he'll but break a comparison or two on me; which,
peradventure, not marked, or not laughed at, strikes him into
melancholy; and then there's a partridge' wing saved, for the
fool will eat no supper that night. [Music within.] We must
follow the leaders.

In every good thing.

Nay, if they lead to any ill, I will leave them at the next

[Dance. Then exeunt all but Don John, Borachio, and Claudio].

D. John.
Sure, my brother is amorous on Hero and hath withdrawn her
father to break with him about it: The ladies follow her, and but
one visor remains.

And that is Claudio: I know him by his bearing.

D. John.
Are you not signior Benedick?

You know me well; I am he.

D. John.
Signior, you are very near my brother in his love: he is
enamour'd on Hero; I pray you dissuade him from her, she is no
equal for his birth: you may do the part of an honest man in it.

How know you he loves her?

D. John.
I heard him swear his affection.

So did I too; and he swore he would marry her to-night.

D. John.
Come, let us to the banquet.

[Exeunt Don John and Borachio.]

Thus answer I in name of Benedick,
But hear these ill news with the ears of Claudio.
'T is certain so;--the prince woos for himself.
Friendship is constant in all other things,
Save in the office and affairs of love:
Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negociate for itself,
And trust no agent: for beauty is a witch,
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.
This is an accident of hourly proof
Which I mistrusted not: Farewell, therefore, Hero!

[Re-enter Benedick.]

Count Claudio?

Yea, the same.

Come, will you go with me?


Even to the next willow, about your own business, count. What
fashion will you wear the garland of? About your neck, like an
usurer's chain? or under your arm, like a lieutenant's scarf?
You must wear it one way, for the Prince hath got your Hero.

I wish him joy of her.

Why, that's spoken like an honest drover; so they sell
bullocks. But did you think the Prince would have served you

I pray you, leave me.

Ho! now you strike like the blind man; 't was the boy that
stole your meat, and you'll beat the post.

If it will not be, I'll leave you.


Alas! poor hurt fowl! Now will he creep into sedges. But
that my Lady Beatrice should know me, and not know me! The
prince's fool!--Ha, it may be I go under that title because I am
merry.--Yea; but so; I am apt to do myself wrong: I am not so
reputed: it is the base though bitter disposition of Beatrice,
that puts the world into her person, and so gives me out. Well,
I'll be revenged as I may.

[Re-enter Don Pedro.]

D. Pedro.
Now, signior, where's the count; Did you see him?

Troth, my lord, I have played the part of Lady Fame. I found
him here as melancholy as a lodge in a warren; I told him, and I
think I told him true, that your grace had got the 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
a rod, as being worthy to be whipped.

D. Pedro.
To be whipped! What's his fault?

The flat transgression of a schoolboy; who, being overjoy'd with
finding a bird's nest shows it his companion, and he steals it.

D. Pedro.
Wilt thou make a trust a transgression? the transgression is
in the stealer.

Yet it had not been amiss the rod had been made, and the
garland too; for the garland he might have worn himself; and the
rod he might have bestowed on you, who, as I take it, have stolen
his bird's nest.

D. Pedro.
I will but teach them to sing, and restore them to the owner.

If their singing answer your saying, by my faith, you say

D. Pedro.
The Lady Beatrice hath a quarrel to you; the gentleman that
danced with her told her she is much wrong'd by you.

O, she misused me past the endurance of a block: an oak, but
with one green leaf on it, would have answered her; my very visor
began to assume life and scold with her: She told me, not
thinking I had been myself, that I was the prince's jester, and
that I was duller than a great thaw; huddling jest upon jest, with
such impossible conveyance upon me, that I stood like a man at a mark,
with a whole army shooting at me: She speaks poniards, and every
word stabs: if her breath were as terrible as her terminations,
there were no living near her; she would infect to the North
Star. I would not marry her though she were endowed with all
that Adam had left him before he transgressed: she would have made
Hercules have turned spit; yea, and have cleft his club to make
the fire too. Come, talk not of her: you shall find her the
infernal Ate in good apparel. I would to God some scholar would
conjure her; for, certainly, while she is here, a man may live as
quiet in hell as in a sanctuary; and people sin upon purpose
because they would go thither; so, indeed, all disquiet, horror,
and perturbation follows her.

[Re-enter Claudio, Beatrice, Leonato, and Hero.]

D. Pedro.
Look, here she comes.

Will your grace command me any service to the world's end? I
will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes, that you
can devise to send me on; I will fetch you a toothpicker now from
the farthest inch of Asia; bring you the length of Prester John's
foot; fetch you a hair off the great Cham's beard; do you any
embassage to the Pygmies,--rather than hold three words'
conference with this harpy: You have no employment for me?

D. Pedro.
None, but to desire your good company.

O God, sir, here's a dish I love not; I cannot endure my Lady


D. Pedro.
Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of signior Benedick.

Indeed, my lord, he lent it me a while; and I gave him use for
it--a double heart for a single one: marry, once before he won
it of me with false dice, therefore your grace may well say I
have lost it.

D. Pedro.
You have put him down, lady, you have put him down.

So I would not he should do me, my lord, lest I should prove
the mother of fools. I have brought count Claudio, whom you sent
me to seek.

D. Pedro.
Why, how now, count? wherefore are you sad?

Not sad, my lord.

D. Pedro.
How then? sick?

Neither, my lord.

The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well: but
civil, count; civil as an orange, and something of that jealous

D. Pedro.
I' faith, lady, I think your blazon to be true; though I'll
be sworn, if he be so, his conceit is false. Here, Claudio, I
have wooed in thy name, and fair Hero is won; I have broke with
her father, and his good will obtained: name the day of marriage,
and God give thee joy!

Count, take of me my daughter, and with her my fortunes; his
grace hath made the match, and all grace say Amen to it!

Speak, Count, 'tis your cue.

Silence is the perfectest herald of joy: I were but little
happy if I could say how much. Lady, as you are mine, I am
yours: I give away myself for you, and dote upon the exchange.

Speak, cousin; or, if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss,
and let not him speak neither.

D. Pedro.
In faith, lady, you have a merry heart.

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

And so she doth, cousin.

Good Lord, for alliance!--Thus goes every one to the world but
I, and I am sunburned; I may sit in a corner, and cry, heigh-ho
for a husband!

D. Pedro.
Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.

I would rather have one of your father's getting: Hath your
grace ne'er a brother like you? Your father got excellent
husbands, if a maid could come by them.

D. Pedro.
Will you have me, lady?

No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days;
your grace is too costly to wear every day: But, I beseech your
grace pardon me. I was born to speak all mirth, and no matter.

D. Pedro.
Your silence most offends me, and to be merry best becomes
you; for, out of question, you were born in a merry hour.

No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star
danced, and under that was I born.--Cousins, God give you joy!

Niece, will you look to those things I told you of?

I cry you mercy, uncle.--By your grace's pardon.

[Exit Beatrice.]

D. Pedro.
By my troth, a pleasant-spirited lady.

There's little of the melancholy element in her, my lord: she
is never sad, but when she sleeps; and not ever sad then; for I
have heard my daughter say she hath often dreamt of unhappiness,
and waked herself with laughing.

D. Pedro.
She cannot endure to hear tell of a husband.

O, by no means; she mocks all her wooers out of suit.

D. Pedro.
She were an excellent wife for Benedick.

O Lord, my lord, if they were but a week married they would
talk themselves mad.

D. Pedro.
Count Claudio, when mean you to go to church?

To-morrow, my lord: Time goes on crutches till love have all
his rites.

Not till Monday, my dear son, which is hence a just seven-night;
and a time too brief too, to have all things answer my mind.

D. Pedro.
Come, you shake the head at so long a breathing;I warrant thee,
Claudio, the time shall not go dully by us;
I will, in the interim, undertake one of Hercules' labours; which
is, to bring signior Benedick and the lady Beatrice into a
mountain of affection, the one with the other. I would fain have
it a match; and I doubt not but to fashion it, if you three will
but minister such assistance as I shall give you direction.

My lord, I am for you, though it cost me ten nights'

And I, my lord.

D. Pedro.
And you too, gentle Hero?

I will do any modest office, my lord, to help my cousin to a
good husband.

D. Pedro.
And Benedick is not the unhopefullest husband that I know:
thus far can I praise him: he is of a noble strain, of approved
valour, and confirm'd honesty. I will teach you how to humour
your cousin, that she shall fall in love with Benedick:--and I,
with your two helps, will so practise 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.


Scene II.--Another Room in Leonato's House.

[Enter Don John and Borachio.]

D. John.
It is so; the count Claudio shall marry the daughter of Leonato.

Yea, my lord, but I can cross it.

D. John.
Any bar, any cross, any impediment will be medicinable to me:
I am sick in displeasure to him; and whatsoever comes athwart his
affection ranges evenly with mine. How canst thou cross this

Not honestly, my lord; but so covertly that no dishonesty
shall appear in me.

D. John.
Show me briefly how.

I think I told your lordship, a year since, how much I am in
the favour of Margaret, the waiting gentlewoman to Hero.

D. John.
I remember.

I can, at any unseasonable instant of the night, appoint her
to look out at her lady's chamber-window.

D. John.
What life is in that, to be the death of this marriage?

The poison of that lies in you to temper. Go you to the
prince your brother; spare not to tell him, that he hath wronged
his honour in marrying the renowned Claudio (whose estimation do
you mightily hold up) to a contaminated stale, such a one as

D. John.
What proof shall I make of that?

Proof enough to misuse the prince, to vex Claudio, to undo
Hero, and kill Leonato: look you for any other issue?

D. John.
Only to despite them, I will endeavour anything.

Go then, find me a meet hour to draw don Pedro and the count
Claudio, alone: tell them that you know that Hero loves me;
intend a kind of zeal both to the prince and Claudio, as--in a
love of your brother's honour, who hath made this match; and his
friend's reputation, who is thus like to be cozened with the
semblance of a maid,--that you have discovered thus. They will
scarcely believe this without trial: offer them instances; which
shall bear no less likelihood than to see me at her chamber-window;
hear me call Margaret, Hero; hear Margaret term me Claudio; and
bring them to see this, the very night before the intended wedding:
for, in the mean time, I will so fashion the matter, that Hero
shall be absent; and there shall appear such seeming truth of
Hero's disloyalty, that jealousy shall be called assurance, and all
the preparation overthrown.

D. 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.

Be you constant in the accusation, and my cunning shall not
shame me.

D. John.
I will presently go learn their day of marriage.


Scene III.--Leonato's Garden.

[Enter Benedick and a Boy.]



In my chamber-window lies a book; bring it hither to me in
the orchard.

I am here already, sir.

I know that;--but I would have thee hence, and here again.
[Exit Boy.]--I do much wonder that one man seeing how much
another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviours 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. I have known when there was no music with
him but the drum and the fife; and now had he rather hear the tabor
and the pipe: I have known when he would have walked ten mile
afoot to see a good armour: and now will he lie ten nights awake,
carving the fashion of a new doublet. He was wont to speak plain,
and to the purpose, like an honest man and a soldier; and now is
he turned orthographer; his words are a very fantastical banquet,
just so many strange dishes. May I be so converted, and see with
these eyes? I cannot tell; I think not: I will not be sworn but
love may transform me to an oyster; but I'll take my oath on it,
till he have made an oyster of me, he shall never make me such a
fool. One woman is fair; yet I am well: another is wise; yet I am
well: another virtuous; yet I am well: but till all graces be in
one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace. Rich she shall
be, that's certain; wise, or I'll none; virtuous, or I'll never
cheapen her; fair, or I'll never look on her; mild, or come not
near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good discourse, an
excellent musician, and her hair shall be of what colour it
please God. Ha, the prince and monsieur Love! I will hide me in
the arbour.


[Enter Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio.]

D. Pedro.
Come, shall we hear this music?

Yea, my good lord:--How still the evening is,
As hush'd on purpose to grace harmony!

D. Pedro.
See you where Benedick hath hid himself?

O, very well, my lord: the music ended,
We'll fit the kid fox with a pennyworth.

[Enter Balthazar, with music.]

D. Pedro.
Come, Balthazar, we'll hear that song again.

O good my lord, tax not so bad a voice
To slander music any more than once.

D. Pedro.
It is the witness still of excellency,
To put a strange face on his own perfection:--
I pray thee, sing, and let me woo no more.

Because you talk of wooing, I will sing:
Since many a wooer doth commence his suit
To her he thinks not worthy; yet he woos;
Yet will he swear, he loves.

D. Pedro.
Nay, pray thee, come:
Or if thou wilt hold longer argument
Do it in notes.

Note this before my notes,
There's not a note of mine that's worth the noting.

D. Pedro.
Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks;
Note, notes, forsooth, and noting!


Now, 'Divine air!' now is his soul ravished!--Is it not
strange that sheep's guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?
--Well, a horn for my money, when all's done.

[Balthazar sings.]


Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more;
Men were deceivers ever;
One foot in sea, and one on shore;
To one thing constant never:
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny;
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into, Hey nonny, nonny.


Sing no more ditties, sing no mo,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so, &c.

D. Pedro.
By my troth, a good song.

And an ill singer, my lord.

D. Pedro.
Ha? no; no, faith; thou sing'st well enough for a shift.

[Aside.] An he had been a dog that should have howled thus
they would have hanged him: and I pray God, his bad voice bode no
mischief! I had as lief have heard the night-raven, come what
plague could have come after it.

D. Pedro.
Yea, marry; [to Claudio.]--Dost thou hear, Balthazar? I pray
thee, get us some excellent music; for to-morrow night we would
have it at the lady Hero's chamber-window.

The best I can, my lord.

D. Pedro.
Do so: farewell. [Exeunt Balthazar.] Come hither, Leonato: What
was it you told me of to-day? that your niece Beatrice was in
love with signior Benedick?

O, ay:-Stalk on, stalk on: the fowl sits. [Aside to Pedro] I did
never think that lady would have loved any man.

No, nor I neither; but most wonderful that she should so dote
on signior Benedick, whom she hath in all outward behaviours
seemed ever to abhor.

Is't possible? Sits the wind in that corner? [Aside.]

By my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think of it; but
that she loves him with an enraged affection,--it is past the
infinite of thought.

D. Pedro.
May be, she doth but counterfeit.

'Faith, like enough.

O God! counterfeit! There was never counterfeit of passion
came so near the life of passion, as she discovers it.

D. Pedro.
Why, what effects of passion shows she?

Bait the hook well; this fish will bite. [Aside.]

What effects, my lord! She will sit you,--You heard my
daughter tell you how.

She did, indeed.

D. Pedro.
How, how, I pray you? You amaze me: I would have thought her
spirit had been invincible against all assaults of affection.

I would have sworn it had, my lord; especially against

[Aside.] I should think this a gull, but that the white-bearded
fellow speaks it: knavery cannot, sure, hide himself in such

He hath ta'en the infection; Hold it up. [Aside.]

D. Pedro.
Hath she made her affection known to Benedick?

No; and swears she never will: that's her torment.

'T is 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?'

This says she now when she is beginning to write to him: for
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

Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a pretty jest
your daughter told us of.

O!--When she had writ it, and was reading it over, she found
Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet?


O! she tore the letter into a thousand halfpence; railed at
herself, that she should be so immodest to write to one that she
knew would flout her: 'I measure him,' says she, 'by my own
spirit; for I should flout him, if he writ to me; yea, though I
love him, I should.'

Then down upon her knees she falls, weeps, sobs, beats her
heart, tears her hair, prays, curses: 'O sweet Benedick! God
give me patience!'

She doth indeed; my daughter says so: and the ecstasy hath so
much overborne her, that my daughter is sometime afeard she will
do a desperate outrage to herself. It is very true.

D. Pedro.
It were good that Benedick knew of it by some other, if she
will not discover it.

To what end? He would make but a sport of it, and torment the
poor lady worse.

D. Pedro.
An he should, it were an alms to hang him: She's an
excellent sweet lady; and, out of all suspicion, she is virtuous.

And she is exceeding wise.

D. Pedro.
In everything, but in loving Benedick.

O, my lord, wisdom and blood combating in so tender a body,
we have ten proofs to one that blood hath the victory. I am
sorry for her, as I have just cause, being her uncle and her

D. Pedro.
I would she had bestowed this dotage on me; I would have
daff'd all other respects, and made her half myself: I pray you
tell Benedick of it, and hear what he will say.

Were it good, think you?

Hero thinks surely she will die; for she says she will die
if he love her not; and she will die ere she make her love known:
and she will die if he woo her, rather than she will 'bate one
breath of her accustomed crossness.

D. Pedro.
She doth well: if she should make tender of her love 't is
very possible he'll scorn it: for the man, as you know all, hath
a contemptible spirit.

He is a very proper man.

D. Pedro.
He hath, indeed, a good outward happiness.

'Fore God, and in my mind, very wise.

D. Pedro.
He doth, indeed, show some sparks that are like wit.

And I take him to be valiant.

D. Pedro.
As Hector, I assure you: and in the managing of quarrels you
may see he is wise; for either he avoids them with great
discretion, or undertakes them with a most Christianlike fear.

If he do fear God he must necessarily keep peace; if he
break the peace he ought to enter into a quarrel with fear and

D. Pedro.
And so will he do; for the man doth fear God, howsoever it
seems not in him, by some large jests he will make. Well, I am
sorry for your niece: Shall we go seek Benedick, and tell him of
her love?

Never tell him, my lord; let her wear it out with good counsel.

Nay, that's impossible; she may wear her heart out first.

D. Pedro.
Well, we will hear further of it by your daughter. Let it
cool the while. I love Benedick well: and I could wish he would
modestly examine himself to see how much he is unworthy to have
so good a lady.

My lord, will you walk? dinner is ready.

If he dote on her upon this, I will never trust my expectation.

D. Pedro.
Let there be the same net spread for her: and that must your
daughter and her gentlewoman carry. The sport will be, when they
hold one an opinion of another's dotage, and no such matter;
that's the scene that I would see, which will be merely a dumb
show. Let us send her to call him in to dinner. [Aside.]

[Exeunt Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato.]

[Benedick advances from the arbour.]

This can be no trick: The conference was sadly borne.--They
have the truth of this from Hero. They seem to pity the lady;
it seems her affections have their full bent. Love me! why, it
must be requited. I hear how I am censured: they say I will bear
myself proudly, if I perceive the love come from her; they say
too, that she will rather die than give any sign of affection.--I
did never think to marry--I must not seem proud:--Happy are they
that hear their detractions, and can put them to mending. They
say the lady is fair; 't is a truth, I can bear them witness: and
virtuous--'t is so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving
me:--By my troth, it is no addition to her wit;--nor no great
argument of her folly, for I will be horribly in love with her.--
I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on
me, because I have railed so long against marriage: But doth not
the appetite alter? A man loves the meat in his youth that he
cannot endure in his age: Shall quips, and sentences, and these
paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his
humour? No: The world must be peopled. When I said I would die
a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married.--
Here comes Beatrice: By this day, she's a fair lady: I do spy
some marks of love in her.

[Enter Beatrice.]

Against my will, I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.

Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.

I took no more pains for those thanks, than you take pains to
thank me; if it had been painful I would not have come.

You take pleasure, then, in the message?

Yea, just so much as you may take upon a knife's point, and
choke a daw withal:--You have no stomach, signior; fare you well.


Ha! 'Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner'--
there's a double meaning in that. 'I took no more pains for
those thanks, than you took pains to thank me'--that's as much
as to say Any pains that I take for you is as easy as thanks:--
If I do not take pity of her I am a villain; if I do not love
her I am a Jew: I will go get her picture.



Scene I.--Leonardo's Garden.

[Enter Hero, Margaret, and Ursula.]

Good Margaret, run thee to the parlour;
There shalt thou find my cousin Beatrice
Proposing with the Prince and Claudio:
Whisper her ear, and tell her, I and Ursula
Walk in the orchard, and our whole discourse
Is all of her; say, that thou overheard'st us;
And bid her steal into the pleached bower,
Where honeysuckles, ripen'd by the sun,
Forbid the sun to enter;--like favourites,
Made proud by princes, that advance their pride
Against that power that bred it:--there will she hide her
To listen our propose: This is thy office,
Bear thee well in it, and leave us alone.

I'll make her come, I warrant you, presently.


Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come,
As we do trace this alley up and down,
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: Of this matter
Is little Cupid's crafty arrow made,
That only wounds by hearsay. Now begin;

[Enter Beatrice, behind.]

For look where Beatrice, like a lapwing, runs
Close by the ground to hear our conference.

The pleasantest angling is to see the fish
Cut with her golden oars the silver stream,
And greedily devour the treacherous bait:
So angle we for Beatrice; who even now
Is couched in the woodbine coverture:
Fear you not my part of the dialogue.

Then go we near her, that her ear lose nothing
Of the false sweet bait that we lay for it.--

[They advance to the bower.]

No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful.
I know her spirits are as coy and wild
As haggards of the rock.

But are you sure,
That Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?

So says the prince, and my new-trothed lord.

And did they bid you tell her of it, madam?

They did entreat me to acquaint her of it:
But I persuaded them, if they lov'd Benedick,
To wish him wrestle with affection,
And never to let Beatrice know of it.

Why did you so? Doth not the gentleman
Deserve as full, as fortunate a bed,
As ever Beatrice shall couch upon?

O God of love! I know he doth deserve
As much as may be yielded to a man:
But Nature never fram'd a woman's heart
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice.
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
Misprizing what they look on; and her wit
Values itself so highly, that to her
All matter else seems weak: she cannot love,
Nor take no shape nor project of affection,
She is so self-endeared.

Sure, I think so;
And therefore, certainly, it were not good
She knew his love, lest she'll make sport at it.

Why, you speak truth: I never yet saw man,
How wise, how noble, young, how rarely featur'd,
But she would spell him backward: if fair-fac'd,
She would swear the gentleman should be her sister;
If black, why, Nature, drawing of an antic,
Made a foul blot: if tall, a lance ill-headed;
If low, an agate very vilely cut;
If speaking, why, a vane blown with all winds;
If silent, why, a block moved with none.
So turns she every man the wrong side out;
And never gives to truth and virtue that
Which simpleness and merit purchaseth.

Sure, sure, such carping is not commendable.

No, not; to be so odd, and from all fashions,
As Beatrice is, cannot be commendable:
But who dare tell her so? If I should speak,
She would mock me into air; O, she would laugh me
Out of myself, press me to death with wit.
Therefore let Benedick, like cover'd fire,
Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly:
It were a better death than die with mocks;
Which is as bad as die with tickling.

Yet tell her of it; hear what she will say.

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: One doth not know
How much an ill word may empoison liking.

O, do not do your cousin such a wrong.
She cannot be so much without true judgment,
(Having so swift and excellent a wit
As she is priz'd to have) as to refuse
So rare a gentleman as signior Benedick.

He is the only man of Italy,
Always excepted my dear Claudio.

I pray you, be not angry with me, madam,
Speaking my fancy; signior Benedick,
For shape, for bearing, argument, and valour,
Goes foremost in report through Italy.

Indeed, he hath an excellent good name.

His excellence did earn it, ere he had it.
When are you married, madam?

Why, every day;--to-morrow: Come, go in;
I'll show thee some attires; and have thy counsel,
Which is the best to furnish me to morrow.

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