Part 1 out of 6
TALES FROM SHAKESPEARE by CHARLES AND MARY LAMB
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT's DREAM
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
AS YOU LIKE IT
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA
MERCHANT OF VENICE
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
TAMING OF THE SHREW
COMEDY OF ERRORS
MEASURE FOR MEASURE
TWELFTH NIGHT; OR, WHAT YOU WILL
TIMON OF ATHENS
ROMEO AND JULIET
HAMLET, PRINCE OF DENMARK
PERICLES, PRINCE OF TYRE
The following Tales are meant to be submitted to the young reader
as an introduction to the study of Shakespeare, for which purpose
his words are used whenever it seemed possible to bring them in;
and in whatever has been added to give them the regular form of a
connected story, diligent care has been taken to select such
words as might least interrupt the effect of the beautiful
English tongue in which he wrote: therefore, words introduced
into our language since his time have been as far as possible
In those Tales which have been taken from the Tragedies, the
young readers will perceive, when they come to see the source
from which these stories are derived, that Shakespeare's own
words, with little alteration, recur very frequently in the
narrative as well as in the dialogue; but in those made from the
Comedies the writers found themselves scarcely ever able to turn
his words into the narrative form: therefore it is feared that,
in them, dialogue has been made use of too frequently for young
people not accustomed to the dramatic form of writing. But this
fault, if it be a fault, has been caused by an earnest wish to
give as much of Shakespeare's own words as possible: and if the
"He said" and "She said," the question and the reply, should
sometimes seem tedious to their young ears, they must pardon it,
because it was the only way in which could be given to them a few
hints and little foretastes of the great pleasure which awaits
them in their elder years, when they come to the rich treasures
from which these small and valueless coins are extracted;
pretending to no other merit than as faint and imperfect stamps
of Shakespeare's matchless image. Faint and imperfect images they
must be called, because the beauty of his language is too
frequently destroyed by the necessity of changing many of his
excellent words into words far less expressive of his true sense,
to make it read something like prose; and even in some few
places, where his blank verse is given unaltered, as hoping from
its simple plainness to cheat the young readers into the belief
that they are reading prose, yet still his language being
transplanted from its own natural soil and wild poetic garden, it
must want much of its native beauty.
It has been wished to make these Tales easy reading for very
young children. To the utmost of their ability the writers have
constantly kept this in mind; but the subjects of most of them
made this a very difficult task. It was no easy matter to give
the histories of men and women in terms familiar to the
apprehension of a very young mind. For young ladies, too, it has
been the intention chiefly to write; because boys being generally
permitted the use of their fathers' libraries at a much earlier
age than girls are, they frequently have the best scenes of
Shakespeare by heart, before their sisters are permitted to look
into this manly book; and, therefore, instead of recommending
these Tales to the perusal, of young gentlemen who can read them
so much better in the originals, their kind assistance is rather
requested in explaining to their sisters such parts as are
hardest for them to understand: and when they have helped them to
get over the difficulties, then perhaps they will read to them
(carefully selecting what is proper for a young sister's ear)
some passage which has pleased them in one of these stories, in
the very words of the scene from which it is taken; and it is
hoped they will find that the beautiful extracts, the select
passages, they may choose to give their sisters in this way will
be much better relished and understood from their having some
notion of the general story from one of these imperfect
abridgments;--which if they be fortunately so done as to prove
delight to any of the young readers, it is hoped that no worse
effect will result than to make them wish themselves a little
older, that they may be allowed to read the Plays at full length
(such a wish will be neither peevish nor irrational). When time
and leave of judicious friends shall put them into their hands,
they will discover in such of them as are here abridged (not to
mention almost as many more, which are left untouched) many
surprising events and turns of fortune, which for their infinite
variety could not be contained in this little book, besides a
world of sprightly and cheerful characters, both men and women,
the humor of which it was feared would be lost if it were
attempted to reduce the length of them.
What these Tales shall have been to the YOUNG readers, that and
much more it is the writers' wish that the true Plays of
Shakespeare may prove to them in older years--enrichers of the
fancy, strengtheners of virtue, a withdrawing from all selfish
and mercenary thoughts, a lesson of all sweet and honorable
thoughts d actions, to teach courtesy, benignity, generosity,
humanity: for of examples, teaching these virtues, his pages are
There was a certain island in the sea, the only inhabitants of
which were an old man, whose name was Prospero, and his daughter
Miranda, a very beautiful young lady. She came to this island so
young that she had no memory of having seen any other human face
than her father's.
They lived in a cave or cell, made out of a rock; it was divided
into several apartments, one of which Prospero called his study;
there he kept his books, which chiefly treated of magic, a study
at that time much affected by all learned men: and the knowledge
of this art he found very useful to him; for being thrown by a
strange chance upon this island, which had been enchanted by a
witch called Sycorax, who died there a short time before his
arrival, Prospero, by virtue of his art, released many good
spirits that Sycorax had imprisoned in the bodies of large trees,
because they had refused to execute her wicked commands. These
gentle spirits were ever after obedient to the will of Prospero.
Of these Ariel was the chief.
The lively little sprite Ariel had nothing mischievous in his
nature, except that he took rather too much pleasure in
tormenting an ugly monster called Caliban, for be owed him a
grudge because he was the son of his old enemy Sycorax. This
Caliban, Prospero found in the woods, a strange misshapen thing,
far less human in form than an ape: he took him home to his cell,
and taught him to speak; and Prospero would have been very kind
to him, but the bad nature which Caliban inherited from his
mother, Sycorax, would not let him learn anything good or useful:
therefore he was employed like a slave, to fetch wood and do the
most laborious offices; and Ariel had the charge of compelling
him to these services.
When Caliban was lazy and neglected his work, Ariel (who was
invisible to all eyes but Prospero's) would come slyly and pinch
him, and sometimes tumble him down in the mire; and then Ariel,
in the likeness of an ape, would make mouths at him. Then swiftly
changing his shape, in the likeness of a hedgehog, he would lie
tumbling in Caliban's way, who feared the hedgehog's sharp quills
would prick his bare feet. With a variety of such-like vexatious
tricks Ariel would often torment him, whenever Caliban neglected
the work which Prospero commanded him to do.
Having these powerful spirits obedient to his will, Prospero
could by their means command the winds, and the waves of the sea.
By his orders they raised a violent storm, in the midst of which,
and struggling with the wild sea-waves that every
moment,threatened to swallow it up, he showed his daughter a fine
large ship, which he told her was full of living beings like
themselves. "O my dear father," said she, "if by your art you
have raised this dreadful storm, have pity on their sad distress.
See! the vessel will be dashed to pieces. Poor souls! they will
all perish. If I had power I would sink the sea beneath the
earth, rather than the good ship should be destroyed, with all
the precious souls within her."
"Be not amazed, daughter Miranda," said Prospero; "there. is no
harm done. I have so ordered it, that no person in the ship shall
receive any hurt. What I have done has been in care of you, my
dear child. You are ignorant who you are, or where you came from,
and you know no more of me, but that I am your father and live in
this poor cave. Can you remember a time before you came to this
cell? I think you cannot, for you were not then three years of
"Certainly I can, sir," replied Miranda.
"By what?" asked Prospero; "by any other house or person? Tell me
what you can remember, my child."
Miranda said: "It seems to me like the recollection of a dream.
But had I not once four or five women who attended upon me?"
Prospero answered: "You had, and more. How is it that this still
lives in your mind? Do you remember how you came here?" "No,
sir," said Miranda, "I remember nothing more."
"Twelve years ago, Miranda," continued Prospero, "I was Duke of
Milan, and you were a princess, and my only heir. had a younger
brother, whose name was Antonio, to whom I trusted everything;
and as I was fond of retirement and deep study I commonly left
the management of my state affairs to your uncle, my false
brother (for so indeed he proved). 1, neglecting all worldly
ends, buried among my books, did dedicate whole time to the
bettering of my mind. My brother Antonio, being thus in
possession of my power, began to think himself the duke indeed.
The opportunity I gave him of making himself popular among my
subjects awakened in his bad nature a proud ambition to deprive
me of my dukedom; this he soon effected with the aid of the King
of Naples, a powerful prince, who was my enemy."
"Wherefore," said Miranda, "did they not that hour destroy us?"
"My child," answered her father, "they durst not, so dear was the
love that my people bore me. Antonio carried us on board a ship,
and when we were some leagues out at sea, he forced us into a
small boat, without either tackle, sail, or mast; there he left
us, as he thought, to perish. But a kind lord of my court, one
Gonzalo, who loved me, had privately placed in the boat water,
provisions, apparel, and some books which I prize above my
"O my father," said Miranda, "what a trouble must I have been to
"No, my love,"' said Prospero, "you were a little cherub that did
preserve me.Your innocent smiles made me bear up against my
misfortunes. Our food lasted till we landed on this desert
island, since when my chief delight has been in teaching you,
Miranda, and well have you profited by my instructions."
"Heaven thank you, my dear father," said Miranda. "Now pray tell
me, sir, your reason for raising this sea-storm?"
"Know then," said her father, ""that by means of this storm, my
enemies, the King of Naples and my cruel brother, are cast ashore
upon this island."
Having so said, Prospero gently touched his daughter with his
magic wand, and she fell fast asleep; for the spirit Ariel just
then presented himself before his master., to give an account of
the tempest, and how he had disposed of the ship's company, and
though the spirits were always invisible to Miranda, Prospero did
not choose she should hear him holding converse (as would seem to
her) with the empty air.
"Well, my brave spirit," said Prospero to Ariel, "how have you
performed your task?"
Ariel gave a lively description of the storm, and of the terrors
of the mariners, and how the king's son, Ferdinand, was the first
who leaped into the sea; and his father thought he saw his dear
son swallowed up by the waves and lost. "But he is safe," said
Ariel, "in a corner of the isle, sitting with his arms folded,
sadly lamenting the loss of the king, his father, whom he
concludes drowned. Not a hair of his head is injured, and his
princely garments, though drenched in the sea-waves, look fresher
"That's my delicate Ariel," said Prospero. "Bring him hither: my
daughter must see this young prince. Where is the king, and my
"I left them," answered Ariel, "searching for Ferdinand, whom
they have little hopes of finding, thinking they saw him perish.
Of the ship's crew not one is missing; though each one thinks
himself the only one saved; and the ship, though invisible to
them, is safe in the harbor."
"Ariel," said Prospero, "thy charge is faithfully performed; but
there is more work yet."
"Is there more work?" said Ariel. "Let me remind you, master, you
have promised me my liberty. I pray, remember, , I have done you
worthy service, told you no lies, made no mistakes, served you
without grudge or grumbling."
"How now!" said Prospero. "You do not recollect what a torment I
freed you from. Have you forgot the wicked witch Sycorax, who
with age and envy was almost bent double? Where was she born?
Speak; tell me."
"Sir, in Algiers," said Ariel.
"Oh, was she so?" said Prospero. "I must recount what you have
been, which I find you do not remember. This bad witch, Sycorax,
for her witchcrafts, too terrible to enter human hearing, was
banished from Algiers, and here left by the sailors-; and because
you were a spirit too delicate to execute her wicked commands,
she shut you up in a tree, where I found you howling. This
torment, remember, I did free you from."
"Pardon me, dear master," said Ariel, ashamed to seem ungrateful;
"I will obey your commands."
"Do so," said Prospero, "and I will set you free." He then gave
orders what further he would have him do; and away went Ariel,
first to where he had left Ferdinand, and found him still sitting
on the grass in the same melancholy posture.
"Oh, my young gentleman," said Ariel, when he saw him, 'I will
soon move you. You must be brought, I find, for the Lady Miranda
to have a sight of your pretty person. Come. sir,, follow me." He
then began singing:
"Full fathom five thy father lies;
Of his bones are coral made;
Those are pearls that were his eyes:
Nothing of him that doth fade,
But doth suffer a sea-change
Into something rich and strange.
Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell:
Hark! now I hear them--Ding-dong, bell."
This strange news of his lost father soon roused the prince from
the stupid fit into which he had fallen. He followed in amazement
the sound of Ariel's voice, till it led him to Prospero and
Miranda, who were sitting under the shade of a large tree. Now
Miranda had never seen a man before, except her own father.
"Miranda," said Prospero, "tell me what you are looking at
"Oh, father," said Miranda, in a strange surprise, "surely that
is a spirit. Lord! how it looks about! Believe me, sir, it is a
beautiful creature. Is it not a spirit?"
"No, girl," answered her father; "it eats, and sleeps, and has
senses such as we have. This young man you see was in the ship.
He is somewhat altered by grief, or you might call him a handsome
person. He has lost his companions, and is wandering about to
Miranda, who thought all men had grave faces and gray beards like
her father, was delighted with the appearance of this beautiful
young prince; and Ferdinand, seeing such a lovely lady in this
desert place, and from the strange sounds he had heard, expecting
nothing but wonders, thought be was upon an enchanted island, and
that Miranda was the goddess of the place, and as such he began
to address her.
She timidly answered, she was no goddess, but a simple maid and
was going to give him an account of herself, when Prospero
interrupted her. He was well pleased to find they admired each
other, for he plainly perceived they had (as we say) fallen in
love at first sight: but to try Ferdinand's constancy, he
resolved to throw some difficulties in their way: therefore,
advancing forward, be addressed the prince with a stern air,
telling him, he came to the island as a spy, to take it from him
who was the lord of it. "Follow me," said be. "I will tie your
neck and feet together. You shall drink sea-water; shell-fish,
withered roots, and husks of acorns shall be your food."
"No," said Ferdinand, "I will resist such entertainment till I
see a more powerful enemy," and drew his sword; but Prospero,
waving his magic wand, fixed him to the spot where he stood, so
that he had no power to move.
Miranda hung upon her father, saying: "Why are you so ungentle?
Have pity, I will be his surety. This is the second man I ever
saw, and to me he seems a true one."
"Silence!" said the father. "One word more will make me chide
you, girl! What! an advocate for an impostor! You think there are
no more such fine men, having seen only him and Caliban. I tell
you, foolish girl, most men as far excel this as he does
Calliban." This he said to prove his daughter's constancy; and
"My affections are most humble. I have no wish to see a goodlier
"Come on, young man," said Prospero to the prince; "you have no
power to disobey -me."
"I have not indeed," answered Ferdinand; and not knowing that it
was by magic he was deprived of all power of resistance,
they were going to eat, he appeared visible before them in the
shape of a harpy, a voracious monster with wings, and the feast
vanished away. Then, to their utter amazement, this seeming harpy
spoke to them, reminding them of their cruelty in driving
Prospero from his dukedom, and leaving him and his infant
daughter to perish in the sea, saying, that for this cause these
terrors were suffered to afflict them.
The King of Naples, and Antonio the false brother, repented the
injustice they had done to Prospero; and Ariel told his master he
was certain their penitence was sincere, and that he, though a
spirit, could not but pity them.
"Then bring them hither, Ariel," said Prospero: "if you, who are
but a spirit, feel for their distress, shall not I, who am a
human being like themselves, have compassion on them? Bring them
quickly, my dainty Ariel."
Ariel soon returned with the king, Antonio, and old Gonzalo in
their train, who had followed him, wondering at the wild music he
played in the air to draw them on to his master's presence. This
Gonzalo was the same who had so kindly provided Prospero formerly
with books and provisions, when his wicked brother left him, as
he thought, to perish in an open boat in the sea.
Grief and terror had so stupefied their senses that they did not
know Prospero. He first discovered himself to the good old
Gonzalo, calling him the preserver of his life; and then his
brother and the king knew that he was the injured Prospero.
Antonio, with tears and sad words of sorrow and true repentance,
implored his brother's forgiveness, and the king expressed his
sincere remorse for having assisted Antonio to depose his
brother: and Prospero forgave them; and, upon their engaging to
restore his dukedom, he said to the King of Naples, "I have a
gift in store for you, too"; and, opening a door, showed him his
son Ferdinand playing at chess with Miranda.
Nothing could exceed the joy of the father and the son at this
unexpected meeting, for they each thought the other drowned in
"Oh wonder!" said Miranda, "what noble creatures these are! It
must surely be a brave world that has such people in it."
The King of Naples was almost as much astonished at the beauty
and excellent graces of the young Miranda as his son had been.
"Who is this maid?" said he; "she seems the goddess that has
parted us, and brought us thus together."
"No, sir," answered Ferdinand, smiling to find his father had
fallen into the same mistake that he had done when he first saw
Miranda, "she is a mortal, but by immortal Providence she is
mine; I chose her when I could not ask you, my father, for your
consent, not thinking you were alive. She is the daughter this
Prospero, who is the famous Duke of Milan, of whose renown I have
heard so much, but never saw him till now: of him I have received
a new life: he has made himself to me a second father, giving me
this dear lady."
"Then I must be her father," said the king; "but, oh, how oddly
will it sound, that I must ask my child forgiveness."
"No more of that," said Prospero: "let us not remember our
troubles past, since they so happily have ended." And then
Prospero embraced his brother, and again assured him of his
forgiveness; and said that a wise overruling Providence had
permitted that he should be driven from his poor dukedom of
Milan, that his daughter might inherit the crown of Naples, for
that by their meeting in this desert island it had happened that
the king's son had loved Miranda.
These kind words which Prospero spoke, meaning to comfort his
brother, so filled Antonio with shame and remorse that be wept
and was unable to speak; and the kind old Gonzalo wept to see
this joyful reconciliation, and prayed for blessings on the young
Prospero now told them that their ship was safe in the harbor,
and the sailors all on board her, and that he and his daughter
would accompany them home the next morning. "In the mean time,"
says he, "partake of such refreshments as my poor cave affords;
and for your evening's entertainment I will relate the history of
my life from my first landing in this desert island." He then
called for Caliban to prepare some food, and set the cave in
order; and the company were astonished at the uncouth form and
savage appearance of this ugly monster, who (Prospero said) was
the only attendant he had to wait upon him.
Before Prospero left the island he dismissed Ariel from service,
to the great joy of that lively little spirit, who, though he had
been a faithful servant to his master, was always longing to
enjoy his free liberty, to wander uncontrolled in the air, like a
wild bird, under green trees, among pleasant fruits, and
"My quaint Ariel," said Prospero to the little sprite when he
made him free, "I shall miss you; yet you shall have your
"Thank you, my dear master," said Ariel; "but give me leave to
attend your ship home with prosperous gales, before you bid
farewell to the assistance of your faithful spirit; and then,
master, when I am free, how merrily I shall live!" Here Ariel
sang this pretty song:
"Where the bee sucks, there suck !;
In a cowslip's bell I lie:
There I crouch when owls do cry.
On the bat's back I do fly
After summer merrily.
Merrily, merrily shall I live now
Under the blossom that hangs on the bough."
Prospero then buried deep in the earth his magical books and
wand, for he was resolved never more to make use of the magic
art. And having thus overcome his enemies, and being reconciled
to his brother and the King of Naples, nothing now remained to
complete his happiness but to revisit his native land, to take
possession of his dukedom, and to witness the happy nuptials of
his daughter and Prince Ferdinand, which the king said should be
instantly celebrated with great splendor on their return to
Naples. At which place, under the safe convoy of the spirit Ariel
they, after a pleasant voyage, soon arrived.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM
There was a law in the city of Athens which gave to its citizens
the power of compelling their daughters to marry whomsoever they
pleased; for upon a daughter's refusing to marry the man her
father had chosen to be her husband, the father was empowered by
this law to cause her to be put to death; but as fathers do not
often desire the death of their own daughters, even though they
do happen to prove a little refractory, this law was seldom or
never put in execution, though perhaps the young ladies of that
city were not unfrequently threatened by their parents with the
terrors of it.
There was one instance, however, of an old man, whose name was
Egeus, who actually did come before Theseus (at that time the
reigning Duke of Athens), to complain that his daughter whom he
had commanded to marry Demetrius, a young man of a noble Athenian
family, refused to obey him, because she loved another young
Athenian, named Lysander. Egeus demanded justice of Theseus, and
desired that this cruel law might be put in force against his
Hermia pleaded in excuse for her disobedience that Demetrius had
formerly professed love for her dear friend Helena, and that
Helena loved Demetrius to distraction; but this honorable reason,
which Hermia gave for not obeying her father's command, moved not
the stern Egeus.
Theseus, though a great and merciful prince, had no power to
alter the laws of his country; therefore he could only give
Hermia four days to consider of it: and at the end of that time,
if she still refused to marry Demetrius, she was to be put to
When Hermia was dismissed from the presence of the duke, she went
to her lover Lysander and told him the peril she was in, and that
she must either give him up and marry Demetrius or lose her life
in four days.
Lysander was in great affliction at hearing these evil tidings;
but, recollecting that be had an aunt who lived at some distance
from Athens, and that at the place where she lived the cruel law
could not be put in force against Hermia (this law not extending
beyond the boundaries of the city), he proposed to Hermia that
she should steal out of her father's house that night, and go
with him to his aunt's house, where he would marry her. "I will
meet you," said Lysander, "in the wood a few miles without the
city; in that delightful wood where we have so often walked with
Helena in the pleasant month of May."
To this proposal Hermia joyfully agreed; and she told no one of
her intended flight but her friend Helena. Helena (as maidens
will do foolish things for love) very ungenerously resolved to go
and tell this to Demetrius, though she could hope no benefit from
betraying her friend's secret but the poor pleasure of following
her faithless lover to the wood; for she well knew that Demetrius
would go thither in pursuit of Hermia.
The wood in which Lysander and Hermia proposed to meet was the
favorite haunt of those little beings known by the name of
Oberon the king, and Titania the queen of the fairies, with all
their tiny train of followers, in this wood held their midnight
Between this little king and queen of sprites there happened, at
this time, a sad disagreement; they never met by moonlight in the
shady walk of this pleasant wood but they were quarreling, till
all their fairy elves would creep into acorn-cups and hide
themselves for fear.
The cause of this unhappy disagreement was Titania's refusing
give Oberon a little changeling boy, whose mother had been
Titania's friend; and upon her death the fairy queen stole the
child from its nurse and brought him up in the woods.
The night on which the lovers were to meet in this wood, as
Titania was walking with some of her maids of honor, she met
Oberon attended by his train of fairy courtiers.
"Ill met by moonlight, proud Titania," said the fairy king.
The queen replied: "What, jealous Oberon, is it you? Fairies,
skip hence; I have forsworn his company."
"Tarry, rash fairy," said Oberon. "Am I not thy lord? Why does
Titania cross her Oberon? Give me your little changeling boy to
be my page."
"Set your heart at rest," answered the queen; "your whole fairy
kingdom buys not the boy of me." She then left her lord in great
"Well, go your way," said Oberon; "before the morning dawns I
will torment you for this injury."
Oberon then sent for Puck, his chief favorite and privy
Puck (or, as he was sometimes called, Robin Goodfellow) was a
shrewd and knavish sprite, that used to play comical pranks in
the neighboring villages; sometimes getting into the dairies and
skimming the milk, sometimes plunging his light and airy form
into the butter-churn, and while he was dancing his fantastic
shape in the churn, in vain the dairymaid would labor to change
her cream into butter. Nor had the village swains any better
success; whenever Puck chose to play his freaks in the brewing
copper, the ale was sure to be spoiled. When a few good neighbors
were met to drink some comfortable ale together, Puck would jump
into the bowl of ale in the likeness of a roasted crab, and when
some old goody was going to drink he would bob against her lips,
and spill the ale over her withered chin; and presently after,
when the same old dame was gravely seating herself to tell her
neighbors a sad and melancholy story, Puck would slip her
three-legged stool from under her, and down toppled the poor old
woman, and then the old gossips would hold their sides and laugh
at her, and swear they never wasted a merrier hour.
"Come hither, Puck," said Oberon to this little merry wanderer of
the night; "fetch me the flower which maids call 'Love in,
Idleness'; the juice of that little purple flower laid on the
eyelids of those who sleep will make them, when they awake, dote
on the first thing they see. Some of the juice of that flower I
will drop on the eyelids of my Titania when she is asleep; and
the first thing she looks upon when she opens her eyes she will
fall in love with, even though it be a lion or a bear, a meddling
monkey or a busy ape; and before I will take this charm from off
her sight, which I can do with another charm I know of, I will
make her give me that boy to be my page."
Puck, who loved mischief to his heart, was highly diverted with
this intended frolic of his master, and ran to seek the flower;
and while Oberon was waiting the return of Puck he observed
Demetrius and Helena enter the wood: he overheard Demetrius
reproaching Helena for following him, and after many unkind words
on his part, and gentle expostulations from Helena, reminding him
of his former love and professions of true faith to her, he left
her (as he said) to the mercy of the wild beasts, and she ran
after him as swiftly as she could.
The fairy king, who was always friendly to true lovers, felt
great compassion for Helena; and perhaps, as Lysander said they
used to walk by moonlight in this pleasant wood, Oberon might
have seen Helena in those happy times when she was beloved by
Demetrius. However that might be, when Puck returned with the
little purple flower, Oberon said to his favorite: "Take a part
of this flower; there has been a sweet Athenian lady here, who is
in love with a disdainful youth; if you find him sleeping, drop
some of the love-juice in his eyes, but contrive to do it when
she is near him, that the first thing he sees when he awakes may
be this despised lady. You will know the man ]by the Athenian
garments which be wears."
Puck promised to manage this matter very dexterously: and then
Oberon went, unperceived by Titania, to her bower, where she was
preparing to go to rest. Her fairy bower was a bank, where grew
wild thyme, cowslips, and sweet violets, under a canopy of
woodbine, musk-roses, and eglantine. There Titania always slept
some part of the night; her coverlet the enameled skin of a
snake, which, though a small mantle, was wide enough to wrap a
He found Titania giving orders to her fairies, how they were to
employ themselves while she slept. "Some of you," said her
Majesty, "must kill cankers in the musk-rose buds, and some wage
war with the bats for their leathern wings, to make my small
elves coats; and some of you keep watch that the clamorous owl,
that nightly boots, come not near me: but first sing me to
sleep." Then they began to sing this song:
"You spotted snakes, with double tongue,
Thorny hedgehogs, be not seen;
Newts and blind-worms do no wrong;
Come not near our fairy queen:
"Philomel, with melody,
Sing in our sweet lullaby;
Lulla, lulla, lullaby; lulla, lulla, lullaby;
Never harm, nor spell, nor charm,
Come our lovely lady nigh;
So, good night, with lullaby."
When the fairies had sung their queen asleep with this pretty
lullaby, they left her to perform the important services she had
enjoined them. Oberon then softly drew near his Titania and
dropped some of the love-juice on her eyelids, saying:
"What thou seest when thou dost wake,
Do it for thy true-love take."
But to return to Hermia, who made her escape out of her father's
house that night, to avoid the death she was doomed to for
refusing to marry Demetrius. When she entered the wood, she found
her dear Lysander waiting for her, to conduct her to his aunt's
house; but before they had passed half through the wood Hermia
was so much fatigued that Lysander, who was very careful of this
dear lady, who had proved her affection for him even by hazarding
her life for his sake, persuaded her to rest till morning on a
bank of soft moss, and, lying down himself on the ground at some
little distance, they soon fell fast asleep. Here they were found
by Puck, who, seeing a handsome young man asleep, and perceiving
that his clothes were made in the Athenian fashion, and that a
pretty lady was sleeping near him, concluded that this must be
the Athenian maid and her disdainful lover whom Oberon had sent
him to seek; and he naturally enough conjectured that, as they
were alone together, she must be the first thing he would see
when he awoke; so, without more ado, he proceeded to pour some of
the juice of the little purple flower into his eyes. But it so
fell out that Helena came that way, and, instead of Hermia, was
the first object Lysander beheld when he opened his eyes; and
strange to relate, so powerful was the love-charm, all his love
for Hermia vanished away and Lysander fell in love with Helena.
Had he first seen Hermia when he awoke, the blunder Puck
committed would have been of no consequence, for he could not
love that faithful lady too well; but for poor Lysander to be
forced by a fairy love-charm to forget his own true Hernia, and
to run after another lady, and leave Hermia asleep quite alone in
a wood at midnight, was a sad chance indeed.
Thus this misfortune happened. Helena, as has been before
related, endeavored to keep pace with Demetrius when he ran away
so rudely from her; but she could not continue this unequal race
long, men being always better runners in a long race than ladies.
Helena soon lost sight of Demetrius; and as she was wandering
about, dejected and forlorn, she arrived at the place where
Lysander was sleeping. "Ah!" said she, "this is Lysander lying on
the ground. Is he dead or asleep?" Then, gently touching him, she
said, "Good sir, if you are alive, awake." Upon this Lysander
opened his eyes, and, the love-charm beginning to work,
immediately addressed her in terms of extravagant love and
admiration, telling her she as much excelled Hermia in beauty as
a dove does a raven, and that be would run through fire for her
sweet sake; and many more such lover-like speeches. Helena,
knowing Lysander was her friend Hermia's lover, and that he was
solemnly engaged to marry her, was in the utmost rage when she
heard herself addressed in this manner; for she thought (as well
she might) that Lysander was making a jest of her. "Oh!" said
she, "why was I born to be mocked and scorned by every one? Is it
not enough, is it not enough, young man, that I can never get a
sweet look or a kind word from Demetrius; but you, sir, must
pretend in this disdainful manner to court me? I thought,
Lysander, you were a lord of more true gentleness." Saying these
words in great anger, she ran away; and Lysander followed her,
quite forgetful of his own Hermia, who was still asleep.
When Hermia awoke she was in a sad fright at finding herself
alone. She wandered about the wood, not knowing what was become
of Lysander, or which way to go to seek for him. In the mean time
Demetrius, not being able to find Hermia and his rival Lysander,
and fatigued with his fruitless search, was observed by Oberon
fast asleep. Oberon had learned by some questions he had asked of
Puck that he had applied the lovecharm to the wrong person's
eyes; and now, having found the person first intended, he touched
the eyelids of the sleeping Demetrius with the love-juice, and he
instantly awoke; and the first thing he saw being Helena, he, as
Lysander had done before, began to address love-speeches to her;
and just at that moment Lysander, followed by Hermia (for through
Puck's unlucky mistake it was now become Hermia's turn to run
after her lover), made his appearance; and then Lysander and
Demetrius, both speaking together, made love to Helena, they
being each one under the influence of the same potent charm.
The astonished Helena thought that Demetrius, Lysander, and her
once dear friend Hermia were all in a plot together to make a
jest of her.
Hermia was as much surprised as Helena; she knew not why Lysander
and Demetrius, who both before loved her, were now become the
lovers of Helena, and to Hermia the matter seemed to be no jest.
The ladies, who before bad always been the dearest of friends,
now fell to high words together.
"Unkind. Hermia," said Helena, "it is you have set Lysander on
to vex me with mock praises; and your other lover, Demetrius, who
used almost to spurn me with his foot, have you not bid him call
me goddess, nymph, rare, precious, and celestial? He would not
speak thus to me, whom he hates, if you did not set him on to
make a jest of me. Unkind Hermia, to join with men in scorning
your poor friend. Have you forgot our schoolday friendship? How
often, Hermia, have we two, sitting on one cushion, both singing
one song, with our needles working the same flower, both on the
same sampler wrought; growing up together in fashion of a double
cherry, scarcely seeming parted! Hermia, it is not friendly in
you, it is not maidenly to join with men in scorning your poor
"I am amazed at your passionate words," said Hermia: "I scorn you
not; it seems you scorn me."
"Aye, do," returned Helena, "persevere, counterfeit serious
looks, and make mouths at me when I turn my back; then wink at
each other, and hold the sweet jest up. If you had any pity,
grace, or manners, you would not use me thus."
While Helena and Hermia were speaking these angry words to each
other, Demetrius and Lysander left them, to fight together in the
wood for the love of Helena.
When they found the gentlemen had left them, they departed, and
once more wandered weary in the wood in search of their lovers.
As soon as they were gone the fairy king, who with little Puck
had been listening to their quarrels, said to him, "This is your
negligence, Puck; or did you do this wilfully?"
"Believe me, king of shadows," answered Puck, "it was a mistake.
Did not you tell me I should know the man by his Athenian
garments? However, I am not sorry this has happened, for I think
their jangling makes excellent sport."
"You heard," said Oberon, "that Demetrius and Lysander are gone
to seek a convenient place to fight in. I command you to overhang
the night with a thick fog, and lead these quarrelsome lovers so
astray in' the dark that they shall not be able to find each
other. Counterfeit each of their voices to the other, and with
bitter taunts provoke them to follow you, while they think it is
their rival's tongue they hear. See you do this, till they are so
weary they can go no farther; and when you find they are asleep,
drop the juice of this other flower into Lysander's eyes, and
when he awakes he will forget his new love for Helena, and return
to his old passion for Hermia; and then the two fair ladies may
each one be happy with the man she loves and they will think all
that has passed a vexatious dream. About this quickly, Puck, and
I will go and see what sweet love my Titania has found."
Titania was still sleeping, and Oberon, seeing a clown near her
who had lost his way in the wood and was likewise asleep, "This
fellow," said he, "shall be my Titania's true love"; and clapping
an ass's head over the clown's, it seemed to fit him as well as
if it had grown upon his own shoulders. Though Oberon fixed the
ass's head on very gently, it awakened him, and, rising up,
unconscious of what Oberon had done to him, he went toward the
bower where the fairy queen slept.
"Ah I what angel is that I see?" said Titania, opening her eyes,
and the juice of the little purple flower beginning to take
effect. "Are you as wise as you are beautiful?"
"Why, mistress," said the foolish clown, "if I have wit enough to
find the way out of this wood, I have enough to serve my turn."
"Out of the wood do not desire to go," said the enamoured queen.
"I am a spirit of no common rate. I love you. Go with me, and I
will give you fairies to attend upon you."
She then called four of her fairies. Their names were
Peas-blossom, Cobweb, Moth, and Mustard-seed.
"Attend," said the queen, "upon this sweet gentleman. Hop in his
walks and gambol in his sight; feed him with grapes and apricots,
and steal for him the honey-bags from the bees. Come, sit with
me," said she to the clown., "and let me play with your amiable
hairy cheeks, my beautiful ass! and kiss your fair large ears, my
"Where is Peas-blossom?" said the ass-headed clown, not much
regarding the fairy queen's courtship, but very proud of his new
"Here, sir," said little Peas-blossom.
"Scratch my head," said the clown. "Where is Cobweb?"
"Here, sir," said Cobweb.
"Good Mr. Cobweb," said the foolish clown, "kill me the red
humblebee on the top of that thistle yonder; and, good Mr.
Cobweb, bring me the honey-bag. Do not fret yourself too much in
the action, Mr. Cobweb, and take care the honey-bag break not; I
should be sorry to have you overflown with a honey-bag. Where is
"Here, sir, " said Mustard-seed. "What is your will?"
"Nothing," said the clown, "good Mr. Mustard-seed, but to help
Mr. Peas-blossom to scratch; I must go to a barber's, Mr.
Mustard-seed, for methinks I am marvelous hairy about the face."
"My sweet love," said the queen, "what will you have to eat? I
have a venturous fairy shall seek the squirrel's hoard, and fetch
you some new nuts."
"I had rather have a handful of dried peas,"' said the clown, who
with his ass's head had got an ass's appetite. "But, I pray, let
none of your people disturb me, for I have a mind to sleep."
"Sleep, then," said the queen, "and I will wind you in my arms.
Oh, how I love you! how I dote upon you!"
When the fairy king saw the clown sleeping in the arms of his
queen, he advanced within her sight, and reproached her with
having lavished her favors upon an ass.
This she could not deny, as the clown was then sleeping within
her arms, with his ass's head crowned by her with flowers.
When Oberon had teased her for some time, he again demanded the
changeling boy; which she, ashamed of being discovered by her
lord with her new favorite, did not dare to refuse him.
Oberon, having thus obtained the little boy he had so long wished
for to be his page, took pity on the disgraceful situation into
which, by his merry contrivance, he had brought his Titania, and
threw some of the juice of the other flower into her eyes; and
the fairy queen immediately recovered her senses, and wondered at
her late dotage, saying how she now loathed the sight of the
Oberon likewise took the ass's head from off the clown, and left
him to finish his nap with his own fool's head upon his
Oberon and his Titania being now perfectly reconciled, he related
to her the history of the lovers and their midnight quarrels, and
she agreed to go with him and see the end of their adventures.
The fairy king and queen found the lovers and their fair ladies,
at no great distance from one another, sleeping on a grass-plot;
for Puck, to make amends for his former mistake, had contrived
with the utmost diligence to bring them all to the same spot,
unknown to one another; and he bad carefully removed the charm
from off the eyes of Lysander with the antidote the fairy king
gave to him.
Hermia first awoke, and, finding her lost Lysander asleep so near
her, was looking at him and wondering at his strange inconstancy.
Lysander presently opening his eyes, and seeing his dear Hermia,
recovered his reason which the fairy charm had before clouded,
and with his reason his love for Hermia; and they began to talk
over the adventures of the night, doubting if these things had
really happened, or if they bad both been dreaming the same
Helena and Demetrius were by this time awake; and a sweet sleep
having quieted Helena's disturbed and angry spirits, she listened
with delight to the professions of love which Demetrius still
made to her, and which, to her surprise as well as pleasure, she
began to perceive were sincere.
These fair night-wandering ladies, now no longer rivals, became
once more true friends; all the unkind words which had passed
were forgiven, and they calmly consulted together what was best
to be done in their present situation. It was soon agreed that,
as Demetrius bad given up his pretensions to Hermia, he should
endeavor to prevail upon her father to revoke the cruel sentence
of death which had been passed against her. Demetrius was
preparing to return to Athens for this friendly purpose, when
they were surprised with the sight of Egeus, Hermia's father, who
came to the wood in pursuit of his runaway daughter.
When Egeus understood that Demetrius would not now marry his
daughter, he no longer opposed her marriage with Lysander, but
gave his consent that they should be wedded on the fourth day
from that time, being the same day on which Hermia had been
condemned to lose her life; and on that same day Helena joyfully
agreed to marry her beloved and now faithful Demetrius.
The fairy king and queen, who were invisible spectators of this
reconciliation, and now saw the happy ending of the lovers'
history, brought about through the good offices of Oberon,
received so much pleasure that these kind spirits resolved to
celebrate the approaching nuptials with sports and revels
throughout their fairy kingdom.
And now, if any are offended with this story of fairies and their
pranks, as judging it incredible and strange, they have only to
think that they have been asleep and dreaming, and that all these
adventures were visions which they saw in their sleep. And I hope
none of my readers will be so unreasonable as to be offended with
a pretty, harmless Midsummer Night's Dream.
Leontes, King of Sicily, and his queen, the beautiful and
virtuous Hermione, once lived in the greatest harmony together.
So happy was Leontes in the love of this excellent lady that he
had no wish ungratified, except that he some times desired to
see again and to present to his queen his old companion and
schoolfellow, Polixenes, King of Bohemia. Leontes and Polixenes
were brought up together from their infancy, but being, by the
death of their fathers, called to reign over their respective
kingdoms, they had not met for many years, though they frequently
interchanged gifts, letters, and loving embassies.
At length, after repeated invitations, Polixenes came from
Bohemia to the Sicilian court, to make his friend Leontes a
At first this visit gave nothing but pleasure to Leontes. He
recommended the friend of his youth to the queen's particular
attention, and seemed in the presence of his dear friend and old
companion to have his felicity quite completed. They talked over
old times; their school-days and their youthful pranks were
remembered, and recounted to Hermione, who always took a cheerful
part in these conversations.
When, after a long stay, Polixenes was preparing to depart,
Hermione, at the desire of her husband, joined her entreaties to
his that Polixenes would prolong his visit.
And now began this good queen's sorrow; for Polixenes, refusing
to stay at the request of Leontes, was won over by Hermione's
gentle and persuasive words to put off his departure for some
weeks longer. Upon this, although Leontes had so long known the
integrity and honorable principles of his friend Polixenes, as
well as the excellent disposition of his virtuous queen, he was
seized with an ungovernable jealousy. Every attention Hermione
showed to Polixenes, though by her husband's particular desire
and merely to please him, increased the unfortunate king's
jealousy; and from being a loving and a true friend, and the best
and fondest of husbands, Leontes became suddenly a savage and
inhuman monster. Sending for Camillo, one of the lords of his
court, and telling him of the suspicion he entertained, he
commanded him to poison Polixenes.
Camillo was a good man, and he, well knowing that the jealousy of
Leontes had not the slightest foundation in truth, instead of
poisoning Polixenes, acquainted him with the king his master's
orders, and agreed to escape with him out of the Sicilian
dominions; and Polixenes, with the assistance of Camillo,
arrived safe in his own kingdom of Bohemia, where Camillo lived
from that time in the king's court and became the chief friend
and favorite of Polixenes.
The flight of Polixenes enraged the jealous Leontes still more;
he went to the queen's apartment, where the good lady was sitting
with her little son Mamillius, who was just beginning to tell one
of his best stories to amuse his mother, when the king entered
and, taking the child away, sent Hermione to prison.
Mamillius, though but a very young child, loved his mother
tenderly; and when he saw her so dishonored, and found she was
taken from him to be put into a prison, he took it deeply to
heart and drooped and pined away by slow degrees, losing his
appetite and his sleep, till it was thought his grief would kill
The king, when he had sent his queen to prison, commanded
Cleomenes and Dion, two Sicilian lords, to go to Delphos, there
to inquire of the oracle at the temple of Apollo if his queen had
been unfaithful to him.
When Hermione had been a short time in prison she was brought to
bed of a daughter; and the poor lady received much comfort from
the sight of her pretty baby, and she said to it, "My poor little
prisoner, I am as innocent as you are."
Hermione had a kind friend in the noble-spirited Paulina, who was
the wife of Antigonus, a Sicilian lord; and when the lady Paulina
heard her royal mistress was brought to bed she went to the
prison where Hermione was confined; and she said to Emilia, a
lady who attended upon Hermione, "I pray you, Emilia, tell the
good queen, if her Majesty dare trust me with her little babe, I
will carry it to the king, its father: we do not know how he may
soften at the sight of his innocent child."
"Most worthy madam," replied Emilia, "I will acquaint the queen
with your noble offer. She was wishing to-day that she had any
friend who would venture to present the child to the king."
"And tell her," said Paulina. "that I will speak boldly to
Leontes in her defense."
"May you be forever blessed," said Emilia, "for your kindness to
our gracious queen!"
Emilia then went to Hermione, who joyfully gave up her baby to
the care of Paulina, for she had feared that no one would dare
venture to present the child to its father.
Paulina took the new-born infant and, forcing herself into the
king's presence, notwithstanding her husband, fearing the king's
anger, endeavored to prevent her, she laid the babe at its
father's feet; and Paulina made a noble speech to the king in
defense of Hermione, and she reproached him severely for his
inhumanity and implored him to have mercy on his innocent wife
and child. But Paulina's spirited remonstrances only aggravated
Leontes's displeasure, and he ordered her husband Antigonus to
take her from his presence.
When Paulina went away she left the little baby at its father's
feet, thinking when he was alone with it he would look upon it
and have pity on its helpless innocence.
The good Paulina was mistaken, for no sooner was she gone than
the merciless father ordered Antigonus, Paulina's husband,
to take the child and carry it out to sea and leave it upon some
desert shore to perish.
Antigonus, unlike the good Camillo, too well obeyed the orders of
Leontes; for he immediately carried the child on shipboard, and
put out to sea, intending to leave it on the first desert coast
he could find.
So firmly was the king persuaded of the guilt of Hermione that he
would not wait for the return of Cleomenes and Dion; whom he had
sent to consult the oracle of Apollo at Delphos, but before the
queen was recovered from her lying-in, and from the grief for the
loss of her precious baby, he had her brought to a public trial
before all the lords and nobles of his court. And when all the
great lords, the judges, and all the nobility of the land were
assembled together to try Hermione, and that unhappy queen was
standing as a prisoner before her subjects to receive their
judgment, Cleomenes and Dion entered the assembly and presented
to the king the answer of the oracle, sealed up; and Leontes
commanded the seal to be broken, and the words of the oracle to
be read aloud, and these were the words:
"Hermione is innocent, Polixenes blameless, Camillo a true
subject, Leontes a jealous tyrant, and the king shall live
without an heir if that which is lost be not found."
The king would give no credit to the words of the oracle. He said
it was a falsehood invented by the queen's friends, and be
desired the judge to proceed in the trial of the queen; but while
Leontes was speaking a man entered and told him that the Prince
Mamillius, hearing his mother was to be tried for her life,
struck with grief and shame, had suddenly died.
Hermione, upon hearing of the death of this dear, affectionate
child, who had lost his life in sorrowing for her misfortune,
fainted; and Leontes, pierced to the heart by the news, began to
feel pity for his unhappy queen, and he ordered Paulina, and the
ladies who were her attendants, to take her away and use means
for her recovery. Paulina soon returned and told the king that
Hermione was dead.
When Leontes heard that the queen was dead he repented of his
cruelty to her; and now that he thought his ill-usage had broken
Hermione's heart, he believed her innocent; and now he thought
the words of the oracle were true, as he knew "if that which was
lost was not found," which he concluded was his young daughter,
he should be without an heir, the young Prince Mamillius being
dead; and he would give his kingdom now to recover his lost
daughter. And Leontes gave himself up to remorse and passed many
years in mournful thoughts and repentant grief.
The ship in which Antigonus carried the infant princess out to
sea was driven by a storm upon the coast of Bohemia, the very
kingdom of the good King Polixenes. Here Antigonus landed and
here he left the little baby.
Antigonus never returned to Sicily to tell Leontes where he had
left his daughter, for, as he was going back to the ship, a bear
came out of the woods and tore him to pieces; a just punishment
on him for obeying the wicked order Leontes.
The child was dressed in rich clothes and jewels; for Hermione
had made it very fine when she sent it to Leontes, and Antigonus
had pinned a paper to its mantle, and the name of "Perdita"
written thereon, and words obscurely intimating its high birth
and untoward fate.
This poor, deserted baby was found by a shepherd. He was a humane
man, and so he carried the little Perdita home to his wife, who
nursed it tenderly. But poverty tempted the shepherd to conceal
the rich prize be had found; therefore he left that part of the
country, that no one might know where he got his riches, and with
part of Perdita's jewels be bought herds of sheep and became a
wealthy shepherd. He brought up Perdita as his own child, and she
knew not she was any other than a shepherd's daughter.
The little Perdita grew up a lovely maiden; and though she had no
better education than that of a shepherd's daughter, yet so did
the natural graces she inherited from her royal mother shine
forth in her untutored mind that no one, from her behavior, would
have known she had not been brought up in her father's court.
Polixenes, the King of Bohemia, had an only son, whose name was
Florizel. As this young prince was hunting near the shepherd's
dwelling he saw the old man's supposed daughter; and the beauty,
modesty, and queenlike deportment of Perdita caused him instantly
to fall in love with her. He soon, under the name of Doricles,
and in the disguise of a private gentleman, became a constant
visitor at the old shepherd's house. Florizel's frequent absences
from court alarmed Polixenes; and setting people to watch his
son, he discovered his love for the shepherd's fair daughter.
Polixenes then called for Camillo, the faithful Camillo, who had
preserved his life from the fury of Leontes, and desired that he
would accompany him to the house of the shepherd, the supposed
father of Perdita. Polixenes and Camillo, both in disguise,
arrived at the old shepherd's dwelling while they were
celebrating the feast of sheep-shearing; and though they were
strangers, yet at the sheep-shearing, every guest being made
welcome, they were invited to walk in and join in the general
Nothing but mirth and jollity was going forward. Tables were
spread and fit great preparations were making for the rustic
feast. Some lads and lasses were dancing on the green before the
house, while others of the young men were buying ribands, gloves,
and such toys of a peddler at the door.
While this busy scene was going forward Florizel and Perdita sat
quietly in a retired corner, seemingly more pleased with the
conversation of each other than desirous of engaging in the
sports and silly amusements of those around them.
The king was so disguised that it was impossible his son could
know him. He therefore advanced near enough to hear the
conversation. The simple yet elegant manner in which Perdita
conversed with his son did not a little surprise Polixenes. He
said to Camillo:
"This is the prettiest low-born lass I ever saw; nothing she does
or says but looks like something greater than herself, too noble
for this place."
Camillo replied, "Indeed she is the very queen of curds and
"Pray, my good friend," said the king to the old shepherd, "what
fair swain is that talking with your daughter?"
"They call him Doricles," replied the shepherd. "He says he loves
my daughter; and, to speak truth, there is not a kiss to choose
which loves the other best. If young Doricles can get her, she
shall bring him that he little dreams of," meaning the remainder
of Perdita's jewels; which, after he had bought herds of sheep
with part of them, he had carefully hoarded up for her marriage
Polixenes then addressed his son. "How now, young man!" said he.
"Your heart seems full of something that takes off your mind from
feasting. When I was young I used to load my love with presents;
but you have let the peddler go and have bought your lass no
The young prince, who little thought he was talking to the king
his father, replied, "Old sir, she prizes not such trifles; the
gifts which Perdita expects from me are locked up in my heart."
Then turning to Perdita, he said to her, "Oh, hear me, Perdita,
before this ancient gentleman, who it seems was once himself a
lover; he shall hear what I profess." Florizel then called upon
the old stranger to be a witness to a solemn promise of marriage
which be made to Perdita, saying to Polixenes, "I pray you, mark
"Mark your divorce, young sir," said the king, discovering
himself. Polixenes then reproached his son for daring to contract
himself to this low-born maiden, calling Perdita "shepherd's
brat, sheep-hook," and other disrespectful names, and threatening
if ever she suffered his son to see her again, he would put her,
and the old shepherd her father, to a cruel death.
The king then left them in great wrath, and ordered Camillo to
follow him with Prince Florizel.
When the king had departed, Perdita, whose royal nature was
roused by Polixenes's reproaches, said, "Though we are all
undone, I was not much afraid; and once or twice I was about to
speak and tell him plainly that the selfsame sun which shines
upon his palace hides not his face from our cottage, but looks on
both alike." Then sorrowfully she said, "But now I am awakened
from this dream, I will queen it no further. Leave me, sir. I
will go milk my ewes and weep."
The kind-hearted Camillo was charmed with the spirit and
propriety of Perdita's behavior; and, perceiving that the young
prince was too deeply in love to give up his mistress at the
command of his royal father, he thought of a way to befriend the
lovers and at the same time to execute a favorite scheme he had
in his mind.
Camillo had long known that Leontes, the King of Sicily, was
become a true penitent; and though Camillo was now the favored
friend of King Polixenes, he could not help wishing once more to
see his late royal master and his native home. He therefore
proposed to Florizel and Perdita that they should accompany him
to the Sicilian court, where he would engage Leontes should
protect them till, through his mediation, they could obtain
pardon from Polixenes and his consent to their marriage.
To this proposal they joyfully agreed; and Camillo, who conducted
everything relative to their flight, allowed the old shepherd to
go along with them.
The shepherd took with him the remainder of Perdita's jewels, her
baby clothes, and the paper which he had found pinned to her
After a prosperous voyage, Florizel and Perdita, Camillo and the
old shepherd, arrived in safety at the court of Leontes. Leontes,
who still mourned his dead Hermione and his lost child, received
Camillo with great kindness and gave a cordial welcome to Prince
Florizel. But Perdita, whom Florizel introduced as his princess,
seemed to engross all Leontes's attention. Perceiving a
resemblance between her and his dead queen Hermione, his grief
broke out afresh, and he said such a lovely creature might his
own daughter have been if he had not so cruelly destroyed her.
"And then, too," said he to Florizel, "I lost the society and
friendship of your brave father, whom I now desire more than my
life once again to look upon."
When the old shepherd heard how much notice the king had taken of
Perdita, and that he had lost a daughter who was exposed in
infancy, he fell to comparing the time when he found the little
Perdita with the manner of its exposure, the jewels and other
tokens of its high birth; from all which it was impossible for
him not to conclude that Perdita and the king's lost daughter
were the same.
Florizel and Perdita, Camillo and the faithful Paulina, were
present when the old shepherd related to the king the manner in
which he had found the child, and also the circumstance of
Antigonus's death, he having seen the bear seize upon him. He
showed the rich mantle in which Paulina remembered Hermione had
wrapped the child; and he produced a jewel which she remembered
Hermione had tied about Perdita's neck; and he gave up the paper
which Paulina knew to be the writing of her husband. It could not
be doubted that Perdita was Leontes's own daughter. But, oh, the
noble struggles of Paulina, between sorrow for her husband's
death and joy that the oracle was fulfilled, in the king's heir,
his long-lost daughter being found! When Leontes heard that
Perdita was his daughter, the great sorrow that he felt that
Hermione was not living to behold her child made him that he
could say nothing for a long time but "Oh, thy mother, thy
Paulina interrupted this joyful yet distressful scene with saying
to Leontes that she had a statue newly finished by that rare
Italian master, Julio Romano, which was such a perfect
resemblance of the queen that would his Majesty be pleased to go
to her house and look upon it, be would be almost ready to think
it was Hermione herself. Thither then they all went; the king,
anxious to see the semblance of his Hermione, and Perdita longing
to behold what the mother she never saw did look like.
When Paulina drew back the curtain which concealed this famous
statue, so perfectly did it resemble Hermione that all the king's
sorrow was renewed at the sight; for a long time he had no power
to speak or move.
"I like your silence, my liege," said Paulina; "it the more shows
your wonder. Is not this statue very like your queen?"
At length the king said: "Oh, thus she stood, even with such
majesty, when I first wooed her. But yet, Paulina, Hermione was
not so aged as this statue looks."
Paulina replied: "So much the more the carver's excellence, who
has made the statue as Hermione would have looked had she been
living now. But let me draw the curtain, sire, lest presently you
think it moves."
The king then said: "Do not draw the curtain. Would I were dead!
See, Carmillo, would you not think it breathed? Her eye seems to
have motion in it."
"I must draw the curtain, my liege," said Paulina. "You are so
transported, you will persuade yourself the statue lives."
"Oh, sweet Pauline," said Leontes, "make me think so twenty years
together! Still methinks there is an air comes from her. What
fine chisel could ever yet cut breath? Let no man mock me, for I
will kiss her."
"Good my lord, forbear!" said Paulina. "The ruddiness upon her
lip is wet; you will stain your own with oily painting. Shall I
draw the curtain?"
"No, not these twenty years," said Leontes.
Perdita, who all this time bad been kneeling and beholding in
silent admiration the statue of her matchless mother, said now,
"And so long could I stay here, looking upon my dear mother."
"Either forbear this transport," said Paulina to Leontes, "and
let me draw the curtain or prepare yourself for more amazement. I
can make the statue move indeed; aye, and descend from off the
pedestal and take you by the hand. But then you will think, which
I protest I am not, that I am assisted by some wicked powers."
"What you can make her do," said the astonished king, "I am
content to look upon. What you can make her speak I am content to
hear; for it is as easy to make her speak as move."
Paulina then ordered some slow and solemn music, which she had
prepared for the purpose, to strike up; and, to the amazement of
all the beholders, the statue came down from off the pedestal and
threw its arms around Leontes's neck. The statue then began to
speak, praying for blessings on her husband and on her child, the
newly found Perdita.
No wonder that the statue hung upon Leontes's neck and blessed
her husband and her child. No wonder; for the statue was indeed
Hermione herself, the real, the living queen.
Paulina had falsely reported to the king the death of Hermione'
thinking that the only means to preserve her royal mistress's
life; and with the good Paulina Hermione had lived ever since,
never choosing Leontes should know she was living till she heard
Perdita was found; for though she had long forgiven the injuries
which Leontes had done to herself, she could not pardon his
cruelty to his infant daughter.
His dead queen thus restored to life, his lost daughter found,
the long-sorrowing Leontes could scarcely support the excess of
his own happiness.
Nothing but congratulations and affectionate speeches were heard
on all sides. Now the delighted parents thanked Prince Florizel
for loving their lowly seeming daughter; and now they blessed the
good old shepherd for preserving their child. Greatly did Camillo
and Paulina rejoice that they had lived to see so good an end of
all their faithful services.
And as if nothing should be wanting to complete this strange and
unlooked-for joy, King Polixenes himself now entered the palace.
When Polixenes first missed his son and Camillo, knowing that
Camillo had long wished to return to Sicily, he conjectured he
should find the fugitives here; and, following them with all
speed, he happened to just arrive at this the happiest moment of
Polixenes took a part in the general joy; he forgave his friend
Leontes the unjust jealousy he had conceived against him, and
they once more loved each other with all the warmth of their
first boyish friendship. And there was no fear that Polixenes
would now oppose his son's marriage with Perdita. She was no
"sheep-hook" now, but the heiress of the crown of Sicily.
Thus have we seen the patient virtues of the long-suffering
Hermione rewarded. That excellent lady lived many years with her
Leontes and her Perdita, the happiest of mothers and of queens.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
There lived in the palace at Messina two ladies, whose names were
Hero and Beatrice. Hero was the daughter, and Beatrice the
niece, of Leonato, the governor of Messina.
Beatrice was of a lively temper and loved to divert her cousin
Hero, who was of a more serious disposition, with her sprightly
sallies. Whatever was going forward was sure to make matter of
mirth for the light-hearted Beatrice.
At the time the history of these ladies commences some young men
of high rank in the army, as they were passing through Messina on
their return from a war that was just ended, in which they bad
distinguished themselves by their great bravery, came to visit
Leonato. Among these were Don Pedro, the Prince of Arragon, and
his friend Claudio, who was a lord of Florence; and with them
came the wild and witty Benedick, and he was a lord of Padua.
These strangers had been at Messina before, and the hospitable
governor introduced them to his daughter and his niece as their
old friends and acquaintance.
Benedick, the moment he entered the room, began a lively
conversation with Leonato and the prince. Beatrice, who liked not
to be left out of any discourse, interrupted Benedick with
"I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor Benedick. Nobody
Benedick was just such another rattlebrain as Beatrice, yet he
was not pleased at this free salutation; he thought it did not
become a well-bred lady to be so flippant with her tongue; and he
remembered, when he was last at Messina, that Beatrice used to
select him to make her merry jests upon. And as there is no one
who so little likes to be made a jest of as those who are apt to
take the same liberty themselves, so it was with Benedick and
Beatrice; these two sharp wits never met in former times but a
perfect war of raillery was kept up between them, and they always
parted mutually displeased with each other. Therefore, when
Beatrice stopped him in the middle of his discourse with telling
him nobody marked what he was saying, Benedick, affecting not to
have observed before that she was present, said:
"What, my dear Lady Disdain, are you yet living?" And now war
broke out afresh between them, and a long jangling argument
ensued, during which Beatrice, although she knew be had so well
approved his valor in the late war, said that she would eat all
he had killed there; and observing the prince take delight in
Benedick's conversation, she called him "the prince's jester."
This sarcasm sank deeper into the mind of Benedick than all
Beatrice had said before. The hint she gave him that he was a
coward, by saying she would eat all he bad killed, he did not
regard, knowing himself to be a brave man; but there is nothing
that great wits so much dread as the imputation of buffoonery,
because the charge comes sometimes a little too near the truth;
therefore Benedick perfectly hated Beatrice when she called him
"the prince's jester."
The modest lady Hero was silent before the noble guests; and
while Claudio was attentively observing the improvement which
time had made in her beauty, and was contemplating the exquisite
graces of her fine figure (for she was an admirable young lady),
the prince was highly amused with listening to the humorous
dialogue between Benedick and Beatrice; and he said in a whisper
"This is a pleasant-spirited young lady. She were an excellent
wife for Benedick."
Leonato replied to this suggestion, "O my lord, my lord, if they
were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad!"
But though Leonato thought they would make a discordant pair, the
prince did not give up the idea of matching these two keen wits
When the prince returned with Claudio from the palace he found
that the marriage he had devised between Benedick and Beatrice
was not the only one projected in that good company, for Claudio
spoke in such terms of Hero as made the prince guess at what was
passing in his heart; and he liked it well, and he said to
"Do you affect Hero?"
To this question Claudio replied, "O my lord, when I was last at
Messina I looked upon her with a soldier's eye, that liked, but
had no leisure for loving; but now, in this happy time of peace,
thoughts of war have left their places vacant in my mind, and in
their room come thronging soft and delicate thoughts, all
prompting me how fair young Hero is, reminding me that I liked
her before I went to the wars."
Claudio's confession of his love for Hero so wrought upon the
prince that be lost no time in soliciting the consent of Leonato
to accept of Claudio for a son-in-law. Leonato agreed to this
proposal, and the prince found no great difficulty in persuading
the gentle Hero herself to listen to the suit of the noble
Claudio who was a lord of rare endowments and highly
accomplished, and Claudio, assisted by his kind prince, soon
prevailed upon Leonato to fix an early day for the celebration of
his marriage with Hero.
Claudio was to wait but a few days before he was to be married to
his fair lady; yet he complained of the interval being tedious,
as indeed most young men are impatient when they are waiting for
the accomplishment of any event they have set their hearts upon.
The prince, therefore, to make the time seem short to him,
proposed as a kind of merry pastime that they should invent some
artful scheme to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love with
each other. Claudio entered with great satisfaction into this
whim of the prince, and Leonato promised them his assistance, and
even Hero said she would do any modest office to help her cousin
to a good husband.
The device the prince invented was that the gentlemen should make
Benedick believe that Beatrice was in love with him, and that
Hero should make Beatrice believe that Benedick was in love with
The prince, Leonato, and Claudio began their operations first;
and watching upon an opportunity when Benedick was quietly seated
reading in an arbor, the prince and his assistants took their
station among the trees behind the arbor, so near that Benedick
could not choose but hear all they said; and after some careless
talk the prince said:
"Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me the other
day--that your niece Beatrice was in love with Signor Benedick? I
did never think that lady would have loved any man."
"No, nor I neither, my lord," answered Leonato. "It is most
wonderful that she should so dote on Benedick, whom she in all
outward behavior seemed ever to dislike."
Claudio confirmed all this with saying that Hero bad told him
Beatrice was so in love with Benedick that she would certainly
die of grief if he could not be brought to love her; which
Leonato and Claudio seemed to agree was impossible, he having
always been such a railer against all fair ladies, and in
particular against Beatrice.
The prince affected to harken to all this with great compassion
for Beatrice, and he said, "It were good that Benedick were told
"To what end?" said Claudio. "He would but make sport of it, and
torment the poor lady worse."
"And if he should," said the prince, "it were a good deed to hang
him; for Beatrice is an excellent sweet lady, and exceeding wise
in everything but in loving Benedick."
Then the prince motioned to his companions that they should walk
on and leave Benedick to meditate upon what he had overheard.
Benedick had been listening with great eagerness to this
conversation; and he said to himself, when be heard Beatrice
loved him: "Is it possible? Sits the wind in that corner?" And
when they were gone, he began to reason in this manner with
himself: "This can be no trick! They were very serious, and they
have the truth from Hero, and seem to pity the lady. Love me!
Why, it must be requited! I did never think to marry. But when I
said I should die a bachelor, I did not think I should live to
be married. They say the lady is virtuous and fair. She is so.
And wise in everything but loving me. Why, that is no great
argument of her folly! But here comes Beatrice. By this day, she
is a fair lady. I do spy some marks of love in her."
Beatrice now approached him and said, with her usual tartness,
"Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner."
Benedick, who never felt himself disposed to speak so politely to
her before, replied, "Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains."
And when Beatrice, after two or three more rude speeches, left
him, Benedick thought he observed a concealed meaning of kindness
under the uncivil words she uttered, and he said aloud: "If I do
not take pity on her, I am a villain. If I do not love her, I am
a Jew. I will go get her picture."
The gentleman being thus caught in the net they had spread for
him, it was now Hero's turn to play her part with Beatrice; and
for this purpose she sent for Ursula and Margaret, two
gentlewomen who attended upon her, and she said to Margaret:
"Good Margaret, run to the parlor; there you will find my cousin
Beatrice talking with the prince and Claudio. Whisper in her ear
that I and Ursula are walking in the orchard and that our
discourse is all of her. Bid her steal into that pleasant arbor,
where honeysuckles, ripened by the sun, like ungrateful minions,
forbid the sun to enter."
This arbor into which Hero desired Margaret to entice Beatrice
was the very same pleasant arbor where Benedick had so lately
been an attentive listener.
"I will make her come, I warrant, presently," said Margaret.
Hero, then taking Ursula with her into the orchard, said to her:
"Now, Ursula, when Beatrice comes, we will walk up and down this
alley, and our talk must be only of Benedick, and when I name
him, let it be your part to praise him more than ever man did
merit. My talk to you must be how Benedick is in love with
Beatrice. Now begin; for look where Beatrice like a lapwing runs
close by the ground, to hear our conference."
They then began, Hero saying', as if in answer to something which
Ursula had said: "No, truly, Ursula. She is too disdainful; her
spirits are as coy as wild birds of the rock."
"But are you sure," said Ursula, "that Benedick loves Beatrice so
Hero replied, "So says the prince and my lord Claudio, and they
entreated me to acquaint her with it; but I persuaded them, if
they loved Benedick, never to let Beatrice know of it."
"Certainly," replied Ursula, "it were not good she knew his love,
lest she made sport of it."
"Why, to say truth," said Hero, never yet saw a man, how wise
soever, or noble, young,@ or rarely featured, but she would
"Sure@ sure, such carping is not commendable," said Ursula.
"No," replied Hero, "but who dare tell her so? If I should speak,
she would mock me into air."
"Oh, you wrong your cousin!" said Ursula. "She cannot be so much
without true judgment as to refuse so rare a gentleman as Signor
"He hath an excellent good name," said Hero. "Indeed, he is the
first man in Italy, always excepting my dear Claudio."
And now, Hero giving her attendant a hint that it was time to
change the discourse, Ursula said, "And when are you to be
Hero then told her that she was to be married to Claudio the next
day, and desired she would go in with her and look at some new
attire, as she wished to consult with her on what she would wear
on the morrow.
Beatrice, who had been listening with breathless eagerness to
this dialogue, when they went away exclaimed: "What fire is in
mine ears? Can this be true? Farewell, contempt and scorn, and
maiden pride, adieu! Benedick, love on! I will requite you,
taming my wild heart to your loving hand."
It must have been a pleasant sight to see these old enemies
converted into new and loving friends, and to behold their first
meeting after being cheated into mutual liking by the merry
artifice of the good-humored prince. But a sad reverse in the
fortunes of Hero must now be thought of. The morrow, which was to
have been her wedding-day, brought sorrow on the heart of Hero
and her good father, Leonato.
The prince had a half-brother, who came from the wars along with
him to Messina. This brother (his name was Don John) was a
melancholy, discontented man, whose spirits seemed to labor in
the contriving of villainies. He hated the prince his brother,
and he hated Claudio because he was the prince's friend, and
determined to prevent Claudio's marriage with Hero, only for the
malicious pleasure of making Claudio and the prince unhappy, for
he knew the prince had set his heart upon this marriage almost as
much as Claudio himself; and to effect this wicked purpose he
employed one Borachio, a man as bad as himself, whom he
encouraged with the offer of a great reward. This Borachio paid
his court to Margaret, Hero's attendant; and Don John, knowing
this, prevailed upon him to make Margaret promise to talk with
him from her lady's chamber window that night, after Hero was
asleep, and also to dress herself in Hero's clothes, the better
to deceive Claudio into the belief that it was Hero; for that was
the end he meant to compass by this wicked plot.
Don John then went to the prince and Claudio and told them that
Hero was an imprudent lady, and that she talked with men from her
chamber window at midnight. Now this was the evening before the
wedding, and he offered to take them that night where they should
themselves hear Hero discoursing with a man from her window; and
they consented to go along with him, and Claudio said:
"If I see anything to-night why I should not marry her, to-morrow
in the congregation, where I intended to wed her, there will I
The prince also said, "And as I assisted you to obtain her, I
will join with you to disgrace her."
When Don John brought them near Hero's chamber that night, they
saw Borachio standing under the window, and they saw Margaret
looking out of Hero's window and heard her talking with Borachio;
and Margaret being dressed in the same clothes they had seen Hero
wear, the prince and Claudio believed it was the lady Hero
Nothing could equal the anger of Claudio when he had made (as be
thought) this discovery. All his love for the innocent Hero was
at once converted into hatred, and he resolved to expose her in
the church, as he had said he would, the next day; and the
prince agreed to this, thinking no punishment could be too severe
for the naughty lady who talked with a man from her window the
very night before she was going to be married to the noble
The next day, when they were all met to celebrate the marriage,
and Claudio and Hero were standing before the priest, and the
priest, or friar, as he was called, was proceeding to pronounce
the marriage ceremony, Claudio, in the most passionate language,
proclaimed the guilt of the blameless Hero, who, amazed at the
strange words he uttered, said, meekly:
"Is my lord well, that he does speak so wide?"
Leonato, in the utmost horror, said to the prince, "My lord, why
speak not you?"
"What should I speak?" said the prince. "I stand dishonored that
have gone about to link my dear friend to an unworthy woman.
Leonato, upon my honor, myself, my brother, and this grieved
Claudio did see and bear her last night at midnight talk with a
man at her chamber window."
Benedick, in astonishment at what he heard, said, "This looks not
like a nuptial."
"True, O God!" replied the heart-struck Hero; and then this
hapless lady sank down in a fainting fit, to all appearance dead.
The prince and Claudio left the church without staying to see if
Hero would recover, or at all regarding the distress into which
they had thrown Leonato. So hard-hearted had their anger made
Benedick remained and assisted Beatrice to recover Hero from her
swoon, saying, "How does the lady?"
"Dead, I think," replied Beatrice, in great agony, for she loved
her cousin; and, knowing her virtuous principles, she believed
nothing of what she had heard spoken against her.
Not so the poor old father. He believed the story of his child's
shame, and it was piteous to hear him lamenting over her, as she
lay like one dead before him, wishing she might never more open
But the ancient friar was a wise man and full of observation on
human nature, and he had attentively marked the lady's
countenance when she heard herself accused and noted a thousand
blushing shames to start into her face, and then he saw an
angel-like whiteness bear away those blushes, and in her eye be
saw a fire that did belie the error that the prince did speak
against her maiden truth, and he said to the sorrowing father:
"Call me a fool; trust not my reading nor my observation; trust
not my age, my reverence, nor my calling, if this sweet lady lie
not guiltless here under some biting error."
When Hero had recovered from the swoon into which she had fallen,
the friar said to her, "Lady, what man is he you are accused of?"
Hero replied, "They know that do accuse me; I know of none." Then
turning to Leonato, she said, "O my father, if you can prove that
any man has ever conversed with me at hours unmeet, or that I
yesternight changed words with any creature, refuse me, hate me,
torture me to death."
"There is," said the friar, "some strange misunderstanding in the
prince and Claudio." And then he counseled Leonato that he should
report that Hero was dead; and he said that the deathlike swoon
in which they had left Hero would make this easy of belief; and
he also advised him that he should put on mourning, and erect a
monument for her, and do all rites that appertain to a burial.
"What shall become of this?" said Leonato. "What will this do?"
The friar replied: "This report of her death shall change slander
into pity; that is some good. But that is not all the good 1 hope
for. When Claudio shall hear she died upon hearing his words, the
idea of her life shall sweetly creep into his imagination. Then
shall he mourn, if ever love had interest in his heart, and wish
that be had not so accused her; yea, though he thought his
Benedick now said, "Leonato, let the friar advise you; and though
you know how well I love the prince and Claudio, yet on my honor
I will not reveal this secret to them."
Leonato, thus persuaded, yielded; and he said, sorrowfully, "I am
so grieved that the smallest twine may lead me."
The kind friar then led Leonato and Hero away to comfort and
console them, and Beatrice and Benedick remained alone; and this
was the meeting from which their friends, who contrived the merry
plot against them, expected so much diversion; those friends who
were now overwhelmed with affliction and from whose minds all
thoughts of merriment seemed forever banished.
Benedick was the first who spoke, and he said, "Lady Beatrice,
have you wept all this while?"
"Yea, and I will weep awhile longer," said Beatrice.
"Surely," said. Benedick, "I do believe your fair cousin is
"Ah," said Beatrice, "how much might that man deserve of me who
would right her!"
Benedick then said: "Is there any way to show such friendship? I
do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is not that
"It were as possible," said Beatrice, "for me to say I loved
nothing in the world so well as you; but believe me not, and yet
I lie not. I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for
"By my sword," said Benedick, "you love me, and I protest I love
you. Come, bid me do anything for you."
"Kill Claudio," said Beatrice.
"Ha! not for the world," said Benedick; for he loved his friend
Claudio and he believed he had been imposed upon.
"Is not Claudio a villain that has slandered, scorned, and
dishonored my cousin?" said Beatrice. "Oh, that I were a man!"
"Hear me, Beatrice!" said Benedick.
But Beatrice would hear nothing in Claudio's defense, and she
continued to urge on Benedick to revenge her cousin's wrongs; and
she said: "Talk with a man out of the window? a proper saying!
Sweet Hero! she is wronged; she is slandered; she is undone. Oh,
that I were a man for Claudio's sake! or that I had any friend
who would be a man for my sake! But valor is melted into
courtesies and compliments. I cannot be a man with wishing,
therefore I will die a woman with grieving."
"Tarry, good Beatrice," said Benedick. "By this hand I love you."
"Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it," said
"Think you on your soul that Claudio has wronged Hero?" asked
"Yea," answered Beatrice; CC as sure as I have a thought or a
"Enough," said Benedick. "I am engaged; I will challenge him. I
will kiss your hand, and so leave you. By this hand Claudio shall
render me a dear account! As you hear from me, so think of me.
Go, comfort your cousin."
While Beatrice was thus powerfully pleading with Benedick, and
working his gallant temper, by the spirit of her angry words, to
engage in the cause of Hero and fight even with his dear friend
Claudio, Leonato was challenging the prince and Claudio to answer
with their swords the injury they had done his child, who, be
affirmed, had died for grief. But they respected his age and his
sorrow, and they said:
"Nay, do not quarrel with us, good old man."
And now came Benedick, and be also challenged Claudio to answer
with his sword the injury be had done to Hero; and Claudio and
the prince said to each other:
"Beatrice has set him on to do this."
Claudio, nevertheless, must have accepted this challenge of
Benedick had not the justice of Heaven at the moment brought to
pass a better proof of the innocence of Hero than the uncertain
fortune of a duel.
While the prince and Claudio were yet talking of the challenge of
Benedick a magistrate brought Borachio as a prisoner before the
prince. Borachio had been overheard talking with one of his
companions of the mischief he had been employed by Don John to
Borachio made a full confession to the prince in Claudio's
bearing that it was Margaret dressed in her lady's clothes that
he had talked with from the window, whom they had mistaken for
the lady Hero herself. and no doubt continued on the minds of
Claudio and the prince of the innocence of Hero. If a suspicion
had remained it must have been removed by the flight of Don John,
who, finding his villainies were detected, fled from Messina to
avoid the just anger of his brother.
The heart of Claudio was sorely grieved when he found he bad
falsely accused Hero, who, he thought, died upon bearing his
cruel words; and the memory of his beloved Hero's image came over
him in the rare semblance that he loved it first; and the prince,
asking him if what he heard did not run like iron through his
soul, he answered that he felt as if he had taken poison while
Borachio was speaking.
And the repentant Claudio implored forgiveness of the old man
Leonato for the injury he had done his child; and promised that,
whatever penance Leonato would lay upon him for his fault in
believing the false accusation against his betrothed wife, for
her dear sake he would endure it.
The penance Leonato enjoined him was to marry the next morning a
cousin of Hero's, who, he said, was now his heir, and in person
very like Hero. Claudio, regarding the solemn promise he made to
Leonato, said he would marry this unknown lady, even though she
were an Ethiop. But his heart was very sorrowful, and he passed
that night in tears and in remorseful grief at the tomb which
Leonato had erected for Hero.
When the morning came the prince accompanied Claudio to the
church, where the good friar and Leonato and his niece were
already assembled, to celebrate a second nuptial; and Leonato
presented to Claudio his promised bride. And she wore a mask,
that Claudio might not discover her face. And Claudio said to the
lady in the mask:
"Give me your hand, before this holy friar. I am your husband, if
you will marry me."
"And when I lived I was your other wife," said this unknown
lady; and, taking off her mask, she proved to be no niece (as was
pretended), but Leonato's very daughter, the lady Hero herself.
We may be sure that this proved a most agreeable surprise to
Claudio, who thought her dead, so that be could scarcely for joy
believe his eyes; and the prince, who was equally amazed at what
he saw, exclaimed:
"Is not this Hero, Hero that was dead?"'
Leonato replied, "She died, my lord, but while her slander
The friar promised them an explanation of this seeming miracle,
after the ceremony was ended, and was proceeding to marry them
when he was interrupted by Benedick, who desired to be married at
the same time to Beatrice. Beatrice making some demur to this
match, and Benedick challenging her with her love for him, which
he had learned from Hero, a pleasant explanation took place; and
they found they had both been tricked into a belief of love,
which had never existed, and had become lovers in truth by the
power of a false jest. But the affection which a merry invention
had cheated them into was grown too powerful to be shaken by a
serious explanation; and since Benedick proposed to marry, he was