Enter Leonato, Governor of Messina, Hero, his
daughter, Beatrice his niece, with a Messenger
I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Arragon
comes this night to Messina.
He is very near by this; he was not three
leagues off when I left him.
How many gentlemen have you lost in this
But few of any sort, and none of name.
A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings
home full numbers. I find here that Don Pedro hath
bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called
Much deserved on his part and equally remembered
by Don Pedro. He hath borne himself beyond
the promise of his age, doing, in the figure of a
lamb, the feats of a lion; he hath indeed better bettered
expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how.
He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very
much glad of it.
I have already delivered him letters, and
there appears much joy in him; even so much that joy
could not show itself modest enough without a badge of
Did he break out into tears?
In great measure.
A kind overflow of kindness; there are no faces
truer than those that are so washed. How much better is
it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!
I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from
the wars, or no?
I know none of that name, lady; there was
none such in the army of any sort.
What is he that you ask for, niece?
My cousin means Signor Benedick of Padua.
O, he's returned, and as pleasant as ever he
He set up his bills here in Messina, and challenged
Cupid at the flight; and my uncle's fool, reading
the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him
at the bird-bolt. I pray you, how many hath he killed and
eaten in these wars? But how many hath he killed? For
indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing.
Faith, niece, you tax Signor Benedick too much;
tax (v.) 1
censure, blame, take to task, disparage
but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.
He hath done good service, lady, in these
You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat
(usually plural) provisions, supplies, food and drink
it; he is a very valiant trencher-man, he hath an excellent
And a good soldier too, lady.
And a good soldier to a lady. But what is he to a
A lord to a lord, a man to a man, stuffed with
all honourable virtues.
It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man;
but for the stuffing – well, we are all mortal.
You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a
kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her;
they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between
wit (n.) 2
mental sharpness, acumen, quickness, ingenuity
Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict
four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the
wits, also five wits
faculties of the mind (common wit, imagination, fantasy, estimation, memory) or body (the five senses)
whole man governed with one; so that if he have wit
wit (n.) 1
intelligence, wisdom, good sense, mental ability
enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a
difference between himself and his horse; for it is all the
wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature.
Who is his companion now? He hath every month
a new sworn brother.
Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as
the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the next
I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.
No; an he were, I would burn my study. But,
I pray you, who is his companion? Is there no young
squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the
He is most in the company of the right noble
O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease.
He is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker
runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! If he
have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand
pound ere 'a be cured.
I will hold friends with you, lady.
Do, good friend.
You will never run mad, niece.
No, not till a hot January.
Don Pedro is approached.
Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, and
Don John the Bastard
Good Signor Leonato, are you come to meet
your trouble? The fashion of the world is to avoid cost,
and you encounter it.
Never came trouble to my house in the likeness
of your grace; for trouble being gone, comfort should
remain; but when you depart from me sorrow abides,
and happiness takes his leave.
You embrace your charge too willingly. I
think this is your daughter.
Her mother hath many times told me so.
Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?
Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.
You have it full, Benedick; we may guess by
this what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady fathers
herself. Be happy, lady; for you are like an honourable
If Signor Leonato be her father, she would not
have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as like
him as she is.
I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor
Benedick; nobody marks you.
What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet
Is it possible disdain should die while she hath
such meet food to feed it as Signor Benedick? Courtesy
itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her
Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I
am loved of all ladies, only you excepted; and I would
I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for,
truly, I love none.
A dear happiness to women; they would else
have been troubled with a pernicious suitor! I thank
God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that;
humour (n.) 1
mood, disposition, frame of mind, temperament [as determined by bodily fluids]
I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear
he loves me.
God keep your ladyship still in that mind!
So some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate
Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere
such a face as yours were.
Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of
I would my horse had the speed of your tongue,
and so good a continuer. But keep your way a' God's
name, I have done.
You always end with a jade's trick; I know you
That is the sum of all, Leonato. Signor
Claudio and Signor Benedick, my dear friend Leonato
hath invited you all. I tell him we shall stay here at the
least a month, and he heartily prays some occasion may
detain us longer. I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but
prays from his heart.
If you swear, my lord, you shall not be
forsworn. (To Don John) Let me bid you welcome, my
lord, being reconciled to the Prince your brother. I owe
you all duty.
I thank you. I am not of many words, but I
Please it your grace lead on?
Your hand, Leonato; we will go together.
Exeunt all except Benedick and Claudio
Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signor
I noted her not, but I looked on her.
note (v.) 1
observe, pay attention [to], take special note [of]
Is she not a modest young lady?
Do you question me as an honest man should
do, for my simple true judgement? Or would you have
me speak after my custom, as being a professed tyrant
to their sex?
No, I pray thee speak in sober judgement.
Why, i'faith, methinks she's too low for a
high praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for
a great praise; only this commendation I can afford her,
that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome;
and being no other but as she is, I do not like her.
Thou thinkest I am in sport; I pray thee tell me
truly how thou likest her.
Would you buy her, that you inquire after her?
Can the world buy such a jewel?
Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you
this with a sad brow? Or do you play the flouting Jack,
Jack (n.) 1
Jack-in-office, ill-mannered fellow, lout, knave
to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare
carpenter? Come, in what key shall a man take you to go
in the song?
In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I
I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no
such matter; there's her cousin, an she were not possessed
with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the
first of May doth the last of December. But I hope you
have no intent to turn husband, have you?
I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn
the contrary, if Hero would be my wife.
Is't come to this? In faith, hath not the world
one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall
I never see a bachelor of threescore again? Go to, i'faith;
an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the
print of it, and sigh away Sundays. Look, Don Pedro
is returned to seek you.
Enter Don Pedro
What secret hath held you here, that you
followed not to Leonato's?
I would your grace would constrain me to tell.
I charge thee on thy allegiance.
You hear, Count Claudio; I can be secret as a
dumb man, I would have you think so; but, on my allegiance,
mark you this, on my allegiance – he is in love.
With who? Now that is your grace's part. Mark how short
his answer is: With Hero, Leonato's short daughter.
If this were so, so were it uttered.
Like the old tale, my lord: 'It is not so, nor
'twas not so; but, indeed, God forbid it should be so!
If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it
should be otherwise!
Amen, if you love her; for the lady is very
You speak this to fetch me in, my lord.
By my troth, I speak my thought.
And in faith, my lord, I spoke mine.
And by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I
That I love her, I feel.
That she is worthy, I know.
That I neither feel how she should be loved,
nor know how she should be worthy, is the opinion that
fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake.
Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the
despite of beauty.
And never could maintain his part but in the
force of his will.
That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that
she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble
thanks; but that I will have a recheat winded in my
forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, all
women shall pardon me. Because I will not do them the
wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust
none; and the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I
will live a bachelor.
I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.
With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my
lord, not with love. Prove that ever I lose more blood
with love than I will get again with drinking, pick out
mine eyes with a ballad-maker's pen and hang me up
at the door of a brothel-house for the sign of blind
Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith,
thou wilt prove a notable argument.
If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat, and shoot
at me; and he that hits me, let him be clapped on the
shoulder, and called Adam.
Well, as time shall try:
‘ In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.’
The savage bull may; but if ever the sensible
Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull's horns and set them
in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted; and in such
great letters as they write ‘ Here is good horse to hire,’
let them signify under my sign ‘ Here you may see
Benedick the married man.’
If this should ever happen, thou wouldst be
Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in
Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.
I look for an earthquake too, then.
Well, you temporize with the hours. In
the meantime, good Signor Benedick, repair to Leonato's,
commend me to him and tell him I will not fail
him at supper; for indeed he hath made great
I have almost matter enough in me for such an
embassage; and so I commit you –
To the tuition of God. From my house, if I had
The sixth of July. Your loving friend,
Nay, mock not, mock not. The body of your
discourse is sometime guarded with fragments, and the
guards are but slightly basted on neither. Ere you flout
old ends any further, examine your conscience; and so I
My liege, your highness now may do me good.
My love is thine to teach; teach it but how,
And thou shalt see how apt it is to learn
Any hard lesson that may do thee good.
Hath Leonato any son, my lord?
No child but Hero; she's his only heir.
Dost thou affect her, Claudio?
O, my lord,
When you went onward on this ended action,
I looked upon her with a soldier's eye,
That liked, but had a rougher task in hand
Than to drive liking to the name of love;
But now I am returned and that war-thoughts
Have left their places vacant, in their rooms
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
All prompting me how fair young Hero is,
Saying I liked her ere I went to wars.
Thou wilt be like a lover presently
And tire the hearer with a book of words.
If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it,
And I will break with her and with her father
And thou shalt have her. Was't not to this end
That thou began'st to twist so fine a story?
How sweetly you do minister to love,
That know love's grief by his complexion!
But lest my liking might too sudden seem,
I would have salved it with a longer treatise.
What need the bridge much broader than the flood?
The fairest grant is the necessity.
grant (n.) 2
granting, gift, reason for agreeing to a request
Look what will serve is fit. 'Tis once, thou lovest,
And I will fit thee with the remedy.
I know we shall have revelling tonight;
I will assume thy part in some disguise
And tell fair Hero I am Claudio,
And in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart,
And take her hearing prisoner with the force
And strong encounter of my amorous tale.
Then after, to her father will I break,
And the conclusion is, she shall be thine.
In practise let us put it presently.