Much Ado About Nothing

Select or Print the text

Original text
Act I, Scene I
Enter Leonato Gouernour of Messina, Innogen his wife, Hero his
daughter, and Beatrice his Neece, with a messenger.

Leonato.
I Learne in this Letter, that Don Peter of Arragon,
comes this night to Messina.

Mess.
He is very neere by this: he was not three
Leagues off when I left him.

Leon.
How many Gentlemen haue you lost in this
action?

Mess.
But few of any sort, and none of name.

Leon.
A victorie is twice it selfe, when the atchieuer brings
home full numbers: I finde heere, that Don Peter hath
bestowed much honor on a yong Florentine, called
Claudio.

Mess.
Much deseru'd on his part, and equally remembred
by Don Pedro, he hath borne himselfe beyond
the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a
Lambe, the feats of a Lion, he hath indeede better bettred
expectation, then you must expect of me to tell you how.

Leo.
He hath an Vnckle heere in Messina, wil be very
much glad of it.

Mess.
I haue alreadie deliuered him letters, and
there appeares much ioy in him, euen so much, that ioy
could not shew it selfe modest enough, without a badg of
bitternesse.

Leo.
Did he breake out into teares?

Mess.
In great measure.

Leo.
A kinde ouerflow of kindnesse, there are no faces
truer, then those that are so wash'd, how much better is
it to weepe at ioy, then to ioy at weeping?

Bea.
I pray you, is Signior Mountanto return'd from
the warres, or no?

Mess.
I know none of that name, Lady, there was
none such in the armie of any sort.

Leon.
What is he that you aske for Neece?

Hero.
My cousin meanes Signior Benedick of Padua

Mess.
O he's return'd, and as pleasant as euer he
was.

Beat.
He set vp his bils here in Messina, & challeng'd
Cupid at the Flight: and my Vnckles foole reading
the Challenge, subscrib'd for Cupid, and challeng'd him
at the Burbolt. I pray you, how many hath hee kil'd and
eaten in these warres? But how many hath he kil'd? for
indeed, I promis'd to eate all of his killing.

Leon.
'Faith Neece, you taxe Signior Benedicke too much,
but hee'l be meet with you, I doubt it not.

Mess.
He hath done good seruice Lady in these
wars.

Beat.
You had musty victuall, and he hath holpe to ease
it: he's a very valiant Trencher-man, hee hath an excellent
stomacke.

Mess.
And a good souldier too Lady.

Beat.
And a good souldier to a Lady. But what is he to a
Lord?

Mess.
A Lord to a Lord, a man to a man, stuft with
all honourable vertues.

Beat.
It is so indeed, he is no lesse then a stuft man:
but for the stuffing well, we are all mortall.

Leon.
You must not (sir) mistake my Neece, there is a
kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick, & her:
they neuer meet, but there's a skirmish of wit between
them.

Bea.
Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict,
foure of his fiue wits went halting off, and now is the
whole man gouern'd with one: so that if hee haue wit
enough to keepe himselfe warme, let him beare it for a
difference betweene himselfe and his horse: For it is all the
wealth that he hath left, to be knowne a reasonable creature.
Who is his companion now? He hath euery month
a new sworne brother.

Mess.
I'st possible?

Beat.
Very easily possible: he weares his faith but as
the fashion of his hat, it euer changes with ye next
block.

Mess.
I see (Lady) the Gentleman is not in your bookes.

Bea.
No, and he were, I would burne 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
diuell?

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

Beat.
O Lord, he will hang vpon him like a disease:
he is sooner caught then the pestilence, and the taker
runs presently mad. God helpe the noble Claudio, if hee
haue caught the Benedict, it will cost him a thousand
pound ere he be cur'd.

Mess.
I will hold friends with you Lady.

Bea.
Do good friend.

Leo.
You'l ne're run mad Neece.

Bea.
No, not till a hot Ianuary.

Mess.
Don Pedro is approach'd.
Enter don Pedro, Claudio, Benedicke, Balthasar, and
Iohn the bastard.

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

Leon.
Neuer came trouble to my house in the likenes
of your Grace: for trouble being gone, comfort should
remaine: but when you depart from me, sorrow abides,
and happinesse takes his leaue.

Pedro.
You embrace your charge too willingly: I
thinke this is your daughter.

Leonato.
Her mother hath many times told me so.

Bened.
Were you in doubt that you askt her?

Leonato.
Signior Benedicke, no, for then were you a childe.

Pedro.
You haue it full Benedicke, we may ghesse by
this, what you are, being a man, truely the Lady fathers
her selfe: be happie Lady, for you are like an honorable
father.

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

Beat.
I wonder that you will still be talking, signior
Benedicke, no body markes you.

Ben.
What my deere Ladie Disdaine! are you yet
liuing?

Beat.
Is it possible Disdaine should die, while shee hath
such meete foode to feede it, as Signior Benedicke? Curtesie
it selfe must conuert to Disdaine, if you come in her
presence.

Bene.
Then is curtesie a turne-coate, but it is certaine I
am loued of all Ladies, onely you excepted: and I would
I could finde in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for
truely I loue none.

Beat.
A deere happinesse to women, they would else
haue beene troubled with a pernitious Suter, I thanke
God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that,
I had rather heare my Dog barke at a Crow, than a man sweare
he loues me.

Bene.
God keepe your Ladiship still in that minde,
so some Gentleman or other shall scape a predestinate
scratcht face.

Beat.
Scratching could not make it worse, and 'twere
such a face as yours were.

Bene.
Well, you are a rare Parrat teacher.

Beat.
A bird of my tongue, is better than a beast of
your.

Ben.
I would my horse had the speed of your tongue,
and so good a continuer, but keepe your way a Gods
name, I haue done.

Beat.
You alwaies end with a Iades tricke, I know you
of old.

Pedro.
This is the summe of all: Leonato, signior
Claudio, and signior Benedicke; my deere friend Leonato,
hath inuited you all, I tell him we shall stay here, at the
least a moneth, and he heartily praies some occasion may
detaine vs longer: I dare sweare hee is no hypocrite, but
praies from his heart.

Leon.
If you sweare, my Lord, you shall not be

forsworne, let mee bid you welcome, my
Lord, being reconciled to the Prince your brother: I owe
you all duetie.

Iohn.
I thanke you, I am not of many words, but I
thanke you.

Leon.
Please it your grace leade on?

Pedro.
Your hand Leonato, we will goe together.
Exeunt. Manet Benedicke and Claudio.

Clau.
Benedicke, didst thou note the daughter of signior
Leonato?

Bene.
I noted her not, but I lookt on her.

Claud.
Is she not a modest yong Ladie?

Bene.
Doe you question me as an honest man should
doe, for my simple true iudgement? or would you haue
me speake after my custome, as being a professed tyrant
to their sexe?

Clau.
No, I pray thee speake in sober iudgement.

Bene.
Why yfaith me thinks shee's too low for a
hie praise, too browne for a faire praise, and too little for
a great praise, onely this commendation I can affoord her,
that were shee other then she is, she were vnhandsome,
and being no other, but as she is, I doe not like her.

Clau.
Thou think'st I am in sport, I pray thee tell me
truely how thou lik'st her.

Bene.
Would you buie her, that you enquier after her?

Clau.
Can the world buie such a iewell?

Ben.
Yea, and a case to put it into, but speake you
this with a sad brow? Or doe you play the flowting iacke,
to tell vs Cupid is a good Hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare
Carpenter: Come, in what key shall a man take you to goe
in the song?

Clau.
In mine eie, she is the sweetest Ladie that euer I
lookt on.

Bene.
I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no
such matter: there's her cosin, and she were not possest
with a furie, exceedes her as much in beautie, as the
first of Maie doth the last of December: but I hope you
haue no intent to turne husband, haue you?

Clau.
I would scarce trust my selfe, though I had sworne
the contrarie, if Hero would be my wife.

Bene.
Ist come to this? in faith hath not the world
one man but he will weare his cap with suspition? shall
I neuer see a batcheller of three score againe? goe to yfaith,
and thou wilt needes thrust thy necke into a yoke, weare the
print of it, and sigh away sundaies: looke, don Pedro
is returned to seeke you.
Enter don Pedro, Iohn the bastard.

Pedr.
What secret hath held you here, that you
followed not to Leonatoes?

Bened.
I would your Grace would constraine mee to tell.

Pedro.
I charge thee on thy allegeance.

Ben.
You heare, Count Claudio, I can be secret as a
dumbe man, I would haue you thinke so (but on my allegiance,
marke you this, on my allegiance) hee is in loue,
With who? now that is your Graces part: marke how short
his answere is, with Hero, Leonatoes short daughter.

Clau.
If this were so, so were it vttred.

Bened.
Like the old tale, my Lord, it is not so, nor
'twas not so: but indeede, God forbid it should be so.

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

Pedro.
Amen, if you loue her, for the Ladie is verie
well worthie.

Clau.
You speake this to fetch me in, my Lord.

Pedr.
By my troth I speake my thought.

Clau.
And in faith, my Lord, I spoke mine.

Bened.
And by my two faiths and troths, my Lord, I
speake mine.

Clau.
That I loue her, I feele.

Pedr.
That she is worthie, I know.

Bened.
That I neither feele how shee should be loued,
nor know how shee should be worthie, is the opinion that
fire cannot melt out of me, I will die in it at the stake.

Pedr.
Thou wast euer an obstinate heretique in the
despight of Beautie.

Clau.
And neuer could maintaine his part, but in the
force of his will.

Ben.
That a woman conceiued me, I thanke her: that
she brought mee vp, I likewise giue her most humble
thankes: but that I will haue a rechate winded in my
forehead, or hang my bugle in an inuisible baldricke, all
women shall pardon me: because I will not do them the
wrong to mistrust any, I will doe my selfe the right to trust
none: and the fine is, (for the which I may goe the finer) I
will liue a Batchellor.

Pedro.
I shall see thee ere I die, looke pale with loue.

Bene.
With anger, with sicknesse, or with hunger, my
Lord, not with loue: proue that euer I loose more blood
with loue, then I will get againe with drinking, picke out
mine eyes with a Ballet-makers penne, and hang me vp
at the doore of a brothel-house for the signe of blinde
Cupid.

Pedro.
Well, if euer thou doost fall from this faith,
thou wilt proue a notable argument.

Bene.
If I do, hang me in a bottle like a Cat, & shoot
at me, and he that hit's me, let him be clapt on the
shoulder, and cal'd Adam.

Pedro.
Well, as time shall trie:
In time the sauage / Bull doth beare tne yoake.

Bene.
The sauage bull may, but if euer the sensible
Benedicke beare it, plucke off the bulles hornes, and set them
in my forehead, and let me be vildely painted, and in such
great Letters as they write, heere is good horse to hire:
let them signifie vnder my signe, here you may see
Benedicke the married man.

Clau.
If this should euer happen, thou wouldst bee
horne mad.

Pedro.
Nay, if Cupid haue not spent all his Quiuer in
Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.

Bene.
I looke for an earthquake too then.

Pedro.
Well, you will temporize with the houres, in
the meane time, good Signior Benedicke, repaire to Leonatoes,
commend me to him, and tell him I will not faile
him at supper, for indeede he hath made great
preparation.

Bene.
I haue almost matter enough in me for such an
Embassage, and so I commit you.

Clau.
To the tuition of God. From my house, if I had
it.

Pedro.
The sixt of Iuly. Your louing friend,
Benedick.

Bene.
Nay mocke not, mocke not; the body of your
discourse is sometime guarded with fragments, and the
guardes are but slightly basted on neither, ere you flout
old ends any further, examine your conscience, and so I
leaue you.
Exit.

Clau.
My Liege, your Highnesse now may doe mee good.

Pedro.
My loue is thine to teach, teach it but how,
And thou shalt see how apt it is to learne
Any hard Lesson that may do thee good.

Clau.
Hath Leonato any sonne my Lord?

Pedro.
No childe but Hero, she's his onely heire.
Dost thou affect her Claudio?

Clau.
O my Lord,
When you went onward on this ended action,
I look'd vpon her with a souldiers eie,
That lik'd, but had a rougher taske in hand,
Than to driue liking to the name of loue:
But now I am return'd, and that warre-thoughts
Haue left their places vacant: in their roomes,
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
All prompting mee how faire yong Hero is,
Saying I lik'd her ere I went to warres.

Pedro.
Thou wilt be like a louer presently,
And tire the hearer with a booke of words:
If thou dost loue faire Hero, cherish it,
And I will breake with her:
wast not to this end,
That thou beganst to twist so fine a story?

Clau.
How sweetly doe you minister to loue,
That know loues griefe by his complexion!
But lest my liking might too sodaine seeme,
I would haue salu'd it with a longer treatise.

Ped.
What need ye bridge much broder then the flood?
The fairest graunt is the necessitie:
Looke what will serue, is fit: 'tis once, thou louest,
And I will fit thee with the remedie,
I know we shall haue reuelling to night,
I will assume thy part in some disguise,
And tell faire Hero I am Claudio,
And in her bosome Ile vnclaspe my heart,
And take her hearing prisoner with the force
And strong incounter of my amorous tale:
Then after, to her father will I breake,
And the conclusion is, shee shall be thine,
In practise let vs put it presently.
Exeunt.
Original text
Act I, Scene II
Enter Leonato and an old man, brother to Leonato.

Leo.
How now brother, where is my cosen your
son: hath he prouided this musicke?

Old.
He is very busie about it, but brother, I can tell
you newes that you yet dreamt not of.

Lo.
Are they good?

Old.
As the euents stamps them, but they haue a
good couer: they shew well outward, the Prince and
Count Claudio walking in a thick pleached alley in
my orchard, were thus ouer-heard by a man of
mine: the Prince discouered to Claudio that hee loued
my niece your daughter, and meant to acknowledge it
this night in a dance, and if hee found her accordant, hee
meant to take the present time by the top, and instantly
breake with you of it.

Leo.
Hath the fellow any wit that told you this?

Old.
A good sharpe fellow, I will send for him, and
question him your selfe.

Leo.
No, no; wee will hold it as a dreame, till it appeare
it selfe: but I will acquaint my daughter withall, that she
may be the better prepared for an answer, if peraduenture
this bee true: goe you and tell her of it:


coosins, you know what you haue to doe,
O I crie you mercie friend, goe you with mee and I will
vse your skill, / good cosin haue a care this busie time.
Exeunt.
Original text
Act I, Scene III
Enter Sir Iohn the Bastard, and Conrade his
companion.

Con.
What the good yeere my Lord, why are you thus
out of measure sad?

Ioh.
There is no measure in the occasion that
breeds, therefore the sadnesse is without limit.

Con.
You should heare reason.

Iohn.
And when I haue heard it, what blessing bringeth
it?

Con.
If not a present remedy, yet a patient
sufferance.

Ioh.
I wonder that thou (being as thou saist thou
art, borne vnder Saturne) goest about to apply a morall
medicine, to a mortifying mischiefe: I cannot hide what
I am: I must bee sad when I haue cause, and smile at no
mans iests, eat when I haue stomacke, and wait for no
mans leisure: sleepe when I am drowsie, and tend on no
mans businesse, laugh when I am merry, and claw no
man in his humor.

Con.
Yea, but you must not make the ful show of this,
till you may doe it without controllment, you haue of late
stood out against your brother, and hee hath tane you
newly into his grace, where it is impossible you should
take root, but by the faire weather that you make
your selfe, it is needful that you frame the season for your
owne haruest.

Iohn.
I had rather be a canker in a hedge, then a rose
in his grace, and it better fits my bloud to be disdain'd
of all, then to fashion a carriage to rob loue from any: in
this (though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest
man) it must not be denied but I am a plaine dealing
villaine, I am trusted with a mussell, and enfranchisde with
a clog, therefore I haue decreed, not to sing in my cage:
if I had my mouth, I would bite: if I had my liberty, I
would do my liking: in the meane time, let me be that I
am, and seeke not to alter me.

Con.
Can you make no vse of your discontent?

Iohn.
I will make all vse of it, for I vse it onely. Who
comes here?
Enter Borachio.
what newes Borachio?

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

Iohn.
Will it serue for any Modell to build mischiefe
on? What is hee for a foole that betrothes himselfe to
vnquietnesse?

Bor.
Mary it is your brothers right hand.

Iohn.
Who, the most exquisite Claudio?

Bor.
Euen he.

Iohn.
A proper squier, and who, and who, which
way lookes he?

Bor.
Mary on Hero, the daughter and Heire of
Leonato.

Iohn.
A very forward March-chicke, how came you
to this?

Bor.
Being entertain'd for a perfumer, as I was
smoaking a musty roome, comes me the Prince and
Claudio, hand in hand in sad conference: I whipt
behind the Arras, and there heard it agreed vpon, that
the Prince should wooe Hero for himselfe, and hauing
obtain'd her, giue her to Count Claudio.

Iohn.
Come, come, let vs thither, this may proue
food to my displeasure, that young start-vp hath all the
glorie of my ouerthrow: if I can crosse him any way,
I blesse my selfe euery way, you are both sure, and will
assist mee?

Conr.
To the death my Lord.

Iohn.
Let vs to the great supper, their cheere is the
greater that I am subdued, would the Cooke were of my
minde: shall we goe proue whats to be done?

Bor.
Wee'll wait vpon your Lordship.
Exeunt.
Modern text
Act I, Scene I
Enter Leonato, Governor of Messina, Hero, his
daughter, Beatrice his niece, with a Messenger

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

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

LEONATO
How many gentlemen have you lost in this
action?

MESSENGER
But few of any sort, and none of name.

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

MESSENGER
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.

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

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

LEONATO
Did he break out into tears?

MESSENGER
In great measure.

LEONATO
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!

BEATRICE
I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned from
the wars, or no?

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

LEONATO
What is he that you ask for, niece?

HERO
My cousin means Signor Benedick of Padua.

MESSENGER
O, he's returned, and as pleasant as ever he
was.

BEATRICE
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.

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

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

BEATRICE
You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat
it; he is a very valiant trencher-man, he hath an excellent
stomach.

MESSENGER
And a good soldier too, lady.

BEATRICE
And a good soldier to a lady. But what is he to a
lord?

MESSENGER
A lord to a lord, a man to a man, stuffed with
all honourable virtues.

BEATRICE
It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man;
but for the stuffing – well, we are all mortal.

LEONATO
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
them.

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

MESSENGER
Is't possible?

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

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

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

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

BEATRICE
O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease.
He is sooner caught than the pestilence, 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.

MESSENGER
I will hold friends with you, lady.

BEATRICE
Do, good friend.

LEONATO
You will never run mad, niece.

BEATRICE
No, not till a hot January.

MESSENGER
Don Pedro is approached.
Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, and
Don John the Bastard

DON PEDRO
Good Signor Leonato, are you come to meet
your trouble? The fashion of the world is to avoid cost,
and you encounter it.

LEONATO
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.

DON PEDRO
You embrace your charge too willingly. I
think this is your daughter.

LEONATO
Her mother hath many times told me so.

BENEDICK
Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?

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

DON PEDRO
You have it full, Benedick; we may guess by
this what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady fathers
herself. Be happy, lady; for you are like an honourable
father.

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

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

BENEDICK
What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet
living?

BEATRICE
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
presence.

BENEDICK
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.

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

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

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

BENEDICK
Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.

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

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

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

DON PEDRO
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.

LEONATO
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.

DON JOHN
I thank you. I am not of many words, but I
thank you.

LEONATO
Please it your grace lead on?

DON PEDRO
Your hand, Leonato; we will go together.
Exeunt all except Benedick and Claudio

CLAUDIO
Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signor
Leonato?

BENEDICK
I noted her not, but I looked on her.

CLAUDIO
Is she not a modest young lady?

BENEDICK
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?

CLAUDIO
No, I pray thee speak in sober judgement.

BENEDICK
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.

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

BENEDICK
Would you buy her, that you inquire after her?

CLAUDIO
Can the world buy such a jewel?

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

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

BENEDICK
I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no
such matter; 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?

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

BENEDICK
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

DON PEDRO
What secret hath held you here, that you
followed not to Leonato's?

BENEDICK
I would your grace would constrain me to tell.

DON PEDRO
I charge thee on thy allegiance.

BENEDICK
You hear, Count Claudio; I can be secret as a
dumb man, I would have you think so; but, on my allegiance,
legiance, 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.

CLAUDIO
If this were so, so were it uttered.

BENEDICK
Like the old tale, my lord: 'It is not so, nor
'twas not so; but, indeed, God forbid it should be so!

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

DON PEDRO
Amen, if you love her; for the lady is very
well worthy.

CLAUDIO
You speak this to fetch me in, my lord.

DON PEDRO
By my troth, I speak my thought.

CLAUDIO
And in faith, my lord, I spoke mine.

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

CLAUDIO
That I love her, I feel.

DON PEDRO
That she is worthy, I know.

BENEDICK
That I neither feel how she should be loved,
nor know how she should be worthy, is the opinion that
fire cannot melt out of me; I will die in it at the stake.

DON PEDRO
Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the
despite of beauty.

CLAUDIO
And never could maintain his part but in the
force of his will.

BENEDICK
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.

DON PEDRO
I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.

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

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

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

DON PEDRO
Well, as time shall try:
‘ In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke.’

BENEDICK
The savage bull may; but if ever the sensible
Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull's horns and set them
in my forehead, and let me be vilely painted; and in such
great letters as they write ‘ Here is good horse to hire,’
let them signify under my sign ‘ Here you may see
Benedick the married man.’

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

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

BENEDICK
I look for an earthquake too, then.

DON PEDRO
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
preparation.

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

CLAUDIO
To the tuition of God. From my house, if I had
it –

DON PEDRO
The sixth of July. Your loving friend,
Benedick.

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

CLAUDIO
My liege, your highness now may do me good.

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

CLAUDIO
Hath Leonato any son, my lord?

DON PEDRO
No child but Hero; she's his only heir.
Dost thou affect her, Claudio?

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.

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

CLAUDIO
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.

DON PEDRO
What need the bridge much broader than the flood?
The fairest grant is the necessity.
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.
Exeunt
Modern text
Act I, Scene II
Enter Leonato and Antonio, meeting

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

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

LEONATO
Are they good?

ANTONIO
As the event stamps them; but they have a
good cover, they show well outward. The Prince and
Count Claudio, walking in a thick-pleached alley in
mine orchard, were thus much overheard by a man of
mine: the Prince discovered to Claudio that he loved
my niece your daughter, and meant to acknowledge it
this night in a dance; and if he found her accordant, he
meant to take the present time by the top and instantly
break with you of it.

LEONATO
Hath the fellow any wit that told you this?

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

LEONATO
No, no; we will hold it as a dream, till it appear
itself; but I will acquaint my daughter withal, that she
be the better prepared for an answer, if peradventure
this be true. Go you and tell her of it.
Attendants cross the stage, led by Antonio's son, and
accompanied by Balthasar the musician
Cousin, you know what you have to do. (To the musician)
O, I cry you mercy, friend; go you with me, and I will
use your skill. Good cousin, have a care this busy time.
Exeunt
Modern text
Act I, Scene III
Enter Don John the Bastard and Conrade his
companion

CONRADE
What the good-year, my lord! Why are you thus
out of measure sad?

DON JOHN
There is no measure in the occasion that
breeds; therefore the sadness is without limit.

CONRADE
You should hear reason.

DON JOHN
And when I have heard it, what blessing brings
it?

CONRADE
If not a present remedy, at least a patient
sufferance.

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

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

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

CONRADE
Can you make no use of your discontent?

DON JOHN
I make all use of it, for I use it only. Who
comes here?
Enter Borachio
What news, Borachio?

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

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

BORACHIO
Marry, it is your brother's right hand.

DON JOHN
Who? The most exquisite Claudio?

BORACHIO
Even he.

DON JOHN
A proper squire! And who, and who? Which
way looks he?

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

DON JOHN
A very forward March-chick! How came you
to this?

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

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

CONRADE
To the death, my lord.

DON JOHN
Let us to the great supper; their cheer is the
greater that I am subdued. Would the cook were o' my
mind! Shall we go prove what's to be done?

BORACHIO
We'll wait upon your lordship.
Exeunt
SHAKESPEARE'S WORDS © 2018 DAVID CRYSTAL & BEN CRYSTAL