Much Ado about Nothing

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Act I, Scene 1

Before LEONATO’S house.

       
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[Enter LEONATO, HERO, and BEATRICE, with a Messenger]

  • Leonato. I learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon
    comes this night to Messina.
  • Messenger. He is very near by this: he was not three leagues off
    when I left him. 5
  • 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 Peter hath
    bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio. 10
  • 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 15
    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 20
    not show itself modest enough without a badge of
    bitterness.
  • Leonato. Did he break out into tears?
  • Leonato. A kind overflow of kindness: there are no faces 25
    truer than those that are so washed. How much
    better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!
  • Beatrice. I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the
    wars or no?
  • Messenger. I know none of that name, lady: there was none such 30
    in the army of any sort.
  • Leonato. What is he that you ask for, niece?
  • Hero. My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.
  • Messenger. O, he's returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.
  • Beatrice. He set up his bills here in Messina and challenged 35
    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. 40
  • Leonato. Faith, niece, you tax Signior 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 trencherman; he hath an 45
    excellent stomach.
  • 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. 50
  • 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 Signior Benedick and her:
    they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit 55
    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 60
    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.
  • 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 70
    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 75
    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.
  • Leonato. You will never run mad, niece.

[Enter DON PEDRO, DON JOHN, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, and BALTHASAR]

  • Don Pedro. Good Signior Leonato, you are come to meet your 85
    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 90
    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? 95
  • 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. 100
  • Benedick. If Signior 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, Signior
    Benedick: nobody marks you. 105
  • 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 Signior Benedick?
    Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come
    in her presence. 110
  • 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 115
    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 120
    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. 125
  • 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, i' God's
    name; I have done.
  • Beatrice. You always end with a jade's trick: I know you of old. 130
  • Don Pedro. That is the sum of all, Leonato. Signior Claudio
    and Signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath
    invited you all. I tell him we shall stay here at
    the least a month; and he heartily prays some
    occasion may detain us longer. I dare swear he is no 135
    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. 140
  • 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 Signior 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 judgment; or would you have me speak 150
    after my custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex?
  • Claudio. No; I pray thee speak in sober judgment.
  • 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 155
    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. 160
  • 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 165
    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 170
    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 175
    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 three-score again?
    Go to, i' faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck 180
    into a yoke, wear the print of it and sigh away
    Sundays. Look Don Pedro is returned to seek you.

[Re-enter DON PEDRO]

  • Don Pedro. What secret hath held you here, that you followed
    not to Leonato's? 185
  • Benedick. I would your grace would constrain me to tell.
  • Benedick. 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 190
    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 195
    '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. 200
  • Claudio. You speak this to fetch me in, my lord.
  • 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. 205
  • 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 210
    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 215
    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 220
    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 225
    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. 230
  • 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.' 235
  • 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 240
    '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. 245
  • Don Pedro. Well, you temporize with the hours. In the
    meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to
    Leonato's: commend me to him and tell him I will
    not fail him at supper; for indeed he hath made
    great preparation. 250
  • 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 255
    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? 265
  • 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 look'd upon her with a soldier's eye, 270
    That liked, but had a rougher task in hand
    Than to drive liking to the name of love:
    But now I am return'd and that war-thoughts
    Have left their places vacant, in their rooms
    Come thronging soft and delicate desires, 275
    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, 280
    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! 285
    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, 290
    And I will fit thee with the remedy.
    I know we shall have revelling to-night:
    I will assume thy part in some disguise
    And tell fair Hero I am Claudio,
    And in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart 295
    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. 300

[Exeunt]

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