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Much Ado about Nothing

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Act IV, Scene 1

A church.



  • Leonato. Come, Friar Francis, be brief; only to the plain
    form of marriage, and you shall recount their 1645
    particular duties afterwards.
  • Leonato. To be married to her: friar, you come to marry her.
  • Friar Francis. Lady, you come hither to be married to this count. 1650
  • Friar Francis. If either of you know any inward impediment why you
    should not be conjoined, charge you, on your souls,
    to utter it.
  • Hero. None, my lord.
  • Leonato. I dare make his answer, none.
  • Claudio. O, what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily
    do, not knowing what they do! 1660
  • Benedick. How now! interjections? Why, then, some be of
    laughing, as, ah, ha, he!
  • Claudio. Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave:
    Will you with free and unconstrained soul
    Give me this maid, your daughter? 1665
  • Leonato. As freely, son, as God did give her me.
  • Claudio. And what have I to give you back, whose worth
    May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?
  • Don Pedro. Nothing, unless you render her again.
  • Claudio. Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness. 1670
    There, Leonato, take her back again:
    Give not this rotten orange to your friend;
    She's but the sign and semblance of her honour.
    Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
    O, what authority and show of truth 1675
    Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
    Comes not that blood as modest evidence
    To witness simple virtue? Would you not swear,
    All you that see her, that she were a maid,
    By these exterior shows? But she is none: 1680
    She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
    Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.
  • Leonato. What do you mean, my lord?
  • Claudio. Not to be married,
    Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton. 1685
  • Leonato. Dear my lord, if you, in your own proof,
    Have vanquish'd the resistance of her youth,
    And made defeat of her virginity,—
  • Claudio. I know what you would say: if I have known her,
    You will say she did embrace me as a husband, 1690
    And so extenuate the 'forehand sin:
    No, Leonato,
    I never tempted her with word too large;
    But, as a brother to his sister, show'd
    Bashful sincerity and comely love. 1695
  • Hero. And seem'd I ever otherwise to you?
  • Claudio. Out on thee! Seeming! I will write against it:
    You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
    As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;
    But you are more intemperate in your blood 1700
    Than Venus, or those pamper'd animals
    That rage in savage sensuality.
  • Hero. Is my lord well, that he doth speak so wide?
  • Leonato. Sweet prince, why speak not you?
  • Don Pedro. What should I speak? 1705
    I stand dishonour'd, that have gone about
    To link my dear friend to a common stale.
  • Leonato. Are these things spoken, or do I but dream?
  • Don John. Sir, they are spoken, and these things are true.
  • Benedick. This looks not like a nuptial. 1710
  • Claudio. Leonato, stand I here?
    Is this the prince? is this the prince's brother?
    Is this face Hero's? are our eyes our own?
  • Leonato. All this is so: but what of this, my lord? 1715
  • Claudio. Let me but move one question to your daughter;
    And, by that fatherly and kindly power
    That you have in her, bid her answer truly.
  • Leonato. I charge thee do so, as thou art my child.
  • Hero. O, God defend me! how am I beset! 1720
    What kind of catechising call you this?
  • Claudio. To make you answer truly to your name.
  • Hero. Is it not Hero? Who can blot that name
    With any just reproach?
  • Claudio. Marry, that can Hero; 1725
    Hero itself can blot out Hero's virtue.
    What man was he talk'd with you yesternight
    Out at your window betwixt twelve and one?
    Now, if you are a maid, answer to this.
  • Hero. I talk'd with no man at that hour, my lord. 1730
  • Don Pedro. Why, then are you no maiden. Leonato,
    I am sorry you must hear: upon mine honour,
    Myself, my brother and this grieved count
    Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night
    Talk with a ruffian at her chamber-window 1735
    Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
    Confess'd the vile encounters they have had
    A thousand times in secret.
  • Don John. Fie, fie! they are not to be named, my lord,
    Not to be spoke of; 1740
    There is not chastity enough in language
    Without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,
    I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.
  • Claudio. O Hero, what a Hero hadst thou been,
    If half thy outward graces had been placed 1745
    About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!
    But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! farewell,
    Thou pure impiety and impious purity!
    For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love,
    And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang, 1750
    To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
    And never shall it more be gracious.
  • Leonato. Hath no man's dagger here a point for me?

[HERO swoons]

  • Beatrice. Why, how now, cousin! wherefore sink you down? 1755
  • Don John. Come, let us go. These things, come thus to light,
    Smother her spirits up.


  • Beatrice. Dead, I think. Help, uncle! 1760
    Hero! why, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick! Friar!
  • Leonato. O Fate! take not away thy heavy hand.
    Death is the fairest cover for her shame
    That may be wish'd for.
  • Leonato. Wherefore! Why, doth not every earthly thing
    Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny 1770
    The story that is printed in her blood?
    Do not live, Hero; do not ope thine eyes:
    For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,
    Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
    Myself would, on the rearward of reproaches, 1775
    Strike at thy life. Grieved I, I had but one?
    Chid I for that at frugal nature's frame?
    O, one too much by thee! Why had I one?
    Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes?
    Why had I not with charitable hand 1780
    Took up a beggar's issue at my gates,
    Who smirch'd thus and mired with infamy,
    I might have said 'No part of it is mine;
    This shame derives itself from unknown loins'?
    But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised 1785
    And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
    That I myself was to myself not mine,
    Valuing of her,—why, she, O, she is fallen
    Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
    Hath drops too few to wash her clean again 1790
    And salt too little which may season give
    To her foul-tainted flesh!
  • Benedick. Sir, sir, be patient.
    For my part, I am so attired in wonder,
    I know not what to say. 1795
  • Beatrice. O, on my soul, my cousin is belied!
  • Benedick. Lady, were you her bedfellow last night?
  • Beatrice. No, truly not; although, until last night,
    I have this twelvemonth been her bedfellow.
  • Leonato. Confirm'd, confirm'd! O, that is stronger made 1800
    Which was before barr'd up with ribs of iron!
    Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie,
    Who loved her so, that, speaking of her foulness,
    Wash'd it with tears? Hence from her! let her die.
  • Friar Francis. Hear me a little; for I have only been 1805
    Silent so long and given way unto
    This course of fortune [—]
    By noting of the lady I have mark'd
    A thousand blushing apparitions
    To start into her face, a thousand innocent shames 1810
    In angel whiteness beat away those blushes;
    And in her eye there hath appear'd a fire,
    To burn the errors that these princes hold
    Against her maiden truth. Call me a fool;
    Trust not my reading nor my observations, 1815
    Which with experimental seal doth warrant
    The tenor of my book; trust not my age,
    My reverence, calling, nor divinity,
    If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
    Under some biting error. 1820
  • Leonato. Friar, it cannot be.
    Thou seest that all the grace that she hath left
    Is that she will not add to her damnation
    A sin of perjury; she not denies it:
    Why seek'st thou then to cover with excuse 1825
    That which appears in proper nakedness?
  • Hero. They know that do accuse me; I know none:
    If I know more of any man alive
    Than that which maiden modesty doth warrant, 1830
    Let all my sins lack mercy! O my father,
    Prove you that any man with me conversed
    At hours unmeet, or that I yesternight
    Maintain'd the change of words with any creature,
    Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death! 1835
  • Benedick. Two of them have the very bent of honour;
    And if their wisdoms be misled in this,
    The practise of it lives in John the bastard,
    Whose spirits toil in frame of villanies. 1840
  • Leonato. I know not. If they speak but truth of her,
    These hands shall tear her; if they wrong her honour,
    The proudest of them shall well hear of it.
    Time hath not yet so dried this blood of mine,
    Nor age so eat up my invention, 1845
    Nor fortune made such havoc of my means,
    Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends,
    But they shall find, awaked in such a kind,
    Both strength of limb and policy of mind,
    Ability in means and choice of friends, 1850
    To quit me of them throughly.
  • Friar Francis. Pause awhile,
    And let my counsel sway you in this case.
    Your daughter here the princes left for dead:
    Let her awhile be secretly kept in, 1855
    And publish it that she is dead indeed;
    Maintain a mourning ostentation
    And on your family's old monument
    Hang mournful epitaphs and do all rites
    That appertain unto a burial. 1860
  • Leonato. What shall become of this? what will this do?
  • Friar Francis. Marry, this well carried shall on her behalf
    Change slander to remorse; that is some good:
    But not for that dream I on this strange course,
    But on this travail look for greater birth. 1865
    She dying, as it must so be maintain'd,
    Upon the instant that she was accused,
    Shall be lamented, pitied and excused
    Of every hearer: for it so falls out
    That what we have we prize not to the worth 1870
    Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost,
    Why, then we rack the value, then we find
    The virtue that possession would not show us
    Whiles it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio:
    When he shall hear she died upon his words, 1875
    The idea of her life shall sweetly creep
    Into his study of imagination,
    And every lovely organ of her life
    Shall come apparell'd in more precious habit,
    More moving-delicate and full of life, 1880
    Into the eye and prospect of his soul,
    Than when she lived indeed; then shall he mourn,
    If ever love had interest in his liver,
    And wish he had not so accused her,
    No, though he thought his accusation true. 1885
    Let this be so, and doubt not but success
    Will fashion the event in better shape
    Than I can lay it down in likelihood.
    But if all aim but this be levell'd false,
    The supposition of the lady's death 1890
    Will quench the wonder of her infamy:
    And if it sort not well, you may conceal her,
    As best befits her wounded reputation,
    In some reclusive and religious life,
    Out of all eyes, tongues, minds and injuries. 1895
  • Benedick. Signior Leonato, let the friar advise you:
    And though you know my inwardness and love
    Is very much unto the prince and Claudio,
    Yet, by mine honour, I will deal in this
    As secretly and justly as your soul 1900
    Should with your body.
  • Leonato. Being that I flow in grief,
    The smallest twine may lead me.
  • Friar Francis. 'Tis well consented: presently away;
    For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure. 1905
    Come, lady, die to live: this wedding-day
    Perhaps is but prolong'd: have patience and endure.

[Exeunt all but BENEDICK and BEATRICE]

  • Benedick. Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?
  • Beatrice. Yea, and I will weep a while longer. 1910
  • Beatrice. You have no reason; I do it freely.
  • Benedick. Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged.
  • Beatrice. Ah, how much might the man deserve of me that would right her!
  • Benedick. Is there any way to show such friendship? 1915
  • Beatrice. A very even way, but no such friend.
  • Beatrice. It is a man's office, but not yours.
  • Benedick. I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is
    not that strange? 1920
  • Beatrice. As strange as the thing I know not. It were as
    possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as
    you: but believe me not; and yet I lie not; I
    confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.
  • Benedick. By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me. 1925
  • Benedick. I will swear by it that you love me; and I will make
    him eat it that says I love not you.
  • Benedick. With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest 1930
    I love thee.
  • Benedick. What offence, sweet Beatrice?
  • Beatrice. You have stayed me in a happy hour: I was about to
    protest I loved you. 1935
  • Benedick. And do it with all thy heart.
  • Beatrice. I love you with so much of my heart that none is
    left to protest.
  • Benedick. Come, bid me do any thing for thee.
  • Beatrice. You kill me to deny it. Farewell.
  • Beatrice. I am gone, though I am here: there is no love in
    you: nay, I pray you, let me go. 1945
  • Beatrice. You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.
  • Beatrice. Is he not approved in the height a villain, that
    hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O
    that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they
    come to take hands; and then, with public
    accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour, 1955
    —O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart
    in the market-place.
  • Beatrice. Talk with a man out at a window! A proper saying!
  • Beatrice. Sweet Hero! She is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone.
  • Beatrice. Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony,
    a goodly count, Count Comfect; a sweet gallant,
    surely! O that I were a man for his sake! or that I 1965
    had any friend would be a man for my sake! But
    manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into
    compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and
    trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules
    that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a 1970
    man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.
  • Benedick. Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee.
  • Beatrice. Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it.
  • Benedick. Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?
  • Beatrice. Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul. 1975
  • Benedick. Enough, I am engaged; I will challenge him. I will
    kiss your hand, and so I leave you. By this hand,
    Claudio shall render me a dear account. As you
    hear of me, so think of me. Go, comfort your
    cousin: I must say she is dead: and so, farewell. 1980