Much Ado About Nothing

By William Shakespeare.


The Standard Ebooks logo.

This ebook is the product of many hours of hard work by volunteers for Standard Ebooks, and builds on the hard work of other literature lovers made possible by the public domain.

This particular ebook is based on a transcription from Project Gutenberg and on digital scans from the HathiTrust Digital Library.

The source text and artwork in this ebook are believed to be in the United States public domain; that is, they are believed to be free of copyright restrictions in the United States. They may still be copyrighted in other countries, so users located outside of the United States must check their local laws before using this ebook. The creators of, and contributors to, this ebook dedicate their contributions to the worldwide public domain via the terms in the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication. For full license information, see the Uncopyright at the end of this ebook.

Standard Ebooks is a volunteer-driven project that produces ebook editions of public domain literature using modern typography, technology, and editorial standards, and distributes them free of cost. You can download this and other ebooks carefully produced for true book lovers at

Dramatis Personae

Scene: Messina

Much Ado About Nothing

Act I

Scene I

Before Leonato’s House.

Enter Leonato, Hero, and Beatrice, 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 Signior 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 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 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 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 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 Signior 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, Don John, Claudio, Benedick, and Balthasar.
Don Pedro Good Signior Leonato, you are 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 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.
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.
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, i’ 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. 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 heartly 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 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 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 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; and 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.
Re-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, 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 will 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.
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?


O, my lord,
When you went onward on this ended action,
I look’d 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 return’d 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?


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 practice let us put it presently. Exeunt.

Scene II

A room in Leonato’s house.

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 my 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 may be the better prepared for an answer, if peradventure this be true. Go you and tell her of it. Enter attendants. Cousins, you know what you have to do. 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.

Scene III

The same.

Enter Don John and Conrade.
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 blessings 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 of my mind! Shall we go to prove what’s to be done?
Borachio We’ll wait upon your Lordship. Exeunt.

Act II

Scene I

A hall in Leonato’s house.

Enter Leonato, Antonio, Hero, Beatrice, and others.
Leonato Was not Count John here at supper?
Antonio I saw him not.
Beatrice How tartly that gentleman looks! I never can see him but I am heart-burned an hour after.
Hero He is of a very melancholy disposition.
Beatrice He were an excellent man that were made just in the midway between him and Benedick: the one is too like an image and says nothing, and the other too like my lady’s eldest son, evermore tattling.
Leonato Then half Signior Benedick’s tongue in Count John’s mouth, and half Count John’s melancholy in Signior Benedick’s face⁠—
Beatrice With a good leg and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in his purse, such a man would win any woman in the world, if a’ could get her good-will.
Leonato By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get thee a husband, if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue.
Antonio In faith, she’s too curst.
Beatrice Too curst is more than curst: I shall lessen God’s sending that way; for it is said, “God sends a curst cow short horns;” but to a cow too curst he sends none.
Leonato So, by being too curst, God will send you no horns.
Beatrice Just, if he send me no husband; for the which blessing I am at him upon my knees every morning and evening. Lord, I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face: I had rather lie in the woollen.
Leonato You may light on a husband that hath no beard.
Beatrice What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a man: and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a man, I am not for him: therefore I will even take sixpence in earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his apes into hell.
Leonato Well, then, go you into hell?
Beatrice No, but to the gate; and there will the devil meet me, like an old cuckold, with horns on his head, and say, “Get you to heaven, Beatrice, get you to heaven; here’s no place for you maids:” so deliver I up my apes, and away to Saint Peter for the heavens; he shows me where the bachelors sit, and there live we as merry as the day is long.
Antonio To Hero. Well, niece, I trust you will be ruled by your father.
Beatrice Yes, faith; it is my cousin’s duty to make curtsy and say “Father, as it please you.” But yet for all that, cousin, let him be a handsome fellow, or else make another curtsy and say “Father, as it please me.”
Leonato Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.
Beatrice Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust? to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I’ll none: Adam’s sons are my brethren; and, truly, I hold it a sin to match in my kindred.
Leonato Daughter, remember what I told you: if the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.
Beatrice The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not wooed in good time: if the prince be too important, tell him there is measure in everything and so dance out the answer. For, hear me, Hero: wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinque pace: the first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical; the wedding, mannerly-modest, as a measure, full of state and ancientry; and then comes repentance and, with his bad legs, falls into the cinque pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave.
Leonato Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewdly.
Beatrice I have a good eye, uncle; I can see a church by daylight.
Leonato The revellers are entering, brother: make good room. All put on their masks.
Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, Don John, Borachio, Margaret, Ursula, and others, masked.
Don Pedro Lady, will you walk about with your friend?
Hero So you walk softly and look sweetly and say nothing, I am yours for the walk; and especially when I walk away.
Don Pedro With me in your company?
Hero I may say so, when I please.
Don Pedro And when please you to say so?
Hero When I like your favour; for God defend the lute should be like the case!
Don Pedro My visor is Philemon’s roof; within the house is Jove.
Hero Why, then, your visor should be thatched.
Don Pedro Speak low, if you speak love. Drawing her aside.
Balthasar Well, I would you did like me.
Margaret So would not I, for your own sake; for I have many ill qualities.
Balthasar Which is one?
Margaret I say my prayers aloud.
Balthasar I love you the better: the hearers may cry Amen.
Margaret God match me with a good dancer!
Balthasar Amen.
Margaret And God keep him out of my sight when the dance is done! Answer, clerk.
Balthasar No more words: the clerk is answered.
Ursula I know you well enough; you are Signior Antonio.
Antonio At a word, I am not.
Ursula I know you by the waggling of your head.
Antonio To tell you true, I counterfeit him.
Ursula You could never do him so ill-well, unless you were the very man. Here’s his dry hand up and down: you are he, you are he.
Antonio At a word, I am not.
Ursula Come, come, do you think I do not know you by your excellent wit? can virtue hide itself? Go to, mum, you are he: graces will appear, and there’s an end.
Beatrice Will you not tell me who told you so?
Benedick No, you shall pardon me.
Beatrice Nor will you not tell me who you are?
Benedick Not now.
Beatrice That I was disdainful, and that I had my good wit out of the “Hundred Merry Tales:”⁠—well, this was Signior Benedick that said so.
Benedick What’s he?
Beatrice I am sure you know him well enough.
Benedick Not I, believe me.
Beatrice Did he never make you laugh?
Benedick I pray you, what is he?
Beatrice Why, he is the prince’s jester: a very dull fool; only his gift is in devising impossible slanders: none but libertines delight in him; and the commendation is not in his wit, but in his villainy; for he both pleases men and angers them, and then they laugh at him and beat him. I am sure he is in the fleet: I would he had boarded me.
Benedick When I know the gentleman, I’ll tell him what you say.
Beatrice Do, do: he’ll but break a comparison or two on me; which, peradventure not marked or not laughed at, strikes him into melancholy; and then there’s a partridge wing saved, for the fool will eat no supper that night. Music. We must follow the leaders.
Benedick In every good thing.
Beatrice Nay, if they lead to any ill, I will leave them at the next turning. Dance. Then exeunt all except Don John, Borachio, and Claudio.
Don John Sure my brother is amorous on Hero and hath withdrawn her father to break with him about it. The ladies follow her and but one visor remains.
Borachio And that is Claudio: I know him by his bearing.
Don John Are you not Signior Benedick?
Claudio You know me well; I am he.
Don John Signior, you are very near my brother in his love: he is enamoured on Hero; I pray you, dissuade him from her: she is no equal for his birth: you may do the part of an honest man in it.
Claudio How know you he loves her?
Don John I heard him swear his affection.
Borachio So did I too; and he swore he would marry her tonight.
Don John Come, let us to the banquet. Exeunt Don John and Borachio.

Thus answer I in name of Benedick,
But hear these ill news with the ears of Claudio.
’Tis certain so; the prince wooes for himself.
Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
Therefore all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.
This is an accident of hourly proof,
Which I mistrusted not. Farewell, therefore, Hero!

Re-enter Benedick.
Benedick Count Claudio?
Claudio Yea, the same.
Benedick Come, will you go with me?
Claudio Whither?
Benedick Even to the next willow, about your own business, count. What fashion will you wear the garland of? about your neck, like a usurer’s chain? or under your arm, like a lieutenant’s scarf? You must wear it one way, for the prince hath got your Hero.
Claudio I wish him joy of her.
Benedick Why, that’s spoken like an honest drovier: so they sell bullocks. But did you think the prince would have served you thus?
Claudio I pray you, leave me.
Benedick Ho! now you strike like the blind man: ’twas the boy that stole your meat, and you’ll beat the post.
Claudio If it will not be, I’ll leave you. Exit.
Benedick Alas, poor hurt fowl! now will he creep into sedges. But that my Lady Beatrice should know me, and not know me! The prince’s fool! Ha? It may be I go under that title because I am merry. Yea, but so I am apt to do myself wrong; I am not so reputed: it is the base, though bitter, disposition of Beatrice that puts the world into her person, and so gives me out. Well, I’ll be revenged as I may.
Re-enter Don Pedro.
Don Pedro Now, signior, where’s the count? did you see him?
Benedick Troth, my lord, I have played the part of Lady Fame. I found him here as melancholy as a lodge in a warren: I told him, and I think I told him true, that your grace had got the good will of this young lady; and I offered him my company to a willow tree, either to make him a garland, as being forsaken, or to bind him up a rod, as being worthy to be whipped.
Don Pedro To be whipped! What’s his fault?
Benedick The flat transgression of a schoolboy, who, being overjoyed with finding a bird’s nest, shows it his companion, and he steals it.
Don Pedro Wilt thou make a trust a transgression? The transgression is in the stealer.
Benedick Yet it had not been amiss the rod had been made, and the garland too; for the garland he might have worn himself, and the rod he might have bestowed on you, who, as I take it, have stolen his bird’s nest.
Don Pedro I will but teach them to sing, and restore them to the owner.
Benedick If their singing answer your saying, by my faith, you say honestly.
Don Pedro The Lady Beatrice hath a quarrel to you: the gentleman that danced with her told her she is much wronged by you.
Benedick O, she misused me past the endurance of a block! an oak but with one green leaf on it would have answered her; my very visor began to assume life and scold with her. She told me, not thinking I had been myself, that I was the prince’s jester, that I was duller than a great thaw; huddling jest upon jest with such impossible conveyance upon me that I stood like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs: if her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her; she would infect to the north star. I would not marry her, though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed: she would have made Hercules have turned spit, yea, and have cleft his club to make the fire too. Come, talk not of her: you shall find her the infernal Ate in good apparel. I would to God some scholar would conjure her; for certainly, while she is here, a man may live as quiet in hell as in a sanctuary; and people sin upon purpose, because they would go thither; so, indeed, all disquiet, horror, and perturbation follows her.
Don Pedro Look, here she comes.
Enter Claudio, Beatrice, Hero, and Leonato.
Benedick Will your grace command me any service to the world’s end? I will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes that you can devise to send me on; I will fetch you a toothpicker now from the furthest inch of Asia, bring you the length of Prester John’s foot, fetch you a hair off the Great Cham’s beard, do you any embassage to the Pygmies, rather than hold three words’ conference with this harpy. You have no employment for me?
Don Pedro None, but to desire your good company.
Benedick O God, sir, here’s a dish I love not: I cannot endure my Lady Tongue. Exit.
Don Pedro Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.
Beatrice Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave him use for it, a double heart for a single one: marry, once before he won it of me with false dice, therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.
Don Pedro You have put him down, lady, you have put him down.
Beatrice So I would not he should do me, my lord, lest I should prove the mother of fools. I have brought Count Claudio, whom you sent me to seek.
Don Pedro Why, how now, count! wherefore are you sad?
Claudio Not sad, my lord.
Don Pedro How then? sick?
Claudio Neither, my lord.
Beatrice The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well; but civil count, civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion.
Don Pedro I’ faith, lady, I think your blazon to be true; though, I’ll be sworn, if he be so, his conceit is false. Here, Claudio, I have wooed in thy name, and fair Hero is won: I have broke with her father, and his good will obtained: name the day of marriage, and God give thee joy!
Leonato Count, take of me my daughter, and with her my fortunes: his grace hath made the match, and all grace say Amen to it.
Beatrice Speak, count, ’tis your cue.
Claudio Silence is the perfectest herald of joy: I were but little happy, if I could say how much. Lady, as you are mine, I am yours: I give away myself for you and dote upon the exchange.
Beatrice Speak, cousin; or, if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss, and let not him speak neither.
Don Pedro In faith, lady, you have a merry heart.
Beatrice Yea, my lord; I thank it, poor fool, it keeps on the windy side of care. My cousin tells him in his ear that he is in her heart.
Claudio And so she doth, cousin.
Beatrice Good Lord, for alliance! Thus goes everyone to the world but I, and I am sunburnt; I may sit in a corner and cry heigh-ho for a husband!
Don Pedro Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.
Beatrice I would rather have one of your father’s getting. Hath your grace ne’er a brother like you? Your father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them.
Don Pedro Will you have me, lady?
Beatrice No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days: your grace is too costly to wear every day. But, I beseech your grace, pardon me: I was born to speak all mirth and no matter.
Don Pedro Your silence most offends me, and to be merry best becomes you; for, out of question, you were born in a merry hour.
Beatrice No, sure, my lord, my mother cried; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born. Cousins, God give you joy!
Leonato Niece, will you look to those things I told you of?
Beatrice I cry you mercy, uncle. By your grace’s pardon. Exit.
Don Pedro By my troth, a pleasant-spirited lady.
Leonato There’s little of the melancholy element in her, my lord: she is never sad but when she sleeps, and not ever sad then; for I have heard my daughter say, she hath often dreamed of unhappiness and waked herself with laughing.
Don Pedro She cannot endure to hear tell of a husband.
Leonato O, by no means: she mocks all her wooers out of suit.
Don Pedro She were an excellent wife for Benedick.
Leonato O Lord, my lord, if they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad.
Don Pedro Count Claudio, when mean you to go to church?
Claudio Tomorrow, my lord: time goes on crutches till love have all his rites.
Leonato Not till Monday, my dear son, which is hence a just seven-night; and a time too brief, too, to have all things answer my mind.
Don Pedro Come, you shake the head at so long a breathing: but, I warrant thee, Claudio, the time shall not go dully by us. I will in the interim undertake one of Hercules’ labours; which is, to bring Signior Benedick and the Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection the one with the other. I would fain have it a match, and I doubt not but to fashion it, if you three will but minister such assistance as I shall give you direction.
Leonato My lord, I am for you, though it cost me ten nights’ watchings.
Claudio And I, my lord.
Don Pedro And you too, gentle Hero?
Hero I will do any modest office, my lord, to help my cousin to a good husband.
Don Pedro And Benedick is not the unhopefullest husband that I know. Thus far can I praise him; he is of a noble strain, of approved valour and confirmed honesty. I will teach you how to humour your cousin, that she shall fall in love with Benedick; and I, with your two helps, will so practise on Benedick that, in despite of his quick wit and his queasy stomach, he shall fall in love with Beatrice. If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer: his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods. Go in with me, and I will tell you my drift. Exeunt.

Scene II

The same.

Enter Don John and Borachio.
Don John It is so; the Count Claudio shall marry the daughter of Leonato.
Borachio Yea, my lord; but I can cross it.
Don John Any bar, any cross, any impediment will be medicinable to me: I am sick in displeasure to him, and whatsoever comes athwart his affection ranges evenly with mine. How canst thou cross this marriage?
Borachio Not honestly, my lord; but so covertly that no dishonesty shall appear in me.
Don John Show me briefly how.
Borachio I think I told your lordship a year since, how much I am in the favour of Margaret, the waiting gentlewoman to Hero.
Don John I remember.
Borachio I can, at any unseasonable instant of the night, appoint her to look out at her lady’s chamber window.
Don John What life is in that, to be the death of this marriage?
Borachio The poison of that lies in you to temper. Go you to the prince your brother; spare not to tell him that he hath wronged his honour in marrying the renowned Claudio⁠—whose estimation do you mightily hold up⁠—to a contaminated stale, such a one as Hero.
Don John What proof shall I make of that?
Borachio Proof enough to misuse the prince, to vex Claudio, to undo Hero and kill Leonato. Look you for any other issue?
Don John Only to despite them, I will endeavour anything.
Borachio Go, then; find me a meet hour to draw Don Pedro and the Count Claudio alone: tell them that you know that Hero loves me; intend a kind of zeal both to the prince and Claudio, as⁠—in love of your brother’s honour, who hath made this match, and his friend’s reputation, who is thus like to be cozened with the semblance of a maid⁠—that you have discovered thus. They will scarcely believe this without trial: offer them instances; which shall bear no less likelihood than to see me at her chamber window, hear me call Margaret Hero, hear Margaret term me Claudio; and bring them to see this the very night before the intended wedding⁠—for in the meantime I will so fashion the matter that Hero shall be absent⁠—and there shall appear such seeming truth of Hero’s disloyalty that jealousy shall be called assurance and all the preparation overthrown.
Don John Grow this to what adverse issue it can, I will put it in practice. Be cunning in the working this, and thy fee is a thousand ducats.
Borachio Be you constant in the accusation, and my cunning shall not shame me.
Don John I will presently go learn their day of marriage. Exeunt.

Scene III

Leonato’s orchard.

Enter Benedick.
Benedick Boy!
Enter Boy.
Boy Signior?
Benedick In my chamber-window lies a book: bring it hither to me in the orchard.
Boy I am here already, sir.
Benedick I know that; but I would have thee hence, and here again. Exit Boy. I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviours to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love: and such a man is Claudio. I have known when there was no music with him but the drum and the fife; and now had he rather hear the tabor and the pipe: I have known when he would have walked ten mile a-foot to see a good armour; and now will he lie ten nights awake, carving the fashion of a new doublet. He was wont to speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man and a soldier; and now is he turned orthography; his words are a very fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes. May I be so converted and see with these eyes? I cannot tell; I think not: I will not be sworn but love may transform me to an oyster; but I’ll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me, he shall never make me such a fool. One woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace. Rich she shall be, that’s certain; wise, or I’ll none; virtuous, or I’ll never cheapen her; fair, or I’ll never look on her; mild, or come not near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall be of what colour it please God. Ha! the prince and Monsieur Love! I will hide me in the arbour. Withdraws.
Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato.
Don Pedro Come, shall we hear this music?

Yea, my good lord. How still the evening is,
As hush’d on purpose to grace harmony!

Don Pedro See you where Benedick hath hid himself?

O, very well, my lord: the music ended,
We’ll fit the kid-fox with a pennyworth.

Enter Balthasar with Music.
Don Pedro Come, Balthasar, we’ll hear that song again.

O, good my lord, tax not so bad a voice
To slander music any more than once.

Don Pedro

It is the witness still of excellency
To put a strange face on his own perfection.
I pray thee, sing, and let me woo no more.


Because you talk of wooing, I will sing;
Since many a wooer doth commence his suit
To her he thinks not worthy, yet he wooes,
Yet will he swear he loves.

Don Pedro

Now, pray thee, come;
Or, if thou wilt hold longer argument,
Do it in notes.


Note this before my notes;
There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.

Don Pedro

Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks;
Note, notes, forsooth, and nothing. Air.

Benedick Now, divine air! now is his soul ravished! Is it not strange that sheeps’ guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies? Well, a horn for my money, when all’s done.
The Song.

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy:
Then sigh not so, etc.

Don Pedro By my troth, a good song.
Balthasar And an ill singer, my lord.
Don Pedro Ha, no, no, faith; thou singest well enough for a shift.
Benedick An he had been a dog that should have howled thus, they would have hanged him: and I pray God his bad voice bode no mischief. I had as lief have heard the night-raven, come what plague could have come after it.
Don Pedro Yea, marry, dost thou hear, Balthasar? I pray thee, get us some excellent music; for tomorrow night we would have it at the Lady Hero’s chamber-window.
Balthasar The best I can, my lord.
Don Pedro Do so: farewell. Exit Balthasar. Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me of today, that your niece Beatrice was in love with Signior Benedick?
Claudio O, ay: stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits. I did never think that lady would have loved any man.
Leonato No, nor I neither; but most wonderful that she should so dote on Signior Benedick, whom she hath in all outward behaviours seemed ever to abhor.
Benedick Is’t possible? Sits the wind in that corner?
Leonato By my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think of it but that she loves him with an enraged affection; it is past the infinite of thought.
Don Pedro Maybe she doth but counterfeit.
Claudio Faith, like enough.
Leonato O God, counterfeit! There was never counterfeit of passion came so near the life of passion as she discovers it.
Don Pedro Why, what effects of passion shows she?
Claudio Bait the hook well; this fish will bite.
Leonato What effects, my lord? She will sit you, You heard my daughter tell you how.
Claudio She did, indeed.
Don Pedro How, how, I pray you? You amaze me: I would have thought her spirit had been invincible against all assaults of affection.
Leonato I would have sworn it had, my lord; especially against Benedick.
Benedick I should think this a gull, but that the white-bearded fellow speaks it: knavery cannot, sure, hide itself in such reverence.
Claudio He hath ta’en the infection: hold it up.
Don Pedro Hath she made her affection known to Benedick?
Leonato No; and swears she never will: that’s her torment.
Claudio ’Tis true, indeed; so your daughter says: “Shall I,” says she, “that have so oft encountered him with scorn, write to him that I love him?”
Leonato This says she now when she is beginning to write to him; for she’ll be up twenty times a night, and there will she sit in her smock till she have writ a sheet of paper: my daughter tells us all.
Claudio Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a pretty jest your daughter told us of.
Leonato O, when she had writ it, and was reading it over, she found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet?
Claudio That.
Leonato O, she tore the letter into a thousand halfpence; railed at herself, that she should be so immodest to write to one that she knew would flout her; “I measure him,” says she, “by my own spirit; for I should flout him, if he writ to me; yea, though I love him, I should.”
Claudio Then down upon her knees she falls, weeps, sobs, beats her heart, tears her hair, prays, curses; “O sweet Benedick! God give me patience!”
Leonato She doth indeed; my daughter says so: and the ecstasy hath so much overborne her that my daughter is sometimes afeard she will do a desperate outrage to herself: it is very true.
Don Pedro It were good that Benedick knew of it by some other, if she will not discover it.
Claudio To what end? He would make but a sport of it and torment the poor lady worse.
Don Pedro An he should, it were an alms to hang him. She’s an excellent sweet lady; and, out of all suspicion, she is virtuous.
Claudio And she is exceeding wise.
Don Pedro In everything but in loving Benedick.
Leonato O, my lord, wisdom and blood combating in so tender a body, we have ten proofs to one that blood hath the victory. I am sorry for her, as I have just cause, being her uncle and her guardian.
Don Pedro I would she had bestowed this dotage on me: I would have daffed all other respects and made her half myself. I pray you, tell Benedick of it, and hear what a’ will say.
Leonato Were it good, think you?
Claudio Hero thinks surely she will die; for she says she will die, if he love her not, and she will die, ere she make her love known, and she will die, if he woo her, rather than she will bate one breath of her accustomed crossness.
Don Pedro She doth well: if she should make tender of her love, ’tis very possible he’ll scorn it; for the man, as you know all, hath a contemptible spirit.
Claudio He is a very proper man.
Don Pedro He hath indeed a good outward happiness.
Claudio Before God! and, in my mind, very wise.
Don Pedro He doth indeed show some sparks that are like wit.
Claudio And I take him to be valiant.
Don Pedro As Hector, I assure you: and in the managing of quarrels you may say he is wise; for either he avoids them with great discretion, or undertakes them with a most Christian-like fear.
Leonato If he do fear God, a’ must necessarily keep peace: if he break the peace, he ought to enter into a quarrel with fear and trembling.
Don Pedro And so will he do; for the man doth fear God, howsoever it seems not in him by some large jests he will make. Well, I am sorry for your niece. Shall we go seek Benedick, and tell him of her love?
Claudio Never tell him, my lord: let her wear it out with good counsel.
Leonato Nay, that’s impossible: she may wear her heart out first.
Don Pedro Well, we will hear further of it by your daughter: let it cool the while. I love Benedick well; and I could wish he would modestly examine himself, to see how much he is unworthy so good a lady.
Leonato My lord, will you walk? dinner is ready.
Claudio If he do not dote on her upon this, I will never trust my expectation.
Don Pedro Let there be the same net spread for her; and that must your daughter and her gentlewoman carry. The sport will be, when they hold one an opinion of another’s dotage, and no such matter: that’s the scene that I would see, which will be merely a dumb-show. Let us send her to call him in to dinner. Exeunt Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato.
Benedick Coming forward. This can be no trick: the conference was sadly borne. They have the truth of this from Hero. They seem to pity the lady: it seems her affections have their full bent. Love me! why, it must be requited. I hear how I am censured: they say I will bear myself proudly, if I perceive the love come from her; they say too that she will rather die than give any sign of affection. I did never think to marry: I must not seem proud: happy are they that hear their detractions and can put them to mending. They say the lady is fair; ’tis a truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous; ’tis so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly, for I will be horribly in love with her. I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me, because I have railed so long against marriage: but doth not the appetite alter? a man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age. Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humour? No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married. Here comes Beatrice. By this day! she’s a fair lady: I do spy some marks of love in her.
Enter Beatrice.
Beatrice Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.
Benedick Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.
Beatrice I took no more pains for those thanks than you take pains to thank me: if it had been painful, I would not have come.
Benedick You take pleasure then in the message?
Beatrice Yea, just so much as you may take upon a knife’s point and choke a daw withal. You have no stomach, signior: fare you well. Exit.
Benedick Ha! “Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner;” there’s a double meaning in that. “I took no more pains for those thanks than you took pains to thank me;” that’s as much as to say, Any pains that I take for you is as easy as thanks. If I do not take pity of her, I am a villain; if I do not love her, I am a Jew. I will go get her picture. Exit.


Scene I

Leonato’s garden.

Enter Hero, Margaret, and Ursula.

Good Margaret, run thee to the parlour;
There shalt thou find my cousin Beatrice
Proposing with the prince and Claudio:
Whisper her ear and tell her, I and Ursula
Walk in the orchard and our whole discourse
Is all of her; say that thou overheard’st us;
And bid her steal into the pleached bower,
Where honeysuckles, ripen’d by the sun,
Forbid the sun to enter, like favourites,
Made proud by princes, that advance their pride
Against that power that bred it: there will she hide her,
To listen our propose. This is thy office;
Bear thee well in it, and leave us alone.

Margaret I’ll make her come, I warrant you, presently. Exit.

Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come,
As we do trace this alley up and down,
Our talk must only be of Benedick.
When I do name him, let it be thy part
To praise him more than ever man did merit:
My talk to thee must be how Benedick
Is sick in love with Beatrice. Of this matter
Is little Cupid’s crafty arrow made,
That only wounds by hearsay.

Enter Beatrice, behind.

Now begin;
For look where Beatrice, like a lapwing, runs
Close by the ground, to hear our conference.


The pleasant’st angling is to see the fish
Cut with her golden oars the silver stream,
And greedily devour the treacherous bait:
So angle we for Beatrice; who even now
Is couched in the woodbine coverture.
Fear you not my part of the dialogue.


Then go we near her, that her ear lose nothing
Of the false sweet bait that we lay for it. Approaching the bower.
No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful;
I know her spirits are as coy and wild
As haggards of the rock.


But are you sure
That Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?

Hero So says the prince and my new-trothed lord.
Ursula And did they bid you tell her of it, madam?

They did entreat me to acquaint her of it;
But I persuaded them, if they loved Benedick,
To wish him wrestle with affection,
And never to let Beatrice know of it.


Why did you so? Doth not the gentleman
Deserve as full as fortunate a bed
As ever Beatrice shall couch upon?


O god of love! I know he doth deserve
As much as may be yielded to a man:
But Nature never fram’d a woman’s heart
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice;
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
Misprising what they look on, and her wit
Values itself so highly that to her
All matter else seems weak: she cannot love,
Nor take no shape nor project of affection,
She is so self-endeared.


Sure I think so;
And therefore certainly it were not good
She knew his love, lest she make sport at it.


Why, you speak truth. I never yet saw man,
How wise, how noble, young, how rarely featured,
But she would spell him backward: if fair-faced,
She would swear the gentleman should be her sister;
If black, why, Nature, drawing of an antique,
Made a foul blot; if tall, a lance ill-headed;
If low, an agate very vilely cut;
If speaking, why, a vane blown with all winds;
If silent, why, a block moved with none.
So turns she every man the wrong side out
And never gives to truth and virtue that
Which simpleness and merit purchaseth.

Ursula Sure, sure, such carping is not commendable.

No, not to be so odd and from all fashions
As Beatrice is, cannot be commendable:
But who dare tell her so? If I should speak,
She would mock me into air; O, she would laugh me
Out of myself, press me to death with wit.
Therefore let Benedick, like cover’d fire,
Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly:
It were a better death than die with mocks,
Which is as bad as die with tickling.

Ursula Yet tell her of it: hear what she will say.

No; rather I will go to Benedick
And counsel him to fight against his passion.
And, truly, I’ll devise some honest slanders
To stain my cousin with: one doth not know
How much an ill word may empoison liking.


O, do not do your cousin such a wrong.
She cannot be so much without true judgment⁠—
Having so swift and excellent a wit
As she is prized to have⁠—as to refuse
So rare a gentleman as Signior Benedick.


He is the only man of Italy,
Always excepted my dear Claudio.


I pray you, be not angry with me, madam,
Speaking my fancy: Signior Benedick,
For shape, for bearing, argument and valour,
Goes foremost in report through Italy.

Hero Indeed, he hath an excellent good name.

His excellence did earn it, ere he had it.
When are you married, madam?


Why, every day, tomorrow. Come, go in:
I’ll show thee some attires, and have thy counsel
Which is the best to furnish me tomorrow.


She’s limed, I warrant you: we have caught her, madam.


If it prove so, then loving goes by haps:
Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps. Exeunt Hero and Ursula.


Coming forward. What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemn’d for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand:
If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee
To bind our loves up in a holy band;
For others say thou dost deserve, and I
Believe it better than reportingly. Exit.

Scene II

A room in Leonato’s house.

Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, and Leonato.
Don Pedro I do but stay till your marriage be consummate, and then go I toward Arragon.
Claudio I’ll bring you thither, my lord, if you’ll vouchsafe me.
Don Pedro Nay, that would be as great a soil in the new gloss of your marriage as to show a child his new coat and forbid him to wear it. I will only be bold with Benedick for his company; for, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, he is all mirth: he hath twice or thrice cut Cupid’s bowstring, and the little hangman dare not shoot at him; he hath a heart as sound as a bell and his tongue is the clapper, for what his heart thinks his tongue speaks.
Benedick Gallants, I am not as I have been.
Leonato So say I: methinks you are sadder.
Claudio I hope he be in love.
Don Pedro Hang him, truant! there’s no true drop of blood in him, to be truly touched with love: if he be sad, he wants money.
Benedick I have the toothache.
Don Pedro Draw it.
Benedick Hang it!
Claudio You must hang it first, and draw it afterwards.
Don Pedro What! sigh for the toothache?
Leonato Where is but a humour or a worm.
Benedick Well, everyone can master a grief but he that has it.
Claudio Yet say I, he is in love.
Don Pedro There is no appearance of fancy in him, unless it be a fancy that he hath to strange disguises; as, to be a Dutchman today, a Frenchman tomorrow, or in the shape of two countries at once, as a German from the waist downward, all slops, and a Spaniard from the hip upward, no doublet. Unless he have a fancy to this foolery, as it appears he hath, he is no fool for fancy, as you would have it appear he is.
Claudio If he be not in love with some woman, there is no believing old signs: a’ brushes his hat o’ mornings; what should that bode?
Don Pedro Hath any man seen him at the barber’s?
Claudio No, but the barber’s man hath been seen with him, and the old ornament of his cheek hath already stuffed tennis balls.
Leonato Indeed, he looks younger than he did, by the loss of a beard.
Don Pedro Nay, a’ rubs himself with civet: can you smell him out by that?
Claudio That’s as much as to say, the sweet youth’s in love.
Don Pedro The greatest note of it is his melancholy.
Claudio And when was he wont to wash his face?
Don Pedro Yea, or to paint himself? for the which, I hear what they say of him.
Claudio Nay, but his jesting spirit; which is now crept into a lute-string and now governed by stops.
Don Pedro Indeed, that tells a heavy tale for him: conclude, conclude he is in love.
Claudio Nay, but I know who loves him.
Don Pedro That would I know too: I warrant, one that knows him not.
Claudio Yes, and his ill conditions; and, in despite of all, dies for him.
Don Pedro She shall be buried with her face upwards.
Benedick Yet is this no charm for the toothache. Old signior, walk aside with me: I have studied eight or nine wise words to speak to you, which these hobby-horses must not hear. Exeunt Benedick and Leonato.
Don Pedro For my life, to break with him about Beatrice.
Claudio ’Tis even so. Hero and Margaret have by this played their parts with Beatrice; and then the two bears will not bite one another when they meet.
Enter Don John.
Don John My lord and brother, God save you!
Don Pedro Good den, brother.
Don John If your leisure served, I would speak with you.
Don Pedro In private?
Don John If it please you: yet Count Claudio may hear; for what I would speak of concerns him.
Don Pedro What’s the matter?
Don John To Claudio. Means your lordship to be married tomorrow?
Don Pedro You know he does.
Don John I know not that, when he knows what I know.
Claudio If there be any impediment, I pray you discover it.
Don John You may think I love you not: let that appear hereafter, and aim better at me by that I now will manifest. For my brother, I think he holds you well, and in dearness of heart hath holp to effect your ensuing marriage;⁠—surely suit ill spent and labour ill bestowed.
Don Pedro Why, what’s the matter?
Don John I came hither to tell you; and, circumstances shortened, for she has been too long a talking of, the lady is disloyal.
Claudio Who, Hero?
Don John Even she; Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero.
Claudio Disloyal?
Don John The word’s too good to paint out her wickedness; I could say she were worse: think you of a worse title, and I will fit her to it. Wonder not till further warrant: go but with me tonight, you shall see her chamber-window entered, even the night before her wedding-day: if you love her then, tomorrow wed her; but it would better fit your honour to change your mind.
Claudio May this be so?
Don Pedro I will not think it.
Don John If you dare not trust that you see, confess not that you know: if you will follow me, I will show you enough; and when you have seen more and heard more, proceed accordingly.
Claudio If I see anything tonight why I should not marry her tomorrow, in the congregation, where I should wed, there will I shame her.
Don Pedro And, as I wooed for thee to obtain her, I will join with thee to disgrace her.
Don John I will disparage her no farther till you are my witnesses: bear it coldly but till midnight, and let the issue show itself.
Don Pedro O day untowardly turned!
Claudio O mischief strangely thwarting!
Don John O plague right well prevented! so will you say when you have seen the sequel. Exeunt.

Scene III

A street.

Enter Dogberry and Verges with the Watch.
Dogberry Are you good men and true?
Verges Yea, or else it were pity but they should suffer salvation, body and soul.
Dogberry Nay, that were a punishment too good for them, if they should have any allegiance in them, being chosen for the prince’s watch.
Verges Well, give them their charge, neighbour Dogberry.
Dogberry First, who think you the most desartless man to be constable?
First Watch Hugh Otecake, sir, or George Seacole; for they can write and read.
Dogberry Come hither, neighbour Seacole. God hath blessed you with a good name: to be a well-favoured man is the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes by nature.
Second Watch Both which, master constable⁠—
Dogberry You have: I knew it would be your answer. Well, for your favour, sir, why, give God thanks, and make no boast of it; and for your writing and reading, let that appear when there is no need of such vanity. You are thought here to be the most senseless and fit man for the constable of the watch; therefore bear you the lantern. This is your charge: you shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand, in the prince’s name.
Second Watch How, if a’ will not stand?
Dogberry Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go; and presently call the rest of the watch together and thank God you are rid of a knave.
Verges If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the prince’s subjects.
Dogberry True, and they are to meddle with none but the prince’s subjects. You shall also make no noise in the streets; for for the watch to babble and to talk is most tolerable and not to be endured.
Watch We will rather sleep than talk: we know what belongs to a watch.
Dogberry Why, you speak like an ancient and most quiet watchman; for I cannot see how sleeping should offend: only have a care that your bills be not stolen. Well, you are to call at all the ale-houses, and bid those that are drunk get them to bed.
Watch How if they will not?
Dogberry Why, then, let them alone till they are sober: if they make you not then the better answer, you may say they are not the men you took them for.
Watch Well, sir.
Dogberry If you meet a thief, you may suspect him, by virtue of your office, to be no true man; and, for such kind of men, the less you meddle or make with them, why, the more is for your honesty.
Watch If we know him to be a thief, shall we not lay hands on him?
Dogberry Truly, by your office, you may; but I think they that touch pitch will be defiled: the most peaceable way for you, if you do take a thief, is to let him show himself what he is and steal out of your company.
Verges You have been always called a merciful man, partner.
Dogberry Truly, I would not hang a dog by my will, much more a man who hath any honesty in him.
Verges If you hear a child cry in the night, you must call to the nurse and bid her still it.
Watch How if the nurse be asleep and will not hear us?
Dogberry Why, then, depart in peace, and let the child wake her with crying; for the ewe that will not hear her lamb when it baes will never answer a calf when he bleats.
Verges ’Tis very true.
Dogberry This is the end of the charge:⁠—you, constable, are to present the prince’s own person: if you meet the prince in the night, you may stay him.
Verges Nay, by’r lady, that I think a’ cannot.
Dogberry Five shillings to one on’t, with any man that knows the statutes, he may stay him: marry, not without the prince be willing; for, indeed, the watch ought to offend no man; and it is an offence to stay a man against his will.
Verges By’r lady, I think it be so.
Dogberry Ha, ah, ha! Well, masters, good night: an there be any matter of weight chances, call up me: keep your fellows’ counsels and your own; and good night. Come, neighbour.
Watch Well, masters, we hear our charge: let us go sit here upon the church-bench till two, and then all to bed.
Dogberry One word more, honest neighbours. I pray you, watch about Signior Leonato’s door; for the wedding being there tomorrow, there is a great coil tonight. Adieu: be vigitant, I beseech you. Exeunt Dogberry and Verges.
Enter Borachio and Conrade.
Borachio What, Conrade!
Watch Aside. Peace! stir not.
Borachio Conrade, I say!
Conrade Here, man; I am at thy elbow.
Borachio Mass, and my elbow itched; I thought there would a scab follow.
Conrade I will owe thee an answer for that: and now forward with thy tale.
Borachio Stand thee close, then, under this penthouse, for it drizzles rain; and I will, like a true drunkard, utter all to thee.
Watch Aside. Some treason, masters: yet stand close.
Borachio Therefore know I have earned of Don John a thousand ducats.
Conrade Is it possible that any villainy should be so dear?
Borachio Thou shouldst rather ask if it were possible any villainy should be so rich; for when rich villains have need of poor ones, poor ones may make what price they will.
Conrade I wonder at it.
Borachio That shows thou art unconfirmed. Thou knowest that the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak, is nothing to a man.
Conrade Yes, it is apparel.
Borachio I mean, the fashion.
Conrade Yes, the fashion is the fashion.
Borachio Tush! I may as well say the fool’s the fool. But seest thou not what a deformed thief this fashion is?
Watch Aside. I know that Deformed; a’ has been a vile thief this seven years; a’ goes up and down like a gentleman: I remember his name.
Borachio Didst thou not hear somebody?
Conrade No; ’twas the vane on the house.
Borachio Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is? how giddily a’ turns about all the hot bloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty? sometime fashioning them like Pharaoh’s soldiers in the reechy painting, sometime like god Bel’s priests in the old church-window, sometime like the shaven Hercules in the smirched worm-eaten tapestry, where his codpiece seems as massy as his club?
Conrade All this I see; and I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man. But art not thou thyself giddy with the fashion too, that thou hast shifted out of thy tale into telling me of the fashion?
Borachio Not so, neither: but know that I have tonight wooed Margaret, the Lady Hero’s gentlewoman, by the name of Hero: she leans me out at her mistress’s chamber-window, bids me a thousand times good night⁠—I tell this tale vilely:⁠—I should first tell thee how the prince, Claudio and my master, planted and placed and possessed by my master Don John, saw afar off in the orchard this amiable encounter.
Conrade And thought they Margaret was Hero?
Borachio Two of them did, the prince and Claudio; but the devil my master knew she was Margaret; and partly by his oaths, which first possessed them, partly by the dark night, which did deceive them, but chiefly by my villainy, which did confirm any slander that Don John had made, away went Claudio enraged; swore he would meet her, as he was appointed, next morning at the temple, and there, before the whole congregation, shame her with what he saw o’er night and send her home again without a husband.
First Watch We charge you, in the prince’s name, stand!
Second Watch Call up the right master constable. We have here recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever was known in the commonwealth.
First Watch And one Deformed is one of them: I know him; a’ wears a lock.
Conrade Masters, masters⁠—
Second Watch You’ll be made bring Deformed forth, I warrant you.
Conrade Masters⁠—
First Watch Never speak: we charge you let us obey you to go with us.
Borachio We are like to prove a goodly commodity, being taken up of these men’s bills.
Conrade A commodity in question, I warrant you. Come, we’ll obey you. Exeunt.

Scene IV

Hero’s apartment.

Enter Hero, Margaret, and Ursula.
Hero Good Ursula, wake my cousin Beatrice, and desire her to rise.
Ursula I will, lady.
Hero And bid her come hither.
Ursula Well. Exit.
Margaret Troth, I think your other rebato were better.
Hero No, pray thee, good Meg, I’ll wear this.
Margaret By my troth, ’s not so good; and I warrant your cousin will say so.
Hero My cousin ’s a fool, and thou art another: I’ll wear none but this.
Margaret I like the new tire within excellently, if the hair were a thought browner; and your gown’s a most rare fashion, i’ faith. I saw the Duchess of Milan’s gown that they praise so.
Hero O, that exceeds, they say.
Margaret By my troth, ’s but a nightgown in respect of yours: cloth o’ gold, and cuts, and laced with silver, set with pearls, down sleeves, side sleeves, and skirts, round underborne with a bluish tinsel: but for a fine, quaint, graceful and excellent fashion, yours is worth ten on’t.
Hero God give me joy to wear it! for my heart is exceeding heavy.
Margaret ’Twill be heavier soon by the weight of a man.
Hero Fie upon thee! art not ashamed?
Margaret Of what, lady? of speaking honourably? Is not marriage honourable in a beggar? Is not your lord honourable without marriage? I think you would have me say, “saving your reverence, a husband:” an bad thinking do not wrest true speaking, I’ll offend nobody: is there any harm in “the heavier for a husband?” None, I think, an it be the right husband and the right wife; otherwise ’tis light, and not heavy: ask my Lady Beatrice else; here she comes.
Enter Beatrice.
Hero Good morrow, coz.
Beatrice Good morrow, sweet Hero.
Hero Why, how now? do you speak in the sick tune?
Beatrice I am out of all other tune, methinks.
Margaret Clap’s into “Light o’ love;” that goes without a burden: do you sing it, and I’ll dance it.
Beatrice Ye light o’ love with your heels! then, if your husband have stables enough, you’ll see he shall lack no barns.
Margaret O illegitimate construction! I scorn that with my heels.
Beatrice ’Tis almost five o’clock, cousin; ’tis time you were ready. By my troth, I am exceeding ill: heigh-ho!
Margaret For a hawk, a horse, or a husband?
Beatrice For the letter that begins them all, H.
Margaret Well, an you be not turned Turk, there’s no more sailing by the star.
Beatrice What means the fool, trow?
Margaret Nothing I; but God send everyone their heart’s desire!
Hero These gloves the Count sent me; they are an excellent perfume.
Beatrice I am stuffed, cousin; I cannot smell.
Margaret A maid, and stuffed! there’s goodly catching of cold.
Beatrice O, God help me! God help me! how long have you professed apprehension?
Margaret Ever since you left it. Doth not my wit become me rarely?
Beatrice It is not seen enough, you should wear it in your cap. By my troth, I am sick.
Margaret Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus, and lay it to your heart: it is the only thing for a qualm.
Hero There thou prickest her with a thistle.
Beatrice Benedictus! why Benedictus? you have some moral in this Benedictus.
Margaret Moral! no, by my troth, I have no moral meaning; I meant, plain holy thistle. You may think perchance that I think you are in love: nay, by’r Lady, I am not such a fool to think what I list, nor I list not to think what I can, nor indeed I cannot think, if I would think my heart out of thinking, that you are in love or that you will be in love or that you can be in love. Yet Benedick was such another, and now is he become a man: he swore he would never marry, and yet now, in despite of his heart, he eats his meat without grudging: and how you may be converted I know not, but methinks you look with your eyes as other women do.
Beatrice What pace is this that thy tongue keeps?
Margaret Not a false gallop.
Re-enter Ursula.
Ursula Madam, withdraw: the prince, the count, Signior Benedick, Don John, and all the gallants of the town, are come to fetch you to church.
Hero Help to dress me, good coz, good Meg, good Ursula. Exeunt.

Scene V

Another room in Leonato’s house.

Enter Leonato, with Dogberry and Verges.
Leonato What would you with me, honest neighbour?
Dogberry Marry, sir, I would have some confidence with you that decerns you nearly.
Leonato Brief, I pray you; for you see it is a busy time with me.
Dogberry Marry, this it is, sir.
Verges Yes, in truth it is, sir.
Leonato What is it, my good friends?
Dogberry Goodman Verges, sir, speaks a little off the matter: an old man, sir, and his wits are not so blunt as, God help, I would desire they were; but, in faith, honest as the skin between his brows.
Verges Yes, I thank God I am as honest as any man living that is an old man and no honester than I.
Dogberry Comparisons are odorous: palabras, neighbour Verges.
Leonato Neighbours, you are tedious.
Dogberry It pleases your worship to say so, but we are the poor duke’s officers; but truly, for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find in my heart to bestow it all of your worship.
Leonato All thy tediousness on me, ah?
Dogberry Yea, an ’twere a thousand pound more than ’tis; for I hear as good exclamation on your worship as of any man in the city; and though I be but a poor man, I am glad to hear it.
Verges And so am I.
Leonato I would fain know what you have to say.
Verges Marry, sir, our watch tonight, excepting your worship’s presence, ha’ ta’en a couple of as arrant knaves as any in Messina.
Dogberry A good old man, sir; he will be talking: as they say, when the age is in, the wit is out: God help us! it is a world to see. Well said, i’ faith, neighbour Verges: well, God’s a good man; an two men ride of a horse, one must ride behind. An honest soul, i’ faith, sir; by my troth he is, as ever broke bread; but God is to be worshipped; all men are not alike; alas, good neighbour!
Leonato Indeed, neighbour, he comes too short of you.
Dogberry Gifts that God gives.
Leonato I must leave you.
Dogberry One word, sir: our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two aspicious persons, and we would have them this morning examined before your worship.
Leonato Take their examination yourself and bring it me: I am now in great haste, as may appear unto you.
Dogberry It shall be suffigance.
Leonato Drink some wine ere you go: fare you well.
Enter a Messenger.
Messenger My lord, they stay for you to give your daughter to her husband.
Leonato I’ll wait upon them: I am ready. Exeunt Leonato and Messenger.
Dogberry Go, good partner, go, get you to Francis Seacole; bid him bring his pen and inkhorn to the gaol: we are now to examination these men.
Verges And we must do it wisely.
Dogberry We will spare for no wit, I warrant you; here’s that shall drive some of them to a noncome: only get the learned writer to set down our excommunication and meet me at the gaol. Exeunt.

Act IV

Scene I

A church.

Enter Don Pedro, Don John, Leonato, Friar Francis, Claudio, Benedick, Hero, Beatrice, and attendants.
Leonato Come, Friar Francis, be brief; only to the plain form of marriage, and you shall recount their particular duties afterwards.
Friar You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady?
Claudio No.
Leonato To be married to her: friar, you come to marry her.
Friar Lady, you come hither to be married to this count?
Hero I do.
Friar If either of you know any inward impediment why you should not be conjoined, I charge you, on your souls, to utter it.
Claudio Know you any, Hero?
Hero None, my lord.
Friar Know you any, count?
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!
Benedick How now! interjections? Why, then, some be of laughing, as, ah, ha, he!

Stand thee by, Friar. Father, by your leave:
Will you with free and unconstrained soul
Give me this maid, your daughter?

Leonato As freely, son, as God did give her me.

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.

Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
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
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:
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.

Leonato What do you mean, my lord?

Not to be married,
Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.


Dear my lord, if you, in your own proof,
Have vanquish’d the resistance of her youth,
And made defeat of her virginity⁠—


I know what you would say: if I have known her,
You will say she did embrace me as a husband,
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.

Hero And seem’d I ever otherwise to you?

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
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?
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.
Hero True! O God!

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?

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.

O, God defend me! how am I beset!
What kind of catechizing call you this?

Claudio To make you answer truly to your name.

Is it not Hero? Who can blot that name
With any just reproach?


Marry, that can Hero;
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.
Don Pedro

Why, then are you no maiden. Leonato,
I am sorry you must hear: upon my 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;
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:
There is not chastity enough in language
Without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,
I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.


O Hero, what a Hero hadst thou been,
If half thy outward graces had been placed
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,
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?
Don John

Come, let us go. These things, come thus to light,
Smother her spirits up. Exeunt Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio.

Benedick How doth the lady?
Beatrice Dead, I think. Help, uncle! Hero! why, Hero! Uncle!⁠—Signior Benedick! Friar!

O Fate! take not away thy heavy hand.
Death is the fairest cover for her shame
That may be wish’d for.

Beatrice How now, cousin Hero!
Friar Have comfort, lady.
Leonato Dost thou look up?
Friar Yea, wherefore should she not?

Wherefore! Why, doth not every earthly thing
Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny
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,
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
Took up a beggar’s issue at my gates,
Who smirched 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
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
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul-tainted flesh!


Sir, sir, be patient.
For my part, I am so attired in wonder,
I know not what to say.

Beatrice O, on my soul, my cousin is belied!
Benedick Lady, were you her bedfellow last night?

No, truly not; although, until last night,
I have this twelvemonth been her bedfellow.


Confirm’d, confirm’d! O, that is stronger made
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.


Hear me a little; for I have only been
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
In angel whiteness bear 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,
Which with experimental seal doth warrant
The tenour of my book; trust not my age,
My reverence, calling, nor divinity,
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
Under some biting error.


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
That which appears in proper nakedness?

Friar Lady, what man is he you are accused of?

They know that do accuse me; I know none:
If I know more of any man alive
Than that which maiden modesty doth warrant,
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!

Friar There is some strange misprision in the princes.

Two of them have the very bent of honour;
And if their wisdoms be misled in this,
The practice of it lives in John the bastard,
Whose spirits toil in frame of villainies.


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,
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,
To quit me of them throughly.


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,
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.

Leonato What shall become of this? what will this do?

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.
She dying, as it must be so 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
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,
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
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.
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
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.


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
Should with your body.


Being that I flow in grief,
The smallest twine may lead me.


’Tis well consented: presently away;
For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure.
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.
Benedick I will not desire that.
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 anyway to show such friendship?
Beatrice A very even way, but no such friend.
Benedick May a man do it?
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?
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.
Beatrice Do not swear, and eat it.
Benedick I will swear by it that you love me; and I will make him eat it that says I love not you.
Beatrice Will you not eat your word?
Benedick With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest I love thee.
Beatrice Why, then, God forgive me!
Benedick What offence, sweet Beatrice?
Beatrice You have stayed me in a happy hour: I was about to protest I loved you.
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 anything for thee.
Beatrice Kill Claudio.
Benedick Ha! not for the wide world.
Beatrice You kill me to deny it. Farewell.
Benedick Tarry, sweet Beatrice.
Beatrice I am gone, though I am here: there is no love in you: nay, I pray you, let me go.
Benedick Beatrice⁠—
Beatrice In faith, I will go.
Benedick We’ll be friends first.
Beatrice You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.
Benedick Is Claudio thine 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—O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the marketplace.
Benedick Hear me, Beatrice⁠—
Beatrice Talk with a man out at a window! A proper saying!
Benedick Nay, but, Beatrice⁠—
Beatrice Sweet Hero! She is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone.
Benedick Beat⁠—
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 had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into curtesies, 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 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 is I have a thought or a soul.
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. Exeunt.

Scene II

A prison.

Enter Dogberry, Verges, and Sexton, in gowns; and the Watch, with Conrade and Borachio.
Dogberry Is our whole dissembly appeared?
Verges O, a stool and a cushion for the sexton.
Sexton Which be the malefactors?
Dogberry Marry, that am I and my partner.
Verges Nay, that’s certain; we have the exhibition to examine.
Sexton But which are the offenders that are to be examined? let them come before master constable.
Dogberry Yea, marry, let them come before me. What is your name, friend?
Borachio Borachio.
Dogberry Pray, write down, Borachio. Yours, sirrah?
Conrade I am a gentleman, sir, and my name is Conrade.
Dogberry Write down, master gentleman Conrade. Masters, do you serve God?
Conrade, Borachio Yea, sir, we hope.
Dogberry Write down, that they hope they serve God: and write God first; for God defend but God should go before such villains! Masters, it is proved already that you are little better than false knaves; and it will go near to be thought so shortly. How answer you for yourselves?
Conrade Marry, sir, we say we are none.
Dogberry A marvellous witty fellow, I assure you; but I will go about with him. Come you hither, sirrah; a word in your ear: sir, I say to you, it is thought you are false knaves.
Borachio Sir, I say to you we are none.
Dogberry Well, stand aside. ’Fore God, they are both in a tale. Have you writ down, that they are none?
Sexton Master constable, you go not the way to examine: you must call forth the watch that are their accusers.
Dogberry Yea, marry, that’s the eftest way. Let the watch come forth. Masters, I charge you, in the prince’s name, accuse these men.
First Watch This man said, sir, that Don John, the prince’s brother, was a villain.
Dogberry Write down Prince John a villain. Why, this is flat perjury, to call a prince’s brother villain.
Borachio Master constable⁠—
Dogberry Pray thee, fellow, peace: I do not like thy look, I promise thee.
Sexton What heard you him say else?
Second Watch Marry, that he had received a thousand ducats of Don John for accusing the Lady Hero wrongfully.
Dogberry Flat burglary as ever was committed.
Verges Yea, by mass, that it is.
Sexton What else, fellow?
First Watch And that Count Claudio did mean, upon his words, to disgrace Hero before the whole assembly, and not marry her.
Dogberry O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this.
Sexton What else?
Second Watch This is all.
Sexton And this is more, masters, than you can deny. Prince John is this morning secretly stolen away; Hero was in this manner accused, in this manner refused, and upon the grief of this suddenly died. Master constable, let these men be bound, and brought to Leonato’s: I will go before and show him their examination. Exit.
Dogberry Come, let them be opinioned.
Verges Let them be in the hands⁠—
Conrade Off, coxcomb!
Dogberry God’s my life, where’s the sexton? let him write down the prince’s officer coxcomb. Come, bind them. Thou naughty varlet!
Conrade Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.
Dogberry Dost thou not suspect my place? dost thou not suspect my years? O that he were here to write me down an ass! But, masters, remember that I am an ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass. No, thou villain, thou art full of piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness. I am a wise fellow, and, which is more, an officer, and, which is more, a householder, and, which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any in Messina, and one that knows the law, go to; and a rich fellow enough, go to; and a fellow that hath had losses, and one that hath two gowns and everything handsome about him. Bring him away. O that I had been writ down an ass! Exeunt.

Act V

Scene I

Before Leonato’s house.

Enter Leonato and Antonio.

If you go on thus, you will kill yourself;
And ’tis not wisdom thus to second grief
Against yourself.


I pray thee, cease thy counsel,
Which falls into mine ears as profitless
As water in a sieve: give not me counsel;
Nor let no comforter delight mine ear
But such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine.
Bring me a father that so loved his child,
Whose joy of her is overwhelm’d like mine,
And bid him speak of patience;
Measure his woe the length and breadth of mine
And let it answer every strain for strain,
As thus for thus and such a grief for such,
In every lineament, branch, shape, and form:
If such a one will smile and stroke his beard,
Bid sorrow wag, cry “hem!” when he should groan,
Patch grief with proverbs, make misfortune drunk
With candle-wasters; bring him yet to me,
And I of him will gather patience.
But there is no such man: for, brother, men
Can counsel and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air and agony with words:
No, no; ’tis all men’s office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow,
But no man’s virtue nor sufficiency
To be so moral when he shall endure
The like himself. Therefore give me no counsel:
My griefs cry louder than advertisement.

Antonio Therein do men from children nothing differ.

I pray thee, peace. I will be flesh and blood;
For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods
And made a push at chance and sufferance.


Yet bend not all the harm upon yourself;
Make those that do offend you suffer too.


There thou speak’st reason: nay, I will do so.
My soul doth tell me Hero is belied;
And that shall Claudio know; so shall the prince
And all of them that thus dishonour her.

Antonio Here comes the prince and Claudio hastily.
Enter Don Pedro and Claudio.
Don Pedro Good den, good den.
Claudio Good day to both of you.
Leonato Hear you, my lords⁠—
Don Pedro We have some haste, Leonato.

Some haste, my lord! well, fare you well, my lord:
Are you so hasty now? well, all is one.

Don Pedro Nay, do not quarrel with us, good old man.

If he could right himself with quarrelling,
Some of us would lie low.

Claudio Who wrongs him?

Marry, thou dost wrong me; thou dissembler, thou:⁠—
Nay, never lay thy hand upon thy sword;
I fear thee not.


Marry, beshrew my hand,
If it should give your age such cause of fear:
In faith, my hand meant nothing to my sword.


Tush, tush, man; never fleer and jest at me:
I speak not like a dotard nor a fool,
As under privilege of age to brag
What I have done being young, or what would do
Were I not old. Know, Claudio, to thy head,
Thou hast so wrong’d mine innocent child and me
That I am forced to lay my reverence by
And, with grey hairs and bruise of many days,
Do challenge thee to trial of a man.
I say thou hast belied mine innocent child;
Thy slander hath gone through and through her heart,
And she lies buried with her ancestors;
O, in a tomb where never scandal slept,
Save this of hers, framed by thy villainy!

Claudio My villainy?
Leonato Thine, Claudio; thine, I say.
Don Pedro You say not right, old man,

My lord, my lord,
I’ll prove it on his body, if he dare,
Despite his nice fence and his active practice,
His May of youth and bloom of lustihood.

Claudio Away! I will not have to do with you.

Canst thou so daff me? Thou hast kill’d my child:
If thou kill’st me, boy, thou shalt kill a man.


He shall kill two of us, and men indeed:
But that’s no matter; let him kill one first;
Win me and wear me; let him answer me.
Come, follow me, boy; come, sir boy, come, follow me:
Sir boy, I’ll whip you from your foining fence;
Nay, as I am a gentleman, I will.

Leonato Brother⁠—

Content yourself. God knows I loved my niece;
And she is dead, slander’d to death by villains,
That dare as well answer a man indeed
As I dare take a serpent by the tongue:
Boys, apes, braggarts, Jacks, milksops!

Leonato Brother Anthony⁠—

Hold you content. What, man! I know them, yea,
And what they weigh, even to the utmost scruple⁠—
Scambling, out-facing, fashion-monging boys,
That lie and cog and flout, deprave and slander,
Go anticly, show outward hideousness,
And speak off half a dozen dangerous words,
How they might hurt their enemies, if they durst;
And this is all.

Leonato But, brother Anthony⁠—

Come, ’tis no matter:
Do not you meddle; let me deal in this.

Don Pedro

Gentlemen both, we will not wake your patience.
My heart is sorry for your daughter’s death:
But, on my honour, she was charged with nothing
But what was true and very full of proof.

Leonato My lord, my lord⁠—
Don Pedro I will not hear you.
Leonato No? Come, brother; away! I will be heard.
Antonio And shall, or some of us will smart for it. Exeunt Leonato and Antonio.
Don Pedro See, see; here comes the man we went to seek.
Enter Benedick.
Claudio Now, signior, what news?
Benedick Good day, my lord.
Don Pedro Welcome, signior: you are almost come to part almost a fray.
Claudio We had like to have had our two noses snapped off with two old men without teeth.
Don Pedro Leonato and his brother. What thinkest thou? Had we fought, I doubt we should have been too young for them.
Benedick In a false quarrel there is no true valour. I came to seek you both.
Claudio We have been up and down to seek thee; for we are high-proof melancholy and would fain have it beaten away. Wilt thou use thy wit?
Benedick It is in my scabbard: shall I draw it?
Don Pedro Dost thou wear thy wit by thy side?
Claudio Never any did so, though very many have been beside their wit. I will bid thee draw, as we do the minstrels; draw, to pleasure us.
Don Pedro As I am an honest man, he looks pale. Art thou sick, or angry?
Claudio What, courage, man! What though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.
Benedick Sir, I shall meet your wit in the career, and you charge it against me. I pray you choose another subject.
Claudio Nay, then, give him another staff: this last was broke cross.
Don Pedro By this light, he changes more and more: I think he be angry indeed.
Claudio If he be, he knows how to turn his girdle.
Benedick Shall I speak a word in your ear?
Claudio God bless me from a challenge!
Benedick Aside to Claudio. You are a villain; I jest not: I will make it good how you dare, with what you dare, and when you dare. Do me right, or I will protest your cowardice. You have killed a sweet lady, and her death shall fall heavy on you. Let me hear from you.
Claudio Well, I will meet you, so I may have good cheer.
Don Pedro What, a feast, a feast?
Claudio I’ faith, I thank him; he hath bid me to a calf’s head and a capon; the which if I do not carve most curiously, say my knife’s naught. Shall I not find a woodcock too?
Benedick Sir, your wit ambles well; it goes easily.
Don Pedro I’ll tell thee how Beatrice praised thy wit the other day. I said, thou hadst a fine wit: “True,” says she, “a fine little one.” “No,” said I, “a great wit:” “Right,” said she, “a great gross one.” “Nay,” said I, “a good wit:” “Just,” said she, “it hurts nobody.” “Nay,” said I, “the gentleman is wise:” “Certain,” said she, “a wise gentleman.” “Nay,” said I, “he hath the tongues:” “That I believe,” said she, “for he swore a thing to me on Monday night, which he forswore on Tuesday morning; there’s a double tongue; there’s two tongues.” Thus did she, an hour together, trans-shape thy particular virtues: yet at last she concluded with a sigh, thou wast the properest man in Italy.
Claudio For the which she wept heartily and said she cared not.
Don Pedro Yea, that she did; but yet, for all that, an if she did not hate him deadly, she would love him dearly: the old man’s daughter told us all.
Claudio All, all; and, moreover, God saw him when he was hid in the garden.
Don Pedro But when shall we set the savage bull’s horns on the sensible Benedick’s head?
Claudio Yea, and text underneath, “Here dwells Benedick the married man?”
Benedick Fare you well, boy: you know my mind. I will leave you now to your gossip-like humour: you break jests as braggarts do their blades, which, God be thanked, hurt not. My lord, for your many courtesies I thank you: I must discontinue your company: your brother the bastard is fled from Messina: you have among you killed a sweet and innocent lady. For my Lord Lackbeard there, he and I shall meet: and, till then, peace be with him. Exit.
Don Pedro He is in earnest.
Claudio In most profound earnest; and, I’ll warrant you, for the love of Beatrice.
Don Pedro And hath challenged thee.
Claudio Most sincerely.
Don Pedro What a pretty thing man is when he goes in his doublet and hose and leaves off his wit!
Claudio He is then a giant to an ape; but then is an ape a doctor to such a man.
Don Pedro But, soft you, let me be: pluck up, my heart, and be sad. Did he not say, my brother was fled?
Enter Dogberry, Verges, and the Watch, with Conrade and Borachio.
Dogberry Come you, sir: if justice cannot tame you, she shall ne’er weigh more reasons in her balance: nay, an you be a cursing hypocrite once, you must be looked to.
Don Pedro How now? two of my brother’s men bound! Borachio one!
Claudio Hearken after their offence, my lord.
Don Pedro Officers, what offence have these men done?
Dogberry Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves.
Don Pedro First, I ask thee what they have done; thirdly, I ask thee what’s their offence; sixth and lastly, why they are committed; and, to conclude, what you lay to their charge?
Claudio Rightly reasoned, and in his own division; and, by my troth, there’s one meaning well suited.
Don Pedro Who have you offended, masters, that you are thus bound to your answer? this learned constable is too cunning to be understood: what’s your offence?
Borachio Sweet prince, let me go no farther to mine answer: do you hear me, and let this count kill me. I have deceived even your very eyes: what your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light; who in the night overheard me confessing to this man how Don John your brother incensed me to slander the Lady Hero, how you were brought into the orchard and saw me court Margaret in Hero’s garments, how you disgraced her, when you should marry her: my villainy they have upon record; which I had rather seal with my death than repeat over to my shame. The lady is dead upon mine and my master’s false accusation; and, briefly, I desire nothing but the reward of a villain.
Don Pedro Runs not this speech like iron through your blood?
Claudio I have drunk poison whiles he utter’d it.
Don Pedro But did my brother set thee on to this?
Borachio Yea, and paid me richly for the practice of it.
Don Pedro

He is composed and framed of treachery:
And fled he is upon this villainy.


Sweet Hero! now thy image doth appear
In the rare semblance that I loved it first.

Dogberry Come, bring away the plaintiffs: by this time our sexton hath reformed Signior Leonato of the matter: and, masters, do not forget to specify, when time and place shall serve, that I am an ass.
Verges Here, here comes Master Signior Leonato, and the sexton too.
Re-enter Leonato and Antonio, with the Sexton.

Which is the villain? Let me see his eyes,
That, when I note another man like him,
I may avoid him: which of these is he?

Borachio If you would know your wronger, look on me.

Art thou the slave that with thy breath hast kill’d
Mine innocent child?

Borachio Yea, even I alone.

No, not so, villain; thou beliest thyself:
Here stand a pair of honourable men;
A third is fled, that had a hand in it.
I thank you, princes, for my daughter’s death:
Record it with your high and worthy deeds:
’Twas bravely done, if you bethink you of it.


I know not how to pray your patience;
Yet I must speak. Choose your revenge yourself;
Impose me to what penance your invention
Can lay upon my sin: yet sinn’d I not
But in mistaking.

Don Pedro

By my soul, nor I:
And yet, to satisfy this good old man,
I would bend under any heavy weight
That he’ll enjoin me to.


I cannot bid you bid my daughter live;
That were impossible: but, I pray you both,
Possess the people in Messina here
How innocent she died; and if your love
Can labour aught in sad invention,
Hang her an epitaph upon her tomb
And sing it to her bones, sing it tonight:
Tomorrow morning come you to my house,
And since you could not be my son-in-law,
Be yet my nephew: my brother hath a daughter,
Almost the copy of my child that’s dead,
And she alone is heir to both of us:
Give her the right you should have given her cousin,
And so dies my revenge.


O noble sir,
Your over-kindness doth wring tears from me!
I do embrace your offer; and dispose
For henceforth of poor Claudio.


Tomorrow then I will expect your coming;
Tonight I take my leave. This naughty man
Shall face to face be brought to Margaret,
Who I believe was pack’d in all this wrong,
Hired to it by your brother.


No, by my soul, she was not,
Nor knew not what she did when she spoke to me,
But always hath been just and virtuous
In anything that I do know by her.

Dogberry Moreover, sir, which indeed is not under white and black, this plaintiff here, the offender, did call me ass: I beseech you, let it be remembered in his punishment. And also, the watch heard them talk of one Deformed: they say he wears a key in his ear and a lock hanging by it, and borrows money in God’s name, the which he hath used so long and never paid that now men grow hard-hearted and will lend nothing for God’s sake: pray you, examine him upon that point.
Leonato I thank thee for thy care and honest pains.
Dogberry Your worship speaks like a most thankful and reverent youth; and I praise God for you.
Leonato There’s for thy pains.
Dogberry God save the foundation!
Leonato Go, I discharge thee of thy prisoner, and I thank thee.
Dogberry I leave an arrant knave with your worship; which I beseech your worship to correct yourself, for the example of others. God keep your worship! I wish your worship well; God restore you to health! I humbly give you leave to depart; and if a merry meeting may be wished, God prohibit it! Come, neighbour. Exeunt Dogberry and Verges.
Leonato Until tomorrow morning, lords, farewell.
Antonio Farewell, my lords: we look for you tomorrow.
Don Pedro We will not fail.
Claudio Tonight I’ll mourn with Hero.

To the Watch. Bring you these fellows on. We’ll talk with Margaret,
How her acquaintance grew with this lewd fellow. Exeunt, severally.

Scene II

Leonato’s garden.

Enter Benedick and Margaret, meeting.
Benedick Pray thee, sweet Mistress Margaret, deserve well at my hands by helping me to the speech of Beatrice.
Margaret Will you then write me a sonnet in praise of my beauty?
Benedick In so high a style, Margaret, that no man living shall come over it; for, in most comely truth, thou deservest it.
Margaret To have no man come over me! why, shall I always keep below stairs?
Benedick Thy wit is as quick as the greyhound’s mouth; it catches.
Margaret And yours as blunt as the fencer’s foils, which hit, but hurt not.
Benedick A most manly wit, Margaret; it will not hurt a woman: and so, I pray thee, call Beatrice: I give thee the bucklers.
Margaret Give us the swords; we have bucklers of our own.
Benedick If you use them, Margaret, you must put in the pikes with a vice; and they are dangerous weapons for maids.
Margaret Well, I will call Beatrice to you, who I think hath legs.

And therefore will come. Exit Margaret.

Sings. The god of love,
That sits above,
And knows me, and knows me,
How pitiful I deserve⁠—

I mean, in singing; but in loving, Leander the good swimmer, Troilus the first employer of panders, and a whole book full of these quondam carpet-mongers, whose names yet run smoothly in the even road of a blank verse, why, they were never so truly turned over and over as my poor self in love. Marry, I cannot show it in rhyme; I have tried: I can find out no rhyme to “lady” but “baby,” an innocent rhyme; for “scorn,” “horn,” a hard rhyme; for “school,” “fool,” a babbling rhyme; very ominous endings: no, I was not born under a rhyming planet, nor I cannot woo in festival terms.

Enter Beatrice.
Sweet Beatrice, wouldst thou come when I called thee?
Beatrice Yea, signior, and depart when you bid me.
Benedick O, stay but till then!
Beatrice “Then” is spoken; fare you well now: and yet, ere I go, let me go with that I came; which is, with knowing what hath passed between you and Claudio.
Benedick Only foul words; and thereupon I will kiss thee.
Beatrice Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but foul breath, and foul breath is noisome; therefore I will depart unkissed.
Benedick Thou hast frighted the word out of his right sense, so forcible is thy wit. But I must tell thee plainly, Claudio undergoes my challenge; and either I must shortly hear from him, or I will subscribe him a coward. And, I pray thee now, tell me for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?
Beatrice For them all together; which maintained so politic a state of evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them. But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?
Benedick Suffer love! a good epithet! I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.
Beatrice In spite of your heart, I think; alas, poor heart! If you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours; for I will never love that which my friend hates.
Benedick Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.
Beatrice It appears not in this confession: there’s not one wise man among twenty that will praise himself.
Benedick An old, an old instance, Beatrice, that lived in the time of good neighbours. If a man do not erect in this age his own tomb ere he dies, he shall live no longer in monument than the bell rings and the widow weeps.
Beatrice And how long is that, think you?
Benedick Question: why, an hour in clamour and a quarter in rheum: therefore is it most expedient for the wise, if Don Worm, his conscience, find no impediment to the contrary, to be the trumpet of his own virtues, as I am to myself. So much for praising myself, who, I myself will bear witness, is praiseworthy: and now tell me, how doth your cousin?
Beatrice Very ill.
Benedick And how do you?
Beatrice Very ill too.
Benedick Serve God, love me and mend. There will I leave you too, for here comes one in haste.
Enter Ursula.
Ursula Madam, you must come to your uncle. Yonder’s old coil at home: it is proved, my Lady Hero hath been falsely accused, the prince and Claudio mightily abused; and Don John is the author of all, who is fled and gone. Will you come presently?
Beatrice Will you go hear this news, signior?
Benedick I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover I will go with thee to thy uncle’s. Exeunt.

Scene III

A church.

Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, and three or four with tapers.
Claudio Is this the monument of Leonato?
A Lord It is, my lord.
Claudio Reading out of a scroll.

Done to death by slanderous tongues
Was the Hero that here lies:
Death, in guerdon of her wrongs,
Gives her fame which never dies.
So the life that died with shame
Lives in death with glorious fame.

Hang thou there upon the tomb,
Praising her when I am dumb.
Now, music, sound, and sing your solemn hymn.


Pardon, goddess of the night,
Those that slew thy virgin knight;
For the which, with songs of woe,
Round about her tomb they go.
Midnight, assist our moan;
Help us to sigh and groan,
Heavily, heavily:
Graves, yawn and yield your dead,
Till death be uttered,
Heavily, heavily.


Now, unto thy bones good night!
Yearly will I do this rite.

Don Pedro

Good morrow, masters; put your torches out:
The wolves have prey’d; and look, the gentle day,
Before the wheels of Phoebus, round about
Dapples the drowsy East with spots of grey.
Thanks to you all, and leave us: fare you well.

Claudio Good morrow, masters: each his several way.
Don Pedro

Come, let us hence, and put on other weeds;
And then to Leonato’s we will go.


And Hymen now with luckier issue speed’s
Than this for whom we rend’red up this woe! Exeunt.

Scene IV

A room in Leonato’s house.

Enter Leonato, Antonio, Benedick, Beatrice, Margaret, Ursula, Friar Francis, and Hero.
Friar Did I not tell you she was innocent?

So are the prince and Claudio, who accused her
Upon the error that you heard debated:
But Margaret was in some fault for this,
Although against her will, as it appears
In the true course of all the question.

Antonio Well, I am glad that all things sort so well.

And so am I, being else by faith enforced
To call young Claudio to a reckoning for it.


Well, daughter, and you gentlewomen all,
Withdraw into a chamber by yourselves,
And when I send for you, come hither mask’d. Exeunt Ladies.
The prince and Claudio promis’d by this hour
To visit me. You know your office, brother:
You must be father to your brother’s daughter,
And give her to young Claudio.

Antonio Which I will do with confirm’d countenance.
Benedick Friar, I must entreat your pains, I think.
Friar To do what, signior?

To bind me, or undo me; one of them.
Signior Leonato, truth it is, good signior,
Your niece regards me with an eye of favour.

Leonato That eye my daughter lent her: ’tis most true.
Benedick And I do with an eye of love requite her.

The sight whereof I think you had from me,
From Claudio and the prince: but what’s your will?


Your answer, sir, is enigmatical:
But, for my will, my will is your good will
May stand with ours, this day to be conjoin’d
In the state of honourable marriage:
In which, good friar, I shall desire your help.

Leonato My heart is with your liking.
Friar And my help. Here comes the prince and Claudio.
Enter Don Pedro and Claudio, and two or three others.
Don Pedro Good morrow to this fair assembly.

Good morrow, prince; good morrow, Claudio:
We here attend you. Are you yet determined
Today to marry with my brother’s daughter?

Claudio I’ll hold my mind, were she an Ethiope.
Leonato Call her forth, brother; here’s the friar ready. Exit Antonio.
Don Pedro

Good morrow, Benedick. Why, what’s the matter,
That you have such a February face,
So full of frost, of storm and cloudiness?


I think he thinks upon the savage bull.
Tush, fear not, man; we’ll tip thy horns with gold
And all Europa shall rejoice at thee,
As once Europa did at lusty Jove,
When he would play the noble beast in love.


Bull Jove, sir, had an amiable low;
And some such strange bull leap’d your father’s cow,
And got a calf in that same noble feat
Much like to you, for you have just his bleat.

Claudio For this I owe you: here comes other reckonings.
Re-enter Antonio, with the Ladies masked.
Which is the lady I must seize upon?
Antonio This same is she, and I do give you her.
Claudio Why, then she’s mine. Sweet, let me see your face.

No, that you shall not, till you take her hand
Before this friar and swear to marry her.


Give me your hand: before this holy friar,
I am your husband, if you like of me.


And when I lived, I was your other wife: Unmasking.
And when you loved, you were my other husband.

Claudio Another Hero!

Nothing certainer:
One Hero died defiled, but I do live,
And surely as I live, I am a maid.

Don Pedro The former Hero! Hero that is dead!
Leonato She died, my lord, but whiles her slander lived.

All this amazement can I qualify;
When after that the holy rites are ended,
I’ll tell you largely of fair Hero’s death:
Meantime let wonder seem familiar,
And to the chapel let us presently.

Benedick Soft and fair, friar. Which is Beatrice?
Beatrice Unmasking. I answer to that name. What is your will?
Benedick Do not you love me?
Beatrice Why, no; no more than reason.

Why, then your uncle and the prince and Claudio
Have been deceived; they swore you did.

Beatrice Do not you love me?
Benedick Troth, no; no more than reason.

Why, then my cousin Margaret and Ursula
Are much deceived; for they did swear you did.

Benedick They swore that you were almost sick for me.
Beatrice They swore that you were well-nigh dead for me.
Benedick ’Tis no such matter. Then you do not love me?
Beatrice No, truly, but in friendly recompense.
Leonato Come, cousin, I am sure you love the gentleman.

And I’ll be sworn upon’t that he loves her;
For here’s a paper written in his hand,
A halting sonnet of his own pure brain,
Fashion’d to Beatrice.


And here’s another
Writ in my cousin’s hand, stolen from her pocket,
Containing her affection unto Benedick.

Benedick A miracle! here’s our own hands against our hearts. Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take thee for pity.
Beatrice I would not deny you; but, by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion; and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption.
Benedick Peace! I will stop your mouth. Kissing her.
Don Pedro How dost thou, Benedick, the married man?
Benedick I’ll tell thee what, prince; a college of wit-crackers cannot flout me out of my humour. Dost thou think I care for a satire or an epigram? No: if man will be beaten with brains, a’ shall wear nothing handsome about him. In brief, since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it; and therefore never flout at me for what I have said against it; for man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion. For thy part, Claudio, I did think to have beaten thee; but in that thou art like to be my kinsman, live unbruised and love my cousin.
Claudio I had well hoped thou wouldst have denied Beatrice, that I might have cudgelled thee out of thy single life, to make thee a double-dealer; which, out of question, thou wilt be, if my cousin do not look exceeding narrowly to thee.
Benedick Come, come, we are friends: let’s have a dance ere we are married, that we may lighten our own hearts and our wives’ heels.
Leonato We’ll have dancing afterward.
Benedick First, of my word; therefore play, music. Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife: there is no staff more reverent than one tipped with horn.
Enter a Messenger.

My lord, your brother John is ta’en in flight,
And brought with armed men back to Messina.

Benedick Think not on him till tomorrow: I’ll devise thee brave punishments for him. Strike up, pipers. Dance. Exeunt.


The Standard Ebooks logo.

Much Ado About Nothing
was published in 1600 by
William Shakespeare.

This ebook was produced for
Standard Ebooks
Emma Sweeney,
and is based on a transcription produced in 1998 by the
P.G. Shakespeare Team and The Online Distributed Proofreading Team
Project Gutenberg
and on digital scans from the
HathiTrust Digital Library.

The cover page is adapted from
Esther Before Ahasuerus,
a painting completed in 1635 by
Artemisia Gentileschi.
The cover and title pages feature the
League Spartan and Sorts Mill Goudy
typefaces created in 2014 and 2009 by
The League of Moveable Type.

The first edition of this ebook was released on
February 24, 2020, 7:47 p.m.
You can check for updates to this ebook, view its revision history, or download it for different ereading systems at

The volunteer-driven Standard Ebooks project relies on readers like you to submit typos, corrections, and other improvements. Anyone can contribute at


May you do good and not evil.
May you find forgiveness for yourself and forgive others.
May you share freely, never taking more than you give.

Copyright pages exist to tell you that you can’t do something. Unlike them, this Uncopyright page exists to tell you that the writing and artwork in this ebook are believed to be in the United States public domain; that is, they are believed to be free of copyright restrictions in the United States. The United States public domain represents our collective cultural heritage, and items in it are free for anyone in the United States to do almost anything at all with, without having to get permission.

Copyright laws are different all over the world, and the source text or artwork in this ebook may still be copyrighted in other countries. If you’re not located in the United States, you must check your local laws before using this ebook. Standard Ebooks makes no representations regarding the copyright status of the source text or artwork in this ebook in any country other than the United States.

Non-authorship activities performed on items that are in the public domain⁠—so-called “sweat of the brow” work⁠—don’t create a new copyright. That means that nobody can claim a new copyright on an item that is in the public domain for, among other things, work like digitization, markup, or typography. Regardless, the contributors to this ebook release their contributions under the terms in the CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication, thus dedicating to the worldwide public domain all of the work they’ve done on this ebook, including but not limited to metadata, the titlepage, imprint, colophon, this Uncopyright, and any changes or enhancements to, or markup on, the original text and artwork. This dedication doesn’t change the copyright status of the source text or artwork. We make this dedication in the interest of enriching our global cultural heritage, to promote free and libre culture around the world, and to give back to the unrestricted culture that has given all of us so much.