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
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
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 pierce 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 every thing
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
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!
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
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 villany;
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.
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.
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 not you 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 to-night.
Don John. Come, let us to the banquet.[Exeunt DON JOHN and BORACHIO]
Claudio. Thus answer I in the 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!
Benedick. Count Claudio?
Claudio. Yea, the same.
Benedick. Come, will you go with me?
Benedick. Even to the next willow, about your own business,
county. What fashion will you wear the garland of?
about your neck, like an 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.
Don Pedro. Now, signior, where’s the count? did you see him?595
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 birds’ 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 birds’ nest.
Don Pedro. I will but teach them to sing, and restore them to
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 625
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 bad 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 635
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 tooth-picker 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 Pigmies,
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.
Don Pedro. Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of
Beatrice. Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave
him use for it, a double heart for his 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 an
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 every one 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 Benedict.
Leonato. O Lord, my lord, if they were but a week married,
they would talk themselves mad.
Don Pedro. County Claudio, when mean you to go to church?
Claudio. To-morrow, 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
Claudio. And I, my lord.
Don Pedro. And you too, gentle Hero?745
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.