Act 1, Scene 1

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

Leonato. I learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon 
comes this night to Messina.

Messenger. He is very near by this: he was not three leagues off when I left him.5

Leonato. How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?

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

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

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 

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.


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 heartily prays some 
occasion may detain us longer. I dare swear he is no
hypocrite, but prays from his heart.

Leonato. If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn. 
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 

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 three-score again? 
Go to, i’ faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck
into a yoke, wear the print of it and sigh away 
Sundays. Look Don Pedro is returned to seek you.

[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 

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

Don Pedro. Amen, if you love her; for the lady is very well worthy.

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

Don Pedro. By my troth, I speak my thought.

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

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

Claudio. That I love her, I feel.

Don Pedro. That she is worthy, I know.

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

Don Pedro. Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the despite
of beauty.

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

Benedick. That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she 
brought me up, I likewise give her most humble
thanks: but that I will have a recheat winded in my 
forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, 
all women shall pardon me. Because I will not do 
them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the 
right to trust none; and the fine is, for the which
I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor.

Don Pedro. I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benedick. I look for an earthquake too, then.

Don Pedro. Well, you temporize with the hours. In the 
meantime, good 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.


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

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

Claudio. Hath Leonato any son, my lord?

Don Pedro. No child but Hero; she’s his only heir. 
Dost thou affect her, Claudio?

Claudio. O, my lord, 
When you went onward on this ended action, 
I 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?

Claudio. How sweetly you do minister to love, 
That know love’s grief by his complexion!
But lest my liking might too sudden seem, 
I would have salved it with a longer treatise.

Don Pedro. What need the bridge much broader than the flood? 
The fairest grant is the necessity. 
Look, what will serve is fit: ’tis once, thou lovest,
And I will fit thee with the remedy. 
I know we shall have revelling to-night: 
I will assume thy part in some disguise 
And tell fair Hero I am Claudio, 
And in her bosom I’ll unclasp my heart
And take her hearing prisoner with the force 
And strong encounter of my amorous tale: 
Then after to her father will I break; 
And the conclusion is, she shall be thine. 
In practise let us put it presently.