Much Ado About Nothing


DON PEDRO prince of Arragon.
DON JOHN his bastard brother.
CLAUDIO a young lord of Florence.
BENEDICK a young lord of Padua.
LEONATO governor of Messina.
ANTONIO his brother.
BALTHASAR attendant on Don Pedro.

| followers of Don John.
DOGBERRY a constable.
VERGES a headborough.
A Sexton.
A Boy.
HERO daughter to Leonato.
BEATRICE niece to Leonato.

| gentlewomen attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watch, Attendants, &c. (Lord:)
(First Watchman:)
(Second Watchman:)

Scene Messina.

Act I

Scene I Before LEONATO'S house.

[Enter LEONATO, HERO, and BEATRICE, with a
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.
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.

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 mine
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.

Scene III The same.

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 blessing brings it?
CONRADE If not a present remedy, at least a patient
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?
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
BORACHIO Marry, it is your brother's right hand.
DON JOHN Who? the most exquisite Claudio?
DON JOHN A proper squire! And who, and who? which way looks
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 prove what's to be done?
BORACHIO We'll wait upon your lordship.

Next Act

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