Much Ado About Nothing


Scene I LEONATO'S garden.

HERO Good Margaret, run thee to the parlor;
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 purpose. This is thy office;
Bear thee well in it and leave us alone.
MARGARET I'll make her come, I warrant you, presently.
HERO 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.
URSULA 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.
HERO 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 haggerds of the rock.
URSULA 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?
HERO 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.
URSULA Why did you so? Doth not the gentleman
Deserve as full as fortunate a bed
As ever Beatrice shall couch upon?
HERO O god of love! I know he doth deserve
As much as may be yielded to a man:
But Nature never framed 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.
URSULA Sure, I think so;
And therefore certainly it were not good
She knew his love, lest she make sport at it.
HERO 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.
HERO 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.
HERO 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.
URSULA 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.
HERO He is the only man of Italy.
Always excepted my dear Claudio.
URSULA 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.
URSULA His excellence did earn it, ere he had it.
When are you married, madam?
HERO Why, every day, to-morrow. Come, go in:
I'll show thee some attires, and have thy counsel
Which is the best to furnish me to-morrow.
URSULA She's limed, I warrant you: we have caught her, madam.
HERO If it proves so, then loving goes by haps:
Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.
[Exeunt HERO and URSULA]
BEATRICE [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.

Scene II A room in LEONATO'S house

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
bow-string 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.
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, every one can master a grief but he that has
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 to-morrow, 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.
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
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 PEDRO Even she; Leonato's Hero, your Hero, every man's Hero:
CLAUDIO Disloyal?
DON JOHN The word is 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 to-night, you shall
see her chamber-window entered, even the night
before her wedding-day: if you love her then,
to-morrow 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 any thing to-night why I should not marry
her to-morrow 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.

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 desertless man to be
First Watchman 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 Watchman 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 Watchman 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.
Watchman 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.
Watchman 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.
Watchman 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.
Watchman 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.
Watchman 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 our 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, ha, 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.
Watchman 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 to-morrow, there is a great coil to-night.
Adieu: be vigitant, I beseech you.
BORACHIO What Conrade!
Watchman [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 pent-house, for
it drizzles rain; and I will, like a true drunkard,
utter all to thee.
Watchman [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 villany should be so dear?
BORACHIO Thou shouldst rather ask if it were possible any
villany 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
Watchman [Aside] I know that Deformed; a' has been a vile
thief this seven year; 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?
sometimes fashioning them like Pharaoh's soldiers
in the reeky 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 to-night
wooed Margaret, the Lady Hero's gentlewoman, by the
name of Hero: she leans me out at her mistress'
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 villany, 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 Watchman We charge you, in the prince's name, stand!
Second Watchman Call up the right master constable. We have here
recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that
ever was known in the commonwealth.
First Watchman And one Deformed is one of them: I know him; a'
wears a lock.
CONRADE Masters, masters,--
Second Watchman You'll be made bring Deformed forth, I warrant you.
CONRADE Masters,--
First Watchman 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.

Scene IV HERO's apartment.

HERO Good Ursula, wake my cousin Beatrice, and desire
her to rise.
URSULA I will, lady.
HERO And bid her come hither.
MARGARET Troth, I think your other rabato 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 night-gown 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:' and bad
thinking do not wrest true speaking, I'll offend
nobody: is there any harm in 'the heavier for a
husband'? None, I think, and it be the right husband
and the right wife; otherwise 'tis light, and not
heavy: ask my Lady Beatrice else; here she comes.
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, and 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 every one 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 Even 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.

Scene V Another room in LEONATO'S house.

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 it 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 to-night, 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 it 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 non-come: only
get the learned writer to set down our
excommunication and meet me at the gaol.

Next Act

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