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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
by William Shakespeare


1599

Dramatis Personae

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, an old man, his brother.
Balthasar, attendant on Don Pedro.
Borachio, follower of Don John.
Conrade, follower of Don John.
Friar Francis.
Dogberry, a Constable.
Verges, a Headborough.
A Sexton.
A Boy.
Hero, daughter to Leonato.
Beatrice, niece to Leonato.
Margaret, waiting gentlewoman attending on Hero.
Ursula, waiting gentlewoman attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watch, Attendants, etc.

SCENE.-Messina.

ACT I. Scene I.
An orchard before Leonato's house.

[Enter Leonato (Governor of Messina), Hero (his Daughter), and
Beatrice (his Niece), with a Messenger.]

Leon.
I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Arragon comes this
night to Messina.

Mess.
He is very near by this. He was not three leagues off when I left
him.

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

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

Leon.
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.

Mess.
Much deserv'd on his part, and equally rememb'red 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
bett'red expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how.

Leon.
He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.

Mess.
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.

Leon.
Did he break out into tears?

Mess.
In great measure.

Leon.
A kind overflow of kindness. There are no faces truer than those
that are so wash'd. How much better is it to weep at joy than to
joy at weeping!

Beat.
I pray you, is Signior Mountanto return'd from the wars or no?

Mess.
I know none of that name, lady. There was none such in the army
of any sort.

Leon.
What is he that you ask for, niece?

Hero.
My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.

Mess.
O, he's return'd, and as pleasant as ever he was.

Beat.
He set up his bills here in Messina and challeng'd Cupid at the
flight, and my uncle's fool, reading the challenge, subscrib'd
for Cupid and challeng'd him at the burbolt. I pray you, how many
hath he kill'd and eaten in these wars? But how many hath he
kill'd? For indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.

Leon.
Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much; but he'll be
meet with you, I doubt it not.

Mess.
He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.

Beat.
You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it. He is a very
valiant trencherman; he hath an excellent stomach.

Mess.
And a good soldier too, lady.

Beat.
And a good soldier to a lady; but what is he to a lord?

Mess.
A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuff'd with all honourable
virtues.

Beat.
It is so indeed. He is no less than a stuff'd man; but for the
stuffing--well, we are all mortal.

Leon.
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.

Beat.
Alas, he gets nothing by that! In our last conflict four of his
five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man govern'd
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.

Mess.
Is't possible?

Beat.
Very easily possible. He wears his faith but as the fashion of
his hat; it ever changes with the next block.

Mess.
I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.


Beat.
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?

Mess.
He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.

Beat.
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.

Mess.
I will hold friends with you, lady.

Beat.
Do, good friend.

Leon.
You will never run mad, niece.

Beat.
No, not till a hot January.

Mess.
Don Pedro is approach'd.

[Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, and John the
Bastard.]

Pedro.
Good Signior Leonato, are you come to meet your trouble? The
fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it.

Leon.
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.

Pedro.
You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this is your
daughter.

Leon.
Her mother hath many times told me so.

Bene.
Were you in doubt, sir, that you ask'd her?

Leon.
Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.

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.

Bene.
If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head on
her shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she is.

Beat.
I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick.
Nobody marks you.

Bene.
What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?

Beat.
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.

Bene.
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.

Beat.
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.

Bene.
God keep your ladyship still in that mind! So some gentleman or
other shall scape a predestinate scratch'd face.

Beat.
Scratching could not make it worse an 'twere such a face as yours
were.

Bene.
Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.

Beat.
A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.

Bene.
I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a
continuer. But keep your way, a God's name! I have done.

Beat.
You always end with a jade's trick. I know you of old.


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.

Leon.
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.

John.
I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you.


Leon.
Please it your Grace lead on?

Pedro.
Your hand, Leonato. We will go together.

[Exeunt. Manent Benedick and Claudio.]

Claud.
Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?

Bene.
I noted her not, but I look'd on her.

Claud.
Is she not a modest young lady?

Bene.
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?

Claud.
No. I pray thee speak in sober judgment.

Bene.
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.

Claud.
Thou thinkest I am in sport. I pray thee tell me truly how thou
lik'st her.

Bene.
Would you buy her, that you enquire after her?

Claud.
Can the world buy such a jewel?

Bene.
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?

Claud.
In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I look'd on.

Bene.
I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter.
There's her cousin, an she were not possess'd 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?

Claud.
I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the contrary, if
Hero would be my wife.

Bene.
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! An thou wilt
needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it and sigh
away Sundays.

[Enter Don Pedro.]

Look! Don Pedro is returned to seek you.

Pedro.
What secret hath held you here, that you followed not to
Leonato's?

Bene.
I would your Grace would constrain me to tell.

Pedro.
I charge thee on thy allegiance.

Bene.
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.

Claud.
If this were so, so were it utt'red.

Bene.
Like the old tale, my lord: 'It is not so, nor 'twas not so; but
indeed, God forbid it should be so!'

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

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

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

Pedro.
By my troth, I speak my thought.

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

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

Claud.
That I love her, I feel.

Pedro.
That she is worthy, I know.

Bene.
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.

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

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

Bene.
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
rechate 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.

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

Bene.
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.

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

Bene.
If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me; and he
that hits me, let him be clapp'd on the shoulder and call'd Adam.

Pedro.
Well, as time shall try. 'In time the savage bull doth bear the
yoke.'

Bene.
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.'

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

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

Bene.
I look for an earthquake too then.

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.

Bene.
I have almost matter enough in me for such an embassage; and so I
commit you--

Claud.
To the tuition of God. From my house--if I had it--

Pedro.
The sixth of July. Your loving friend, Benedick.

Bene.
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.]

Claud.
My liege, your Highness now may do me good.

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.

Claud.
Hath Leonato any son, my lord?

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

Claud.
O my lord,
When you went onward on this ended action,
I look'd upon her with a soldier's eye,
That lik'd, 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 lik'd her ere I went to wars.

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. Wast not to this end
That thou began'st to twist so fine a story?

Claud.
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 salv'd it with a longer treatise.

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 practice let us put it presently. [Exeunt.]

Scene II.

A room in Leonato's house.

[Enter [at one door] Leonato and [at another door, Antonio] an
old man, brother to Leonato.]

Leon.
How now, brother? Where is my cousin your son? Hath he provided
this music?

Ant.
He is very busy about it. But, brother, I can tell you strange
news that you yet dreamt not of.

Leon.
Are they good?

Ant.
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.

Leon.
Hath the fellow any wit that told you this?

Ant.
A good sharp fellow. I will send for him, and question him
yourself.

Leon.
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. [Exit Antonio.]

[Enter Antonio's Son with a Musician, and others.]

[To the Son] Cousin, you know what you have to do.

--[To the Musician] 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.

Another room in Leonato's house.

[Enter Sir John the Bastard and Conrade, his companion.]

Con.
What the goodyear, my lord! Why are you thus out of measure sad?

John.
There is no measure in the occasion that breeds; therefore the
sadness is without limit.

Con.
You should hear reason.

John.
And when I have heard it, what blessings brings it?

Con.
If not a present remedy, at least a patient sufferance.

John.
I wonder that thou (being, as thou say'st 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.

Con.
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.

John.
I had rather be a canker in a hedge than a rose in his grace, and
it better fits my blood to be disdain'd 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
enfranchis'd 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.

Con.
Can you make no use of your discontent?

John.
I make all use of it, for I use it only.

[Enter Borachio.]

Who comes here? What news, Borachio?

Bora.
I came yonder from a great supper. The Prince your brother is
royally entertain'd by Leonato, and I can give you intelligence
of an intended marriage.

John.
Will it serve for any model to build mischief on? What is he for
a fool that betroths himself to unquietness?

Bora.
Marry, it is your brother's right hand.

John.
Who? the most exquisite Claudio?

Bora.
Even he.

John.
A proper squire! And who? and who? which way looks he?

Bora.
Marry, on Hero, the daughter and heir of Leonato.

John.
A very forward March-chick! How came you to this?

Bora.
Being entertain'd 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 obtain'd her,
give her to Count Claudio.

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?

Con.
To the death, my lord.

John.
Let us to the great supper. Their cheer is the greater that I am
subdued. Would the cook were o' my mind! Shall we go prove what's
to be done?

Bora.
We'll wait upon your lordship.

Exeunt.

 


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