Much Ado About Nothing eText - Act I

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Act I

Scene I

[Before Leonato's House]

Enter Leonato, Governor of Messins; Hero, hisdaughter; and Beatrice, his niece, with a messenger.

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

Exeunt [all but] Benedick and Claudio.

Enter Don Pedro.

[Exit.]

Exeunt.

LEONATO:
I learn in this letter that Don Pedro 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?(5)
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 Pedro hath bestowed
much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio.
MESSENGER:
Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered(10)
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 who will be very(15)
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 bitterness.
LEONATO:
Did he break out into tears?(20)
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(25)
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.(30)
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
birdbolt. I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten(35)
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.(40)
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?(45)
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, my lord, mistake my niece. There is(50)
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(55)
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(60)
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.(65)
BEATRICE:
No, and if 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(70)
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(75)
he 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.(80)
MESSENGER:
Don Pedro is approached.
DON PEDRO:
Good Signior Leonato, are you 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(85)
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.(90)
BENEDICK:
Were you in doubt, my lord, 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.(95)
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.(100)
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(105)
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(110)
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.(115)
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,(120)
and so good a continuer. But keep your way, a 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(125)
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.(130)
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.

[To Don John]

DON JOHN:
I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank
you.(135)
LEONATO:
Please it your Grace lead on?
DON PEDRO:
Your hand, Leonato. We will go together.
CLAUDIO:
Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior
Leonato?
BENEDICK:
I noted her not, but I looked on her.(140)
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?(145)
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(150)
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 enquire after her?
CLAUDIO:
Can the world buy such a jewel?(155)
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.(160)
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?(165)
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 threescore again? Go to, i' faith! An thou wilt(170)
needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it and
sigh away Sundays. Look; Don Pedro is returned to seek
you.
DON PEDRO:
What secret hath held you here, that you followed
not to Leonato's?(175)
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?(180)
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 so!'(185)
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.(190)
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.(195)
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(200)
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;(205)
but that I will have a recheate 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(210)
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(215)
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(220)
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(225)
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.’(230)
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 will temporize with the hours. In the(235)
meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to Leonato's, commend
mend 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—(240)
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,(245)
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.(250)
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,(255)
I looked 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 returned and that war-thoughts
Have left their places vacant, in their rooms(260)
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.(265)
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?
CLAUDIO:
How sweetly you do minister to love,(270)
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?(275)
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.(280)
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.(285)
Then after to her father will I break;
And the conclusion is, she shall be thine.
In practice let us put it presently.

Scene II

[A Room in Leonato's House]

Enter Leonato and [Antonio] brother to Leonato.

[Exeunt.]

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?(5)
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(10)
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?(15)
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(20)
this be true. Go you and tell her of it.
Cousin, 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.

Enter musician.

[To the musician]

Scene III

[Another Room in Leonato's House]

Enter Sir [Don] John and Conrade, his companion

Exeunt.

CONRADE:
What the goodyear, 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.(5)
DON JOHN:
And when I have heard it, what blessings brings it?
CONRADE:
If not a present remedy, at least a patient sufferance.
DON 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(10)
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(15)
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, whereit 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.(20)
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(25)
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.(30)
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?

Enter Borachio.

BORACHIO:
I came yonder from a great supper. The prince
your brother is royally entertained by Leonato, and I can(35)
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
unquietness?
BORACHIO:
Marry, it is your brother's right hand.(40)
DON JOHN:
Who? the most exquisite Claudio?
BORACHIO:
Even he.
DON JOHN:
A proper squire! And who? and who? which way
looks he?
BORACHIO:
Marry, on Hero, the daughter and heir of Leonato.(45)
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(50)
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(55)
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(60)
mind! Shall we go prove what's to be done?
BORACHIO:
We'll wait upon your lordship.