Act 4 of Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing begins with the blockbuster dramatic event of Claudio standing at the altar with Hero and refusing to marry her, calling her "an approved wanton"—a known promiscuous woman— and accusing her of infidelity.
CLAUDIO. What man was he talked with you yesternight, / Out at your window betwixt twelve and one? (4.1.86-87)
Hero denies that she met with any man during the night, but Don Pedro contradicts her.
DON PEDRO. Upon my honour, / Myself, my brother, and this grieved count / Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night / Talk with a ruffian at her chamber window, / Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain, / Confessed the vile encounters they have had / A thousand times in secret. (4.1.91-97)
Angry and distraught, Claudio cries out to Hero, bids her farewell, and vows never to love again.
CLAUDIO. O Hero! what a Hero hadst thou been / If half thy outward graces had been placed / About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart! / But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! Farewell, / Thou pure impiety and impious purity! / For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love, / And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang, / To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm, / And never shall it more be gracious. (4.1.103-111)
Hero falls to the floor in a faint, and Claudio walks out, leaving Hero at the altar, and leaving everyone else astounded at this surprising turn of events.
After a short time, Hero recovers, and again denies meeting with any man the night before or at any other time.
The Friar is inclined to believe her, and—as Shakespeare's friars have a tendency to do—the Friar concocts a plan to have Hero's father, Leonato, make it known that Hero died from shame, in order to give everyone time to discover the truth of the matter.
Everyone, including Claudio's close friend, Benedick, agrees to this plan, and all except Beatrice and Benedick leave the scene.
In another dramatic revelation, Beatrice and Benedick confess their love for each other.
BENEDICK. I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is not that / strange?
BEATRICE. As strange as the thing I know not. It were as possible for / me to say I loved nothing so well as you. (4.1.277-280)
As if all of these dramatic events weren't enough for one scene, Benedick ask Beatrice what he can do to prove his love for her.
BEATRICE. Kill Claudio. (4.1.298)
Benedick is utterly taken aback.
BENEDICK. Ha! not for the wide world! (4.1.299)
Beatrice argues that Benedick should kill Claudio for what Claudio did to Hero.
BEATRICE. Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath / slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? ...Sweet Hero! Sweet Hero! She is wronged, she is sland'red, she is / undone. (4.1.310-311, 320-321)
Benedick wants to be absolutely sure that Beatrice is serious about having him kill Claudio, and that she has good reason to make such a request.
BENEDICK. Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?
BEATRICE. Yea, as sure is I have a thought or a soul. (4.1.333-335)
In a fitting end to this very dramatic scene, Benedick agrees to kill Claudio.
BENEDICK. Enough, I am engaged, I will challenge him. I will kiss your / hand, and so I leave you. By this hand, Claudio shall render / me a dear account. (4.1.336-338)
So far, Don John's malicious plot to discredit Hero and ruin her reputation has gone according to plan. It remains to be seen if the plot will be uncovered, and by whom, and if Don John and the other villains involved in his plot will be well and truly punished.