Act V, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis
Claudio and Don Pedro, accompanied by a party of lords and musicians, arrive at the monument of Leonato to perform a public mourning for Hero. Claudio reads an epitaph which declares her innocence and then hangs it up at her tomb. Balthasar sings a hymn to Diana, patroness of chastity, entreating her to forgive Hero's slanderers. Claudio vows to do the rite yearly. At dawn the mourners leave, each going their separate way. Claudio and Don Pedro will change their garments and go to Leonato's for the wedding.
The redemption scene, with its epitaph, song, and dialogue, is wholly in rhyme with the exception of the first two lines. At midnight our penitents arrive at Leonato's monument and withdraw into a world of contrition as they enter the damp tomb to experience the spiritual medicine of Friar Francis' restorative, accompanied by a silent black-robed procession with flickering tapers.
Claudio reads the epitaph to Hero, "done to death by slanderous tongues," that he has written (which requires deep-felt delivery to work), hangs up the scroll for public scrutiny, and calls for the dirge (12-21):
Pardon, goddess of the night, Those that slew thy virgin knight; For the which, with songs of woe, Round about her tomb they go. Midnight, assist our moan; Help us to sigh and groan, Heavily, heavily. Graves, yawn and yield your dead, Till death be uttered, Heavily, heavily.
While it is sung the mourners circle the tomb. The tone is solemn. They beg pardon of Diana, moon goddess and patroness of chastity and invoke midnight and the shades of the dead to assist them as they proclaim Hero's innocent death.
This scene carries an other-worldly quality and its comic element is subdued almost entirely, asking for no more than a knowing chuckle. We are convinced that Friar Francis' nostrum has taken hold when Claudio volunteers to perform the ceremony yearly, until his death, and his reformation prepares the audience to accept him as a worthy husband for Hero.