ACT I
Scene 1
 

An orchard before Leonato's house.

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

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?

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 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.

LEONATO
He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very 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?

MESSENGER
In great measure.

LEONATO
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!

BEATRICE
I pray you, is Signior Mountanto return'd from the 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.

Messenger

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

BEATRICE
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.

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.

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?

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

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

LEONATO
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.

BEATRICE
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.

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.


BEATRICE
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?

MESSENGER
He is most in the company of the right noble 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 'a 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.

MESSENGER
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.

LEONATO
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.

LEONATO
Her mother hath many times told me so.

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

LEONATO
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.

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.

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 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 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 scratch'd face.

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, 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.

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.

LEONATO
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.

LEONATO
Please it your Grace lead on?

PEDRO
Your hand, Leonato. We will go together.

[Exeunt. Manent Benedick and Claudio.]

CLAUDIO
Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?

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

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?

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 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
lik'st her.

BENEDICK
Would you buy her, that you enquire after her?

CLAUDIO
Can the world buy such a jewel?

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 look'd on.

BENEDICK
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?

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
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?

BENEDICK
I would your Grace would constrain me to tell.

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? 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 utt'red.

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

CLAUDIO
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.

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

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.

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.

PEDRO
Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the despite 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; 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.

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 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.

BENEDICK
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.'

BENEDICK
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.'

CLAUDIO
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.

BENEDICK
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.

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

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

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, examine your
conscience. And so I leave you.

[Exit.]

CLAUDIO
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.

CLAUDIO
Hath Leonato any son, my lord?

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,
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?

CLAUDIO
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.]