Shakespeare in the Digital Age

Act I

Act I, Scene 1 
Before LEONATO’S house. 
[Enter LEONATO, HERO, and BEATRICE, with a Messenger]

Leonato. I learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon comes this night to Messina.

Messenger. He is very near by this: he was not three leagues off
when I left him. 5

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 Peter hath
bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio. 10

Messenger. Much deserved on his part and equally remembered 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 15
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 20
not show itself modest enough without a badge of

Leonato. Did he break out into tears?

Messenger. In great measure.

Leonato. A kind overflow of kindness: there are no faces 25
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
wars or no?

Messenger. I know none of that name, lady: there was none such 30
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 returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.

Beatrice. He set up his bills here in Messina and challenged 35 Cupid at the flight; and my uncle's fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him at the bird-bolt. I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath he killed? for indeed I promised to eat all of his killing. 40 

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 45
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; stuffed with all
honourable virtues. 50

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, 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 55
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 governed with one: so that if
he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him 60
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? 65

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 70
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 75
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. 80

Leonato. You will never run mad, niece.

Beatrice. No, not till a hot January.

Messenger. Don Pedro is approached.


Don Pedro. Good Signior Leonato, you are come to meet your 85
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 90
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.

Benedick. Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her? 95

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. 100

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. 105

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. 110

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 115
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 120
gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate
scratched face.

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

Benedick. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher. 125

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, i' God's
name; I have done. 

Beatrice. You always end with a jade's trick: I know you of old. 130  
Don 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 heartily prays some
occasion may detain us longer. I dare swear he is no 135
hypocrite, but prays from his heart.

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. 140

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

Leonato. Please it your grace lead on?

Don Pedro. Your hand, Leonato; we will go together.

[Exeunt all except BENEDICK and CLAUDIO]

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

Benedick. I noted her not; but I looked 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 150
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 155
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 likest her. 160

Benedick. Would you buy her, that you inquire 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 165
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.

Benedick. I can see yet without spectacles and I see no such 170
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?

Claudio. I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the 175
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 three-score again?
Go to, i' faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck 180
into a yoke, wear the print of it and sigh away
Sundays. Look Don Pedro is returned to seek you.

[Re-enter DON PEDRO]

Don Pedro. What secret hath held you here, that you followed
not to Leonato's? 185

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 190
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 uttered.

Benedick. Like the old tale, my lord: 'it is not so, nor 195
'twas not so, but, indeed, God forbid it should be

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. 200

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

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. 205

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 210
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 215
thanks: but that I will have a recheat 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 220
I may go the finer, I will live a 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 225
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.

Don Pedro. Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou
wilt prove a notable argument. 230

Benedick. If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot
at 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.' 235

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 240
'Here you may see Benedick the married man.'

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. 245

Don Pedro. Well, you 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. 250

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,—

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

Benedick. Nay, mock not, mock not. The body of your 255
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.


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.

Claudio. Hath Leonato any son, my lord? 265

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,
I look'd upon her with a soldier's eye, 270
That liked, 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, 275
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.
If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it, 280
And I will break with her and with her father,
And thou shalt have her. Was't 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! 285
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?
The fairest grant is the necessity.
Look, what will serve is fit: 'tis once, thou lovest, 290
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 295
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 practise let us put it presently. 300


Act I, Scene 2

A room in LEONATO’s house.

[Enter LEONATO and ANTONIO, meeting]

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 305
you strange news that you yet dreamt not of.

Leonato. Are they good?

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 310
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 315
top and instantly break with you of it. 

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

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 320
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.
[Enter Attendants]
Cousins, you know what you have to do. O, I cry you 325
mercy, friend; go you with me, and I will use your
skill. Good cousin, have a care this busy time.


Act I, Scene 3

The same.


Conrade. What the good-year, my lord! why are you thus out 330
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.

Don John. And when I have heard it, what blessing brings it? 335

Conrade. If not a present remedy, at least a patient

Don John. I wonder that thou, being, as thou sayest thou art,
born under Saturn, goest about to apply a moral
medicine to a mortifying mischief. I cannot hide 340
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. 345

Conrade. 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 350
fair weather that you make yourself: it is needful
that you frame the season for your own harvest.

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 355
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 enfranchised with a clog; therefore I
have decreed not to sing in my cage. If I had my 360
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.

Conrade. Can you make no use of your discontent?

Don John. I make all use of it, for I use it only. 365
Who comes here?
What news, Borachio?

Borachio. I came yonder from a great supper: the prince your
brother is royally entertained by Leonato: and I 370
can 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

Borachio. Marry, it is your brother's right hand. 375

Don John. Who? the most exquisite Claudio?

Borachio. Even he.

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

Borachio. Marry, on Hero, the daughter and heir of Leonato. 380

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
arras; and there heard it agreed upon that the 385
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 my overthrow: if I can cross him any way, I 390
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 mind! Shall we go prove what's to be done? 395

Borachio. We'll wait upon your lordship.


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