William Shakespeare.

Shakespeare's comedy of Much ado about nothing online

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The story that is printed in her blood ?
Do not live, Hero ; do not ope thine eyes : 121

For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,
Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
Myself would, on the rearward of reproaches,
Strike at thy life. Griev'd I, I had but one?
Chid I for that at frugal nature's frame ?
O, one too much by thee ! Why had I one?
Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes ?
Why had I not with charitable hand

Took up a beggar's issue at my gates, 130

Who smirched thus and mir'd with infamy,
I might have said ( No part of it is mine ;
This shame derives itself from unknown loins ?'
But mine, and mine I lov'd, and mine I prais'd,
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much


That I myself was to myself not mine,

Valuing of her, why, she, O, she is fallen

Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea

Hath drop's too few to wash her clean again,

And salt too little which may season give 140

To her foul-tainted flesh !

Benedick. Sir, sir, be patient.

For my part, I am so attir'd in wonder,
I know not what to say.

Beatrice. O, on my soul, my cousin is belied !

Benedick. Lady, were you her bedfellow last night?

Beatrice. No, truly not ; although, until last night,
I have this twelvemonth been her bedfellow.

Leonato. Confirmed, confirmed ! O, that is stronger made
Which was before barr'd up with ribs of iron !
Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie, 150

Who lov'd her so, that, speaking of her foulness,
Waslrd it with tears ? Hence from her ! let her die.

Friar Francis. Hear me a little ;
For I have only silent been so long,
And given way unto this course of fortune,
By noting of the lady: I have mark'd
A thousand blushing apparitions
To start into her face, a thousand innocent shames
In angel whiteness bear away those blushes ;
And in her eye there hath appear'd a fire, 160

To burn the errors that these princes hold
Against her maiden truth. Call me a fool ;
Trust not my reading nor my observations,
Which with experimental seal doth warrant
The tenour of my book ; trust not my age,
My reverence, calling, nor divinity,
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
Under some biting error.

Leonato. Friar, it cannot be.


Thou seest that all the grace that she hath left

Is that she will not add to her damnation 170

A sin of perjury ; she not denies it:

Why seek'st thou then to cover with excuse

That which .appears in proper nakedness?

Friar Francis. Lady, what man is he you are accus'd of?

Hero. They know that do accuse me ; I know none :
If I know more of any man alive
Than that which maiden modesty doth warrant,
Let all my sins lack mercy! O my father,
Prove you that any man with me convers'd
At hours unmeet, or that I yesternight 180

Maintain'd the change of words with any creature,
Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death !

Friar Francis. There is some strange misprision in the

Benedick. Two of them have the very bent of honour;
And if their wisdoms be misled in this,
The practice of it lives in John the bastard,
Whose spirits toil in frame of villanies.

Leonato. I know not. If they speak but truth of her,
These hands shall tear her; if they wrong her honour,
The proudest of them shall well hear of it. 19

Time hath not yet so dried this blood of mine,
Nor age so eat up my invention,
Nor fortune made such havoc of my means,
Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends,
But they shall find, awak'd in such a kind,
Both strength of limb and policy of mind,
Ability in means and choice of friends,
To quit me of them throughly.

Friar Francis. Pause awhile,

And let my counsel sway you in this case.
Your daughter here the princes left for dead : 200

Let her awhile be secretly kept in,


And publish it that she is dead indeed;
Maintain a mourning ostentation,
And on your family's old monument
Hang mournful epitaphs, and do all rites
That appertain unto a burial.

Leonato. What shall become of this ? what will this do ?

Friar Francis. Marry, this well carried shall on her behalf
Change slander to remorse ; that is some good :
But not for that dream I on this strange course, 210

But on this travail look for greater birth.
She dying, as it must be so maintain'd,
Upon the instant that she was accus'd,
Shall be lamented, pitied, and excus'd
Of every hearer ; for it so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
Whiles it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio : 220

When he shall hear she died upon his words,
The idea of her life shall sweetly creep
Into his study of imagination,
And every lovely organ of her life
Shall come apparell'd in more precious habit,
More moving, delicate, and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of his soul,
Than when she liv'd indeed ; then shall he mourn,
If ever love had interest in his liver,

And wish he had not so accused her, 230

No, though he thought his accusation true.
Let this be so, and doubt not but success
Will fashion the event in better shape
Than I can lay it down in likelihood.
But if all aim but this be levell'd false,
The supposition of the lady's death


Will quench the wonder of her infamy;

And if it sort not well, you may conceal her,

As best befits her wounded reputation,

In some reclusive and religious life, 240

Out of all eyes, tongues, minds, and injuries.

Benedick. Signior Leonato, let the friar advise you ;
And though you know my inwardness and love
Is very much unto the prince and Claudio,
Yet, by mine honour, I will deal in this
As secretly and justly as your soul
Should with your body.

Leonato. Being that I flow in grief,

The smallest twine may lead me.

Friar Francis. 'T is well consented : presently away;

For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure. 250
Come, lady, die to live : this wedding-day

Perhaps is but prolong'd ; have patience and endure.

\Exeunt all but Benedick and Beatrice.

Benedick. Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?

Beatrice. Yea, and I will weep a while longer.

Benedick. I will not desire that.

Beatrice. You have no reason ; I do it freely.

Benedick. Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged.

Beatrice. Ah, how much might the man deserve of me
that would right her !

Benedick. Is there any way to show such friendship ? 260

Beatrice. A very even way, but no such friend.

Benedick. May a man do it ?

Beatrice. It is a man's office, but not yours.

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 : but
believe me not ; and yet I lie not ; I confess nothing, nor I
deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.


Benedick. By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me. 270

Beatrice. Do not swear by it, and eat it.

Benedick. I will swear by it that you love me ; and I will
make him eat it that says I love not you.

Beatrice. Will you not eat your word ?

Benedick. With no sauce that can be devised to it. I pro-
test I love thee.

Beatrice. W T hy, then, God forgive me !

Benedick. What offence, sweet Beatrice ?

Beatrice. You have stayed me in a happy hour; I was
about to protest I loved you. 280

Benedick. And do it with all thy heart.

Beatrice. I love you with so much of my heart that none
is left to protest.

Benedick. Come, bid me do any thing for thee.

Beatrice. Kill Claudio.

Benedick. Ha ! not for the wide world.

Beatrice. You kill me to deny it. Farewell.

Benedick. Tarry, sweet Beatrice.

Beatrice. I am gone, though I am here ; there is no love
in you. Nay, I pray you, let me go. 290

Benedick. Beatrice,

Beatrice. In faith, I will go.

Benedick. We '11 be friends first.

Beatrice. You dare easier be friends with me than fight
with mine enemy.

Benedick. Is Claudio thine enemy?

Beatrice. Is he not approved in the height a villain, that
hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman ? O
that I were a man ! What, bear her in hand until they come
to take hands ; and then, with public accusation, uncovered
slander, unmitigated rancour, O God, that I were a man !
I would eat his heart in the market-place. 302

Benedick. Hear me, Beatrice,

Beatrice. Talk with a man out at a window ! A proper
saving !


Benedick. Nay, but, Beatrice,

Beatrice. Sweet Hero ! She is wronged, she is slandered,
she is undone.

Benedick. Beat

Beatrice. Princes and counties ! Surely, a princely testi-
mony, a goodly count, Count Comfect; a sweet gallant,
surely ! O that I were a man for his sake ! or that I had
any friend would be a man for my sake ! But manhood is
melted into courtesies, valour into compliment, and men are
only turned into tongue, and trim ones too ; he is now as
valiant as Hercules that only tells a lie and swears it. I
cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman
with grieving.

Benedick. Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee.

Beatrice. Use it for my love some other way than swear-
ing by it. 321

Benedick. Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath
wronged Hero ?

Beatrice. Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a'soul.

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. As you hear of
me, so think of me. Go, comfort your cousin ; I must say
she is dead : and so, farewell. \Exeunt.

SCENE II. A Prison.

Enter DOGBERRY, VERGES, and Sexton, in gowns; and the
Watch, with CONRADE and BORACHIO.

Dogberry. Is our whole dissembly appeared ?
Verges. O, a stool and a cushion for the sexton.
Sexton. Which be the malefactors ?
Dogberry. Marry, that am I and my partner.
Verges. Nay, that 's certain ; we have the exhibition to ex-


Sexton. But which are the offenders that are to be exam-
ined? let them come before master constable.

Dogberry. Yea, marry, let them come before me. What
is your name, friend ? 10

Borachio. Borachio.

Dogberry. Pray, write down, Borachio. Yours, sirrah ?

Conrade. I am a gentleman, sir, and my name is Conrade.

Dogberry. Write down, master gentleman Conrade. Mas-
ters, do you serve God ?


Dogberry. Write down, that they hope they serve God :
and write God first ; for God defend but God should go be-
fore such villains! Masters, it is proved already that you
are little better than false knaves ; and it will go near to be
thought so shortly. How answer you for yourselves ? 21

Conrade. Marry, sir, we say we are none.

Dogberry. A marvellous witty fellow, I assure you ; but I
will go about with him. Come you hither, sirrah ; a word
in your ear: sir, I say to you, it is thought you are false

Borachio. Sir, I say to you we are none.

Dogberry. Well, stand aside. Fore God, they are both
in a tale. Have you writ down, that they are none ?

Sexton. Master constable, you go not the way to examine :
you must call forth the watch that are their accusers. 31

Dogberry. Yea, marry, that 's the eftest way. Let the
watch come forth. Masters, I charge you, in the prince's
name, accuse these men.

i Watch. This man said, sir, that Don John, the prince's
brother, was a villain.

Dogberry. Write down Prince John a villain. Why, this
is flat perjury, to call a prince's brother villain.

Borachio. Master constable,

Dogberry. Pray thee, fellow, peace ; I do not like thy
look, I promise thee. 41


Sexton. What heard you him say else ?

2 Watch. Marry, that he had received a thousand ducats
of Don John for accusing the Lady Hero wrongfully.

Dogberry. Flat burglary as ever was committed.

Verges. Yea, by the mass, that it is.

Sexton. What else, fellow ?

i Watch. And that Count Claudio did mean, upon his
words, to disgrace Hero before the whole assembly, and not
marry her. 5

Dogberry. O villain ! thou wilt be condemned into ever-
lasting redemption for this.

Sexton. What else ?

Watch. This is all.

Sexton. And this is more, masters, than you can deny.
Prince John is this morning secretly stolen away; Hero was
in this manner accused, in this very manner refused, and
upon the grief of this suddenly died. Master constable, let
these men be bound, and brought to Leonato's; I will go
before and show him their examination. [Exit.

Dogberry. Come, let them be opinioned. 61

Verges. Let them be in the hands

Conrade. Off, coxcomb !

Dogberry. God 's my life, where 's the sexton ? let him
write down the prince's officer coxcomb. Come, bind them.
Thou naughty varlet !

Conrade. Away! you are an ass, you are an ass. 6 7

Dogberry. Dost thou not suspect my place ? clost thou not
suspect my years? O that he were here to write me down
an ass ! But, masters, remember that I am an ass ; though
it be not written down, yet forget not that I am an ass.
No, thou villain, thou art full of piety, as shall be proved ,
upon thee by good witness. I am a wise fellow, and, which
is more, an officer; and, which is more, a householder; and,
which is more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in Messi-
na, and one that knows the law, go to ; and a rich fellow



enough, go to; and a fellow that hath had losses; and one
that hath two gowns and every thing handsome about him.
Bring him away. O that I had been writ down an ass !





SCENE I. Before Leonattfs House.

Antonio. If you go on thus, you will kill yourself;
And 't is not wisdom thus to second grrief


Against yourself.


Leonato. I pray thee, cease thy counsel,

Which falls into mine ears as profitless
As water in a sieve : give not me counsel ;
Nor let no comforter delight mine ear
But such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine.
Bring me a father that so lov'd his child,
Whose joy of her is overwhelmed, like mine,
And bid him speak of patience ;
Measure his woe the length and breadth of mine,
And let it answer every strain for strain,
As thus for thus, and such a grief for such,
In every lineament, branch, shape, and form :
If such a one will smile and stroke his beard,
Bid sorrow wag, cry ' hem !' when he should groan,
Patch grief with proverbs, make misfortune drunk
With candle-wasters ; bring him yet to me,
And I of him will gather patience.
But there is no such man : for, brother, men
Can counsel and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel ; but, tasting it,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air and agony with words.
No, no ; 't is all men's office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow,
But no man's virtue nor sufficiency
To be so moral when he shall endure
The like himself. Therefore give me no counsel;
My griefs cry louder than advertisement.

Antonio. Therein do men from children nothing differ.

Leonato. I pray thee, peace. I will be flesh and blood;
For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods
And made a push at chance and sufferance.



Antonio. Yet bend not all the harm upon yourself;
Make those that do offend you suffer too. 4 o

Leonato. There thou speak'st reason ; nay, I will do so.
My soul doth tell me Hero is belied,
And that shall Claudio know ; so shall the prince
And all of them that thus dishonour her.

Antonio. Here comes the prince and Claudio hastily.


Don Pedro. Good den, good den.

Claudio. Good day to both of you.

Leonato. Hear you, my lords,

Don Pedro. We have some haste, Leonato.

Leonato. Some haste, my lord ! well, fare you well, my lord :
Are you so hasty now ? well, all is one.

Don Pedro. Nay, do not quarrel with us, good old man. 50

Antonio. If he could right himself with quarrelling,
Some of us would lie low.

Claudio. Who wrongs him ?

Leonato. Marry, thou dost wrong me ; thou dissembler,

thou I-
Nay, never lay thy hand upon thy sword ;
I fear thee not.

Claudio. Marry, beshrew my hand,

If it should give your age such cause of fear ;
In faith, my hand meant nothing to my sword.

' Leonato. Tush, tush, man, never fleer and jest at me ;
I speak not like a dotard nor a fool,

As under privilege of age to brag 60

What I have done being young, or what would do
Were I not old. Know, Claudio, to thy head,
Thou hast so wrong'd mine innocent child and me
That I am forc'd to lay my reverence by,
And, with grey hairs and bruise of many days,
Do challenge thee to trial of a man.



I say thou hast belied mine innocent child :

Thy slander hath gone through and through her heart,

And she lies buried with her ancestors ;

O, in a tomb where never scandal slept, 7 o

Save this of hers, fram'd by thy villany !

Claudio. My villany ?

Leonato. Thine, Claudio ; thine, I say.

Don Pedro. You say not right, old man.

Leonato. My lord, my lord,

I '11 prove it on his body, if he dare,
Despite his nice fence and his active practice,
His May of youth and bloom of lustihood.

Claudio. Away ! I will not have to do with you.

Leonato. Canst thou so daff me? Thou hast kill'd my

child ;
If thou kill'st me, boy, thou shalt kill a man.

Antonio. He shall kill two of us, and men indeed : 80

But that 's no matter ; let him kill one first ;
Win me and wear me ; let him answer me.
Come, follow me, boy ; come, sir boy, come, follow me :
Sir boy, I '11 whip you from your foining fence;
Nay, as I am a gentleman, I will.

Leonato. Brother,

Antonio. Content yourself. God knows I lov'd my niece;
And she is dead, slander'd to death by villains,
That dare as v/ell answer a man indeed
As I dare take a serpent by the tongue, 90

Boys, apes, braggarts, Jacks, milksops !

Leonato. Brother Antony,

Antonio. Hold you content. What, man ! I know them,


And what they weigh, even to the utmost scruple,
Scambling, out-facing, fashion-monging boys,
That lie and cog and flout, deprave and slander,
Go anticly, show outward hideousness,


And speak off half a dozen dangerous words,
How they might hurt their enemies, if they durst ;
And this is all.

Leonato. But, brother Antony,

Antonio. Come, 't is no matter :

Do not you meddle ; let me deal in this. 100

Don Pedro. Gentlemen both, we will not wake your pa-

My heart is sorry for your daughter's death ;
But, on my honour, she was charg'd with nothing
But what was true and very full of proof.

Leonato. My lord, my lord,

Don Pedro. I will not hear you.

Leonato. No ? Come, brother, away ! I will be heard.

Antonio. And shall, or some of us will smart for it.

\Exeunt Leonato and Antonio.

Don Pedro. See, see ; here comes the man we went to seek.


Claudia. Now, signior, what news? no

Benedick. Good day, my lord.

Don Pedro. Welcome, signior : you are almost come to
part almost a fray.

Claudio. We had like to have had our two noses snapped
off with two old men without teeth.

Don Pedro. Leonato and his brother. What thinkest
thou ? Had we fought, I doubt we should have been too
young for them.

Benedick. In a false quarrel there is no true valour. I
came to seek you both. 120

Claudio. We have been up and down to seek thee ; for
we are high-proof melancholy, and would fain have it beaten
away. Wilt thou use thy wit ?

Benedick. It is in my scabbard; shall I draw it?

Don Pedro. Dost thou wear thy wit by thy side ?


Claudia. Never any did so, though very many have been
beside their wit. I will bid thee draw, as we do the min-
strels ; draw, to pleasure us.

Don Pedro* As I am an honest man, he looks pale. Art
thou sick, or angry ? I30

Claudio. What, courage, man ! What though care killed
a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.

Benedick. Sir, I shall meet your wit in the career, an you
charge it against me. I pray you choose another subject.

Claudio. Nay, then, give him another staff; this last was
broke cross.

Don Pedro. By this light, he changes more and more ; I
think he be angry indeed.

Claudio. If he be, he knows how to turn his girdle.

Benedick. Shall I speak a word in your ear ? HO

Claudio. God bless me from a challenge !

Benedick. \Aside to Claudio] You are a villain ; I jest not :
I will make it good how you dare, with what you dare, and
when you dare. Do me right, or I will protest your coward-
ice. You have killed a sweet lady, and her death shall fall
heavy on you. Let me hear from you.

Claudio. Well, I will meet you, so I may have good cheer.

Don Pedro. What, a feast, a feast?

Claudio. I' faith, I thank him : he hath bid me to a calf's
head and a capon ; the which if I do not carve most curi-
ously, say my knife 's naught. Shall I not find a woodcock

tOO? 152

Benedick. Sir, your wit ambles well ; it goes easily.

Don Pedro. I '11 tell thee how Beatrice praised thy wit the
other day. I said, thou haclst a fine wit : ' True/ said she,
1 a fine little one.' < No;' said I, ' a great wit :' ' Right,' says
she, ' a great gross one.' ' Nay,' said I, ' a good wit :' ' Just,'
said she, ' it hurts nobody.' ' Nay,' said I, ' the gentleman is
wise :' ' Certain,' said she, ' a wise gentleman.' ' Nay,' said
I, ' he hath the tongues :' ' That I believe,' said she, * for he


swore a thing to me on Monday night, which he forswore on
Tuesday morning ; there 's a double tongue ; there 's two
tongues.' Thus did she, an hour together, trans-shape thy
particular virtues ; yet at last she concluded with a sigh,
thou wast the properest man in Italy. 165

Claudia. For the which she wept heartily and said she
cared not.

Don Pedro. Yea, that she did ; but yet, for all that, an if
she did not hate him deadly, she would love him dearly:
the old man's daughter told us all.

Claudia* All, all ; and, moreover, God saw him when he
was hid in the garden.

Don Pedro. But when shall we set the savage bull's horns
on the sensible Benedick's head ?

Claudio. Yea, and text underneath, 'Here dwells Benedick
the married man ?' 176

Benedick. Fare you well, boy ; you know my mind. I will
leave you now to your gossip-like humour ; you break jests
as braggarts do their blades, which, God be thanked, hurt
not. My lord, for your many courtesies I thank you; I
must discontinue your company : your brother the bastard
is fled from Messina \ you have among you killed a sweet
and innocent lady. For my Lord Lackbeard there, he and
I shall meet ; and, till then, peace be with him. \Exit.

Don Pedro. He is in earnest. 185

Claudio. In most profound earnest ; and, I '11 warrant you,
for the fove of Beatrice.

Don Pedro. And hath challenged thee.

Claudio. Most sincerely.

Don Pedro. What a pretty thing man is when he goes in
his doublet and hose. and leaves off. his wit! 191

Claudio. He is then a giant to an ape ; but then is an ape
a doctor to such a man.

Don Pedro. But, soft you, let me be ; pluck up, my heart,
and be sad. Did he not say, my brother was fled ?



Enter DOGBERRY, VERGES, and the Watch, with CONRADE

Dogberry. Come you, sir; if justice cannot tame you, she
shall ne'er weigh more reasons in her balance : nay, an you
be a cursing hypocrite once, you must be looked to.

Don Pedro. How now ? two of my brother's men bound !
Borachio one ! 200

Claudio. Hearken after their offence, my lord.

Don Pedro. Officers, what offence have these men done ?

Dogberry. Marry, sir, they have committed false report ;
moreover, they have spoken untruths ; secondarily, they are
slanders ; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady ; thirdly,
they have verified unjust things ; and, to conclude, they are
lying knaves.

Don Pedro. First, I ask thee what they have done ; third-
ly, I ask thee what 's their offence ; sixth and lastly, why
they are committed ; and, to conclude, what you lay to their
charge. 211

Claudio. Rightly reasoned, and in his own division ; and,
by my troth, there 's one meaning well suited.

Don Pedro. Who have you offended, masters, that you are
thus bound to your answer? this learned constable is too
cunning to be understood : what 's your offence ?

Borachio. Sweet prince, let me go no farther to mine an-

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