Internet Shakespeare Editions

Author: William Shakespeare
Editor: Grechen Minton
Not Peer Reviewed

Much Ado About Nothing (Folio 1, 1623)


1
Actus primus, Scena prima.
Enter Leonato Gouernour of Messina, Innogen his wife, He-
ro his daughter, and Beatrice his Neece, with a messenger.
Leonato.
5I Learne in this Letter, that Don Peter of Arra-
gon, comes this night to Messina.
Mess. He is very neere by this: he was not
three Leagues off when I left him.
Leon. How many Gentlemen haue you lost in this
10action?
Mess. But few of any sort, and none of name.
Leon. A victorie is twice it selfe, when the atchieuer
brings home full numbers: I finde heere, that Don Pe-
ter hath bestowed much honor on a yong Florentine, cal-
15led Claudio.
Mess. Much deseru'd on his part, and equally remem-
bred by Don Pedro, he hath borne himselfe beyond the
promise of his age, doing in the figure of a Lambe, the
feats of a Lion, he hath indeede better bettred expecta-
20tion, then you must expect of me to tell you how.
Leo. He hath an Vnckle heere in Messina, wil be very
much glad of it.
Mess. I haue alreadie deliuered him letters, and there
appeares much ioy in him, euen so much, that ioy could
25not shew it selfe modest enough, without a badg of bit-
ternesse.
Leo. Did he breake out into teares?
Mess. In great measure.
Leo. A kinde ouerflow of kindnesse, there are no fa-
30ces truer, then those that are so wash'd, how much bet-
ter is it to weepe at ioy, then to ioy at weeping?
Bea. I pray you, is Signior Mountanto return'd from
the warres, or no?
Mess. I know none of that name, Lady, there was
35none such in the armie of any sort.
Leon. What is he that you aske for Neece?
Hero. My cousin meanes Signior Benedick of Padua
Mess. O he's return'd, and as pleasant as euer he was.
Beat. He set vp his bils here in Messina, & challeng'd
40Cupid at the Flight: and my Vnckles foole reading the
Challenge, subscrib'd for Cupid, and challeng'd him at
the Burbolt. I pray you, how many hath hee kil'd and
eaten in these warres? But how many hath he kil'd? for
indeed, I promis'd to eate all of his killing.
45Leon. 'Faith Neece, you taxe Signior Benedicke too
much, but hee'l be meet with you, I doubt it not.
Mess. He hath done good seruice Lady in these wars.
Beat. You had musty victuall, and he hath holpe to
ease it: he's a very valiant Trencher-man, hee hath an
50excellent stomacke.
Mess. And a good souldier too Lady.
Beat. And a good souldier to a Lady. But what is he
to a Lord?
Mess. A Lord to a Lord, a man to a man, stuft with
55all honourable vertues.
Beat. It is so indeed, he is no lesse then a stuft man:
but for the stuffing well, we are all mortall.
Leon. You must not (sir) mistake my Neece, there is
a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick, & her:
60they neuer meet, but there's a skirmish of wit between
them.
Bea. Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last con-
flict, foure of his fiue wits went halting off, and now is
the whole man gouern'd with one: so that if hee haue
65wit enough to keepe himselfe warme, let him beare it
for a difference betweene himselfe and his horse: For it
is all the wealth that he hath left, to be knowne a reaso-
nable creature. Who is his companion now? He hath
euery month a new sworne brother.
70Mess. I'st possible?
Beat. Very easily possible: he weares his faith but as
the fashion of his hat, it euer changes with ye next block.
Mess. I see (Lady) the Gentleman is not in your
bookes.
75Bea. No, and he were, I would burne 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
diuell?
Mess. He is most in the company of the right noble
80Claudio.
Beat. O Lord, he will hang vpon him like a disease:
he is sooner caught then the pestilence, and the taker
runs presently mad. God helpe the noble Claudio, if hee
haue caught the Benedict, it will cost him a thousand
85pound ere he be cur'd.
Mess. I will hold friends with you Lady.
Bea. Do good friend.
Leo. You'l ne're run mad Neece.
Bea. No, not till a hot Ianuary.
90Mess. Don Pedro is approach'd.
Enter don Pedro, Claudio, Benedicke, Balthasar,
and Iohn the bastard.
Pedro. Good Signior Leonato, you are come to meet
your trouble: the fashion of the world is to auoid cost,
95and you encounter it.
Leon. Neuer came trouble to my house in the likenes
of your Grace: for trouble being gone, comfort should
remaine: but when you depart from me, sorrow abides,
and happinesse takes his leaue.
100Pedro. You embrace your charge too willingly: I
thinke this is your daughter.
Leonato. Her mother hath many times told me so.
Bened. Were you in doubt that you askt her?
Leonato. Signior Benedicke, no, for then were you a
105childe.
Pedro. You haue it full Benedicke, we may ghesse by
this, what you are, being a man, truely the Lady fathers
her selfe: be happie Lady, for you are like an honorable
father.
110Ben. If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not
haue his head on her shoulders for al Messina, as like him
as she is.
Beat. I wonder that you will still be talking, signior
Benedicke, no body markes you.
115Ben. What my deere Ladie Disdaine! are you yet
liuing?
Beat. Is it possible Disdaine should die, while shee
hath such meete foode to feede it, as Signior Benedicke?
Curtesie it selfe must conuert to Disdaine, if you come in
120her presence.
Bene. Then is curtesie a turne-coate, but it is cer-
taine I am loued of all Ladies, onely you excepted: and
I would I could finde in my heart that I had not a hard
heart, for truely I loue none.
125Beat. A deere happinesse to women, they would else
haue beene troubled with a pernitious Suter, I thanke
God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that, I
had rather heare my Dog barke at a Crow, than a man
sweare he loues me.
130Bene. God keepe your Ladiship still in that minde,
so some Gentleman or other shall scape a predestinate
scratcht face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse, and 'twere
such a face as yours were.
135Bene. Well, you are a rare Parrat teacher.
Beat. A bird of my tongue, is better than a beast of
your.
Ben. I would my horse had the speed of your tongue,
and so good a continuer, but keepe your way a Gods
140name, I haue done.
Beat. You alwaies end with a Iades tricke, I know
you of old.
Pedro. This is the summe of all: Leonato, signior Clau-
dio, and signior Benedicke; my deere friend Leonato, hath
145inuited you all, I tell him we shall stay here, at the least
a moneth, and he heartily praies some occasion may de-
taine vs longer: I dare sweare hee is no hypocrite, but
praies from his heart.
Leon. If you sweare, my Lord, you shall not be for-
150sworne, let mee bid you welcome, my Lord, being re-
conciled to the Prince your brother: I owe you all
duetie.
Iohn. I thanke you, I am not of many words, but I
thanke you.
155Leon. Please it your grace leade on?
Pedro. Your hand Leonato, we will goe together.
Exeunt. Manet Benedicke and Claudio.
Clau. Benedicke, didst thou note the daughter of sig-
nior Leonato?
160Bene. I noted her not, but I lookt on her.
Claud. Is she not a modest yong Ladie?
Bene. Doe you question me as an honest man should
doe, for my simple true iudgement? or would you haue
me speake after my custome, as being a professed tyrant
165to their sexe?
Clau. No, I pray thee speake in sober iudgement.
Bene. Why yfaith me thinks shee's too low for a hie
praise, too browne for a faire praise, and too little for a
great praise, onely this commendation I can affoord her,
170that were shee other then she is, she were vnhandsome,
and being no other, but as she is, I doe not like her.
Clau. Thou think'st I am in sport, I pray thee tell me
truely how thou lik'st her.
Bene. Would you buie her, that you enquier after
175her?
Clau. Can the world buie such a iewell?
Ben. Yea, and a case to put it into, but speake you this
with a sad brow? Or doe you play the flowting iacke, to
tell vs Cupid is a good Hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare
180Carpenter: Come, in what key shall a man take you to
goe in the song?
Clau. In mine eie, she is the sweetest Ladie that euer
I lookt on.
Bene. I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no
185such matter: there's her cosin, and she were not possest
with a furie, exceedes her as much in beautie, as the first
of Maie doth the last of December: but I hope you haue
no intent to turne husband, haue you?
Clau. I would scarce trust my selfe, though I had
190sworne the contrarie, if Hero would be my wife.
Bene. Ist come to this? in faith hath not the world one
man but he will weare his cap with suspition? shall I ne-
uer see a batcheller of three score againe? goe to yfaith,
and thou wilt needes thrust thy necke into a yoke, weare
195the print of it, and sigh away sundaies: looke, don Pedro
is returned to seeke you.
Enter don Pedro, Iohn the bastard.
Pedr. What secret hath held you here, that you fol-
lowed not to Leonatoes?
200Bened. I would your Grace would constraine mee to
tell.
Pedro. I charge thee on thy allegeance.
Ben. You heare, Count Claudio, I can be secret as a
dumbe man, I would haue you thinke so (but on my al-
205legiance, marke you this, on my allegiance) hee is in
loue, With who? now that is your Graces part: marke
how short his answere is, with Hero, Leonatoes short
daughter.
Clau. If this were so, so were it vttred.
210Bened. Like the old tale, my Lord, it is not so, nor 'twas
not so: but indeede, God forbid it should be so.
Clau. If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it
should be otherwise.
Pedro. Amen, if you loue her, for the Ladie is verie
215well worthie.
Clau. You speake this to fetch me in, my Lord.
Pedr. By my troth I speake my thought.
Clau. And in faith, my Lord, I spoke mine.
Bened. And by my two faiths and troths, my Lord, I
220speake mine.
Clau. That I loue her, I feele.
Pedr. That she is worthie, I know.
Bened. That I neither feele how shee should be lo-
ued, nor know how shee should be worthie, is the
225opinion that fire cannot melt out of me, I will die in it at
the stake.
Pedr. Thou wast euer an obstinate heretique in the de-
spight of Beautie.
Clau. And neuer could maintaine his part, but in the
230force of his will.
Ben. That a woman conceiued me, I thanke her: that
she brought mee vp, I likewise giue her most humble
thankes: but that I will haue a rechate winded in my
forehead, or hang my bugle in an inuisible baldricke, all
235women shall pardon me: because I will not do them the
wrong to mistrust any, I will doe my selfe the right to
trust none: and the fine is, (for the which I may goe the
finer) I will liue a Batchellor.
Pedro. I shall see thee ere I die, looke pale with loue.
240Bene. With anger, with sicknesse, or with hunger,
my Lord, not with loue: proue that euer I loose more
blood with loue, then I will get againe with drinking,
picke out mine eyes with a Ballet-makers pe
nne, and
hang me vp at the doore of a brothel-house for the signe
245of blinde Cupid.
Pedro. Well, if euer thou doost fall from this faith,
thou wilt proue a notable argument.
Bene. If I do, hang me in a bottle like a Cat, & shoot
at me, and he that hit's me, let him be clapt on the shoul-
250der, and cal'd Adam.
Pedro. Well, as time shall trie: In time the sauage
Bull doth beare tne yoake.
Bene. The sauage bull may, but if euer the sensible
Benedicke beare it, plucke off the bulles hornes, and set
255them in my forehead, and let me be vildely painted, and
in such great Letters as they write, heere is good horse
to hire: let them signifie vnder my signe, here you may
see Benedicke the married man.
Clau. If this should euer happen, thou wouldst bee
260horne mad.
Pedro. Nay, if Cupid haue not spent all his Quiuer in
Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.
Bene. I looke for an earthquake too then.
Pedro. Well, you will temporize with the houres, in
265the meane time, good Signior Benedicke, repaire to Leo-
natoes, commend me to him, and tell him I will not faile
him at supper, for indeede he hath made great prepara-
tion.
Bene. I haue almost matter enough in me for such an
270Embassage, and so I commit you.
Clau. To the tuition of God. From my house, if I
had it.
Pedro. The sixt of Iuly. Your louing friend, Benedick.
Bene. Nay mocke not, mocke not; the body of your
275discourse is sometime guarded with fragments, and the
guardes are but slightly basted on neither, ere you flout
old ends any further, examine your conscience, and so I
leaue you.
Exit.
Clau. My Liege, your Highnesse now may doe mee
280good.
Pedro. My loue is thine to teach, teach it but how,
And thou shalt see how apt it is to learne
Any hard Lesson that may do thee good.
Clau. Hath Leonato any sonne my Lord?
285Pedro. No childe but Hero, she's his onely heire.
Dost thou affect her Claudio?
Clau. O my Lord,
When you went onward on this ended action,
I look'd vpon her with a souldiers eie,
290That lik'd, but had a rougher taske in hand,
Than to driue liking to the name of loue:
But now I am return'd, and that warre-thoughts
Haue left their places vacant: in their roomes,
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
295All prompting mee how faire yong Hero is,
Saying I lik'd her ere I went to warres.
Pedro. Thou wilt be like a louer presently,
And tire the hearer with a booke of words:
If thou dost loue faire Hero, cherish it,
300And I will breake with her: wast not to this end,
That thou beganst to twist so fine a story?
Clau. How sweetly doe you minister to loue,
That know loues griefe by his complexion!
But lest my liking might too sodaine seeme,
305I would haue salu'd it with a longer treatise.
Ped. What need ye bridge much broder then the flood?
The fairest graunt is the necessitie:
Looke what will serue, is fit: 'tis once, thou louest,
And I will fit thee with the remedie,
310I know we shall haue reuelling to night,
I will assume thy part in some disguise,
And tell faire Hero I am Claudio,
And in her bosome Ile vnclaspe my heart,
And take her hearing prisoner with the force
315And strong incounter of my amorous tale:
Then after, to her father will I breake,
And the conclusion is, shee shall be thine,
In practise let vs put it presently.
Exeunt.