Much Ado About Nothing, by William Shakespeare

Act III

Scene I. Leonato’s garden.

Enter Hero, Margaret, and Ursula

Hero

Good Margaret, run thee to the parlor;
There shalt thou find my cousin Beatrice
Proposing with the prince and Claudio:
Whisper her ear and tell her, I and Ursula
Walk in the orchard and our whole discourse
Is all of her; say that thou overheard’st us;
And bid her steal into the pleached bower,
Where honeysuckles, ripen’d by the sun,
Forbid the sun to enter, like favourites,
Made proud by princes, that advance their pride
Against that power that bred it: there will she hide her,
To listen our purpose. This is thy office;
Bear thee well in it and leave us alone.

Margaret

I’ll make her come, I warrant you, presently.

Exit

Hero

Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come,
As we do trace this alley up and down,
Our talk must only be of Benedick.
When I do name him, let it be thy part
To praise him more than ever man did merit:
My talk to thee must be how Benedick
Is sick in love with Beatrice. Of this matter
Is little Cupid’s crafty arrow made,
That only wounds by hearsay.

Enter Beatrice, behind

Now begin;
For look where Beatrice, like a lapwing, runs
Close by the ground, to hear our conference.

Ursula

The pleasant’st angling is to see the fish
Cut with her golden oars the silver stream,
And greedily devour the treacherous bait:
So angle we for Beatrice; who even now
Is couched in the woodbine coverture.
Fear you not my part of the dialogue.

Hero

Then go we near her, that her ear lose nothing
Of the false sweet bait that we lay for it.

Approaching the bower

No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful;
I know her spirits are as coy and wild
As haggerds of the rock.

Ursula

But are you sure
That Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?

Hero

So says the prince and my new-trothed lord.

Ursula

And did they bid you tell her of it, madam?

Hero

They did entreat me to acquaint her of it;
But I persuaded them, if they loved Benedick,
To wish him wrestle with affection,
And never to let Beatrice know of it.

Ursula

Why did you so? Doth not the gentleman
Deserve as full as fortunate a bed
As ever Beatrice shall couch upon?

Hero

O god of love! I know he doth deserve
As much as may be yielded to a man:
But Nature never framed a woman’s heart
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice;
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
Misprising what they look on, and her wit
Values itself so highly that to her
All matter else seems weak: she cannot love,
Nor take no shape nor project of affection,
She is so self-endeared.

Ursula

Sure, I think so;
And therefore certainly it were not good
She knew his love, lest she make sport at it.

Hero

Why, you speak truth. I never yet saw man,
How wise, how noble, young, how rarely featured,
But she would spell him backward: if fair-faced,
She would swear the gentleman should be her sister;
If black, why, Nature, drawing of an antique,
Made a foul blot; if tall, a lance ill-headed;
If low, an agate very vilely cut;
If speaking, why, a vane blown with all winds;
If silent, why, a block moved with none.
So turns she every man the wrong side out
And never gives to truth and virtue that
Which simpleness and merit purchaseth.

Ursula

Sure, sure, such carping is not commendable.

Hero

No, not to be so odd and from all fashions
As Beatrice is, cannot be commendable:
But who dare tell her so? If I should speak,
She would mock me into air; O, she would laugh me
Out of myself, press me to death with wit.
Therefore let Benedick, like cover’d fire,
Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly:
It were a better death than die with mocks,
Which is as bad as die with tickling.

Ursula

Yet tell her of it: hear what she will say.

Hero

No; rather I will go to Benedick
And counsel him to fight against his passion.
And, truly, I’ll devise some honest slanders
To stain my cousin with: one doth not know
How much an ill word may empoison liking.

Ursula

O, do not do your cousin such a wrong.
She cannot be so much without true judgment —
Having so swift and excellent a wit
As she is prized to have — as to refuse
So rare a gentleman as Signior Benedick.

Hero

He is the only man of Italy.
Always excepted my dear Claudio.

Ursula

I pray you, be not angry with me, madam,
Speaking my fancy: Signior Benedick,
For shape, for bearing, argument and valour,
Goes foremost in report through Italy.

Hero

Indeed, he hath an excellent good name.

Ursula

His excellence did earn it, ere he had it.
When are you married, madam?

Hero

Why, every day, to-morrow. Come, go in:
I’ll show thee some attires, and have thy counsel
Which is the best to furnish me to-morrow.

Ursula

She’s limed, I warrant you: we have caught her, madam.

Hero

If it proves so, then loving goes by haps:
Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.

Exeunt Hero and Ursula

Beatrice

[Coming forward]
What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemn’d for pride and scorn so much?
Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand:
If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee
To bind our loves up in a holy band;
For others say thou dost deserve, and I
Believe it better than reportingly.

Exit

Scene II. A room in Leonato’s house

Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, and Leonato

Don Pedro

I do but stay till your marriage be consummate, and then go I toward Arragon.

Claudio

I’ll bring you thither, my lord, if you’ll vouchsafe me.

Don Pedro

Nay, that would be as great a soil in the new gloss of your marriage as to show a child his new coat and forbid him to wear it. I will only be bold with Benedick for his company; for, from the crown of his head to the sole of his foot, he is all mirth: he hath twice or thrice cut Cupid’s bow-string and the little hangman dare not shoot at him; he hath a heart as sound as a bell and his tongue is the clapper, for what his heart thinks his tongue speaks.

Benedick

Gallants, I am not as I have been.

Leonato

So say I methinks you are sadder.

Claudio

I hope he be in love.

Don Pedro

Hang him, truant! there’s no true drop of blood in him, to be truly touched with love: if he be sad, he wants money.

Benedick

I have the toothache.

Don Pedro

Draw it.

Benedick

Hang it!

Claudio

You must hang it first, and draw it afterwards.

Don Pedro

What! sigh for the toothache?

Leonato

Where is but a humour or a worm.

Benedick

Well, every one can master a grief but he that has it.

Claudio

Yet say I, he is in love.

Don Pedro

There is no appearance of fancy in him, unless it be a fancy that he hath to strange disguises; as, to be a Dutchman today, a Frenchman to-morrow, or in the shape of two countries at once, as, a German from the waist downward, all slops, and a Spaniard from the hip upward, no doublet. Unless he have a fancy to this foolery, as it appears he hath, he is no fool for fancy, as you would have it appear he is.

Claudio

If he be not in love with some woman, there is no believing old signs: a’ brushes his hat o’ mornings; what should that bode?

Don Pedro

Hath any man seen him at the barber’s?

Claudio

No, but the barber’s man hath been seen with him, and the old ornament of his cheek hath already stuffed tennis-balls.

Leonato

Indeed, he looks younger than he did, by the loss of a beard.

Don Pedro

Nay, a’ rubs himself with civet: can you smell him out by that?

Claudio

That’s as much as to say, the sweet youth’s in love.

Don Pedro

The greatest note of it is his melancholy.

Claudio

And when was he wont to wash his face?

Don Pedro

Yea, or to paint himself? for the which, I hear what they say of him.

Claudio

Nay, but his jesting spirit; which is now crept into a lute-string and now governed by stops.

Don Pedro

Indeed, that tells a heavy tale for him: conclude, conclude he is in love.

Claudio

Nay, but I know who loves him.

Don Pedro

That would I know too: I warrant, one that knows him not.

Claudio

Yes, and his ill conditions; and, in despite of all, dies for him.

Don Pedro

She shall be buried with her face upwards.

Benedick

Yet is this no charm for the toothache. Old signior, walk aside with me: I have studied eight or nine wise words to speak to you, which these hobby-horses must not hear.

Exeunt Benedick and Leonato

Don Pedro

For my life, to break with him about Beatrice.

Claudio

’Tis even so. Hero and Margaret have by this played their parts with Beatrice; and then the two bears will not bite one another when they meet.

Enter Don John

Don John

My lord and brother, God save you!

Don Pedro

Good den, brother.

Don John

If your leisure served, I would speak with you.

Don Pedro

In private?

Don John

If it please you: yet Count Claudio may hear; for what I would speak of concerns him.

Don Pedro

What’s the matter?

Don John

[To Claudio] Means your lordship to be married to-morrow?

Don Pedro

You know he does.

Don John

I know not that, when he knows what I know.

Claudio

If there be any impediment, I pray you discover it.

Don John

You may think I love you not: let that appear hereafter, and aim better at me by that I now will manifest. For my brother, I think he holds you well, and in dearness of heart hath holp to effect your ensuing marriage; — surely suit ill spent and labour ill bestowed.

Don Pedro

Why, what’s the matter?

Don John

I came hither to tell you; and, circumstances shortened, for she has been too long a talking of, the lady is disloyal.

Claudio

Who, Hero?

Don Pedro

Even she; Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero:

Claudio

Disloyal?

Don John

The word is too good to paint out her wickedness; I could say she were worse: think you of a worse title, and I will fit her to it. Wonder not till further warrant: go but with me to-night, you shall see her chamber-window entered, even the night before her wedding-day: if you love her then, to-morrow wed her; but it would better fit your honour to change your mind.

Claudio

May this be so?

Don Pedro

I will not think it.

Don John

If you dare not trust that you see, confess not that you know: if you will follow me, I will show you enough; and when you have seen more and heard more, proceed accordingly.

Claudio

If I see any thing to-night why I should not marry her to-morrow in the congregation, where I should wed, there will I shame her.

Don Pedro

And, as I wooed for thee to obtain her, I will join with thee to disgrace her.

Don John

I will disparage her no farther till you are my witnesses: bear it coldly but till midnight, and let the issue show itself.

Don Pedro

O day untowardly turned!

Claudio

O mischief strangely thwarting!

Don John

O plague right well prevented! so will you say when you have seen the sequel.

Exeunt

Scene III. A street.

Enter Dogberry and Verges with the Watch

Dogberry

Are you good men and true?

Verges

Yea, or else it were pity but they should suffer salvation, body and soul.

Dogberry

Nay, that were a punishment too good for them, if they should have any allegiance in them, being chosen for the prince’s watch.

Verges

Well, give them their charge, neighbour Dogberry.

Dogberry

First, who think you the most desertless man to be constable?

First Watchman

Hugh Otecake, sir, or George Seacole; for they can write and read.

Dogberry

Come hither, neighbour Seacole. God hath blessed you with a good name: to be a well-favoured man is the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes by nature.

Second Watchman

Both which, master constable —

Dogberry

You have: I knew it would be your answer. Well, for your favour, sir, why, give God thanks, and make no boast of it; and for your writing and reading, let that appear when there is no need of such vanity. You are thought here to be the most senseless and fit man for the constable of the watch; therefore bear you the lantern. This is your charge: you shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand, in the prince’s name.

Second Watchman

How if a’ will not stand?

Dogberry

Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go; and presently call the rest of the watch together and thank God you are rid of a knave.

Verges

If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of the prince’s subjects.

Dogberry

True, and they are to meddle with none but the prince’s subjects. You shall also make no noise in the streets; for, for the watch to babble and to talk is most tolerable and not to be endured.

Watchman

We will rather sleep than talk: we know what belongs to a watch.

Dogberry

Why, you speak like an ancient and most quiet watchman; for I cannot see how sleeping should offend: only, have a care that your bills be not stolen. Well, you are to call at all the ale-houses, and bid those that are drunk get them to bed.

Watchman

How if they will not?

Dogberry

Why, then, let them alone till they are sober: if they make you not then the better answer, you may say they are not the men you took them for.

Watchman

Well, sir.

Dogberry

If you meet a thief, you may suspect him, by virtue of your office, to be no true man; and, for such kind of men, the less you meddle or make with them, why the more is for your honesty.

Watchman

If we know him to be a thief, shall we not lay hands on him?

Dogberry

Truly, by your office, you may; but I think they that touch pitch will be defiled: the most peaceable way for you, if you do take a thief, is to let him show himself what he is and steal out of your company.

Verges

You have been always called a merciful man, partner.

Dogberry

Truly, I would not hang a dog by my will, much more a man who hath any honesty in him.

Verges

If you hear a child cry in the night, you must call to the nurse and bid her still it.

Watchman

How if the nurse be asleep and will not hear us?

Dogberry

Why, then, depart in peace, and let the child wake her with crying; for the ewe that will not hear her lamb when it baes will never answer a calf when he bleats.

Verges

’Tis very true.

Dogberry

This is the end of the charge:— you, constable, are to present the prince’s own person: if you meet the prince in the night, you may stay him.

Verges

Nay, by’r our lady, that I think a’ cannot.

Dogberry

Five shillings to one on’t, with any man that knows the statutes, he may stay him: marry, not without the prince be willing; for, indeed, the watch ought to offend no man; and it is an offence to stay a man against his will.

Verges

By’r lady, I think it be so.

Dogberry

Ha, ha, ha! Well, masters, good night: an there be any matter of weight chances, call up me: keep your fellows’ counsels and your own; and good night. Come, neighbour.

Watchman

Well, masters, we hear our charge: let us go sit here upon the church-bench till two, and then all to bed.

Dogberry

One word more, honest neighbours. I pray you watch about Signior Leonato’s door; for the wedding being there to-morrow, there is a great coil to-night. Adieu: be vigitant, I beseech you.

Exeunt Dogberry and Verges

Enter Borachio and Conrade

Borachio

What Conrade!

Watchman

[Aside] Peace! stir not.

Borachio

Conrade, I say!

Conrade

Here, man; I am at thy elbow.

Borachio

Mass, and my elbow itched; I thought there would a scab follow.

Conrade

I will owe thee an answer for that: and now forward with thy tale.

Borachio

Stand thee close, then, under this pent-house, for it drizzles rain; and I will, like a true drunkard, utter all to thee.

Watchman

[Aside] Some treason, masters: yet stand close.

Borachio

Therefore know I have earned of Don John a thousand ducats.

Conrade

Is it possible that any villany should be so dear?

Borachio

Thou shouldst rather ask if it were possible any villany should be so rich; for when rich villains have need of poor ones, poor ones may make what price they will.

Conrade

I wonder at it.

Borachio

That shows thou art unconfirmed. Thou knowest that the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak, is nothing to a man.

Conrade

Yes, it is apparel.

Borachio

I mean, the fashion.

Conrade

Yes, the fashion is the fashion.

Borachio

Tush! I may as well say the fool’s the fool. But seest thou not what a deformed thief this fashion is?

Watchman

[Aside] I know that Deformed; a’ has been a vile thief this seven year; a’ goes up and down like a gentleman: I remember his name.

Borachio

Didst thou not hear somebody?

Conrade

No; ’twas the vane on the house.

Borachio

Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is? how giddily a’ turns about all the hot bloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty? sometimes fashioning them like Pharaoh’s soldiers in the reeky painting, sometime like god Bel’s priests in the old church-window, sometime like the shaven Hercules in the smirched worm-eaten tapestry, where his codpiece seems as massy as his club?

Conrade

All this I see; and I see that the fashion wears out more apparel than the man. But art not thou thyself giddy with the fashion too, that thou hast shifted out of thy tale into telling me of the fashion?

Borachio

Not so, neither: but know that I have to-night wooed Margaret, the Lady Hero’s gentlewoman, by the name of Hero: she leans me out at her mistress’ chamber-window, bids me a thousand times good night — I tell this tale vilely:— I should first tell thee how the prince, Claudio and my master, planted and placed and possessed by my master Don John, saw afar off in the orchard this amiable encounter.

Conrade

And thought they Margaret was Hero?

Borachio

Two of them did, the prince and Claudio; but the devil my master knew she was Margaret; and partly by his oaths, which first possessed them, partly by the dark night, which did deceive them, but chiefly by my villany, which did confirm any slander that Don John had made, away went Claudio enraged; swore he would meet her, as he was appointed, next morning at the temple, and there, before the whole congregation, shame her with what he saw o’er night and send her home again without a husband.

First Watchman

We charge you, in the prince’s name, stand!

Second Watchman

Call up the right master constable. We have here recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever was known in the commonwealth.

First Watchman

And one Deformed is one of them: I know him; a’ wears a lock.

Conrade

Masters, masters —

Second Watchman

You’ll be made bring Deformed forth, I warrant you.

Conrade

Masters —

First Watchman

Never speak: we charge you let us obey you to go with us.

Borachio

We are like to prove a goodly commodity, being taken up of these men’s bills.

Conrade

A commodity in question, I warrant you. Come, we’ll obey you.

Exeunt

Scene IV. Hero’s apartment.

Enter Hero, Margaret, and Ursula

Hero

Good Ursula, wake my cousin Beatrice, and desire her to rise.

Ursula

I will, lady.

Hero

And bid her come hither.

Ursula

Well.

Exit

Margaret

Troth, I think your other rabato were better.

Hero

No, pray thee, good Meg, I’ll wear this.

Margaret

By my troth, ’s not so good; and I warrant your cousin will say so.

Hero

My cousin’s a fool, and thou art another: I’ll wear none but this.

Margaret

I like the new tire within excellently, if the hair were a thought browner; and your gown’s a most rare fashion, i’ faith. I saw the Duchess of Milan’s gown that they praise so.

Hero

O, that exceeds, they say.

Margaret

By my troth, ’s but a night-gown in respect of yours: cloth o’ gold, and cuts, and laced with silver, set with pearls, down sleeves, side sleeves, and skirts, round underborne with a bluish tinsel: but for a fine, quaint, graceful and excellent fashion, yours is worth ten on ’t.

Hero

God give me joy to wear it! for my heart is exceeding heavy.

Margaret

’Twill be heavier soon by the weight of a man.

Hero

Fie upon thee! art not ashamed?

Margaret

Of what, lady? of speaking honourably? Is not marriage honourable in a beggar? Is not your lord honourable without marriage? I think you would have me say, ‘saving your reverence, a husband:’ and bad thinking do not wrest true speaking, I’ll offend nobody: is there any harm in ‘the heavier for a husband’? None, I think, and it be the right husband and the right wife; otherwise ’tis light, and not heavy: ask my Lady Beatrice else; here she comes.

Enter Beatrice

Hero

Good morrow, coz.

Beatrice

Good morrow, sweet Hero.

Hero

Why how now? do you speak in the sick tune?

Beatrice

I am out of all other tune, methinks.

Margaret

Clap’s into ‘Light o’ love;’ that goes without a burden: do you sing it, and I’ll dance it.

Beatrice

Ye light o’ love, with your heels! then, if your husband have stables enough, you’ll see he shall lack no barns.

Margaret

O illegitimate construction! I scorn that with my heels.

Beatrice

’Tis almost five o’clock, cousin; tis time you were ready. By my troth, I am exceeding ill: heigh-ho!

Margaret

For a hawk, a horse, or a husband?

Beatrice

For the letter that begins them all, H.

Margaret

Well, and you be not turned Turk, there’s no more sailing by the star.

Beatrice

What means the fool, trow?

Margaret

Nothing I; but God send every one their heart’s desire!

Hero

These gloves the count sent me; they are an excellent perfume.

Beatrice

I am stuffed, cousin; I cannot smell.

Margaret

A maid, and stuffed! there’s goodly catching of cold.

Beatrice

O, God help me! God help me! how long have you professed apprehension?

Margaret

Even since you left it. Doth not my wit become me rarely?

Beatrice

It is not seen enough, you should wear it in your cap. By my troth, I am sick.

Margaret

Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus, and lay it to your heart: it is the only thing for a qualm.

Hero

There thou prickest her with a thistle.

Beatrice

Benedictus! why Benedictus? you have some moral in this Benedictus.

Margaret

Moral! no, by my troth, I have no moral meaning; I meant, plain holy-thistle. You may think perchance that I think you are in love: nay, by’r lady, I am not such a fool to think what I list, nor I list not to think what I can, nor indeed I cannot think, if I would think my heart out of thinking, that you are in love or that you will be in love or that you can be in love. Yet Benedick was such another, and now is he become a man: he swore he would never marry, and yet now, in despite of his heart, he eats his meat without grudging: and how you may be converted I know not, but methinks you look with your eyes as other women do.

Beatrice

What pace is this that thy tongue keeps?

Margaret

Not a false gallop.

Re-enter Ursula

Ursula

Madam, withdraw: the prince, the count, Signior Benedick, Don John, and all the gallants of the town, are come to fetch you to church.

Hero

Help to dress me, good coz, good Meg, good Ursula.

Exeunt

Scene V. Another room in Leonato’s house.

Enter Leonato, with Dogberry and Verges

Leonato

What would you with me, honest neighbour?

Dogberry

Marry, sir, I would have some confidence with you that decerns you nearly.

Leonato

Brief, I pray you; for you see it is a busy time with me.

Dogberry

Marry, this it is, sir.

Verges

Yes, in truth it is, sir.

Leonato

What is it, my good friends?

Dogberry

Goodman Verges, sir, speaks a little off the matter: an old man, sir, and his wits are not so blunt as, God help, I would desire they were; but, in faith, honest as the skin between his brows.

Verges

Yes, I thank God I am as honest as any man living that is an old man and no honester than I.

Dogberry

Comparisons are odorous: palabras, neighbour Verges.

Leonato

Neighbours, you are tedious.

Dogberry

It pleases your worship to say so, but we are the poor duke’s officers; but truly, for mine own part, if I were as tedious as a king, I could find it in my heart to bestow it all of your worship.

Leonato

All thy tediousness on me, ah?

Dogberry

Yea, an ’twere a thousand pound more than ’tis; for I hear as good exclamation on your worship as of any man in the city; and though I be but a poor man, I am glad to hear it.

Verges

And so am I.

Leonato

I would fain know what you have to say.

Verges

Marry, sir, our watch to-night, excepting your worship’s presence, ha’ ta’en a couple of as arrant knaves as any in Messina.

Dogberry

A good old man, sir; he will be talking: as they say, when the age is in, the wit is out: God help us! it is a world to see. Well said, i’ faith, neighbour Verges: well, God’s a good man; an two men ride of a horse, one must ride behind. An honest soul, i’ faith, sir; by my troth he is, as ever broke bread; but God is to be worshipped; all men are not alike; alas, good neighbour!

Leonato

Indeed, neighbour, he comes too short of you.

Dogberry

Gifts that God gives.

Leonato

I must leave you.

Dogberry

One word, sir: our watch, sir, have indeed comprehended two aspicious persons, and we would have them this morning examined before your worship.

Leonato

Take their examination yourself and bring it me: I am now in great haste, as it may appear unto you.

Dogberry

It shall be suffigance.

Leonato

Drink some wine ere you go: fare you well.

Enter a Messenger

Messenger

My lord, they stay for you to give your daughter to her husband.

Leonato

I’ll wait upon them: I am ready.

Exeunt Leonato and Messenger

Dogberry

Go, good partner, go, get you to Francis Seacole; bid him bring his pen and inkhorn to the gaol: we are now to examination these men.

Verges

And we must do it wisely.

Dogberry

We will spare for no wit, I warrant you; here’s that shall drive some of them to a non-come: only get the learned writer to set down our excommunication and meet me at the gaol.

Exeunt

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Last updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 22:30