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Act 1, Scene 1

[Enter LEONATO, HERO, and BEATRICE, 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?     [5]

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.

Messenger: Much deserved on his part and equally remembered by     [10]
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
tell you how.     [15]

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     [20]
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 washed. How much     [25]
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
in the army of any sort.     [30]

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
Cupid at the flight; and my uncle's fool, reading     [35]
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.

LEONATO: Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much;     [40]
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.     [45]

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.

BEATRICE: It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man:     [50]
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.     [55]

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
bear it for a difference between himself and his     [60]
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     [65]
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     [70]
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     [75]
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.     [80]

BEATRICE: No, not till a hot January.

Messenger: Don Pedro is approached.

[Enter DON PEDRO, DON JOHN, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK,
and BALTHASAR]

DON PEDRO: Good Signior Leonato, you are come to meet your
trouble: the fashion of the world is to avoid
cost, and you encounter it.     [85]

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.

DON PEDRO: You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this     [90]
is your daughter.

LEONATO: Her mother hath many times told me so.

BENEDICK: Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?

LEONATO: Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.

DON PEDRO: You have it full, Benedick: we may guess by this     [95]
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     [100]
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     [105]
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     [110]
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     [115]
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
scratched face.     [120]

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     [125]
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.

DON PEDRO: That is the sum of all, Leonato. Signior Claudio
and Signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath     [130]
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
hypocrite, but prays from his heart.

LEONATO: If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.     [135]

[To DON JOHN]

Let me bid you welcome, my lord: being reconciled to
the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.

DON JOHN: I thank you: I am not of many words, but I thank
you.

LEONATO: Please it your grace lead on?     [140]

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     [145]
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     [150]
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     [155]
truly how thou likest her.

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,     [160]
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
looked on.     [165]

BENEDICK: I can see yet without spectacles and I see no such
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?     [170]

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 three-score again?     [175]
Go to, i' faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck
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?     [180]

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     [185]
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     [190]
'twas not so, but, indeed, God forbid it should be
so.'

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.     [195]

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.     [200]

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     [205]
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     [210]
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     [215]
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     [220]
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.     [225]

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.'     [230]

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     [235]
'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.     [240]

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.     [245]

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     [250]
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.     [255]

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?

DON PEDRO: No child but Hero; she's his only heir.     [260]
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 liked, but had a rougher task in hand     [265]
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,     [270]
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,
And I will break with her and with her father,     [275]
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!
But lest my liking might too sudden seem,     [280]
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,
And I will fit thee with the remedy.     [285]
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     [290]
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.

[Exeunt]


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