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  • Title: Much Ado About Nothing (Quarto 1, 1600)
  • Editor: Gretchen Minton
  • ISBN: 978-1-55058-516-2

    Copyright Gretchen Minton. This text may be freely used for educational, non-profit purposes; for all other uses contact the Editor.
    Author: William Shakespeare
    Editor: Gretchen Minton
    Not Peer Reviewed

    Much Ado About Nothing (Quarto 1, 1600)

    Enter Leonato gouernour of Messina, Innogen his wife, Hero
    his daughter, and Beatrice his neece, with a
    5I Learne in this letter, that don Peter of Arragon
    comes this night to Messina.
    Mess. He is very neare by this, he was not three
    leagues off when I left him.
    Leona. How many gentlemen haue you lost in this action?
    Mess. But few of any sort, and none of name.
    Leona. A victory is twice it selfe, when the atchiuer brings
    home ful numbers: I find here, that don Peter hath bestowed
    much honour on a yong Florentine called Claudio.
    Mess. Much deseru'd on his part, and equally remembred
    by don Pedro, he hath borne himselfe beyond the promise of
    his age, doing in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion, he hath
    indeed better bettred expectation then you must expect of me
    20to tell you how.
    Leo. He hath an vnckle here in Messina will be very much
    glad of it.
    Mess. I haue already deliuered him letters, and there ap-
    peares much ioy in him, euen so much, that ioy could not shew
    25itselfe modest enough, without a badge of bitternesse.
    Leo. Did he breake out into teares?
    Mess. In great measure.
    Leo. A kind ouerflow of kindnesse, there are no faces truer
    30then those that are so washt, how much better is it to weepe at
    ioy, then to ioy at weeping?
    Beatr. I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returnd from the
    warres or no?
    Messen. I know none of that name, ladie, there was none
    35such in the army of any sort.
    Leonato What is he that you aske for neece?
    Hero My cosen meanes Signior Benedicke of Padua.
    Mess. O hee's returnd, and as pleasant as euer he was.
    Bea. He set vp his bills here in Messina, and challengde
    40Cupid at the Flight, and my vncles foole reading the chalenge
    subscribde for Cupid, and challengde him at the Burbolt: I
    pray you, how many hath he kild and eaten in these warres?
    but how many hath he kild? for indeede I promised to eate all
    of his killing.
    45Leo. Faith neece you taxe Signior Benedicke too much,
    but heele be meet with you, I doubt it not.
    Mess. He hath done good seruice lady in these warres.
    Beat. You had musty vittaile, and he hath holpe to eate it,
    he is a very valiaunt trencher man, he hath an excellent sto-
    Mess. And a good souldier too, lady.
    Beat. And a good souldiour to a Lady, but what is he to a
    Mess. A lord to a lord, a man to a man, stufft with al hono-
    55rable vertues.
    Beat. It is so indeed, he is no lesse then a stuft man, but for
    the stuffing wel, we are al mortall.
    Leo. You must not, sir, mistake my neece, there is a kind
    of mery warre betwixt Signior Benedicke and her, they neuer
    60meet but there's a skirmish of wit betweene them.
    Beat. Alas he gets nothing by that, in our last conflict, 4 of his
    fiue wits went halting off, and now is the whole man gouernd
    with one, so that if he haue wit enough to keep himself warm,
    65let him beare it for a difference between himself and his horse,
    for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasona-
    ble creature, who is his companion now? he hath euery month
    a new sworne brother.
    70Mess. Ist possible?
    Beat. Very easily possible, he weares his faith but as the fa-
    shion of his hat, it euer changes with the next blocke.
    Mess. I see lady the gentleman is not in your bookes.
    75Beat. No, and he were, I would burne my study, but I pray
    you who is his companion? is there no yong squarer now that
    will make a voyage with him to the diuell?
    Mess. He is most in the companie of the right noble Clau-
    Beat. O Lord, he will hang vpon him like a disease, hee is
    sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs present-
    ly madde, God help the noble Claudio, if he haue caught the
    Benedict, it will cost him a thousand pound ere a be cured.
    Mess. I will holde friends with you Ladie.
    Beat. Do good friend.
    Leon. You will neuer runne madde niece.
    Beat. No, not till a hote Ianuary.
    90Mess. Don Pedro is approacht.
    Enter don Pedro, Claudio, Benedicke, Balthasar
    and Iohn the bastard.
    Pedro Good signior Leonato, are you come to meet your
    trouble: the fashion of the world is, to auoyd cost, and you in-
    95counter it.
    Leon. Neuer came trouble to my house, in the likenesse of
    your grace, for trouble being gone, comfort should remaine:
    but when you depart from mee, sorrow abides, and happines
    takes his leaue.
    100Pedro You embrace your charge too willingly: I thincke
    this is your daughter.
    Leonato Her mother hath many times tolde me so.
    Bened. Were you in doubt sir that you askt her?
    Leonato Signior Benedicke, no, for then were you a child.
    Pedro You haue it full Benedicke, wee may ghesse by this,
    what you are, being a man, truely the Lady fathers her selfe:
    be happy Lady, for you are like an honourable father.
    110Be. If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not haue
    his head on her shoulders for all Messina as like him as she is.
    Beat. I wonder that you will still be talking, signior Bene-
    dicke, no body markes you.
    115Bene. What my deere lady Disdaine! are you yet liuing?
    Bea. Is it possible Disdaine should die, while she hath such
    meete foode to feede it, as signior Benedicke? Curtesie it selfe
    must conuert to Disdaine, if you come in her presence.
    Bene. Then is curtesie a turne-coate, but it is certaine I am
    loued of all Ladies, onelie you excepted: and I would I could
    finde in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truely I loue
    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 stil in that mind, 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 yours.
    Ben. I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and
    so good a continuer, but keep your way a Gods name, I haue
    Beat. You alwayes end with a iades tricke, I knowe you of
    Pedro That is the summe of all: Leonato, signior Claudio,
    and signior Benedicke, my deere friend Leonato, hath inuited
    145you all, I tell him we shall stay here, at the least a moneth, and
    he heartily praies some occasion may detaine vs longer, I dare
    sweare he is no hypocrite, but praies from his heart.
    Leon. If you sweare, my lord, you shall not be forsworne,
    150let mee bidde you welcome, my lord, being reconciled to the
    Prince your brother: I owe you all duetie.
    Iohn I thanke you, I am not of many wordes, but I thanke
    155Leon. Please it your grace leade on?
    Pedro Your hand Leonato, we wil go together.
    Exeunt. Manent Benedicke & Claudio.
    Clau. Benedicke, didst thou note the daughter of Signior
    160Bene. I noted her not, but I lookte on her,
    Clau. Is she not a modest yong ladie?
    Bene. Do 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 to their sex?
    Claudio No, I pray thee speake in sober iudgement.
    Bene. Why yfaith me thinks shees too low for a hie praise,
    too browne for a faire praise, and too litle for a great praise, on-
    lie this commendation I can affoord her, that were shee other
    170then she is, she were vnhansome, and being no other, but as she
    is, I do not like her.
    Claudio Thou thinkest I am in sport, I pray thee tell mee
    truelie how thou lik'st her.
    Bene. Would you buie her that you enquier after her?
    Claudio Can the world buie such a iewel?
    Bene. Yea, and a case to putte 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 Carpenter:
    180Come, in what key shall a man take you to go in the song?
    Claudio In mine eie, shee is the sweetest Ladie that euer I
    lookt on.
    Bened. I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such
    185matter: theres her cosin, and she were not possest with a fury,
    exceedes her as much in beautie, as the first of Maie dooth the
    last of December: but I hope you haue no intent to turne hus-
    band, haue you?
    Claudio I would scarce trust my selfe, though I had sworne
    190the contrarie, if Hero would be my wife.
    Bened. Ist come to this? in faith hath not the worlde one
    man but he will weare his cappe with suspition? shall I neuer
    see a batcheller of three score againe? go to yfaith, and thou wilt
    needes thrust thy necke into a yoke, weare the print of it, and
    195sigh away sundaies: looke, don Pedro is returned to seeke you.
    Enter don Pedro, Iohn the bastard.
    Pedro What secret hath held you here, that you followed
    not to Leonatoes?
    200Bene. I would your Grace would constraine me to tell.
    Pedro I charge thee on thy allegeance.
    Ben. You heare, Count Claudio, I can be secret as a dumb
    man, I woulde haue you thinke so (but on my allegiance,
    205marke you this, on my allegiance) he is in loue, with who? now
    that is your Graces part: marke how short his answer is, with
    Hero Leonatoes short daughter.
    Clau. If this were so, so were it vttred.
    210Bened. Like the olde tale, my Lord, it is not so, nor twas
    not so: but indeede, God forbid it should be so.
    Claudio If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it
    should be otherwise.
    Pedro Amen, if you loue her, for the Lady is very well
    Claudio You speake this to fetch me in, my Lord.
    Pedro By my troth I speake my thought.
    Claudio And in faith, my Lord, I spoke mine.
    Bened. And by my two faiths and troths, my Lorde, I
    220spoke mine.
    Clau. That I loue her, I feele.
    Pedro That she is worthy, I know.
    Bened. That I neither feele how she should be loued, nor
    know how she should be worthie,
    is the opinion that fire can
    225not melt out of me, I will die in it at the stake.
    Pedro Thou wast euer an obstinate heretique in the de-
    spight of Beauty.
    Clau. And neuer could maintaine his part, but in the force
    230of his wil.
    Bene. That a woman conceiued me, I thanke her: that she
    brought me 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 women shall pardon mee:
    235because I will not doe 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 go the finer,) I will liue a bacheller.
    Pedro I shall see thee ere I die, looke pale with loue.
    240Bene. With anger, with sickenesse, 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 eies
    with a Ballad-makers penne, and hang me vp at the doore of a
    brothel house for the signe of blinde Cupid.
    Pedro Well, if euer thou dost fall from this faith, thou wilt
    prooue a notable argument.
    Bene. If I do, hang me in a bottle like a Cat, and shoote at
    me, and he that hits me, let him be clapt on the shoulder, and
    250calld Adam.
    Pedro Well, as time shal trie: in time the sauage bull doth
    beare the yoake.
    Bene. The sauage bull may, but if euer the sensible Bene-
    dicke beare it, plucke off the bulls hornes, and set them in my
    255forehead, and let me be vildly painted, and in such great let-
    ters as they write, here is good horse to hyre: let them signi-
    fie vnder my signe, here you may see Benedicke the married
    Claudio If this should euer happen, thou wouldst be horn
    Pedro Nay, if Cupid haue not spent all his quiuer in Venice,
    thou wilt quake for this shortly.
    Bened. I looke for an earthquake too then.
    Pedro Well, you will temporize with the howres, in the
    265meane time, good signior Benedicke, repaire to Leonatoes,
    commend me to him, and tell him I will not faile him at sup-
    per, for indeede he hath made great preparation.
    Bened. I haue almost matter enough in mee for suche 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 Benedicke.
    Bened. Nay mocke not, mocke not, the body of your dis-
    275course is sometime guarded with fragments, and the guardes
    are but slightly basted on neither, ere you flowt old ends any
    further, examine your conscience, and so I leaue you.
    Claudio My liege, your Highnesse nowe may doe mee
    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, shees his onely heire:
    Doost thou affect her Claudio?
    Claudio O my lord,
    When you went onward on this ended action,
    I lookt vpon her with a souldiers eie,
    290That likt, but had a rougher taske in hand,
    Than to driue liking to the name of loue:
    But now I am returnde, 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 likt 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 wil breake with hir, and with her father,
    300And thou shalt haue her: wast not to this end,
    That thou beganst to twist so fine a storie?
    Clau. How sweetly you do minister to loue,
    That know loues griefe by his complexion!
    But lest my liking might too sodaine seeme,
    305I would haue salude it with a longer treatise.
    Pedro What need the bridge much broder then the flood?
    The fairest graunt is the necessitie:
    Looke what wil serue is fit: tis once, thou louest,
    And I wil fit thee with the remedie,
    310I know we shall haue reuelling to night,
    I wil 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, she shal be thine,
    In practise let vs put it presently.