William Shakespeare's Much Ado about Nothing in the complete original text.
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Much Ado about Nothing

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Act II. Scene I.

Act II. Scene I.—A Hall in LEONATO'S

BEATRICE, and Others.

Leon. Was not Count John here at supper?
Ant. I saw him not.
Beat. How tartly that gentleman looks! I
never can see him but I am heart-burned an
hour after.
Hero. He is of a very melancholy disposition.
Beat. He were an excellent man that were
made just in the mid-way between him and
Benedick: the one is too like an image, and says
nothing; and the other too like my lady's eldest
son, evermore tatthng.
Leon. Then half Signior Benedick's tongue
in Count John's mouth, and half Count John's
melancholy in Signior Benedick's face,—
Beat. With a good leg and a good foot, uncle,
and money enough in his purse, such a man
would win any woman in the world, if a' could
get her good will.
Leon. By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get
thee a husband, if thou be so shrewd of thy
Ant. In faith, she's too curst.
Beat. Too curst is more than curst: I shall
lessen God's sending that way; for it is said,
'God sends a curst cow short horns;' but to a
cow too curst he sends none.
Leon. So, by being too curst. God will send
you no horns?
Beat. Just, if he send me no husband; for
the which blessing I am at him upon my knees
every morning and evening. Lord! I could not
endure a husband with a beard on his face: I
had rather lie in the woollen.
Leon. You may light on a husband that hath
no beard.
Beat. What should I do with him? dress him
in my apparel and make him my waiting-gentle-
woman? He that hath a beard is more than a
youth, and he that hath no beard is less than a
man; and he that is more than a youth is not
for me; and he that is less than a man, I am not
for him: therefore I will even take sixpence in
earnest of the bear-ward, and lead his apes into
Leon. Well then, go you into hell?
Beat. No; but to the gate; and there will the
devil meet me, like an old cuckold, with horns
on his head, and say, 'Get you to heaven,
Beatrice, get you to heaven; here's no place
for you maids:' so deliver I up my apes, and
away to Saint Peter for the heavens; he shows
me where the bachelors sit, and there live we as
merry as the day is long.
Ant. [To HERO.] Well, niece, I trust you will
be ruled by your father.
Beat. Yes, faith; it is my cousin's duty to
make curtsy, and say, 'Father, as it please you:'
—but yet for all that, cousin, let him be a hand-
some fellow, or else make another curtsy, and
say, 'Father, as it please me.'
Leon. Well, niece, I hope to see you one day
fitted with a husband.
Beat. Not till God make men of some other
metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman
to be over-mastered with a piece of valiant dust?
to make an account of her life to a clod of
wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none: Adam's
sons are my brethren; and truly, I hold it a
sin to match in my kindred.
Leon. Daughter, remember what I told you:
if the prince do solicit you in that kind, you
know your answer.
Beat. The fault will be in the music, cousin,
if you be not wooed in good time: if the prince
be too important, tell him there is measure in
everything, and so dance out the answer. For,
hear me, Hero: wooing, wedding, and repenting,
is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinque-pace:
the first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch Jig,
and full as fantastical; the wedding, mannerly-
modest, as a measure, full of state and ancientry;
and then comes Repentance, and, with his bad
legs, falls into the cinque-pace faster and faster,
till he sink into his grave.
Leon. Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewdly.
Beat. I have a good eye, uncle: I can see a
church by daylight.
Leon. The revellers are entering, brother:
make good room.

MARGARET, URSULA, and Others, masked.
D. Pedro. Lady, will you walk about with
your friend?
Hero. So you walk softly and look sweetly
and say nothing, I am yours for the walk; and
especially when I walk away.
D. Pedro. With me in your company?
Hero. I may say so, when I please.
D. Pedro. And when please you to say so?
Hero. When I like your favour; for God
defend the lute should be like the case!
D. Pedro. My visor is Philemon's roof; with-
in the house is Jove.
Hero. Why, then, your visor should be
D. Pedro. Speak low, if you speak love.
[Takes her aside.
Balth. Well, I would you did like me.
Marg. So would not I, for your own sake; for
I have many ill qualities.
Balth. Which is one?
Marg. I say my prayers aloud.
Balth. I love you the better; the hearers may
cry Amen.
Marg. God match me with a good dancer!
Balth. Amen.
Marg. And God keep him out of my sight
when the dance is done! Answer, clerk.
Balth. No more words: the clerk is an-
Urs. I know you well enough; you are
Signior Antonio.
Ant. At a word, I am not.
Urs. I know you by the waggling of your
Ant. To tell you true, I counterfeit him.
Urs. You could never do him so ill-well,
unless you were the very man. Here's his dry
hand up and down: you are he, you are he.
Ant. At a word, I am not.
Urs. Come, come; do you think I do not
know you by your excellent wit? Can virtue
hide itself? Go to, mum, you are he: graces will
appear, and there's an end.
Beat. Will you not tell me who told you so?
Bene. No, you shall pardon me.
Beat. Nor will you not tell me who you are?
Bcne. Not now.
Beat. That I was disdainful, and that I had
my good wit out of the 'Hundred Merry Tales.'
Well, this was Signior Benedick that said so.
Bene. What's he?
Beat. I am sure you know him well enough.
Bene. Not I, believe me.
Beat. Did he never make you laugh?
Bene. I pray you, what is he?
Beat. Why, he is the prince's jester: a very
dull fool; only his gift is in devising impossible
slanders: none but libertines delight in him;
and the commendation is not in his wit, but
in his villany; for he both pleases men and
angers them, and then they laugh at him and
beat him. I am sure he is in the fleet: I would
he had boarded me!
Bene. When I know the gentleman, I'll tell
him what you say.
Beat. Do, do: he'll but break a comparison
or two on me; which, peradventure not marked
or not laughed at, strikes him into melancholy;
and then there's a partridge wing saved, for the
fool will eat no supper that night. [Music
within.] We must follow the leaders.
Bene. In every good thing.
Beat. Nay, if they lead to any ill, I will leave
them at the next turning.
[Dance. Then exeunt all but DON JOHN,
D. John. Sure my brother is amorous on
Hero, and hath withdrawn her father to break
with him about it. The ladies follow her and but
one visor remains.
Bora. And that is Claudio: I know him by
his bearing.
D. John. Are not you Signior Benedick?
Claud. You know me well; I am he.
D. John. Signior, you are very near my
brother in his love: he is enamoured on Hero;
I pray you, dissuade him from her; she is no
equal for his birth: you may do the part of an
honest man in it.
Claud. How know you he loves her?
D. John. I heard him swear his affection.
Bora. So did I too; and he swore he would
marry her to-night.
D. John. Come, let us to the banquet.
Claud. Thus answer I in name of Benedick,
But hear these ill news with the ears of Claudio.
'Tis certain so; the prince woos for himself.
Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
Therefore all hearts in love use their own
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.
This is an accident of hourly proof,
Which I mistrusted not. Farewell, therefore,

Re-enter BENEDICK.
Bene. Count Claudio?
Claud. Yea, the same.
Bene. Come, will you go with me?
Claud. Whither?
Bene. Even to the next willow, about your
own business, count. What fashion will you
wear the garland of? About your neck, like a
usurer's chain? or under your arm, like a lieu-
tenant's scarf? You must wear it one way, for
the prince hath got your Hero.
Claud. I wish him joy of her.
Bene. Why, that's spoken like an honest
drovier: so they sell bullocks. But did you think
the prince would have served you thus?
Claud. I pray you, leave me.
Bene. Ho! now you strike like the blind man:
'twas the boy that stole your meat, and you'll
beat the post.
Claud. If it will not be, I'll leave you. [Exit.
Bene. Alas! poor hurt fowl. Now will he
creep into sedges. But, that my lady Beatrice
should know me, and not know me! The prince's
fool! Ha! it may be I go under that title be-
cause I am merry. Yea, but so I am apt to do
myself wrong; I am not so reputed: it is the
base though bitter disposition of Beatrice that
puts the world into her person, and so gives me
out. Well, I'll be revenged as I may.

Re-enter DON PEDRO.
D. Pedro. Now, signior, where's the count?
Did you see him?
Bene. Troth, my lord, I have played the part
of Lady Fame. I found him here as melancholy
as a lodge in a warren. I told him, and I think
I told him true, that your Grace had got the
good will of this young lady; and I offered him
my company to a willow tree, either to make
him a garland, as being forsaken, or to bind him
up a rod, as being worthy to be whipped.
D. Pedro. To be whipped! What's his fault?
Bene. The flat transgression of a school-boy,
who, being overjoy'd with finding a bird's nest,
shows it his companion, and he steals it.
D. Pedro. Wilt thou make a trust a trans-
gression? The transgression is in the stealer.
Bene. Yet it had not been amiss the rod had
been made, and the garland too; for the garland
he might have worn himself, and the rod he
might have bestowed on you, who, as I take it,
have stolen his bird's nest.
D. Pedro. I will but teach them to sing, and
restore them to the owner.
Bene. If their singing answer your saying, by
my faith, you say honestly.
D. Pedro. The Lady Beatrice hath a quarrel
to you: the gentleman that danced with her
told her she is much wronged by you.
Bene. O! she misused me past the endurance
of a block: an oak but with one green leaf on it,
would have answered her: my very visor began
to assume life and scold with her. She told me,
not thinking I had been myself, that I was the
prince's jester; that I was duller than a great
thaw; huddling jest upon jest with such impos-
sible conveyance upon me, that I stood like a
man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at
me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs:
if her breath were as terrible as her terminations,
there were no living near her; she would infect
to the north star. I would not marry her, though
she were endowed with all that Adam had left
him before he transgressed: she would have
made Hercules have turned spit, yea, and have
cleft his club to make the fire too. Come, talk
not of her; you shall find her the infernal Ate in
good apparel. I would to God some scholar
would conjure her, for certainly, while she is
here, a man may live as quiet in hell as in a
sanctuary; and people sin upon purpose because
they would go thither; so, indeed, all disquiet,
horror and perturbation follow her.

D. Pedro. Look! here she comes.
Bene. Will your Grace command me any
service to the world's end? I will go on the
slightest errand now to the Antipodes that you
can devise to send me on; I will fetch you a
toothpicker now from the furthest inch of Asia;
bring you the length of Prester John's foot;
fetch you a hair off the Great Cham's beard;
do you any embassage to the Pigmies, rather
than hold three words' conference with this
harpy. You have no employment for me?
D. Pedro. None, but to desire your good
Bene. O God, sir, here's a dish I love not: I
cannot endure my Lady Tongue. [Exit.
D. Pedro. Come, lady, come; you have lost
the heart of Signior Benedick.
Beat. Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile;
and I gave him use for it, a double heart for a
single one: marry, once before he won it of me
with false dice, therefore your Grace may well
say I have lost it.
D. Pedro. You have put him down, lady, you
have put him down.
Beat. So I would not he should do me, my
lord, lest I should prove the mother of fools. I
have brought Count Claudio, whom you sent me;
to seek.
D. Pedro. Why, how now, count! wherefore
are you sad?
Claud. Not sad, my lord.
D. Pedro. How then? Sick?
Claud. Neither, my lord.
Beat. The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor
merry, nor well; but civil count, civil as an
orange, and something of that jealous com-
D. Pedro. I' faith, lady, I think your blazon
to be true; though, I'll be sworn, if he be so, his
conceit is false. Here, Claudio, I have wooed in
thy name, and fair Hero is won; I have broke
with her father, and, his good will obtained;
name the day of marriage, and God give thee joy!
Leon. Count, take of me my daughter, and
with her my fortunes: his Grace hath made the
match, and all grace say Amen to it!
Beat. Speak, count, 'tis your cue.
Claud. Silence is the perfectest herald of joy:
I were but little happy, if I could say how much.
Lady, as you are mine, I am yours: I give away
myself for you and dote upon the exchange.
Beat. Speak, cousin; or, if you cannot, stop
his mouth with a kiss, and let not him speak
D. Pedro. In faith, lady, you have a merry
Beat. Yea, my lord; I thank it, poor fool, it
keeps on the windy side of care. My cousin tells
him in his ear that he is in her heart.
Claud. And so she doth, cousin.
Beat. Good Lord, for alliance! Thus goes
every one to the world but I, and I am sun-
burnt. I may sit in a corner and cry heigh-ho
for a husband!
D. Pedro. Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.
Beat. I would rather have one of your father's
getting. Hath your Grace ne'er a brother like
you? Your father got excellent husbands, if a
maid could come by them.
D. Pedro. Will you have me, lady?
Beat. No, my lord, unless I might have an-
other for working days: your Grace is too costly
to wear every day. But, I beseech your Grace,
pardon me; I was born to speak all mirth and
no matter.
D. Pedro. Your silence most offends me, and
to be merry best becomes you; for, out of ques-
tion, you were born in a merry hour.
Beat. No, sure, my lord, my mother cried;
but then there was a star danced, and under
that was I born. Cousins, God give you joy!
Leon. Niece, will you look to those things I
told you of?
Beat. I cry you mercy, uncle. By your Grace's
pardon. [Exit.
D. Pedro. By my troth, a pleasant-spirited
Leon. There's little of the melancholy ele-
ment in her, my lord: she is never sad but when
she sleeps; and not ever sad then, for I have
heard my daughter say, she hath often dreamed
of unhappiness and waked herself with laughing.
D. Pedro. She cannot endure to hear tell of a
Leon. O! by no means: she mocks all her
wooers out of suit.
D. Pedro. She were an excellent wife for
Leon. O Lord! my lord, if they were but a
week married, they would talk themselves mad.
D. Pedro. Count Claudio, when mean you to
go to church?
Claud. To-morrow, my lord. Time goes on
crutches till love have all his rites.
Leon. Not till Monday, my dear son, which is
hence a just seven-night; and a time too brief
too, to have all things answer my mind.
D. Pedro. Come, you shake the head at so
long a breathing; but, I warrant thee, Claudio,
the time shall not go dully by us. I will in the
interim undertake one of Hercules' labours.
which is, to bring Signior Benedick and the
Lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection the
one with the other. I would fain have it a
match; and I doubt not but to fashion it, if you
three will but minister such assistance as I shall
give you direction.
Leon. My lord, I am for you, though it cost
me ten nights' watchings.
Claud. And I, my lord.
D. Pedro. And you too, gentle Hero?
Hero. I will do any modest office, my lord, to
help my cousin to a good husband.
D. Pedro. And Benedick is not the unhope-
fullest husband that I know. Thus far can I
praise him; he is of a noble strain, of approved
valour, and confirmed honesty. I will teach you
how to humour your cousin, that she shall fall
in love with Benedick; and I, with your two
helps, will so practise on Benedick that, in
despite of his quick wit and his queasy stomach,
he shall fall in love with Beatrice. If we can do
this, Cupid is no longer an archer: his glory
shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods.
Go in with me, and I will tell you my drift.
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