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Much Ado About Nothing: Act 1, Scene 1


           Enter LEONATO, governor of Messina,
           HERO his daughter, and BEATRICE
           his niece, with a Messenger.

      LEONATO
  1   I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Arragon
  2   comes this night to Messina.

      Messenger
  3   He is very near by this: he was not three leagues
  4   off when I left him.

      LEONATO
  5   How many gentlemen have you lost in this
  6   action?

      Messenger
  7   But few of any sort, and none of name.

      LEONATO
  8   A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings
  9   home full numbers. I find here that Don Pedro
 10   hath bestowed much honor on a young
 11   Florentine called Claudio.

      Messenger
 12   Much deserved on his part and equally remembered
 13   by Don Pedro: he hath borne himself beyond the
 14   promise of his age, doing, in the figure of a lamb,
 15   the feats of a lion: he hath indeed better
 16   bett'red expectation than you must expect of me to
 17   tell you how.

      LEONATO
 18   He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very
 19   much glad of it.

      Messenger
 20   I have already delivered him letters, and there
 21   appears much joy in him; even so much that joy
 22   could not show itself modest enough without a
 23   badge of bitterness.

      LEONATO
 24   Did he break out into tears?

      Messenger
 25   In great measure.

      LEONATO
 26   A kind overflow of kindness: there are no faces
 27   truer than those that are so washed. How much
 28   better is it to weep at joy than to joy at
 29   weeping!

      BEATRICE
 30   I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from
 31   the wars or no?

      Messenger
 32   I know none of that name, lady: there was none
 33   such in the army of any sort.

      LEONATO
 34   What is he that you ask for, niece?

      HERO
 35   My cousin means Signior Benedick of
 36   Padua.

      Messenger
 37   O, he's returned; and as pleasant as ever
 38   he was.

      BEATRICE
 39   He set up his bills here in Messina and
 40   challeng'd Cupid at the flight; and my uncle's
 41   fool, reading the challenge, subscrib'd for Cupid,
 42   and challenged him at the burbolt. I pray you,
 43   how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars?
 44   But how many hath he killed? for indeed I promis'd
 45   to eat all of his killing.

      LEONATO
 46   Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much;
 47   but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.

      Messenger
 48   He hath done good service, lady, in these
 49   wars.

      BEATRICE
 50   You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it:
 51   he is a very valiant trencherman; he hath an
 52   excellent stomach.

      Messenger
 53   And a good soldier too, lady.

      BEATRICE
 54   And a good soldier to a lady: but what is
 55   he to a lord?

      Messenger
 56   A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuff'd with all
 57   honorable virtues.

      BEATRICE
 58   It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuff'd
 59   man: but for the stuffing,—well, we are all
 60   mortal.

      LEONATO
 61   You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a
 62   kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her:
 63   they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit
 64   between them.

      BEATRICE
 65   Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last
 66   conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and
 67   now is the whole man governed with one: so that if
 68   he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him
 69   bear it for a difference between himself and his
 70   horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left,
 71   to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his
 72   companion now? He hath every month a new sworn
 73   brother.

      Messenger
 74   Is't possible?

      BEATRICE
 75   Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as
 76   the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the
 77   next block.

      Messenger
 78   I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your
 79   books.

      BEATRICE
 80   No; an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray
 81   you, who is his companion? Is there no young
 82   squarer now that will make a voyage with
 83   him to the devil?

      Messenger
 84   He is most in the company of the right
 85   noble Claudio.

      BEATRICE
 86   O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease: he
 87   is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker
 88   runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! if
 89   he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a
 90   thousand pound ere 'a be cur'd.

      Messenger
 91   I will hold friends with you, lady.

      BEATRICE
 92   Do, good friend.

      LEONATO
 93   You will never run mad, niece.

      BEATRICE
 94   No, not till a hot January.

      Messenger
 95   Don Pedro is approached.

           Enter DON PEDRO, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK,
           BALTHASAR, and [DON] JOHN the Bastard.

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

      LEONATO
 99   Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of
100   your grace: for trouble being gone, comfort should
101   remain; but when you depart from me, sorrow abides
102   and happiness takes his leave.

      DON PEDRO
103   You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this
104   is your daughter.

      LEONATO
105   Her mother hath many times told me so.

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

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

      DON PEDRO
109   You have it full, Benedick: we may
110   guess by this what you are, being a man. Truly,
111   the lady fathers herself. Be happy, lady; for you are
112   like an honorable father.

      BENEDICK
113   If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not
114   have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as
115   like him as she is.

      BEATRICE
116   I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior
117   Benedick: nobody marks you.

      BENEDICK
118   What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet
119   living?

      BEATRICE
120   Is it possible disdain should die while she hath
121   such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?
122   Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you
123   come in her presence.

      BENEDICK
124   Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain
125   I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted:
126   and I would I could find in my heart that I
127   had not a hard heart; for, truly, I love none.

      BEATRICE
128   A dear happiness to women: they would else
129   have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I
130   thank God and my cold blood, I am of your
131   humor for that: I had rather hear my dog bark
132   at a crow than a man swear he loves me.

      BENEDICK
133   God keep your ladyship still in that mind!
134   so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a
135   predestinate scratched face.

      BEATRICE
136   Scratching could not make it worse, an
137   'twere such a face as yours were.

      BENEDICK
138   Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.

      BEATRICE
139   A bird of my tongue is better than a beast
140   of yours.

      BENEDICK
141   I would my horse had the speed of your tongue,
142   and so good a continuer. But keep your way,
143   i' God's name; I have done.

      BEATRICE
144   You always end with a jade's trick: I know
145   you of old.

      DON PEDRO
146   That is the sum of all, Leonato. Signior
147   Claudio and Signior Benedick, my dear
148   friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell
149   him we shall stay here at the least a month;
150   and he heartily prays some occasion may
151   detain us longer. I dare swear he is no hypocrite,
152   but prays from his heart.

      LEONATO
153   If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.

           To DON JOHN.

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

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

      LEONATO
159   Please it your grace lead on?

      DON PEDRO
160   Your hand, Leonato; we will go
161   together.

***        Exeunt. Manent BENEDICK
           and CLAUDIO.

      CLAUDIO
162   Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of
163   Signior Leonato?

      BENEDICK
164   I noted her not; but I looked on her.

      CLAUDIO
165   Is she not a modest young lady?

      BENEDICK
166   Do you question me, as an honest man
167   should do, for my simple true judgment;
168   or would you have me speak after my custom,
169   as being a professed tyrant to their sex?

      CLAUDIO
170   No; I pray thee speak in sober judgment.

      BENEDICK
171   Why, i' faith, methinks she's too low for a high
172   praise, too brown for a fair praise and too little
173   for a great praise: only this commendation I can
174   afford her, that were she other than she is, she
175   were unhandsome; and being no other but as she
176   is, I do not like her.

      CLAUDIO
177   Thou thinkest I am in sport: I pray thee tell me
178   truly how thou likest her.

      BENEDICK
179   Would you buy her, that you inquire after
180   her?

      CLAUDIO
181   Can the world buy such a jewel?

      BENEDICK
182   Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this
183   with a sad brow? or do you play the flouting Jack,
184   to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder and Vulcan a
185   rare carpenter? Come, in what key shall a man take
186   you, to go in the song?

      CLAUDIO
187   In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I
188   looked on.

      BENEDICK
189   I can see yet without spectacles and I see no such
190   matter: there's her cousin, an she were not
191   possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty
192   as the first of May doth the last of December. But I
193   hope you have no intent to turn husband,
194   have you?

      CLAUDIO
195   I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the
196   contrary, if Hero would be my wife.

      BENEDICK
197   Is't come to this? In faith, hath not the world
198   one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion?
199   Shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again?
200   Go to, i' faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck
201   into a yoke, wear the print of it, and sigh away
202   Sundays. Look, Don Pedro is returned to
203   seek you.

           Enter DON PEDRO.

      DON PEDRO
204   What secret hath held you here, that you followed
205   not to Leonato's?

      BENEDICK
206   I would your grace would constrain me to
207   tell.

      DON PEDRO
208   I charge thee on thy allegiance.

      BENEDICK
209   You hear, Count Claudio: I can be secret as a
210   dumb man; I would have you think so; but, on
211   my allegiance, mark you this, on my allegiance.
212   He is in love. With who? now that is your grace's
213   part. Mark how short his answer is;—With Hero,
214   Leonato's short daughter.

      CLAUDIO
215   If this were so, so were it uttered.

      BENEDICK
216   Like the old tale, my lord: 'it is not so, nor
217   'twas not so, but, indeed, God forbid it should
218   be so'.

      CLAUDIO
219   If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it
220   should be otherwise.

      DON PEDRO
221   Amen, if you love her; for the lady is
222   very well worthy.

      CLAUDIO
223   You speak this to fetch me in, my lord.

      DON PEDRO
224   By my troth, I speak my thought.

      CLAUDIO
225   And, in faith, my lord, I spoke mine.

      BENEDICK
226   And, by my two faiths and troths, my
227   lord, I spoke mine.

      CLAUDIO
228   That I love her, I feel.

      DON PEDRO
229   That she is worthy, I know.

      BENEDICK
230   That I neither feel how she should be loved
231   nor know how she should be worthy, is the
232   opinion that fire cannot melt out of me: I will
233   die in it at the stake.

      DON PEDRO
234   Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in
235   the despite of beauty.

      CLAUDIO
236   And never could maintain his part but in the
237   force of his will.

      BENEDICK
238   That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that
239   she brought me up, I likewise give her most
240   humble thanks: but that I will have a recheat
241   winded in my forehead, or hang my bugle in
242   an invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me.
243   Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust
244   any, I will do myself the right to trust none; and
245   the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I will
246   live a bachelor.

      DON PEDRO
247   I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with
248   love.

      BENEDICK
249   With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord,
250   not with love: prove that ever I lose more blood
251   with love than I will get again with drinking, pick
252   out mine eyes with a ballad-maker's pen and hang
253   me up at the door of a brothel-house for the sign of
254   blind Cupid.

      DON PEDRO
255   Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou
256   wilt prove a notable argument.

      BENEDICK
257   If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot
258   at me; and he that hits me, let him be clapped on
259   the shoulder, and called Adam.

      DON PEDRO
260   Well, as time shall try: 'In time the savage bull
261   doth bear the yoke'.

      BENEDICK
262   The savage bull may; but if ever the sensible
263   Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull's horns and set
264   them in my forehead: and let me be vilely painted,
265   and in such great letters as they write 'Here is
266   good horse to hire', let them signify under my sign
267   'Here you may see Benedick the
268   married man'.

      CLAUDIO
269   If this should ever happen, thou wouldst
270   be horn-mad.

      DON PEDRO
271   Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in
272   Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.

      BENEDICK
273   I look for an earthquake too, then.

      DON PEDRO
274   Well, you temporize with the hours. In the
275   meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to
276   Leonato's: commend me to him and tell him I will
277   not fail him at supper; for indeed he hath made
278   great preparation.

      BENEDICK
279   I have almost matter enough in me for such an
280   embassage; and so I commit you—

      CLAUDIO
281   To the tuition of God: From my house,
282   if I had it,—

      DON PEDRO
283   The sixth of July: Your loving friend,
284   Benedick.

      BENEDICK
285   Nay, mock not, mock not. The body of your
286   discourse is sometime guarded with fragments,
287   and the guards are but slightly basted on neither:
288   ere you flout old ends any further, examine your
289   conscience: and so I leave you.

           Exit.

      CLAUDIO
290   My liege, your highness now may do me good.

      DON PEDRO
291   My love is thine to teach: teach it but how,
292   And thou shalt see how apt it is to learn
293   Any hard lesson that may do thee good.

      CLAUDIO
294   Hath Leonato any son, my lord?

      DON PEDRO
295   No child but Hero; she's his only heir.
296   Dost thou affect her, Claudio?

      CLAUDIO
296                                                   O, my lord,
297   When you went onward on this ended action,
298   I look'd upon her with a soldier's eye,
299   That liked, but had a rougher task in hand
300   Than to drive liking to the name of love:
301   But now I am return'd and that war-thoughts
302   Have left their places vacant, in their rooms
303   Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
304   All prompting me how fair young Hero is,
305   Saying, I liked her ere I went to wars.

      DON PEDRO
306   Thou wilt be like a lover presently
307   And tire the hearer with a book of words.
308   If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it,
309   And I will break with her and with her father,
310   And thou shalt have her. Was't not to this end
311   That thou began'st to twist so fine a story?

      CLAUDIO
312   How sweetly you do minister to love,
313   That know love's grief by his complexion!
314   But lest my liking might too sudden seem,
315   I would have salv'd it with a longer treatise.

      DON PEDRO
316   What need the bridge much broader than the flood?
317   The fairest grant is the necessity.
318   Look, what will serve is fit: 'tis once, thou lovest,
319   And I will fit thee with the remedy.
320   I know we shall have revelling tonight:
321   I will assume thy part in some disguise
322   And tell fair Hero I am Claudio,
323   And in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart
324   And take her hearing prisoner with the force
325   And strong encounter of my amorous tale:
326   Then after to her father will I break;
327   And the conclusion is, she shall be thine.
328   In practise let us put it presently.

           Exeunt.

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