Much Ado About Nothing


Scene I. Leonato's Garden.


HERO. Good Margaret, run thee to the parlour; There shalt thou find my cousin Beatrice Proposing with the prince and Claudio: Whisper her ear, and tell her, I and Ursala 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 honey-suckles, 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 propose. This is thy office; Bear thee well in it and leave us alone.

MARGARET. I'll make her come, I warrant you, presently.


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.

[They advance to the bower.]

No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful; I know her spirits are as coy and wild As haggards 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 lov'd 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 fram'd 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-endear'd.

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 featur'd, But she would spell him backward: if fair-fac'd, She would swear the gentleman should be her sister; If black, why, Nature, drawing of an antick, 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 priz'd 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 lim'd, I warrant you: we have caught her, madam.

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

[Exeunt HERO and URSULA.]

BEATRICE. [Advancing.] 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.


Scene 2. A Room in LEONATO'S House.


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 bowstring, 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 tooth-ache.

DON PEDRO. Draw it.

BENEDICK. Hang it.

CLAUDIO. You must hang it first, and draw it afterwards.

DON PEDRO. What! sigh for the tooth-ache?

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 to-day, 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 a 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 new-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 tooth-ache. 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.


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 JOHN. Even she: Leonato's Hero, your Hero, every man's Hero.

CLAUDIO. Disloyal?

DON JOHN. The word's 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 anything 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.


Scene 3. 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 desartless man to be constable?

FIRST WATCH. Hugh Oatcake, sir, or George Seacoal; for they can write and read.

DOGBERRY. Come hither, neighbour Seacoal. 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 WATCH. 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 lanthorn. This is your charge: you shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to bid any man stand, in the prince's name.

SECOND WATCH. 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.

SECOND WATCH. 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 alehouses, and bid those that are drunk get them to bed.

SECOND WATCH. 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.

SECOND WATCH. 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.

SECOND WATCH. 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.

SECOND WATCH. 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 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, ah, 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.

SECOND WATCH. 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.



BORACHIO. What, Conrade!

WATCH. [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 penthouse, for it drizzles rain, and I will, like a true drunkard, utter all to thee.

WATCH. [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?

WATCH. [Aside.] I know that Deformed; a' bas been a vile thief this seven years; 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 he turns about all the hot bloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty? sometime fashioning them like Pharaoh's soldiers in the reechy 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 WATCH. We charge you in the prince's name, stand!

SECOND WATCH. Call up the right Master Constable. We have here recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever was known in the commonwealth.

FIRST WATCH. And one Deformed is one of them: I know him, a' wears a lock.

CONRADE. Masters, masters!

SECOND WATCH. You'll be made bring Deformed forth, I warrant you.

CONRADE. Masters,--

FIRST WATCH. 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.


Scene 4. A Room in LEONATO'S House.


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

URSULA. I will, lady.

HERO. And bid her come hither.



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 blush 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:' an bad thinking do not wrest true speaking, I'll offend nobody. Is there any harm in 'the heavier for a husband'? None, I think, an it be the right husband and the right wife; otherwise 'tis light, and not heavy: ask my Lady Beatrice else; here she comes.


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 barnes.

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, an 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. Ever 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 prick'st 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.


Scene 5. Another Room in LEONATO'S House


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 in my heart to bestow it all of your worship.

LEONATO. All thy tediousness on me! ha?

DOGBERRY. Yea, an 't were 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, hath 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 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 Seacoal; 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.