Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon.
Don John, his bastard brother.
Claudio, a young lord of Florence.
Benedick, a Young lord of Padua.
Leonato, Governor of Messina.
Antonio, an old man, his brother.
Balthasar, attendant on Don Pedro.
Borachio, follower of Don John.
Conrade, follower of Don John.
Dogberry, a Constable.
Verges, a Headborough.
Hero, daughter to Leonato.
Beatrice, niece to Leonato.
Margaret, waiting gentlewoman attending on Hero.
Ursula, waiting gentlewoman attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watch, Attendants, etc.
ACT I. Scene I.
An orchard before Leonato's house.
Enter Leonato (Governor of Messina), Hero (his Daughter),
and Beatrice (his Niece), with a Messenger.
Leon. I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Arragon comes this
night to Messina.
Mess. He is very near by this. He was not three leagues off when I
Leon. How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?
Mess. But few of any sort, and none of name.
Leon. A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full
numbers. I find here that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on
a young Florentine called Claudio.
Mess. Much deserv'd on his part, and equally rememb'red by 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 bett'red expectation than you must expect of me to tell
Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
Mess. 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 bitterness.
Leon. Did he break out into tears?
Mess. In great measure.
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness. There are no faces truer than
those that are so wash'd. How much better is it to weep at joy
than to joy at weeping!
Beat. I pray you, is Signior Mountanto return'd from the wars or no?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady. There was none such in the
army of any sort.
Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece?
Hero. My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.
Mess. O, he's return'd, and as pleasant as ever he was.
Beat. He set up his bills here in Messina and challeng'd Cupid at
the flight, and my uncle's fool, reading the challenge,
subscrib'd for Cupid and challeng'd him at the burbolt. I pray
you, how many hath he kill'd and eaten in these wars? But how
many hath he kill'd? For indeed I promised to eat all of his
Leon. Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much; but he'll
be meet with you, I doubt it not.
Mess. He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
Beat. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it. He is a
very valiant trencherman; he hath an excellent stomach.
Mess. And a good soldier too, lady.
Beat. And a good soldier to a lady; but what is he to a lord?
Mess. A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuff'd with all honourable
Beat. It is so indeed. He is no less than a stuff'd man; but for
the stuffing--well, we are all mortal.
Leon. 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.
Beat. Alas, he gets nothing by that! In our last conflict four of
his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man govern'd
with one; so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let
him bear it for a difference between himself and his 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
Mess. Is't possible?
Beat. Very easily possible. He wears his faith but as the fashion
of his hat; it ever changes with the next block.
Mess. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.
Beat. No. An he were, I would burn my study. But I pray you, who is
his companion? Is there no young squarer now that will make a
voyage with him to the devil?
Mess. He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
Beat. 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 he have caught the Benedick, it will
cost him a thousand pound ere 'a be cured.
Mess. I will hold friends with you, lady.
Beat. Do, good friend.
Leon. You will never run mad, niece.
Beat. No, not till a hot January.
Mess. Don Pedro is approach'd.
Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, and John the Bastard.
Pedro. Good Signior Leonato, are you come to meet your trouble? The
fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it.
Leon. 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.
Pedro. You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this is your
Leon. Her mother hath many times told me so.
Bene. Were you in doubt, sir, that you ask'd her?
Leon. Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.
Pedro. You have it full, Benedick. We may guess by this what you
are, being a man. Truly the lady fathers herself. Be happy, lady;
for you are like an honourable father.
Bene. If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head
on her shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she is.
Beat. I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick.
Nobody marks you.
Bene. What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?
Beat. Is it possible Disdain should die while she hath such meet
food to feed it as Signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert
to disdain if you come in her presence.
Bene. Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of
all ladies, only you excepted; and I would I could find in my
heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.
Beat. 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 had rather hear my dog bark at a crow
than a man swear he loves me.
Bene. God keep your ladyship still in that mind! So some gentleman
or other shall scape a predestinate scratch'd face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse an 'twere such a face as
Bene. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Beat. A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
Bene. I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a
continuer. But keep your way, a God's name! I have done.
Beat. You always end with a jade's trick. I know you of old.
Pedro. That is the sum of all, Leonato. Signior Claudio and Signior
Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him
we shall stay here at the least a month, and he heartly prays
some occasion may detain us longer. I dare swear he is no
hypocrite, but prays from his heart.
Leon. If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn. [To Don
John] Let me bid you welcome, my lord. Being reconciled to the
Prince your brother, I owe you all duty.
John. I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you.
Leon. Please it your Grace lead on?
Pedro. Your hand, Leonato. We will go together.
Exeunt. Manent Benedick and Claudio.
Claud. Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?
Bene. I noted her not, but I look'd on her.
Claud. Is she not a modest young lady?
Bene. Do you question me, as an honest man should do, for my simple
true judgment? or would you have me speak after my custom, as
being a professed tyrant to their sex?
Claud. No. I pray thee speak in sober judgment.
Bene. Why, i' faith, methinks she's too low for a high praise,
too brown for a fair praise, and too little 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.
Claud. Thou thinkest I am in sport. I pray thee tell me truly how
thou lik'st her.
Bene. Would you buy her, that you enquire after her?
Claud. Can the world buy such a jewel?
Bene. Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this with a sad
brow? or do you play the flouting Jack, 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?
Claud. In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I look'd on.
Bene. I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter.
There's her cousin, an she were not possess'd 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
Claud. I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the
contrary, if Hero would be my wife.
Bene. 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 threescore again? Go to, i' faith! An thou wilt needs
thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it and sigh away