Messina. Inside a church.
(Prince Don Pedro; Don John the Bastard; Leonato; Friar Francis; Claudio; Benedick; Hero; Beatrice; Attendants)
The gathered assembly meets before Friar Francis, who begins the marriage ceremony. Claudio asks Hero whether she knows any reason they should not be married, and she insists that she does not. Claudio then rejects her, accusing her of immorality; the confused Leonato attempts to defend her, and shocked Hero protests her innocence, but neither Claudio nor Don Pedro will have any of it, both swearing that they saw her the night before at her window, talking with Borachio. Claudio’s insults, supported by Don Pedro and Don John, are so severe that Hero faints. The three accusers leave Leonato and his friends alone, Benedick remaining behind as well. Beside himself with grief and thinking himself dishonored, Leonato bewails the day and wishes that Hero were dead. Benedick attempts to find some evidence to clear Hero, but Beatrice cannot help, as she did not sleep in Hero’s room as customary the previous night. Friar Francis, however, is convinced of Hero’s innocence. Restored, Hero still insists on her innocence, having no idea what she’s being accused of. Benedick suspects Don John of being at the root of all this trouble, but Leonato is too confused to have an opinion, swearing vengeance on anyone who may have caused this. The Friar suggests that they announce that Hero died of grief and hide her away, giving time to find out what has happened and making Claudio pity her, while offering a way to sneak her off to a nunnery if she turns out to be guilty. Leonato and the Friar lead Hero away. Benedick attempts to console the tearful Beatrice. They slowly admit to each other that they are in love, Benedick finally offering to do anything for her as proof — at which she tells him to kill Claudio. Benedick refuses, and Beatrice’s rage bursts forth, as she wishes she were a man so that she could fight Claudio herself. Despite his friendship for the Count, Benedick promises to challenge Claudio to a duel. (301 lines)
Enter Prince Don Pedro, Don John the Bastard, Leonato, Friar Francis, Claudio, Benedick, Hero, and Beatrice with Attendants.
Come, Friar Francis, be brief—only to the plain form of marriage, and you shall recount their particular duties afterwards.
You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady.
To be married to her. Friar, you come to marry her.
Lady, you come hither to be married to this count.
If either of you know any inward impediment why you should not be conjoin’d, I charge you on your souls to utter it.
Know you any, Hero?
None, my lord.
Know you any, Count?
I dare make his answer, none.
O, what men dare do! What men may do! What men daily do, not knowing what they do!
How now! Interjections? Why then, some be of laughing, as, ah, ha, he!
Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave,
Will you with free and unconstrained soul
Give me this maid, your daughter?
As freely, son, as God did give her me.
And what have I to give you back whose worth
May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?
Nothing, unless you render her again.
Sweet Prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
There, Leonato, take her back again.
Give not this rotten orange to your friend,
She’s but the sign and semblance of her honor.
Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
O, what authority and show of truth
Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
Comes not that blood as modest evidence
To witness simple virtue? Would you not swear,
All you that see her, that she were a maid,
By these exterior shows? But she is none:
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.
What do you mean, my lord?
Not to be married,
Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.
Dear my lord, if you, in your own proof,
Have vanquish’d the resistance of her youth,
And made defeat of her virginity—
I know what you would say. If I have known her,
You will say, she did embrace me as a husband,
And so extenuate the ’forehand sin.
I never tempted her with word too large,
But as a brother to his sister, show’d
Bashful sincerity and comely love.
And seem’d I ever otherwise to you?
Out on thee seeming! I will write against it:
You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pamp’red animals
That rage in savage sensuality.
Is my lord well, that he doth speak so wide?
Sweet Prince, why speak not you?
What should I speak?
I stand dishonor’d, that have gone about
To link my dear friend to a common stale.
Are these things spoken, or do I but dream?
Sir, they are spoken, and these things are true.
This looks not like a nuptial.
“True”! O God!
Leonato, stand I here?
Is this the Prince? Is this the Prince’s brother?
Is this face Hero’s? Are our eyes our own?
All this is so, but what of this, my lord?
Let me but move one question to your daughter,
And by that fatherly and kindly power
That you have in her, bid her answer truly.
I charge thee do so, as thou art my child.
O God defend me, how am I beset!
What kind of catechizing call you this?
To make you answer truly to your name.
Is it not Hero? Who can blot that name
With any just reproach?
Marry, that can Hero,
Hero itself can blot out Hero’s virtue.
What man was he talk’d with you yesternight
Out at your window betwixt twelve and one?
Now if you are a maid, answer to this.
I talk’d with no man at that hour, my lord.
Why then are you no maiden. Leonato,
I am sorry you must hear. Upon mine honor,
Myself, my brother, and this grieved count
Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night
Talk with a ruffian at her chamber-window,
Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
Confess’d the vile encounters they have had
A thousand times in secret.
Fie, fie, they are not to be named, my lord,
Not to be spoke of;
There is not chastity enough in language
Without offense to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,
I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.
O Hero! What a Hero hadst thou been,
If half thy outward graces had been placed
About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!
But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! Farewell,
Thou pure impiety and impious purity!
For thee I’ll lock up all the gates of love,
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
And never shall it more be gracious.
Hath no man’s dagger here a point for me?
Why, how now, cousin, wherefore sink you down?
Come, let us go. These things, come thus to light,
Smother her spirits up.
Exeunt Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio.
How doth the lady?
Dead, I think. Help, uncle!
Hero, why, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick! Friar!
O Fate! Take not away thy heavy hand,
Death is the fairest cover for her shame
That may be wish’d for.
How now, cousin Hero?
Have comfort, lady.
Dost thou look up?
Yea, wherefore should she not?
Wherefore? Why, doth not every earthly thing
Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny
The story that is printed in her blood?
Do not live, Hero, do not ope thine eyes;
For did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,
Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
Myself would, on the rearward of reproaches,
Strike at thy life. Griev’d I, I had but one?
Chid I for that at frugal nature’s frame?
O, one too much by thee! Why had I one?
Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes?
Why had I not with charitable hand
Took up a beggar’s issue at my gates,
Who smirched thus and mir’d with infamy,
I might have said, “No part of it is mine;
This shame derives itself from unknown loins”?
But mine, and mine I lov’d, and mine I prais’d,
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her—why, she, O she is fall’n
Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again,
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul tainted flesh!
Sir, sir, be patient.
For my part I am so attir’d in wonder,
I know not what to say.
O, on my soul, my cousin is belied!
Lady, were you her bedfellow last night?
No, truly, not, although until last night,
I have this twelvemonth been her bedfellow.
Confirm’d, confirm’d! O, that is stronger made
Which was before barr’d up with ribs of iron!
Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie,
Who lov’d her so, that speaking of her foulness,
Wash’d it with tears? Hence from her, let her die.
Hear me a little,
For I have only been silent so long,
And given way unto this course of fortune,
By noting of the lady. I have mark’d
A thousand blushing apparitions
To start into her face, a thousand innocent shames
In angel whiteness beat away those blushes,
And in her eye there hath appear’d a fire
To burn the errors that these princes hold
Against her maiden truth. Call me a fool,
Trust not my reading, nor my observations,
Which with experimental seal doth warrant
The tenure of my book; trust not my age,
My reverence, calling, nor divinity,
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
Under some biting error.
Friar, it cannot be.
Thou seest that all the grace that she hath left
Is that she will not add to her damnation
A sin of perjury; she not denies it.
Why seek’st thou then to cover with excuse
That which appears in proper nakedness?
Lady, what man is he you are accus’d of?
They know that do accuse me, I know none.
If I know more of any man alive
Than that which maiden modesty doth warrant,
Let all my sins lack mercy! O my father,
Prove you that any man with me convers’d
At hours unmeet, or that I yesternight
Maintain’d the change of words with any creature,
Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death!
There is some strange misprision in the princes.
Two of them have the very bent of honor,
And if their wisdoms be misled in this,
The practice of it lives in John the Bastard,
Whose spirits toil in frame of villainies.
I know not. If they speak but truth of her,
These hands shall tear her; if they wrong her honor,
The proudest of them shall well hear of it.
Time hath not yet so dried this blood of mine,
Nor age so eat up my invention,
Nor fortune made such havoc of my means,
Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends,
But they shall find, awak’d in such a kind,
Both strength of limb, and policy of mind,
Ability in means, and choice of friends,
To quit me of them throughly.
And let my counsel sway you in this case.
Your daughter here the princes left for dead,
Let her awhile be secretly kept in,
And publish it that she is dead indeed.
Maintain a mourning ostentation,
And on your family’s old monument
Hang mournful epitaphs, and do all rites
That appertain unto a burial.
What shall become of this? What will this do?
Marry, this well carried shall on her behalf
Change slander to remorse; that is some good.
But not for that dream I on this strange course,
But on this travail look for greater birth:
She dying, as it must be so maintain’d,
Upon the instant that she was accus’d,
Shall be lamented, pitied, and excus’d
Of every hearer; for it so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack’d and lost,
Why then we rack the value; then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
Whiles it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio:
When he shall hear she died upon his words,
Th’ idea of her life shall sweetly creep
Into his study of imagination,
And every lovely organ of her life
Shall come apparell’d in more precious habit,
More moving, delicate, and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of his soul,
Than when she liv’d indeed. Then shall he mourn,
If ever love had interest in his liver,
And wish he had not so accused her;
No, though he thought his accusation true.
Let this be so, and doubt not but success
Will fashion the event in better shape
Than I can lay it down in likelihood.
But if all aim but this be levell’d false,
The supposition of the lady’s death
Will quench the wonder of her infamy.
And if it sort not well, you may conceal her,
As best befits her wounded reputation,
In some reclusive and religious life,
Out of all eyes, tongues, minds, and injuries.
Signior Leonato, let the friar advise you,
And though you know my inwardness and love
Is very much unto the Prince and Claudio,
Yet, by mine honor, I will deal in this
As secretly and justly as your soul
Should with your body.
Being that I flow in grief,
The smallest twine may lead me.
’Tis well consented; presently away,
For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure.
Come, lady, die to live; this wedding-day
Perhaps is but prolong’d, have patience and endure.
Exit with all but Benedick and Beatrice.
Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?
Yea, and I will weep a while longer.
I will not desire that.
You have no reason, I do it freely.
Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wrong’d.
Ah, how much might the man deserve of me that would right her!
Is there any way to show such friendship?
A very even way, but no such friend.
May a man do it?
It is a man’s office, but not yours.
I do love nothing in the world so well as you—is not that strange?
As strange as the thing I know not. It were as possible for me to say I lov’d nothing so well as you, but believe me not; and yet I lie not: I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.
By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.
Do not swear and eat it.
I will swear by it that you love me, and I will make him eat it that says I love not you.
Will you not eat your word?
With no sauce that can be devis’d to it. I protest I love thee.
Why then God forgive me!
What offense, sweet Beatrice?
You have stay’d me in a happy hour, I was about to protest I lov’d you.
And do it with all thy heart.
I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
Come, bid me do any thing for thee.
Ha, not for the wide world.
You kill me to deny it. Farewell.
Tarry, sweet Beatrice.
I am gone, though I am here; there is no love in you. Nay, I pray you let me go.
In faith, I will go.
We’ll be friends first.
You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.
Is Claudio thine enemy?
Is ’a not approv’d in the height a villain, that hath slander’d, scorn’d, dishonor’d my kinswoman? O that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they come to take hands, and then with public accusation, uncover’d slander, unmitigated rancor—O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.
Hear me, Beatrice—
Talk with a man out at a window! A proper saying!
Nay, but, Beatrice—
Sweet Hero, she is wrong’d, she is sland’red, she is undone.
Princes and counties! Surely a princely testimony, a goodly count, Count Comfect, a sweet gallant surely! O that I were a man for his sake! Or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into cur’sies, valor into compliment, and men are only turn’d into tongue, and trim ones too. He is now as valiant as Hercules that only tells a lie, and swears it. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.
Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee.
Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it.
Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wrong’d Hero?
Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.
Enough, I am engag’d, I will challenge him. I will kiss your hand, and so I leave you. By this hand, Claudio shall render me a dear account. As you hear of me, so think of me. Go comfort your cousin. I must say she is dead; and so farewell.