Act II

Scene I

A hall in Leonato's house

Enter Leonato, Antonio, Hero, Beatrice, and others

Leonato

Was not Count John here at supper?

Antonio

I saw him not.

Beatrice

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.

Beatrice

He were an excellent man that were made just in the midway 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 tattling.

Leonato

Then half Signior Benedick's tongue in Count John's mouth, and half Count John's melancholy in Signior Benedick's face,—

Beatrice

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.

Leonato

By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get thee a husband, if thou be so shrewd of thy tongue.

Antonio

In faith, she's too curst.

Beatrice

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.

Leonato

So, by being too curst, God will send you no horns.

Beatrice

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.

Leonato

You may light on a husband that hath no beard.

Beatrice

What should I do with him? dress him in my apparel and make him my waiting-gentlewoman? 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 hell.

Leonato

Well, then, go you into hell?

Beatrice

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.

Antonio

To Hero

Well, niece, I trust you will be ruled by your father.

Beatrice

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 handsome fellow, or else make another curtsy and say 'Father, as it please me.'

Leonato

Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband.

Beatrice

Not till God make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a pierce 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.

Leonato

Daughter, remember what I told you: if the prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.

Beatrice

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 every thing 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.

Leonato

Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewdly.

Beatrice

I have a good eye, uncle; I can see a church by daylight.

Leonato

The revellers are entering, brother: make good room.

All put on their masks

Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, Don John, Borachio, Margaret, Ursula and others, masked

Don 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.

Don Pedro

With me in your company?

Hero

I may say so, when I please.

Don Pedro

And when please you to say so?

Hero

When I like your favour; for God defend the lute should be like the case!

Don Pedro

My visor is Philemon's roof; within the house is Jove.

Hero

Why, then, your visor should be thatched.

Don Pedro

Speak low, if you speak love.

Drawing her aside

Balthasar

Well, I would you did like me.

Margaret

So would not I, for your own sake; for I have many ill-qualities.

Balthasar

Which is one?

Margaret

I say my prayers aloud.

Balthasar

I love you the better: the hearers may cry, Amen.

Margaret

God match me with a good dancer!

Balthasar

Amen.

Margaret

And God keep him out of my sight when the dance is done! Answer, clerk.

Balthasar

No more words: the clerk is answered.

Ursula

I know you well enough; you are Signior Antonio.

Antonio

At a word, I am not.

Ursula

I know you by the waggling of your head.

Antonio

To tell you true, I counterfeit him.

Ursula

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.

Antonio

At a word, I am not.

Ursula

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.

Beatrice

Will you not tell me who told you so?

Benedick

No, you shall pardon me.

Beatrice

Nor will you not tell me who you are?

Benedick

Not now.

Beatrice

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.

Benedick

What's he?

Beatrice

I am sure you know him well enough.

Benedick

Not I, believe me.

Beatrice

Did he never make you laugh?

Benedick

I pray you, what is he?

Beatrice

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.

Benedick

When I know the gentleman, I'll tell him what you say.

Beatrice

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

We must follow the leaders.

Benedick

In every good thing.

Beatrice

Nay, if they lead to any ill, I will leave them at the next turning.

Dance. Then exeunt all except Don John, Borachio, and Claudio

Don 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.

Borachio

And that is Claudio: I know him by his bearing.

Don John

Are not you Signior Benedick?

Claudio

You know me well; I am he.

Don 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.

Claudio

How know you he loves her?

Don John

I heard him swear his affection.

Borachio

So did I too; and he swore he would marry her to-night.

Don John

Come, let us to the banquet.

Exeunt Don John and Borachio

Claudio

Thus answer I in the name of Benedick,
But hear these ill news with the ears of Claudio.
'Tis certain so; the prince wooes 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 tongues;
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, Hero!

Re-enter Benedick

Benedick

Count Claudio?

Claudio

Yea, the same.

Benedick

Come, will you go with me?

Claudio

Whither?

Benedick

Even to the next willow, about your own business, county. What fashion will you wear the garland of? about your neck, like an usurer's chain? or under your arm, like a lieutenant's scarf? You must wear it one way, for the prince hath got your Hero.

Claudio

I wish him joy of her.

Benedick

Why, that's spoken like an honest drovier: so they sell bullocks. But did you think the prince would have served you thus?

Claudio

I pray you, leave me.

Benedick

Ho! now you strike like the blind man: 'twas the boy that stole your meat, and you'll beat the post.

Claudio

If it will not be, I'll leave you.

Exit

Benedick

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 because 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

Don Pedro

Now, signior, where's the count? did you see him?

Benedick

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.

Don Pedro

To be whipped! What's his fault?

Benedick

The flat transgression of a schoolboy, who, being overjoyed with finding a birds' nest, shows it his companion, and he steals it.

Don Pedro

Wilt thou make a trust a transgression? The transgression is in the stealer.

Benedick

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 birds' nest.

Don Pedro

I will but teach them to sing, and restore them to the owner.

Benedick

If their singing answer your saying, by my faith, you say honestly.

Don Pedro

The Lady Beatrice hath a quarrel to you: the gentleman that danced with her told her she is much wronged by you.

Benedick

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 impossible 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 bad 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 follows her.

Don Pedro

Look, here she comes.

Enter Claudio, Beatrice, Hero, and Leonato

Benedick

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 tooth-picker 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?

Don Pedro

None, but to desire your good company.

Benedick

O God, sir, here's a dish I love not: I cannot endure my Lady Tongue.

Exit

Don Pedro

Come, lady, come; you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.

Beatrice

Indeed, my lord, he lent it me awhile; and I gave him use for it, a double heart for his single one: marry, once before he won it of me with false dice, therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.

Don Pedro

You have put him down, lady, you have put him down.

Beatrice

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.

Don Pedro

Why, how now, count! wherefore are you sad?

Claudio

Not sad, my lord.

Don Pedro

How then? sick?

Claudio

Neither, my lord.

Beatrice

The count is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well; but civil count, civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion.

Don 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!

Leonato

Count, take of me my daughter, and with her my fortunes: his grace hath made the match, and an grace say Amen to it.

Beatrice

Speak, count, 'tis your cue.

Claudio

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.

Beatrice

Speak, cousin; or, if you cannot, stop his mouth with a kiss, and let not him speak neither.

Don Pedro

In faith, lady, you have a merry heart.

Beatrice

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.

Claudio

And so she doth, cousin.

Beatrice

Good Lord, for alliance! Thus goes every one to the world but I, and I am sunburnt; I may sit in a corner and cry heigh-ho for a husband!

Don Pedro

Lady Beatrice, I will get you one.

Beatrice

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.

Don Pedro

Will you have me, lady?

Beatrice

No, my lord, unless I might have another 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.

Don Pedro

Your silence most offends me, and to be merry best becomes you; for, out of question, you were born in a merry hour.

Beatrice

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!

Leonato

Niece, will you look to those things I told you of?

Beatrice

I cry you mercy, uncle. By your grace's pardon.

Exit

Don Pedro

By my troth, a pleasant-spirited lady.

Leonato

There's little of the melancholy element 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.

Don Pedro

She cannot endure to hear tell of a husband.

Leonato

O, by no means: she mocks all her wooers out of suit.

Don Pedro

She were an excellent wife for Benedict.

Leonato

O Lord, my lord, if they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad.

Don Pedro

County Claudio, when mean you to go to church?

Claudio

To-morrow, my lord: time goes on crutches till love have all his rites.

Leonato

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.

Don 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.

Leonato

My lord, I am for you, though it cost me ten nights' watchings.

Claudio

And I, my lord.

Don Pedro

And you too, gentle Hero?

Hero

I will do any modest office, my lord, to help my cousin to a good husband.

Don Pedro

And Benedick is not the unhopefullest 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.

Exeunt