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    Act 1, Scene I

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    Chapter 1
    SCENE I. Before LEONATO'S house.

    Enter LEONATO, HERO, and BEATRICE, with a Messenger
    LEONATO
    I learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon
    comes this night to Messina.

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

    LEONATO
    How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?

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

    LEONATO
    A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings
    home full numbers. I find here that Don Peter hath
    bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio.

    Messenger
    Much deserved on his part and equally remembered 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
    bettered expectation than you must expect of me to
    tell you how.

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

    Messenger
    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.

    LEONATO
    Did he break out into tears?

    Messenger
    In great measure.

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

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

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

    LEONATO
    What is he that you ask for, niece?

    HERO
    My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.

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

    BEATRICE
    He set up his bills here in Messina and challenged
    Cupid at the flight; and my uncle's fool, reading
    the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged
    him at the bird-bolt. I pray you, how many hath he
    killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath
    he killed? for indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.

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

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

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

    Messenger
    And a good soldier too, lady.

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

    Messenger
    A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all
    honourable virtues.

    BEATRICE
    It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man:
    but for the stuffing,--well, we are all mortal.

    LEONATO
    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.

    BEATRICE
    Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last
    conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and
    now is the whole man governed 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 sworn brother.

    Messenger
    Is't possible?

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

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

    BEATRICE
    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?

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

    BEATRICE
    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.

    Messenger
    I will hold friends with you, lady.

    BEATRICE
    Do, good friend.

    LEONATO
    You will never run mad, niece.

    BEATRICE
    No, not till a hot January.

    Messenger
    Don Pedro is approached.

    Enter DON PEDRO, DON JOHN, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, and BALTHASAR

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

    LEONATO
    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.

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

    LEONATO
    Her mother hath many times told me so.

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

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

    DON 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.

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

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

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

    BEATRICE
    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.

    BENEDICK
    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.

    BEATRICE
    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.

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

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

    BENEDICK
    Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.

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

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

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

    DON 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 heartily prays some
    occasion may detain us longer. I dare swear he is no
    hypocrite, but prays from his heart.

    LEONATO
    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.

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

    LEONATO
    Please it your grace lead on?

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

    Exeunt all except BENEDICK and CLAUDIO

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

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

    CLAUDIO
    Is she not a modest young lady?

    BENEDICK
    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?

    CLAUDIO
    No; I pray thee speak in sober judgment.

    BENEDICK
    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.

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

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

    CLAUDIO
    Can the world buy such a jewel?

    BENEDICK
    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?

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

    BENEDICK
    I can see yet without spectacles and I see no such
    matter: there's her cousin, an she were not
    possessed 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 you?

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

    BENEDICK
    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 three-score again?
    Go to, i' faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck
    into a yoke, wear the print of it and sigh away
    Sundays. Look Don Pedro is returned to seek you.

    Re-enter DON PEDRO

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

    BENEDICK
    I would your grace would constrain me to tell.

    DON PEDRO
    I charge thee on thy allegiance.

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

    CLAUDIO
    If this were so, so were it uttered.

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

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

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

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

    DON PEDRO
    By my troth, I speak my thought.

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

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

    CLAUDIO
    That I love her, I feel.

    DON PEDRO
    That she is worthy, I know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    BENEDICK
    I look for an earthquake too, then.

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

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

    CLAUDIO
    To the tuition of God: From my house, if I had it,--

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

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

    Exit

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

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

    CLAUDIO
    Hath Leonato any son, my lord?

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

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

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

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

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

    Exeunt
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