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Much Ado About Nothing

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ACT IV SCENE I A church. 
LEONATO Come, Friar Francis, be brief; only to the plain 
 form of marriage, and you shall recount their 
 particular duties afterwards. 
FRIAR FRANCIS You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady.
LEONATO To be married to her: friar, you come to marry her. 
FRIAR FRANCIS Lady, you come hither to be married to this count. 
HERO I do. 10 
FRIAR FRANCIS If either of you know any inward impediment why you
 should not be conjoined, charge you, on your souls, 
 to utter it. 
CLAUDIO Know you any, Hero? 
HERO None, my lord. 
FRIAR FRANCIS Know you any, count?
LEONATO I dare make his answer, none. 
CLAUDIO O, what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily 
 do, not knowing what they do! 
BENEDICK How now! interjections? Why, then, some be of 
 laughing, as, ah, ha, he! 21
CLAUDIO Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave: 
 Will you with free and unconstrained soul 
 Give me this maid, your daughter? 
LEONATO As freely, son, as God did give her me. 
CLAUDIO And what have I to give you back, whose worth
 May counterpoise this rich and precious gift? 
DON PEDRO Nothing, unless you render her again. 
CLAUDIO Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness. 
 There, Leonato, take her back again: 30 
 Give not this rotten orange to your friend;
 She's but the sign and semblance of her honour. 
 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. 40
LEONATO What do you mean, my lord? 
CLAUDIO Not to be married, 
 Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton. 
LEONATO Dear my lord, if you, in your own proof, 
 Have vanquish'd the resistance of her youth,
 And made defeat of her virginity,-- 
CLAUDIO 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: 
 No, Leonato,
 I never tempted her with word too large; 
 But, as a brother to his sister, show'd 
 Bashful sincerity and comely love. 
HERO And seem'd I ever otherwise to you? 50 
CLAUDIO 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 pamper'd animals 
 That rage in savage sensuality.
HERO Is my lord well, that he doth speak so wide? 
LEONATO Sweet prince, why speak not you? 
DON PEDRO What should I speak? 
 I stand dishonour'd, that have gone about 
 To link my dear friend to a common stale.
LEONATO Are these things spoken, or do I but dream? 60 
DON JOHN Sir, they are spoken, and these things are true. 
BENEDICK This looks not like a nuptial. 
HERO True! O God! 
CLAUDIO Leonato, stand I here?
 Is this the prince? is this the prince's brother? 
 Is this face Hero's? are our eyes our own? 
LEONATO All this is so: but what of this, my lord? 
CLAUDIO 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. 
LEONATO I charge thee do so, as thou art my child. 70 
HERO O, God defend me! how am I beset! 

What kind of catechising call you this?

CLAUDIO To make you answer truly to your name.
HERO Is it not Hero? Who can blot that name 
 With any just reproach? 
CLAUDIO 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. 79 
HERO I talk'd with no man at that hour, my lord. 
DON PEDRO Why, then are you no maiden. Leonato, 
 I am sorry you must hear: upon mine honour,
 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. 
DON JOHN Fie, fie! they are not to be named, my lord, 
 Not to be spoke of; 90 
 There is not chastity enough in language 
 Without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,
 I am sorry for thy much misgovernment. 
CLAUDIO 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, 99 
 And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang, 
 To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm, 
 And never shall it more be gracious.
LEONATO Hath no man's dagger here a point for me? 
 HERO swoons. 
BEATRICE Why, how now, cousin! wherefore sink you down? 
DON JOHN Come, let us go. These things, come thus to light, 
 Smother her spirits up. 
BENEDICK How doth the lady?
BEATRICE Dead, I think. Help, uncle! 
 Hero! why, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick! Friar! 
LEONATO O Fate! take not away thy heavy hand. 111 
 Death is the fairest cover for her shame 
 That may be wish'd for.
BEATRICE How now, cousin Hero! 
FRIAR FRANCIS Have comfort, lady. 
LEONATO Dost thou look up? 
FRIAR FRANCIS Yea, wherefore should she not? 
LEONATO 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: 120 
 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. Grieved 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 smirch'd thus and mired with infamy, 130 
 I might have said 'No part of it is mine; 
 This shame derives itself from unknown loins'?
 But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised 
 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 fallen 
 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! 
BENEDICK Sir, sir, be patient. 
 For my part, I am so attired in wonder, 140
 I know not what to say. 
BEATRICE O, on my soul, my cousin is belied! 
BENEDICK Lady, were you her bedfellow last night? 
BEATRICE No, truly not; although, until last night, 
 I have this twelvemonth been her bedfellow.
LEONATO 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 loved her so, that, speaking of her foulness, 
 Wash'd it with tears? Hence from her! let her die. 150
FRIAR FRANCIS 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; 160
 Trust not my reading nor my observations, 
 Which with experimental seal doth warrant 
 The tenor of my book; trust not my age, 
 My reverence, calling, nor divinity, 
 If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
 Under some biting error. 
LEONATO 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 170 
 That which appears in proper nakedness? 
FRIAR FRANCIS Lady, what man is he you are accused of? 
HERO 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 conversed 
 At hours unmeet, or that I yesternight 
 Maintain'd the change of words with any creature,
 Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death! 180 
FRIAR FRANCIS There is some strange misprision in the princes. 
BENEDICK Two of them have the very bent of honour; 
 And if their wisdoms be misled in this, 
 The practise of it lives in John the bastard,
 Whose spirits toil in frame of villanies. 
LEONATO I know not. If they speak but truth of her, 
 These hands shall tear her; if they wrong her honour, 
 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, 190 
 Nor fortune made such havoc of my means, 
 Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends, 
 But they shall find, awaked 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. 
FRIAR FRANCIS Pause awhile, 
 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; 200 
 Maintain a mourning ostentation 
 And on your family's old monument 
 Hang mournful epitaphs and do all rites
 That appertain unto a burial. 
LEONATO What shall become of this? what will this do? 
FRIAR FRANCIS 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 so be maintain'd, 210 
 Upon the instant that she was accused, 
 Shall be lamented, pitied and excused 
 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, 
 The idea of her life shall sweetly creep 220 
 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 lived 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 230 
 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. 
BENEDICK Signior Leonato, let the friar advise you: 240 
 And though you know my inwardness and love 
 Is very much unto the prince and Claudio, 
 Yet, by mine honour, I will deal in this
 As secretly and justly as your soul 
 Should with your body. 
LEONATO Being that I flow in grief, 
 The smallest twine may lead me. 
FRIAR FRANCIS 'Tis well consented: presently away;
 For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure. 
 Come, lady, die to live: this wedding-day 249 
 Perhaps is but prolong'd: have patience and endure. 
 Exeunt all but BENEDICK and BEATRICE. 
BENEDICK Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while? 
BEATRICE Yea, and I will weep a while longer.
BENEDICK I will not desire that. 
BEATRICE You have no reason; I do it freely. 
BENEDICK Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged. 
BEATRICE Ah, how much might the man deserve of me that would right her! 
BENEDICK Is there any way to show such friendship?
BEATRICE A very even way, but no such friend. 
BENEDICK May a man do it? 260 
BEATRICE It is a man's office, but not yours. 
BENEDICK I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is 
 not that strange?
BEATRICE As strange as the thing I know not. It were as 
 possible for me to say I loved 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. 
BENEDICK By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.
BEATRICE Do not swear, and eat it. 
BENEDICK I will swear by it that you love me; and I will make 
 him eat it that says I love not you. 271 
BEATRICE Will you not eat your word? 
BENEDICK With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest
 I love thee. 
BEATRICE Why, then, God forgive me! 
BENEDICK What offence, sweet Beatrice? 
BEATRICE You have stayed me in a happy hour: I was about to 
 protest I loved you.
BENEDICK And do it with all thy heart. 
BEATRICE I love you with so much of my heart that none is 
 left to protest. 281 
BENEDICK Come, bid me do any thing for thee. 
BEATRICE Kill Claudio.
BENEDICK Ha! not for the wide world. 
BEATRICE You kill me to deny it. Farewell. 
BENEDICK Tarry, sweet Beatrice. [Holding her.] 
BEATRICE I am gone, though I am here: there is no love in 
 you: nay, I pray you, let me go.
BENEDICK Beatrice,-- 
BEATRICE In faith, I will go. 290 
BENEDICK We'll be friends first. 
BEATRICE You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy. 
BENEDICK Is Claudio thine enemy?
BEATRICE Is he not approved in the height a villain, that 
 hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O 
 that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they 
 come to take hands; and then, with public 
 accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour,
 --O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart 
 in the market-place. 
BENEDICK Hear me, Beatrice,-- 301 
BEATRICE Talk with a man out at a window! A proper saying! 
BENEDICK Nay, but, Beatrice,--
BEATRICE Sweet Hero! She is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone. 
BEATRICE 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 courtesies, valour into 
 compliment, and men are only turned 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 315
 man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving. 
BENEDICK Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee. 
BEATRICE Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it. 
BENEDICK Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero? 
BEATRICE Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.
BENEDICK Enough, I am engaged; 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.

Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 1

From Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons.

11 If either of you, &c. A partial quotation, obviously, from the Liturgy of the Church. Compare v. 4. 29, 30.

20 Interjections, &c. Quoting from some old grammar, perhaps the one used by Shakespeare himself at Stratford. It is like Sir Toby's "diluculo surgere" in Twelfth Night, ii. 3. 3. The editors compare Lyly's Endimion, iii. 3 — "T. Hey ho!
E. What's that?
T. An interjection, whereof some are of mourning: as eho, vah."
As I have already said (iii. 3, beginning), it is pretty clear (to me) that Shakespeare had read Lyly's play.

36 That blood. Hero's blush.

38 Were. The subjunctive is curious; an attraction, perhaps, to the mood of the preceding verb. So Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 3, 118 — "Thou for whom Jove would swear
Juno but an Ethiop were." — Abbott, p. 267.
Or it may be a case of oratio obliqua after the verb of saying.

43 Dear. Dissyllable; a scansion very common with monosyllables ending in r or re, preceded by long vowel; e.g. where, fear, near, tear. For a good instance cf. Lear, i. 4. 297...

45 Defeat. For defeat = 'destruction' cf. Hamlet, ii. 2. 597-98 —

"Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn'd defeat was made."

And for the verb cf. Sonnet 61, and Othello, iv. 2. 160. Derivation, French defaire = 'to undo,' 'render null and void;' so that in these passages the word bears its strict signification.

51 Seeming. As Iago says of Desdemona, "She that, so young, could give out such a seeming," Othello, iii. 3. 209. Some editors read, "Out on thy seeming!" There is not much to choose here between Quarto and Folio.
Write against. 'Declare against' (Schmidt.) Cf. Cymbeline, iii. 5. 32, "I'll write against them, detest them." Not elsewhere.

52 Dian. The type of purity. "Queen of virgins," All's Well, i. 3. 120; "Fresh as Dian's visage," Othello, iii. 3. 387.

56 Wide; i.e. 'of the mark.' Cf. Lear, iv. 7. 50, "Still, far wide."

57 Sweet prince. Some editors assign the speech to Claudio, against the authority of Quarto and Folios.

62 Nuptial. Shakespeare prefers the singular to the plural form. So funeral in many passages; very rarely funerals.

68 Kindly. 'Natural.' See note on kind, i. i. 25, and compare 2 Henry IV, iv. 5. 84, "Washing with kindly tears his gentle cheeks." So in the Litany, "Kindly fruits of the earth;" Unkindly, in Paradise Lost, iii. 456, "Abortive, monstrous, or unkindly mixt;" and Hamlet's "Kindless villain." (ii. 2. 609.)

76 Itself. 'Herself;' but the pronoun is curious. The editors compare Cymbeline, iii. 4. 160, "Woman its pretty self."

86 Liberal. 'Licentious.' To whom Borachio has made the confession, or when, does not appear.

87 Encounters. 'Meetings.'

95 If half thy outward graces, &c. A favourite thought with Shakespeare, that beauty of the face should be answered by beauty of the soul. Cf. Twelfth Night, iii. 4. 399-404, and Sonnet 94.

99 I'll lock up, &c. As a matter of fact Claudio does nothing of the sort. In act v he is quite ready to marry Hero's substitute.

102 Gracious. 'Attractive,' 'that finds favour.'

123 On the rearward. 'After the reproaches heaped upon you.' Rearward occurs in one other place, Sonnet 90. 6, "In the rearward of a conquered woe."

125 Frame. 'Disposition of things.'

126 One too much. Exactly what Capulet says of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, iii. 5. 166-168.

135 Was to myself not mine. 'Lost all sense of self in my love for her.'

153-156 I have adopted the arrangement proposed by the Cambridge editors. They think that something has dropped out of the text after course of fortune, leaving the Friar's first sentence incomplete. As usually printed the passage stands —
"Hear me a little;
For I have only silent been so long,
And given way unto this course of fortune,
By noting of the lady: I have mark'd
A thousand ..."
That is, by noting = 'in consequence of my noting,' gives the Friar's reason for his silence: "I have been silent because I have been observing." I much prefer the first way of taking the lines, which, by the way, are printed as prose in the Quarto and first Folio.

153 Course of fortune. 'Course of events.'

162 Experimental seed. 'The seal of experience;' an instance of adjective and substantive = compound substantive. Schmidt gives a number of parallels; e.g. — to take a single example — "A partial slander" = 'reproach of partiality,' Richard II, ii. i. 3. 241. Compare, too, the present play, v. i. 24, "Preceptial medicine" = 'the medicine of precepts.'
Doth. Singular, although the antecedent, observations, is plural; but the relative in Shakespeare is hopelessly irregular. Abbott has a long list of parallel passages — pp. 167, 168. Some editors, quite needlessly, emend to observation.

164 Reverence. 'Dignity as an old man.'

177 Prove. Conditional. "If you can prove, then refuse me," &c.

181 Misprision. 'Mistake.' Cf. meprende, meprise. Old French, mes, 'badly,' 'ill;' and Low Latin prensionem, Cf. Sonnet 87, 11. 12 —

"So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again."

182 Bent. 'Inclination.' "Bent of love," Romeo and Juliet, ii. 2. 143. See note on ii. 3. 207.

184 Practice. 'Plot,' 'contrivance.' So "unhatched practice" in Othello iii. 4. 141.
Lives. 'Lies,' which Sidney Walker would read. The change is not necessary. Shakespeare often uses to live as an equivalent of to be.

190 Eat. Using the past tense to avoid possible confusion with infinitive termination. Cf. 2 Henry IV, iv. 5. 165. So smit for smitten, strove for striven, drove for driven, &c. (Abbott, p. 244.)

191 Havoc. The same word, apparently, as A. S. hafoc, 'a hawk.' The hawk being a bird of prey, the connection is fairly obvious. "Cry havoc" is certainly a term from falconry. (Julius Caesar, iii. I. 273.

193 Kind. 'Way.' Cf. ii. I. 58. The rhyme is rather awkward. Capell proposed cause.

201 Ostentation. Five syllables. The termination -tion, especially if preceded by c, is very frequently treated as two syllables at the end of a verse; rarely so in the middle of a line. (Abbott, pp. 367, 368.)

203 Hang mournful epitaphs. Such an epitaph as Claudio affixes to the tomb in act v. sc. 3. Compare Henry V, i. 2, 233, "Worshipped with a waxen epitaph," where "worshipped" = 'honoured.' Sometimes these laudatory lines were fastened to the hearse or coffin, an obsolete practice which Gifford explains at some length in his Ben Jonson, vol. ix. p. 58.

205 Become of this? 'What will be the result of this?'

207 Remorse. 'Pity.'

216 Rack. 'Exaggerate.' Some editors, rank.

224 Moving, delicate. Hyphened by most editors, unnecessarily. Moving, 'appealing to the emotions.'

241 Inwardness. 'Intimacy.'

245 Being that I flow. 'Since I am lost in grief.' The sentiment is that expressed in Milton's The Passion, 54, "Grief is easily beguiled." For being = 'seeing that,' 'it being the case that,' cf. 2 Henry IV, ii, i. 200.

251 The scene still continues — incongruously, rather, to our taste — in the church.

259 Even. 'Plain.'

287 I am gone. A way of saying that she stays against her will. Benedick has refused her request: how can there be anything further between them?

295 In the height. 'Completely,' 'an utter villain.' So "Traitor to the height" in Henry VIII, i. 2. 214.

297 Bear her in hand. 'Buoy with false hopes.' So Macbeth, iii. I. 81.

308 Counties. 'Counts.' So "County Paris" in Romeo and Juliet, v. 3. 239, and "County Palatine" in Merchant of Venice, i. 2. 49. From Latin comes.

309 Count Comfect. 'A sugar-plum count' or, as Beatrice adds, 'sweet gallant.'


How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < >.


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