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SCENE I. Before LEONATO's house.
Enter LEONATO, HERO, and BEATRICE, with a Messenger.
Leon. I learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon comes this night to Messina.
Mess. He is very near by this: he was not three leagues off when I left him.
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 Peter hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio.
Mess. Much deserved ou 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.
Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and there ap(290)
pears 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 washed. How much better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping! Beat. pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned 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 returned; and as pleasant as ever he was. Beat. 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 indee 1 I promised to eat all of his killing.
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 trencher-man; he hath an excellen 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; stuffed with all honourable virtues.
Beat. It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man : but for the stuffing,—well, we are mortal. 60
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 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.
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 approached.
Enter DON PEDRO, DON JOHN, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, and BALTHASAR.
D. Pedro. Good Signior Leonato, you are 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.
D. Pedro. You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this is your daughter.
Leon. Her mother hath many times told me so. Bene. Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her? Leon. Signior Benedick, no; for then were vou a child. D. 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 scratched face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were.
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, i' God's name; I have done.
Beat. You always end with a jade's trick: I know you of old.
D. 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.
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.
D. John. I thank you: I am not of many words, but I thank you.
Leon. Please it your grace lead on?
D. Pedro. Your hand, Leonato; we will go together. [Exeunt all except Benedick and Claudio. Claud. Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato ?
Bene. I noted her not; but I looked 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 judgement; 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 judgement.
Bene. Why, i' faith, me thinks 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 likest her. 180
Bene. Would you buy her, that you inquire 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 looked on. 190
Bene. 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 does the last of December. But I hope you have no intent
to turn husband, have you? 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 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.
D. Pedro. What secret hath held you here, that you followed not to Leonato's?
Bene. I would your grace would constrain me to tell.
D. Pedro. I charge thee on thy allegiance.
Bene. 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.
Claud. If this were so, so were it uttered.
Bene. Like the old tale, my lord: "it is not so, nor 'twas not so, but, indeed, God forbid it should be so."
220 Claud. If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it should be otherwise.
D. Pedro. Amen, if you love her; for the lady is very well worthy.
Claud. You speak this to fetch me in, my lord.
D. Pedro. By my troth, I speak my thought.
Bene. And, by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I spoke mine.
Claud. That I love her, I feel.
D. Pedro. That she is worthy, I know.