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FREE: William Shakespeare’s “Measure for Measure”: A Retelling in Prose


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 2

 — 4.2 —

In a prison, Dogberry, Verges, and the sexton were wearing their official black gowns. Some watchmen were also present, as were Conrade and Borachio.

Dogberry asked, “Is our whole dissembly [assembly] present?”

“We need a stool and a cushion for the sexton,” Verges said.

A stool and a cushion were brought for the sexton.

The sexton asked, “Who are the malefactors?”

“That would be my partner and me,” Dogberry said.

“That is true,” Verges said. “We have been exhibitioned [commissioned] to examine these men.”

The sexton smiled, realizing that neither Dogberry nor Verges understood the meaning of the word “malefactors.”

The sexton said, “But who are the offenders who are to be examined? Let them come before Dogberry, the master constable.”

“Yes, let them come before me,” Dogberry said.

Conrade and Borachio stood up, and Dogberry asked Borachio, “What is your name, friend?”


Dogberry said to the sexton, “Please, write down ‘Borachio.’” Then he asked Conrade, “And what is your name?”

“I am a gentleman, sir, and my name is Conrade.”

“Write down ‘master gentleman Conrade.’ Men, do you serve God and obey His laws?”

Conrade and Borachio replied, “Yes, sir, we hope we do.”

Dogberry said to the sexton, “Write down that they hope they serve God, and write God first; for God defend [forbid] that such villains should be named before God.”

He then said to Conrade and Borachio, “Masters, it has been proven already that you are little better than lying criminals; and soon people will think that you are lying criminals. How do you defend yourselves?”

Conrade replied, “Sir, we say that we are not lying criminals.”

Dogberry said to Verges and the sexton, “He is a marvelously intelligent fellow, I assure you, but I will outwit him.”

He said to Borachio, “Come here and let me speak to you away from Conrade. I say to you, it is thought that you are lying criminals.”

“Sir, I say to you that we are not lying criminals.”

“Well, stand aside,” Dogberry said. “By God, they are both telling the same story!”

He said to the sexton, “Have you written down that they are not lying criminals?”

The sexton replied, “Master constable Dogberry, you are not carrying out the investigation in the right way. You need to talk to the watchmen who are accusing these two men.”

“Yes, that is the eftest [deftest / quickest] way,” Dogberry said. “Let the watchmen come forth. Masters, I order you, in the name of the Prince, to accuse these men.”

The first watchmen said, “This man — Borachio — said, sir, that Don John, Don Pedro’s brother, is a villain.”

“Write down that Don John is a villain,” Dogberry said.

He thought a moment, reflected that Don John had a high rank, and then he said, “Why, this is obvious perjury [slander], to call a Prince’s brother a villain.”

If Don John had been present, he would have thought, No, it is not slander. I really am a villain.

Borachio said, “Master constable —”

“Please be quiet,” Dogberry said. “I do not like the way you look, I promise you.”

The sexton, who had decided that he ought to take over the investigation, asked the second watchman, “Did you hear this accused man say anything else?”

“He said that he had received a thousand coins from Don John in return for falsely accusing the Lady Hero.”

“Being paid for falsely accusing the Lady Herois as obvious burglary [fraud / being paid to slander someone] as was ever committed,” Dogberry said.

“Yes, it is,” Verges agreed.

“What else did you two learn?” the sexton asked the two watchmen.

“We learned that Count Claudio, who believed the slander, intended to disgrace Hero before the whole congregation in the church and not marry her,” the first watchman said.

Dogberry said to Borachio, “Villain! You will be condemned to everlasting redemption [damnation] for this.”

“Did you two learn anything else?”

“That is everything we learned,” a watchman said.

The sexton said to Conrade and Borachio, “And here is more, masters, than you can deny. This morning Don John secretly fled from the city. Apparently, he was aware that you two had been arrested and that his evil plot would be revealed. Hero was accused in the manner you described, and as you described, Count Claudio refused to marry her. Because of the grief she suffered, Hero died.”

The sexton said to Dogberry, “Master constable, let these men be bound and be brought quickly to Leonato’s house. I will go there now ahead of you and tell him the result of our investigation.”

The sexton exited.

Dogberry said, “Let the prisoners be opinioned [pinioned / bound].”

“Let’s bind their hands,” Verges said.

Dogberry moved toward Conrade, who had not taken part in Don John’s evil plot and so was innocent. Conrade objected to being bound and shouted, “Back off, coxcomb! Get away from me, fool!”

Dogberry asked, “Where’s the sexton? He should write down that the law-enforcement officer is a coxcomb. Well, let us bind their hands.”

He said to Conrade, “You are resisting arrest.”

Conrade shouted, “Get away from me! You are an ass! An ass!”

Dogberry replied, “Do you not suspect [respect] my job as a law-enforcement officer? Do you not suspect [respect] my age? I wish that the sexton were here so he could write down that I am an ass! But, people, remember that I am an ass. Although it is not written down, do not forget that I am an ass.”

Dogberry wanted Conrade to be punished for calling him an ass, and so he wanted an official record of the name-calling.

He said to Conrade, “You villain, you are full of piety [impiety], as shall be proved upon you by good witnesses. I am a wise [foolish] fellow, and, which is more, I am a law-enforcement officer, and, which is more, I am the head of a household, and, which is more, I am as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in Messina, and I am one who knows the law [does not know the law], damn you. And I am a rich enough fellow, damn you; and I am a fellow who has suffered financial losses, and I am one who owns two gowns and has many handsome things around him. Bring him away. Oh, I wish that the sexton had written down that I am an ass!”


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose — Act 4, Scene 1

— 4.1 —

Don Pedro, Don John, Leonato, Friar Francis, Claudio, Benedick, Hero, Beatrice, and some attendants were in the church, ready for the wedding.

Leonato said, “Be brief, Friar Francis. Use only the short and simple form of the marriage ceremony, and afterwards you can say your homily and tell the new husband and wife their particular duties to each other.”

Friar Francis asked Claudio, “Do you come here, my lord, to marry this lady?”

Claudio replied, “No.”

Leonato said, “Claudio has come here to be married to Hero. You, friar, have come here to marry Hero to Claudio.”

“Lady, do you come here to be married to this count?” Friar Francis asked.

Hero replied, “I do.”

“If either of you know of any secret reason why you should not be lawfully joined together in marriage, I order you on your souls to say so.”

“Do you know of any reason why we should not be married, Hero?” Claudio asked.

“I know of none,” Hero replied.

“Do you know of any, Count Claudio?” Friar Francis asked.

“I dare to answer for him,” Leonato said confidently. “He knows of none.”

“Oh, what men dare do!” Claudio exclaimed. “What men may do! What men daily do, not knowing what they do!”

Benedick idly thought, Claudio is making interjections. I remember learning from my study of William Lyly’s Latin grammar that some injections are those of laughter — for example, ah, ha, he.

“Stand aside, Friar Francis,” Claudio said. “Pardon me.”

He then said to Leonato, “Will you freely and without restrictions give me this maiden, your daughter?”

“As freely, son, as God gave her to me.”

“And what have I to give you in return, whose worth is the equal of this rich and precious gift?”

Don Pedro answered for Leonato, “Nothing, unless you render her again.”

Leonato thought that Don Pedro meant that the gift that Claudio could render would be a grandchild, but Claudio knew that Don Pedro meant for him to give Hero literally back to her father.

Claudio said, “Sweet Don Pedro, you teach me noble thankfulness and true gratitude.”

He then said, “There, Leonato, take Hero back again. I will not marry her. Do not give this rotten orange to your friend. She is like an orange that looks good on the outside but is rotten inside. Hero has only the outward signs and appearance of honor.”

Tears trickled from Claudio’s eyes.

He said, “Look how she is blushing now like a virgin! With what false assurance and false display of truth can cunning sin disguise itself! Doesn’t the blood that is rushing to Hero’s face in a blush seem to be believable evidence of a virgin’s simple virtue? Would you not swear, all you who see her, that she were a maiden, a virgin, after you witness this blush? But she is not a virgin. She knows the heat of a lecherous bed; she blushes because she knows that she is guilty, not because she is modest.”

“What do you mean, my lord?” Leonato asked.

“I mean not to be married and not to knit my soul to a woman who has been proven to be a slut.”

“Claudio,” Leonato said, “if you, to test Hero, have overcome the resistance of her youth and have taken her virginity from her —”

Claudio interrupted, “I know what you are going to say. You will say that if I have slept with her that she embraced me as if I were already her husband, and that our formal engagement will help excuse the sin of premarital sex. No, Leonato, I never tempted her with improper suggestions. I always treated her the way a brother treats a sister; I always showed her only modest sincerity and appropriate love.”

“Have I ever seemed other than modest or appropriate to you?” Hero asked.

“That is enough acting from you!” Claudio said. “I will denounce your false appearance. You seemed to me to resemble the virgin Diana, goddess of the Moon. You seemed to be as chaste as is the flower bud before its petals are fully opened. But you are more intemperate in your sexual passion than Venus, goddess of love, or those pampered horses that are known to rage in savage sensuality.”

“Are you ill?” Hero said. “Is that what is making you say things that are so far from being the truth?”

Leonato said to Don Pedro, “Sweet Prince, why aren’t you saying something?”

“What should I say?” Don Pedro replied. “I am dishonored because I have helped my dear friend to become engaged to a common prostitute.”

“Do I really hear these words, or am I dreaming?” Leonato asked.

Don John replied, “Sir, these words have really been spoken, and these things are true.”

Benedick thought, This does not look like a wedding.

“You say that these things are true!” Hero said. “Oh, God!”

“Leonato, do you see me standing here?” Claudio asked. “Do you see Don Pedro standing here? Is this Don Pedro’s brother standing here? Is this face Hero’s face? Are our eyes our own? The answer to all these questions is yes. You are awake; you are not dreaming.”

“I agree that I am awake, but what is going on here, Count Claudio?”

“Let me but ask your daughter one question, and, by that fatherly and kindly power that you have over her, tell her to answer truly,” Claudio said.

“I order you to answer his question truthfully, Hero, my daughter,” Leonato said.

“May God defend me!” Hero said. “I am attacked from all sides! What kind of catechising do you call this?”

“The first question of the Church of England Catechism is this: ‘What is your name?’” Claudio said. “I will ask you one question that will reveal what your real name is.”

He thought, Your real name is a common one: Whore.

Hero replied, “Isn’t my name Hero? Who can blot that name with any just reproach?”

“I know the answer to that question,” Claudio said. “Hero can blot her own name. Hero can blot out the virtue of Hero. Here is my question: What man did you talk with last night between the hours of midnight and one a.m. at your bedroom window? If you are a virgin, answer this question.”

“I talked with no man at that hour,” Hero replied.

“Why, then you are no virgin,” Don Pedro said. “Leonato, I am sorry you must hear this bad news: Upon my honor, I, Don John, and this grieving Count Claudio saw Hero and heard Hero at that hour last night talk with a ruffian at her bedroom window. That man, a lecherous villain, stated that he and Hero had enjoyed a thousand vile encounters in secret.”

“Those thousand vile encounters are not to be spoken of,” Don John said. “The language that must be used to speak about those encounters would offend everyone who heard it. Pretty lady, I am sorry that you have been so lewd and unchaste.”

“Hero, if you were only half as beautiful inside as you are outside, you would have been like the mythical Hero, who committed suicide after her loved one, Leander, died while attempting to swim the Hellespont to visit her,” Claudio said. “But farewell, most foul and most fair Hero. Farewell, you woman of pure impiety and impious purity! Because of you, I will stay away from love. My eyes shall be suspicious. Every time I look at a beautiful woman I will think of impurity. Never again will I be gracious to a beautiful woman.”

“Does any man here have a dagger that will stab me?” Leonato asked.

Hero fainted.

“How are you, Hero?” Beatrice said. “Why have you fainted?”

Don John said, “Come, let us go. These evil things that have been revealed to the light of day have overwhelmed her.”

Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio exited.

Benedick normally would have left with Don Pedro and Claudio, but he loved Beatrice, and Beatrice was here, so he stayed.

Benedick asked Beatrice, “How is Hero?”

“Dead, I think,” Beatrice replied. “Help, uncle! Hero! Wake up, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick! Friar!”

“Fate, let her die!” Leonato said. “Death is the fairest cover for her shame that I can now ask for.”

“Hero, wake up!” Beatrice said.

“Take comfort in being alive, lady,” Friar Francis said to Hero as she slowly regained consciousness.

Leonato said to Hero as she lay on the floor of the church, “Are you looking up?”

“Yes,” Friar Francis said. “That is good.”

“Good?” Leonato said. “It is hardly good. Why, doesn’t every earthly thing cry shame upon her? Can she deny the guilt that her blushes reveal? Do not live, Hero. Do not open your eyes. If I did not think that you would not quickly die, if I thought that your spirit could bear your shame, I myself would kill you. If the army of your shames is not enough to kill you, I would act as the rearguard of the army and kill you.

“I used to grieve because I had only one child. I used to be angry at Nature because I had only one child. But when that child is Hero, one child is too many! Why did I have a child? Why did I ever think you were lovely? It would have been better if instead of having you, I had been charitable and adopted the child of a beggar who came to my gates. That way, when the child sinned and ruined her reputation, I might have said, ‘No part of this child is mine; this shameful child has come from unknown loins.’ But you were my own child and I loved you and I praised you and I was proud of you. For you I had such great love that I had little love for myself. But now Hero has fallen into a pit of ink and the wide sea has too little water to wash her clean again and not enough salt to preserve her and keep her from stinking.”

“Sir, sir, be patient,” Benedick said. “Calm down. As for me, I am so amazed that I do not know what to say.”

“I swear on my soul that Hero has been slandered,” Beatrice said.

Benedick said to Beatrice, “In our culture, it is normal for two unmarried adults of the same sex to sleep in the same bed. Did you and Hero sleep in the same bed last night?”

“No, we did not,” Beatrice replied, “but for the entire year before last night we slept in the same bed.”

“This confirms Count Claudio’s story!” Leonato said. “Before, the story was so strong that it was as if it were made with ribs of iron! But now it is even stronger! Would the two Princes — Don Pedro and Don John — lie, and Claudio lie, a man who so loved Hero that he cried while speaking of her foulness? Let us leave Hero! Let her die!”

Friar Francis said, “Listen to me for a minute. I have kept quiet too long about these events. I have been looking at Hero, and I have seen a thousand blushes begin to appear in her cheeks only to be swept away by innocent and angelic paleness. And in her eyes has appeared a fire that burns against the lies that these Princes told against the truth of her virginity.

“Call me a fool and do not trust either my education or my observations, which combined with my years of experience have given me knowledge. Do not trust my age, reputation, position, or holiness. You can do all of these things to me if I am wrong and Hero turns out to be guilty.

“I believe completely that Hero is innocent.”

Leonato said, “Friar, she cannot be innocent. The only good quality that she has left is that she will not add the sin of perjury to her damnation. Hero has not denied that she is unchaste. Why are you trying to cover up her guilt when she has been proven to be guilty?”

Friar Francis said to Hero, who had fully regained consciousness, “With which man are you accused of sinning?”

“I don’t know,” Hero replied. “You will have to ask those who accuse me. If I know more of any man alive than that which a virgin’s modesty allows, let all my sins be unforgiven and let me be damned!”

She said to Leonato, “Father, if you can prove that any man has ever talked with me at an indecent hour or that I talked to any man last night, then disown me, hate me, and torture me to death!”

“Don Pedro and Don John have made some kind of mistake,” Friar Francis said. “They have made a strange misunderstanding.”

Benedick said, “Two of the three men who have accused Hero of unchasteness are completely honorable. If they have been misled, they have been misled by Don John the bastard, who enjoys creating conflicts.”

“I don’t know what to believe,” Leonato said. “If these three men have spoken the truth about my daughter, I will tear her to pieces with my own hands, but if they have wronged her with slander, even the highest ranking of them will hear from me. Time has not yet dried up my blood, age has not yet eaten my intelligence, fortune has not been my enemy, and my faults have not bereft me of all my friends. These three men will find that I, awakened in such a matter, have enough strength of limb and policy of mind, as well as ability in means and choice of friends, that I will be able to thoroughly get revenge on them.”

“Wait a while before you act to get revenge,” Friar Francis said. “Listen to my advice now. Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio left your daughter when she seemed to be dead. Let her for a while be secretly kept indoors in your house, and tell everyone that she is dead. Ostentatiously mourn her, and on your family’s old tomb hang mournful epitaphs and do all the rites that are proper for a burial.”

“Why?” Leonato asked. “What is the purpose of doing this?”

“If this plan works well,” Friar Francis said, “slander will change to remorse. That will be good, but it is not the main thing that we will be hoping for. We hope for a better result. Because Hero died — we will say — at the same moment in which she was accused, she shall be lamented, pitied, and excused by every hearer. It commonly happens that what we have we do not properly prize while we have and enjoy it. But once it is lost and we lack it, then we greatly value it and recognize the good qualities that it has that we did not previously recognize. This will happen to Claudio. When he hears that Hero died because of his words of accusation, he will remember her and think about her. He will remember all of Hero’s good qualities and even exaggerate them. It will be as if they appear before him in new and rich clothing. She will appear in his mind more moving, more delicate, and fuller of life than she was when she was alive. Then Claudio will mourn, if love for Hero was ever in his heart, and he will wish that he had not accused her of being unchaste, not even if he thinks that the accusation is true. Let us follow this plan. Chances are, things will turn out even better than I hope. If nothing else, people will talk about Hero’s death rather than her supposed unchasteness. And if things do not work out, then you, Claudio, can keep her hidden, as would be best because of her ruined reputation, in some reclusive and religious convent, away from all eyes, gossip, thoughts, and insults.”

Benedick said, “Signior Leonato, take the friar’s advice. Though you know how much I respect Don Pedro and Claudio, I swear that I will participate in this plan as secretly and justly as your own soul and body.”

“I am drowning in grief, and I will grasp at even the thinnest string I can find and hope to be drawn to safety,” Leonato said.

“It is good that you agree to participate in this plan,” Friar Francis said to Leonato. “Let us leave immediately. Strange illnesses require strange cures. Come, Hero, you must die in order to live. Your wedding perhaps is only postponed. Have patience, be calm, and endure these present ills.”

Everyone except for Benedick and Beatrice left.

Benedick said gently, “Lady Beatrice, have you been crying all this time?”

“Yes, and I will cry a while longer.”

“I do not want you to cry.”

“What you want does not matter,” Beatrice replied. “I am crying because I want to cry.”

“I truly believe that Hero has been wronged.”

“A man who could make things right would deserve much from me,” Beatrice said.

“Is there any way I can deserve such a reward?”

“The way to earn such a reward is very straightforward and direct, but it is not for you,” Beatrice said.

“May a man do it?”

“It is the duty of a man, but it is not your duty.”

“I love nothing in the world as much I love you,” Benedick said. “Isn’t that strange?”

“It is as strange as another thing that I don’t understand: It is as possible for me to say that I love nothing as much as I love you — but do not believe what I just said. I confess nothing, and I deny nothing. I feel sorry for my cousin.”

“I swear by my sword, Beatrice, that you love me.”

“Do not swear. You may have to eat your words.”

“I swear by my sword, Beatrice, that you love me, and I will make anyone who says that I do not love you eat my sword.”

“Won’t you go back on your vow that you love me and eat your words?”

“I will not eat my words with any sauce that can be prepared to season them,” Benedick said. “I swear again that I love you.”

“Why, then God forgive me!”

“For what offence, Beatrice?”

“Your swearing that you love me came in a happy hour. I was about to go against our societal conventions and say to you ‘I love you’ before you — the man — confessed to me that you love me.”

“Say to me now what you were going to say to me before, and swear to it with all of your heart,” Benedick said.

“I love you with so much of my heart that none of my heart is left to swear with.”

“Tell me to do anything for you.”

“Kill Claudio,” Beatrice replied.

“Not for all the whole wide world.”

“You kill me by saying no,” Beatrice said. “Farewell.”

“Stay for a while, sweet Beatrice.”

“I am gone, though I am physically here. There is no love in you for me. Therefore, please let me go.”

“Beatrice —”

“I am leaving.”

“Let us part as friends.”

“You must think that it is easier to be friends with me than to fight Claudio, who is now my enemy.”

“Is Claudio your enemy?”

“Why shouldn’t he be?” Beatrice asked. “Hasn’t he proved himself to be a thorough villain, one who has slandered, scorned, and dishonored my cousin Hero? I wish that I were a man! Look at what Claudio has done! He held Hero’s hands until they were in church to join hands in marriage, and then with barefaced slander and unmitigated rancor he publicly accused her of unchasteness. I wish I were a man! If I were, I would eat Claudio’s heart in the public marketplace.”

“Listen to me, Beatrice —”

“Talk with a man outside her bedroom window! A likely story!”

“But Beatrice —”

“Sweet Hero! She has been wronged, she has been slandered, she has been undone.”

“Bea —”

“The three men who accused her are two Princes and a Count! Surely, we heard a Princely testimony and testimony from a goodly Count — Count Candy! He is a sweet gallant, surely! Oh, I wish that I were a man for his sake! Or that I had any friend who would be a man for my sake! But manhood has melted into curtsies, valor has melted into compliment, and men are composed only of talk and not deeds — and such pretty talk, too. A man is now considered to be as valiant as Hercules even if he only tells a lie and swears that it is true. I cannot become a man by wishing I were a man; therefore, I will die a woman by grieving.”

“Wait, good Beatrice. I swear by this hand that I love you.”

“If you want to show that you love me, you will have to do more with your hand than swear by it.”

“Do you truly believe in your soul that Count Claudio has wronged Hero?”

“I am as sure of that as I am sure that I have a thought or a soul.”

“That is enough,” Benedick said. “I will do what you want me to do: I will challenge Claudio to a duel. Let me kiss your hand, and so I leave you. I swear by this hand that he shall pay dearly for his sin. As you hear of me, so think of me. Judge me by my actions, not by my words. Go and comfort Hero. I must tell other people that she is dead, and so, farewell.”

He kissed her hand and exited. Beatrice left to go and comfort Hero.


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 4-5

 — 3.4 —

Hero was talking with her gentlewomen attendants, Margaret and Ursula, in her bedroom.

“Good Ursula, wake my cousin Beatrice, and ask her to get up,” Hero said.

“I will, lady,” Ursula replied.

“And ask her to come here,” Hero said.

“I will,” Ursula said as she exited.

“Truly, I think that your other rabato — your ornamented collar — is better than this one,” Margaret said.

Margaret had worn this rabato the previous night when Borachio had wooed her.

“No, good Margaret,” Hero said. “I will wear this one.”

“Really, I don’t think that this one is as good as the other one, and I think that Beatrice will agree with me,” Margaret said.

“If she does, then she is a fool, and so are you,” Hero said, not unkindly. “I will wear no rabato except this one.”

“I exceedingly like your new decorative head-dress in the other room,” Margaret said, “but I wish that the hair that is part of the head-dress were a trifle browner. In addition, your gown is unusually fashionable, truly, and I believe that although I have seen the Duchess of Milan’s gown that is so well praised.”

“Her gown is more fashionable than all the others,” Hero said.

“Compared to your gown, hers is a fancy dressing gown,” Margaret said. “Her gown has cloth of gold and cuts in the sleeves to reveal the even richer material underneath, and it is laced with silver and set with pearls. It has tight sleeves that go down to the wrist and loose sleeves that are draped from the shoulders. The shirts are trimmed at the hem with blue silk. Her gown is extremely fancy, but your fine, dainty, elegant, graceful, and excellent gown is worth ten of hers.”

“May God give me joy when I wear it because my heart is exceedingly heavy!” Hero said.

“Tonight it will be heavier by the weight of a man as he lies on you,” Margaret said.

“I am shocked!” Hero said. “Aren’t you ashamed to speak like that?”

“Like what, lady?” Margaret asked. “I am not speaking of anything dishonorable. Marriage is honorable, and so is the wedding night. Marriage is so honorable that it is honorable even for a beggar. Your betrothed, Claudio, is honorable even before he is married. I think you would have preferred that I say that your heart will be heavier by the weight of your husband — not just any man — as he lies on you. And if all goes well, you will be heavier because you will become pregnant. But you know what I meant; you know I meant no offense. I was talking about the weight of your soon-to-be husband, and there is no harm in that — as long as it is the right husband and the right wife. Let the weight be heavy and not light because a wife ought to feel weight on her on her wedding night, and a light woman is a frivolous woman — a wanton, unchaste woman. Ask Beatrice what she thinks about this — here she comes.”

Hero said, “Good morning, Beatrice.”

“Good morning, sweet Hero.”

“How are you feeling?” Hero said. “You sound as if you were out of tune.”

“The only tune I am in is ill,” Beatrice said. “I am sick.”

“If you want a tune that is not ill, I recommend ‘Light of Love,’” Margaret said. “That is a light, not heavy, tune, and it has no part for a man. It begins with clapping. If you will sing the song, I will dance it.”

“‘Light of love’ means wanton,” Beatrice said. “If you dance to that tune, you will have light heels — feet that are raised high in the air and wide apart. If your husband has lots of stables, he will also have lots of barns and because you and he will roll in the hay the result will be lots of bairns.”

“That is an illegitimate argument,” Margaret said. “I have no husband, and so I kick your argument away with my light heels.”

“It is almost five o’clock, Hero,” Beatrice said. “It is time you were ready. But truly, I am exceedingly ill!” She sighed, “Ho-hum.”

“Are you sighing because you want a hawk, a horse, or a husband?” Margaret asked.

“If the word ‘ache’ began with and sounded like the letter that begins ‘hawk,’ ‘horse,’ and ‘husband,’ I would be sighing because I have an aitch,” Beatrice said.

“Well, unless you have completely renounced your old views, there will be no more sailing by the North Star,” Margaret said.

Beatrice was mystified: “What does the fool mean, I wonder.”

Margaret thought, I think that Beatrice is sighing because of a different reason than illness. I think that she is sighing because she is in love with and wants to marry Benedick. Unless she has renounced her view that she wants never to be married, then there is no more trusting in signs of love such as sighs — or in anything we used to believe in, such as that the Pole Star, aka the North Star, indicates where the North lies.

“What means the fool?” Margaret said. “I mean nothing, but I hope that God sends all people their heart’s desire!”

Hero knew that Margaret was talking — not explicitly — about Beatrice’s being in love, so she decided to change the subject lest Beatrice grow suspicious: “These are the gloves that Claudio sent me; they have been excellently perfumed.”

Beatrice said, “I am stuffed up, Hero. I cannot smell.”

Margaret knew that Beatrice meant that her nose was stuffed up, but she made a joke out of “stuffed”: “You are supposed to be a virgin, and yet you are stuffed. Has a man stuffed your womb with a baby? Something good can come from catching a cold!”

“God help me!” Beatrice said. “God help me! For how long have you made being a wit your profession?”

“Ever since you stopped using your wit,” Margaret said, thinking, You still don’t know that we have tricked you into thinking that Benedick loves you.

Margaret added, “Don’t you think that my wit becomes me rarely?”

Beatrice knew that Margaret meant ‘rarely’ to mean ‘splendidly,’ but she decided to joke that ‘rarely’ meant ‘seldomly’: “Your wit is not seen enough; you should wear it in your cap so that everyone can see it. After all, fools wear coxcombs on their heads.”

She added, “Truly, I am sick.”

Margaret said, “Get some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus, and apply it over your heart: It is the only thing that will help you to get over a sudden nausea.”

Carduus Benedictus was a medicine composed of Holy Thistle. Thistles have prickles, and Hero punned, “Margaret, you are pricking her with a thistle.”

Margaret thought, Wholly thistle is nothing but pricks, and I am thinking a lot about pricks today although not the ones on thistles.I have also been thinking about holes.

Beatrice, of course, had been thinking about Benedick quite a lot recently, and she was suspicious because of the mention of Carduus Benedictus: “Benedictus! Why did you mention Benedictus? Does your mention of this Benedictus have some hidden meaning?”

“Some hidden meaning? No, there is no hidden meaning. All I meant is plain Holy Thistle,” Margaret lied. “You may think perhaps that I think you are in love. No, I am not such a fool as to think what I wish, nor am I such a fool as to wish not to think what I can, nor indeed I cannot think, if I would think my heart out of thinking, that you are in love or that you will be in love or that you can be in love. Yet Benedick was just like you in his opinion of marriage, and yet he has become a man who is like other men: He swore he would never marry, and yet now, despite what he swore, he metaphorically eats his meat without complaining. I do not know how you are changing and being converted the way that he was converted to a new way of thinking, but I think that you are beginning to look with your eyes as other women do. You are becoming like other women.”

Margaret thought, Benedick swore that he would never marry, and yet he has fallen in love. The same is becoming true of Beatrice.

“What pace is this that your tongue keeps?” Beatrice asked. “Your tongue moves rapidly. What are you trying to say?”

“The pace my tongue keeps is not a false gallop,” Margaret said. “It is a real gallop and not a mere cantor. The pace of my tongue is true, and all I say is true.”

Ursula entered the room and said, “Hero, get dressed. Don Pedro, Count Claudio, Signior Benedick, Don John, and all the gallants of the town have come to escort you to church.”

“Help me dress, good Beatrice, good Margaret, and good Ursula,” Hero said.

 — 3.5 —

In another room in Leonato’s house, Leonato was talking to Dogberry and Verges, who had come on official business. Leonato, who was the Governor of Messina, greatly outranked and was much wealthier than Dogberry and Verges.

“What do you want, honest neighbor?” Leonato asked Dogberry.

“Sir, I would have some confidence [confidential conference / confidential conversation] with you that decerns [concerns] you greatly.”

“Keep it brief, please,” Leonato said. “You can see that it is a busy time for me.”

“Truly, it is, sir,” Dogberry replied.

“Yes, in truth it is, sir,” Verges said.

“What do we need to talk about, my good friends?” Leonato asked.

“Goodman Verges, sir, speaks a little off the subject,” Dogberry said. “He tends to ramble because he is an old man, sir, and his wits are not so blunt [sharp] as, God help us, I would desire they were; but, truly, he is as honest as the skin between his brows. His eyebrows do not meet, and so we can see that he is trustworthy. Also, he has not been marked on his forehead as punishment for a horrible crime.”

“That is true,” Verges said. “I thank God that I am as honest as any man living who is an old man and no more honest than I am.”

“Comparisons are odorous [odious],” Dogberry said to Verges. “Palabras, neighbor Verges.”

Leonato thought, Pocas palabrasmeans “few words” in Spanish, and that is probably what Dogberry meant, but Dogberry said palabras— words — and he has been saying word after word without saying anything of significance.

“Neighbors, you are tedious,” Leonato said. He was eager to leave and go to the church for his daughter’s wedding.

Dogberry did not know what “tedious” meant, but he was willing to guess its meaning: “It pleases your worship to say so, but we are the poor Duke’s officers.”

Leonato thought, Dogberry meant to say that Verges and he are the Duke’s poor — that is, impoverished — officers. These men are the Duke’s officers — that is, they are Don Pedro’s officers — and people really ought to feel sorry for the poor — unlucky — Duke because he has such sorry officers.

Dogberry continued, “But truly, for my own part, if I were as tedious [wealthy and generous] as a King, I could find it in my heart to bestow it all on your worship.”

“You would bestow all your tediousness on me?” Leonato asked.

“Yes, and I would do the same thing even if the tediousness were a thousand pounds more than it is; for I hear as good exclamation [acclamation] of your worship as of any man in the city; and although I am only a poor man, I am glad to hear it.”

“And so am I,” Verges said.

They said that they are glad to hear it, Leonato thought. Grammatically speaking, they said that they are glad to hear that they are poor men. Both of them are poor men in more ways than one. Of course, Dogberry and Verges meant to say that they are happy to hear that I am acclaimed, and I am glad to hear that.

“Please let me know what you have to say to me,” Leonato said.

“Sir,” Verges said, “our watchmen last night, excepting [respecting] your worship’s presence, have arrested a couple of as arrant knaves as any in Messina.”

Leonato thought, Verges said that the watchmen have arrested a couple of as arrant knaves as any in Messina, excepting your worship’s presence — that is, the watchmen have arrested a couple of knaves who are as arrant as anyone in Messina with the exception of me, Leonato.

Dogberry interrupted although Verges was telling Leonato what he wanted and needed to know: “Verges is a good old man, sir. He will be talking. As they say, when old age is in, wit is out. God help us! It is a world to see.”

Leonato thought, Dogberry is mixing up his proverbs. The proverb he is thinking of is this: When ale is in, wit is out. Unfortunately, his mangled proverb — when old age is in, wit is out — is often true.

Dogberry complimented his friend, “Well said, neighbor Verges,” then he said to Leonato, “Well, God is a good man; God must have a plan for Verges despite Verges’ loss of his wits. If two men ride on a horse, one man must ride behind — no two men are equal in ability. Verges is an honest soul, sir. Truly, he is as honest as any man who ever broke bread; but just as we know that God is to be worshipped, we know that we must thank God for all things. All men are not alike — it is a pity!”

Leonato said, “Verges is not your equal.” He thought, That is true. As much of a fool as Verges is, he is not Dogberry’s equal.

“God gives us our gifts,” Dogberry replied.

“I must leave you now and go to the church,” Leonato said.

“One more word, sir,” Dogberry said. “Our watchmen, sir, have indeed comprehended [apprehended] two auspicious [suspicious] persons, and we would like to have them this morning examined before your worship.”

“Examine these men yourself, and then come and tell me later what you find out,” Leonato said. “As you should be able to see, I am in a hurry.”

“It shall be suffigance [sufficient],” Dogberry said.

“Drink some wine before you go,” Leonato said. “Fare you well.”

A messenger entered the room and said to Leonato, “My lord, they are waiting for you to give your daughter away to her husband.”

“I will come immediately,” Leonato said. “I am ready.”

Leonato and the messenger departed.

“Verges, good partner, go and get the sexton Francis Seacole,” Dogberry said. “Tell him to bring his pen and inkhorn to the jail. We will now examination [examine] these two auspicious [suspicious] men.”

“We must do so wisely.”

“We will not lack wit, I promise you,” Dogberry said. He pointed to his head and said, “Here is something that shall drive some of them to a non-come.”

If Leonato had been present, he would have thought, Dogberry meant that he would make the two men non-plussed — so confused that they won’t know what to think. Actually, I think that is the effect that Dogberry has on many people. Dogberry’s word — “non-comp” — also brings to mind the Latin phrase non compos mentis, which means out of one’s mind. A few minutes’ conversation with Dogberry can have that effect on the hearer.

Dogberry continued, “We need the learned writer to set down our excommunication [examination / conversation / communication] with the prisoners. Meet me at the jail.”


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scene 3

 — 3.3 —

On a public street, Dogberry, who was the city’s head constable, and Verges, an old man who was Dogberry’s assistant, were talking to some newly recruited night watchmen whose job it was to maintain the peace of the city. Dogberry and Verges were paid to do their jobs, while the new recruits were unpaid: Actingoccasionally as night watchmen was part of their duty as citizens. Also present was this book’s author, who thought, I am a magician, and I have turned myself invisible. I will take no part in the events of this book, except for one thing. Dogberry, Verges, and the other watchmen often make malapropisms — they humorously misuse words and often say the opposite of what they mean to say. I will use the magic of my right hand and of my left index finger (which mainly presses as needed the shift key) to sometimes make appear [in brackets] the right words after the wrong words that Dogberry, Verges, and the other watchmen use.

Dogberry asked the newly recruited watchmen, “Are you good men and true?”

“Yes, they are,” Verges replied for them. “If they were not good men and true, it would be a pity if they did not suffer salvation [damnation] of both their body and soul.”

“That would be a punishment too good for them,” Dogberry said, “if they should have any allegiance [alleged defiance or disloyalty] in them, since they have been chosen to be night watchmen of the Prince’s city.”

“Well, give them their orders, neighbor Dogberry,” Verges said. “Tell them their duties.”

“First, who do you think is the man most desertless [deserving] to be a constable?” Dogberry asked.

“Hugh Oatcake, sir, or George Seacole, because they can write and read,” the first watchman said.

“Come here, neighbor Seacole. God has blessed you with a good reputation: To be a handsome man is the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes by nature [nurture].”

The second watchman said, “Both which, master constable —”

“— you have,” Dogberry finished, adding, “I know what you were going to say; I knew this would be your answer. Well, give God thanks for your good looks and don’t boast about them. As for your writing and reading, use those when you have no need [have need] to use such vain [worthy and useful] accomplishments. You are thought here to be the most senseless [sensible (he meant to say “sensible,” but “senseless” is accurate)] and fit man for the constable of the watch; therefore, you shall carry the lantern. This is your duty: You shall comprehend [apprehend] all vagrom [vagrant] men; you are to order any such man to halt, in the Prince’s name.”

“What do we do if a man will not halt?” the second watchman asked.

“Why, then, take no note of him,” Dogberry said. “Ignore him and let him go, and immediately call the rest of the watch together and thank God you are rid of a knave.”

“If he will not halt when he is ordered to halt, he is not one of the Prince’s subjects,” Verges said.

“True, and we watchmen are to meddle with no one except the Prince’s subjects,” Dogberry said. “You shall also make no noise in the streets; for the watchmen to babble and to talk while on duty is most tolerable [intolerable] and not to be endured.”

“We will sleep instead of talk,” a watchman said. “We know what watchmen do.”

“Why, you speak like an experienced and very quiet watchman,” Dogberry said. “I cannot see how sleeping would offend anyone; however, take care that your weapons are not stolen. As watchmen, your weapons will be bills, aka pikes. Well, another duty is that you are to call at all the ale-houses, and tell those who are drunk to go home and sleep.”

“What do we do if they will not follow orders?”

“Why, then, let them alone until they are sober,” Dogberry said. “If when they are sober they still do not follow orders, then you may say that they are not the drunk men you took them for.”

“OK, sir,” the watchman said.

“If you meet a thief, you may suspect by virtue of your office that he is no true man. The less you meddle with or interact with such men, the better it is for you because you will avoid becoming corrupted by contact with such evil men.”

“If we know that a man is a thief, shall we not lay hands on him and arrest him?” a watchman asked.

“Truly, by your office, you may,” Dogberry said, “but I think people who touch tar will be defiled; therefore, the most peaceable [peaceful] way for you to behave, if you do see a thief, is to let him show what he is and steal out of your presence.”

“You have been always called a merciful man, partner,” Verges said.

“Truly, I would not willingly hang a dog, much more [less] an even partially honest man.”

Verges said to the watchmen, “If you hear a child cry in the night, you must call to the child’s nurse and tell her to quiet the child.”

“What do we do if the nurse is asleep and does not hear us?” a watchman asked.

“Why, then, depart quietly,” Dogberry said, “and let the child wake the nurse with crying; for the ewe that will not hear her lamb when it baas will never answer a calf when he bleats [moos]. If the nurse does not hear her own child, she will certainly not hear you.”

“That is very true,” Verges said.

“You have one more duty,” Dogberry said. “You, constable, are to present [represent] the Prince’s own person. That makes you the boss. If you meet the Prince in the night, you may order him to stop.”

“No,” Verges said. “I don’t think he is allowed to do that.”

“I bet you five shillings to one that he can: Any man who has studied the statues [statutes / laws] knows that he can order the Prince to halt. That is, of course, as long as the Prince is willing to halt. Indeed, the watchmen ought to offend no man; and it is an offence to order a man to halt against his will.”

“Yes,” Verges said. “That is right.”

“Ha! I am right!” Dogberry said. “Well, watchmen, good night. If anything important happens, call me. Keep your fellows’ secrets as well as you keep your own. Good night!”

He added to Verges, “Let’s go, neighbor.”

A watchman said to the other watchmen, “Well, watchmen, we know our duty: Let us sit here on the church bench until two o’clock, and then go home to bed.”

Dogberry remembered one more thing to tell the watchmen: “One word more, honest neighbors. Please keep watch around the house of Signior Leonato. Because of the wedding being held there tomorrow, a great deal of bustle is going on there tonight. Adieu. Be vigitant [vigilant], please.”

Dogberry and Verges exited.

Almost immediately, Borachio and Conrade appeared on the street. The watchmen, unnoticed by Borachio and Conrade, stayed in the shadows.

“Conrade!” Borachio said.

A watchman whispered, “Let’s be quiet and listen to these people who are out so late at night.”

“Conrade, I say!”

“Here I am, Borachio. I am standing by your elbow.”

“My elbow was itching. I thought I had a scab there.”

“Don’t call me a scab. I will get you back for calling me that. What do you want?”

“Stand here with me under this overhanging part of a roof because rain is drizzling. I will, like a true drunkard — for there is truth in wine — tell you all of a tale.”

A watchman whispered, “I suspect foul play. Let’s listen carefully.”

“Know that tonight I have earned from Don John a thousand coins,” Borachio said.

“You must have done something evil to get it, but is it possible that any villainy should cost so much?” Conrade said.

“You should ask instead if it is possible that any villain should be so rich,” Borachio said. “But when rich villains have need of poor villains, poor villains may ask for as much money as they wish.”

“Still, I wonder how you could make so much money.”

“You are showing that you are uninformed. You know, don’t you, that the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak, is nothing to a man.”

Borachio thought, By that I mean that a man is not identical to his clothing. Dress an evil man in a preacher’s clothing and people will likely think that the evil man is a good man. Dress a woman in someone else’s clothing and on a dark night other people may think that the imposter is the woman whom the imposter is impersonating.

“It is just clothing.”

“I mean, the fashion,” Borachio said.

“Yes, the fashion is the fashion.”

“I may as well say that the fool is the fool,” Borachio said. “But don’t you see what a deformed thief fashion is and how it robs young men of their money?”

A watchman whispered, “They are talking about a thief named De Formed. I have heard about him for the past seven years. He is fashionable and dresses like a gentleman. I remember his name well.”

“Did you hear somebody?” Borachio asked.

“The noise was caused by the movement of the weathervane on this house,” Conrade replied.

“As I was saying, do you see what a deforming thief fashion is? Fashion makes all the hot-blooded young men between age fourteen and thirty-five giddily change their clothes. Sometimes they wear the fashion of the Pharaoh’s soldiers in a grimy painting. Sometimes they wear the fashion of the god Bel’s priests in the old church-window — you remember that the King of Persia had these priests killed after Daniel denounced them because they worshipped a false god. Sometimes they wear the fashion of the shaven Hercules in the filthy, worm-eaten tapestry in which his codpiece seems as big as his club.”

“I see,” Conrade said. “I understand that a man can wear out clothing by wearing it and so make it unwearable, but that changing fashions render much more clothing unwearable. Fashion makes young men giddy, but hasn’t fashion made you giddy, too? You have been distracted by talk about fashion and so have not told me what you wanted to tell me.”

“That is not true,” Borachio said. “The point that I wanted to make about fashion is that a person is not identical to the clothing the person wears. Tonight, I wooed Margaret, the Lady Hero’s gentlewoman attendant. Margaret wore some of Hero’s clothing, and I called her by the name ‘Hero.’ She leaned out of Hero’s bedroom window as she bid me a thousand times good night. I am telling this tale badly — I should have told you first that Don Pedro, Claudio, and Don John witnessed me wooing Margaret — she and I had quite the friendly encounter! — from their positions in the garden. Don John arranged the whole thing.”

“And they thought Margaret was Hero?” Conrade said.

“Two of them did,” Borachio said. “Don Pedro and Claudio thought that, but Don John, who is a devil, knew that the woman I wooed is Margaret. Don John deliberately convinced Don Pedro and Claudio that Hero is unfaithful. He did that partly by the lies he told them. Those lies made them suspicious. Don Pedro and Claudio were also deceived by the darkness of the night, which helped them to believe that Hero was being unfaithful. Most of all, however, they were deceived by my villainy. My actions confirmed the slander that Don John had cast against Hero. Enraged, Claudio departed. He swore that he would meet Hero, as he had promised, the next morning at the temple, and there, before the whole congregation, he would disgrace her by telling everyone what he had seen during the night. He swore that he would not marry her but would instead send her without a husband back to her father.”

The first watchman had heard enough; he shouted, “We arrest you in the Prince’s name!”

The second watchman said, “Someone, go and get Dogberry, the right master constable. We have here recovered [uncovered] the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever was known in the commonwealth.”

Borachio thought, This watchman probably meant to say “treachery” instead of “lechery,” but considering the way I was wooing Margaret, “lechery” is quite accurate.

“A thief named De Formed should be arrested, too,” the first watchman said. “I will know him because he wears one lock of his hair long.”

Conrade started to attempt to talk himself out of trouble: “Sirs, sirs —”

The second watchman said, “You will be forced to reveal the whereabouts of De Formed, I bet you.”

Conrade said, “Sirs —”

“Do not speak,” the second watchman said. “We order you to let us obey [order] you to go with us.”

Both Borachio and Conrade knew that the watchmen who had arrested them were fools when it came to using language, but they also knew that they were legally arrested.

Borachio said to Conrade, “We are likely to prove to be a goodly commodity, being taken up by these men with their bills.”

Borachio thought, Conrade will appreciate the joke, although these watchmen will not. My sentence has two meanings, one legal and one commercial: 1) “We are likely to prove to be a valuable catch, now that we have been arrested by these watchmen with their weapons.” 2) “We are likely to prove to be a valuable parcel of goods, now that we have been bought by these men with their bills of credit.”

Conrade appreciated the puns and replied with puns of his own: “We are a commodity in question, I warrant you.”

Conrade thought, Borachio will appreciate the joke, although these watchmen will not. My sentence has two meanings, one legal and one commercial: 1) “We are a catch that is subject to judicial examination now that we are under warranted and legal arrest.” 2) “We are a purchase of doubtful value, I promise you.”

Conrade knew that the watchmen had the legal authority to arrest Borachio and him, so he did not fight them but instead said, “We will obey you.”

The watchmen set off with Borachio and Conrade to find Dogberry.


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose — Act 3, Scenes 1-2

— 3.1 —

After dinner, Hero and her two gentlewomen attendants, Margaret and Ursula, were walking in Leonato’s garden.

Hero said, “Good Margaret, go to the parlor. There you will find my cousin Beatrice talking with Don Pedro and Claudio. Whisper in her ear and tell her that Ursula and I are walking in the garden and you overheard us gossiping about her. Beatrice will be curious about what we are saying about her. Tell her that she can eavesdrop on us if she sneaks into the latticework bower that is shaded by the intertwining, sun-ripened honeysuckle overhead. The honeysuckle grew because of the sun, but now like an ungrateful courtier it plots against its benefactor and keeps the sunshine from reaching the ground. Tell her that if she hides herself there, she can hear all that we say about her. That is what I want you to do. Do it well, and then leave the rest to us.”

“I will make Beatrice come here and hide, I promise you, immediately,” Margaret said before exiting.

Hero said, “Now, Ursula, when Beatrice does come, as we walk up and down here in this arbor, we will talk only about Benedick. Each time I mention him, praise him more than any man has merited. I will say to you that Benedick is madly in love with Beatrice. In this way, we can make one of Cupid’s crafty arrows: It will be the kind that wounds — that is, makes someone fall in love — as a result of gossip that people hear.”

Beatrice appeared and tried — unsuccessfully — to keep herself out of sight.

“Let’s begin,” Hero whispered. “I can see Beatrice now. She is like a bird that runs along the ground as she tries to get close enough to us to listen to what we say.”

Ursula whispered, “The best part of fishing is seeing the fish with its golden oars — the fins — cut through the silver stream and greedily devour the treacherous bait. Now we are fishing for Beatrice, who I can now see has hidden herself in this arbor. Don’t worry about me; I will do my part in our conversation.”

Hero whispered, “Let’s go near her. We want to be sure that Beatrice can hear the false sweet bait that we are casting toward her.”

Hero said loudly, “No, truly, Ursula, Beatrice is too disdainful and scornful. I know that her personality is as defiant and wild as the hawks on the rocky cliffs.”

“Are you sure that Benedick loves Beatrice so strongly?”

“So say Don Pedro and Claudio.”

“Did they tell you to tell Beatrice that Benedick loves her?”

“They wanted me to tell her,” Hero replied, “but I told them that if they wanted what was best for Benedick to advise him to wrestle with his love for Beatrice, and to never let her know about it.”

“Why did you do that?” Ursula asked. “Doesn’t Benedick deserve as good a bed as Beatrice lies on? Doesn’t he deserve as good a wife as Beatrice would be?”

“By the god of love, I know that Benedick deserves as much as may be given to a man, but Nature has never made a woman’s heart of prouder stuff than the heart of Beatrice. Disdain and scorn sparkle in her eyes, which undervalue what they look at, and she values her cutting wit much more than she values anything else — in comparison to her wit, everything else seems weak and unworthy to her. She is not capable of feeling love or affection for anyone else; she loves only herself.”

“I think that you are right,” Ursula said. “It is best that Beatrice does not know that Benedick loves her — if she did, she would make fun of him.”

“That is true,” Hero said. “I have never yet seen a man — no matter how wise, how noble, how young, how handsomely featured — whom she would not totally misconstrue and say that his virtues are faults. She would spell the man’s name backwards the way that witches recite the Lord’s Prayer backwards. If he had a light complexion, she would swear that the gentleman should be her sister. If he had a dark skin, she would swear that Nature, while attempting to draw him, let some ink drip and made a foul and ugly blot. If he were tall, she would swear that a lance had an ugly head. If he were short, she would swear that a miniature portrait made from an agate had been very badly cut. If he were talkative, she would swear that he is a weathervane blown by all winds. If he were quiet, she would swear that he is a block of wood or stone that is moved by no wind. Thus she turns every man the wrong side out, and she never acknowledges the truth and virtue that a man of integrity and merit has deserved.”

“Such carping is not commendable,” Ursula said.

“Indeed not,” Hero said. “To be as odd and eccentric as Beatrice is cannot be commendable. But who dares to tell her that? If I were to speak to her and tell her that, she would mock me until I disintegrated into air and were reduced to nothing. Or she would laugh at me until my soul departed from my body. Or she would load me with her heavy wit until the weight crushed me. Therefore, let Benedick, like glowing coals that have been covered with ashes to preserve the fire during the night, consume himself with sighs and waste away inwardly. That would be a better death than to be mocked to death, which is as bad as to die by being tickled to death.”

“Nevertheless, tell Beatrice that Benedick loves her, and hear what she will say,” Ursula said.

“No,” Hero replied. “Instead, I will go to Benedick and advise him to fight against his passion for Beatrice. Indeed, I will devise some honest slanders — some harmless lies — to stain Beatrice with. Perhaps some ill words will make Benedick stop loving Beatrice, although everyone knows that she is virtuous.”

“Do not do Beatrice such a wrong as to make up lies about her, even if they seem to be harmless,” Ursula said. “She cannot so entirely lack true judgment — not if she has so swift and excellent a wit as she is reputed to have — that she would refuse to marry so exceptional a gentleman as Signior Benedick.”

“He is the best man in Italy with the exception of my own dear Claudio,” Hero said.

“Please, do not be angry with me, madam, but I have to say that Signior Benedick is the best man in Italy when it comes to judging his attractiveness, bearing, intelligence, and courage.”

“Indeed, he has an excellent reputation,” Hero replied.

“His excellence earned his excellent reputation,” Ursula said, and then she asked, “When will you be married, madam?”

“Tomorrow, and every day afterward,” Hero replied. “Come, let us go inside. I will show you some of my clothing, and you can advise me what to wear at my wedding.”

Ursula whispered, “We have trapped Beatrice the way that hunters trap birds. We have caught her, madam.”

Hero whispered back, “If that is true, then love can happen by chance, as well as by other ways. Cupid makes some people lovers through the use of an arrow, and others through the use of a trap.”

Hero and Ursula exited.

Beatrice came out from her hiding place and said to herself, “My ears are burning. Can this be true? Do people really criticize me so much for being proud and scornful? In that case, I say farewell to contempt and adieuto maidenly pride. People do not say good things behind the back of a person who is proud and scornful. But, Benedick, continue to love me because I will return your love. I will tame my wild heart and return your love. If you really do love me, my kindness shall convince you to bind our loves in the holy bond of marriage. Other people say that you deserve my love, and I believe it on better evidence than the gossip I have overheard.”

 — 3.2 —

In a room in Leonato’s house, Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, and Leonato were talking. Benedick had shaved off his beard. Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato expected Benedick to be in love with Beatrice as a result of their trick, and they were looking forward to teasing him.

Don Pedro said to Claudio, “I will stay only until your marriage is official, and then I will go to Aragon.”

“I will accompany you there, my lord, if you will allow me to,” Claudio said.

“No, not so soon after your marriage,” Don Pedro said. “You have pleasures to enjoy, and taking you away from your marriage so soon would be like showing a child his new coat and forbidding him to wear it. I will be bold enough to have Benedick accompany me because I enjoy his company. From the top of his head to the bottom of his foot, he is all mirth and laughter. Two or three times Cupid attempted to shoot him with an arrow and make him fall in love, but Benedick cut the string of Cupid’s bow and so Cupid no longer dares to shoot at him. Benedick has a heart as sound as a bell and his tongue is the clapper — whatever his heart thinks, his tongue speaks.”

“Gallants, I am not as I have been,” Benedick said. “I have changed.”

Leonato said, “I think that is true. You seem to be more serious now.”

“I hope that Benedick is in love,” Claudio said.

“That is not possible,” Don Pedro said. “Not one drop of his blood is capable of being truly touched with love. If Benedick is more serious now, he must be broke and need money.”

“I suffer from toothache,” Benedick said, but he thought, It is more accurate to say that I suffer from lovesickness. I am saying that I have a toothache to explain why I am different from the way I usually am.

“Draw it out,” Don Pedro advised. “Pull it out.”

Hearing the word “draw,” Benedick punned on “hanged, drawn, and quartered” by exclaiming, “Hang it!”

“You must hang it first, and draw it afterwards,” Claudio joked. He thought, Drawing is disemboweling, and quartering is being cut into four pieces — being hanged, drawn, and quartered is the punishment given to traitors. Benedick has been a traitor to love by refusing to fall in love.

“Are you sad because of your toothache?” Don Pedro asked Benedick.

“The pain is caused by a little tooth decay,” Leonato said.

“No one feels the pain except the person who has it,” Benedick said. “People think that it is easy to solve someone else’s problems.”

Claudio said, “I think that Benedick is in love.”

“I do not see any sign of love in Benedick,” Don Pedro said, “except for his love of foreign fashions. He dresses like a Dutchman today, a Frenchman tomorrow, or in the dress of two countries at once. He can dress like a German from the waist downward and wear baggy pants while he dresses like a Spaniard from the hip upward and does not wear a jacket. Unless he has a love for this kind of fashion foolery, as he appears to have, he is no fool for love, as you say he is.”

“If Benedick is not in love with some woman, then we ought to no longer trust the signs that traditionally show that a man is in love,” Claudio said. “Benedick brushes his hat and cleans it each morning. What do you suppose that means?”

Don Pedro decided to tease Benedick, who he knew had recently shaved off his beard. He said, “Another sign of a man’s being in love is that he pays special attention to his appearance. Has anyone seen Benedick visit a barber?”

“No, but the barber’s assistant has visited Benedick,” Claudio said. “You can see that his beard has disappeared — the old ornament of his cheeks has been used to stuff old-fashioned, homemade tennis balls.”

Leonato said, “Indeed, Benedick looks younger than he did. The loss of his beard has been a fountain of youth for him.”

“Not only that,” Don Pedro said, “but Benedick has been rubbing his body with cologne. Is it possible to tell anything about him by smelling him?”

“Yes, indeed,” Claudio said. “We can smell that sweet Benedick is in love.”

“The best evidence that Benedick is in love is his seriousness,” Don Pedro said. “Benedick used to always be a mirthful man.”

“And when has Benedick been known to take such care in washing his face?” Claudio said. “Now he uses a cosmetic lotion.”

“Yes, indeed,” Don Pedro said. “When has Benedick been known to use any kind of cosmetics? I know what people say about him because he does that.”

“Benedick’s jesting spirit has turned into a string for a lute, a musical instrument used for playing love songs,” Claudio said. “Strings are tuned with frets, and now Benedick frets. That is why he listens to melancholy music that is heavy on the soul.”

“All of the evidence points to one conclusion,” Don Pedro said. “Benedick is seriously in love.”

“I know who loves him,” Claudio said.

“I would like to know who she is,” Don Pedro said. “I’m guessing she does not know him well.”

“Yes, she does,” Claudio said. “She knows his faults, and yet she is dying of love for him. She would love to die in his arms.”

“If she dies in that position, she will be dying while lying flat on her back with her knees apart,” Don Pedro said.

In this culture, “to die” was slang for “to have an orgasm.”

“All of this talk is not curing my toothache,” Benedick said. “Leonato, will you take a walk with me? I need to tell you eight or nine wise and serious words that these buffoons must not hear.”

Benedick and Leonato exited.

“I swear on my life that Benedick is going to talk to Leonato about Beatrice,” Don Pedro said.

“I think you are right,” Claudio said. “Hero and Margaret have by this time played their trick on Beatrice, who has probably fallen in love with Benedick. When Benedick and Beatrice — two bears — meet, they will not bite one another as used to be their custom.”

Don John walked up to the two men and said to Don Pedro, “My lord and brother, God save you!”

“Good day, brother,” Don Pedro said.

“If you have time, I would like to speak with you.”

“In private?”

“If it pleases you,” Don John said, “yet Count Claudio may hear because what I want to speak about concerns him.”

“What’s the matter?” Don Pedro asked.

Don John said to Claudio, “Do you intend to get married tomorrow?”

Don Pedro said, “You know he does.”

“He may change his mind after he hears what I have to say and knows what I know.”

“If there is any reason why I should not be married, please tell me what it is,” Claudio said.

“You may think that I don’t like you,” Don John said. “Judge whether I do after you have heard what I have to say — I think that your opinion of me will be better than it is now. I believe that my brother greatly respects you, and because of his respect for you he has helped you to become engaged to Hero — but his effort to help you has failed and he has wasted his time and labor.”

“Why, what’s the matter?” Don Pedro asked.

“I came here to tell you what is the matter,” Don John said. “Briefly, and without unnecessary details, since the lady is not worthy of being long spoken about, Hero has been unfaithful to you.”

“Hero?” Claudio said.

“Yes,” Don John said. “Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero.”

“Unfaithful?” Claudio said.

“The word is too good to point out all the extent of her wickedness,” Don John said. “I could say she has been worse than unfaithful. If you can think of a worse word, I can show you that the worse word also ought to be used to describe her. Restrain your disbelief and let me provide proof. Go with me tonight, and you shall see a man enter her bedroom window the night before her wedding day. If you still love her after seeing that, marry her tomorrow, but if you want to keep your honor, it would be better for you to remain single.”

“Can this be true?” Claudio asked.

“No,” Don Pedro said. “I don’t believe it.”

“If you dare not trust what you see with your own eyes, then do not say that you know anything. Go with me tonight, and I will show you both something that you can see with your own eyes. You will see enough to change your minds. When you have seen more and heard more, proceed accordingly.”

“If I see tonight any reason why I should not marry Hero tomorrow in the church,” Claudio said, “I will disgrace her in front of the congregation.”

“And since I helped you become engaged to her,” Don Pedro said, “I will join with you in disgracing her.”

“I will disparage Hero no farther until you are witnesses that she is unfaithful,” Don John said. “Bear this bad news calmly until midnight, and then believe what you see with your own eyes.”

“The happiness of this time has been perversely altered,” Don Pedro said.

“The happiness of this time has been unexpectedly ruined by evil,” Claudio said.

“It is better to say that a plague of evil has been happily prevented,” Don John said. “You will feel that way after you see what I have to show you tonight.”



Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose — Act 2, Scenes 2-3

 — 2.2 —

Meanwhile, Don John and Borachio talked and plotted together.

“The engagement has been made,” Don John said. “Count Claudio shall marry Hero, the daughter of Leonato.”

“The engagement has been made,” Borachio said, “but I can stop the wedding.”

“Anything that we can do to hurt Claudio will be like good medicine for me,” Don John said. “I hate him, and whatever will make him unhappy will make me happy. How can you stop this marriage?”

“I cannot stop it by using honest means,” Borachio said, “but I can stop it by using dishonest means. I can do this secretly so that no one will suspect me.”

“Tell me how, briefly.”

“I believe that I told you about a year ago that Margaret, one of Hero’s waiting gentlewomen, loves me.”

“Yes, I remember.”

“I can, at any indecent hour of the night, have her look out of Hero’s bedchamber window.”

“What life is in that, that would be the death of this marriage?”

“You yourself can mix the metaphorical poison that will kill the wedding,” Borachio said. “Go to Don Pedro, your brother, and tell him that he has wrongly and dishonorably behaved by arranging the marriage of the renowned Claudio — whom you will say that you greatly admire — to Hero, who you will say is a contaminated whore.”

“He will not believe that Hero is a whore without some evidence,” Don John said. “Can we manufacture any evidence that will seem to show that?”

“We can manufacture enough evidence to deceive Don Pedro, torment and vex Claudio, ruin the reputation of Hero, and metaphorically kill Leonato. What more can you want?”

“I will do anything to hurt those people.”

“Here is what we can do,” Borachio said. “Find a good time to talk in private to Don Pedro and Claudio. Tell them that you know that Hero loves me. Pretend to be very concerned about both men because you have learned this. Pretend to be worried about Don Pedro, who will lose honor because he arranged the wedding of Claudio to a ‘whore,’ and pretend to be worried about Claudio, who will lose his good reputation if he marries this woman who is, you will say, only pretending to be a virgin. They will not believe this without evidence. Take them outside Hero’s bedroom window at a time we will set, and they will see me outside the bedroom window. They will also see ‘Hero’ — that is, Margaret — and me together. I will call her ‘Hero,’ since she and I sometimes pretend to be aristocrats — she sometimes calls me ‘Claudio.’ All of this will happen the night before the wedding. That will give me time to arrange a reason for Hero to sleep somewhere else that night. We will give them enough ‘evidence’ of Hero’s disloyalty to Claudio that they will conclude that the ‘evidence’ is proof of Hero’s disloyalty and whoredom. In that way, the wedding will be stopped.”

“This plan will result in much evil, and I support it with all my heart,” Don John said. “Be clever in carrying out this plot, and I will reward you with a thousand coins.”

“As long as you play your part in the plot well, I will do likewise,” Borachio said. “This plot will succeed.”

“I will go immediately and find out on what day they intend to be married,” Don John said.

 — 2.3 —

Benedick stood alone in Leonato’s garden. He called, “Boy!”

A young servant entered the garden and said, “Yes, sir?”

“On the sill of my bedroom window lies a book. Bring it here to me in this garden.”

“I am here already, sir,” the boy said, meaning that he would be back so quickly that it would be as if he had never left — a boast that he would not live up to.

“I know you are,” Benedick said, “but I wish that you had left already, so that you could the more quickly return.”

The young servant left to carry out the errand, and Benedick said to himself, “I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he falls in love, will, after he has laughed at such shallow follies in others, become what he has laughed at by himself falling in love. Such a man is Claudio. I have known when he would listen to no music but the drum and the fife of military music, but now he prefers the tabor and pipe music that is played at home. I have known when Claudio would have walked ten miles on foot to see a specimen of excellent armor. Now he will lie awake for ten nights planning which fashion a tailor should follow when making a new jacket for him. Claudio used to speak plainly and to the purpose, like an honest man. Now he has become a collector of pretty-sounding words. The words he uses are a fantastic banquet with many strange dishes. Is it possible that I will become so converted by falling in love and see things with eyes such as his? I cannot tell, but I think not. I will not swear to it, but love may possibly transform me into an oyster — the lowest form of animal life. But I will swear an oath that until love has made an oyster out of me, love will never make me such a fool as love has made Claudio.”

He paused and then said, “One woman is beautiful, yet I am well. Another woman is wise, yet I am well. Another woman is virtuous, yet I am well. Until all these graces can be found in one woman, I will not fall in love with one woman. The woman I fall in love with shall be rich — that is certain. She must be wise, or I want nothing to do with her. She must be virtuous, or I will not make a bid for her. She must be mild, or I will not let her come near me. She must be noble if I am to be an angel to her. She must be able to hold an intelligent conversation and to play music excellently, and her hair shall be of whatever color it pleased God to make it — it shall not be dyed or a wig.”

He heard a noise, looked up, and said, “Ha! Don Pedro and Monsieur Love! I am not in the mood to hear about a wedding. I will hide in the arbor.”

Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato entered the garden.

“So shall we hear Balthasar sing this song?” Don Pedro asked.

“Yes, my good lord,” Claudio replied. “How still the evening is, as if it were quiet on purpose to honor harmony!”

Don Pedro whispered, “Did you see where Benedick has hidden himself?”

“Yes,” Claudio whispered. “Once the song is over, we will give that hidden fox value for his money.”

Balthasar arrived with a small band of musicians.

“Balthasar, sing that song again,” Don Pedro said.

“My good lord, please do not tax so bad a voice to slander music any more than once.”

“It is evidence of excellency to pretend not to know one’s own perfection. Please, sing, and don’t make me woo you any more.”

“Because you talk of wooing, I will sing,” Balthasar said. “Many wooers woo a woman he thinks is not worthy, and yet he woos her and swears that he loves her.”

“Please, sing,” Don Pedro said. “If you want to continue to make sounds, do so with musical notes.”

“Note this before I sing my notes: Not a note of mine is worth the noting.”

Peeved, Don Pedro said, “Why, these are very crotchety words that he speaks: note, notes, noting, and nothing else — I hear nothing of the song I requested.”

Not wanting Prince Don Pedro to be upset, the musicians began to play.

Benedick, who was hiding, said to himself, “Now, divine music! Now is Don Pedro’s soul ravished! Isn’t it strange that lute strings made from the guts of sheep should draw souls out of the bodies of men and take them to a kind of paradise? Well, I prefer to listen to a hunting horn, when all is said and done.”

Balthasar sang this song:

Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,

Men were deceivers ever,

One foot in sea and one on shore,

To one thing constant never:

Then sigh not so, but let them go,

And be you blithe and bonny,

Converting all your sounds of woe

Into Hey nonny, nonny.

Sing no more ditties, sing no more,

Of sad songs so dull and heavy;

The fraud of men was ever so,

Since summer first was leafy:

Then sigh not so, but let them go,

And be you blithe and bonny,

Converting all your sounds of woe

Into Hey nonny, nonny.’”

Don Pedro said, “Indeed, that is a good song.”

“And a bad singer, my lord,” Balthasar said.

“Ha, no, no — you sing well enough for a makeshift.”

Benedick disagreed with Don Pedro’s opinion of the song and its singer. He said to himself, “If a dog had howled like Balthasar,people would have hanged it. I hope to God that Balthasar’s badvoice is not a predictor of bad things to come. I would rather have heard thenight-raven, predictor of ominous events, no matter whatever plague would follow its croaking.”

The song had reminded Benedick of his relationship with Beatrice. He had not been faithful to her.

“Listen, Balthasar,” Don Pedro said. “Please, get us some excellent music because tomorrow night we will have it played at the Lady Hero’s bedroom window.”

“I will get the best I can, my lord.”

“Do so. Farewell.”

Balthasar exited.

Don Pedro said, “Come here, Leonato. What was it you told me earlier — did you say that your niece Beatrice is in love with Signior Benedick?”

Claudio whispered, “Let us keep stalking our prey. Benedick is listening.”

Claudio said loudly, “I never thought that Beatrice would love any man.”

“Neither did I,” Leonato said. “It is especially to be wondered at that she should so love Signior Benedick, whom she has always seemed to hate in public.”

Benedick thought, Is this possible? Is this the way the wind is blowing? Can Beatrice possibly love me?

“Truly, my lord,” Leonato said. “I don’t know what to think about it, but I do know that she violently loves him. Her love for Benedick is past all understanding.”

“Do you think that she is faking her love?” Don Pedro said.

“That seems plausible,” Claudio said.

“Faking her love for Benedick?” Leonato said. “If so, never has anyone faked love as well as Beatrice.”

“What signs of love does she show?” Don Pedro asked.

Claudio whispered, “Bait the hook well; this fish will bite.”

“What signs, my lord?” Leonato said. “She cannot sleep and sits up at night — you heard my daughter tell you that.”

“She did say that, indeed,” Claudio said.

“How could she fall in love with Benedick?” Don Pedro said. “Your story of her falling in love amazes me. I would have thought that she would be invincible against all assaults of affection. I would have thought that she would never fall in love.”

“I thought the same thing, my lord,” Leonato said. “I especially thought that she would never fall in love with Benedick.”

Benedick thought, I would think that this is a trick, but the white-bearded Leonato is saying that Beatrice loves me. He is a revered old man; surely such an old man would not play a knavish trick.

Claudio whispered, “Benedick has been infected by our lie. Let’s keep up the trick.”

“Has Beatrice told Benedick that she loves him?” Don Pedro said.

“No,” Leonato replied, “and she swears she never will. This torments her.”

“You speak truly,” Claudio said. “Hero told you that. Hero said that Beatrice said, ‘Can I, who have so often treated Benedick with scorn, write to him that I love him?’”

Leonato said, “According to Hero, Beatrice says those words whenever she tries to write to Benedick. She is up twenty times a night, and she sits in her slip until she has covered a piece of paper with writing, my daughter says.”

“Now that you have mentioned a sheet of paper, I remember something funny your daughter told us,” Claudio said.

Leonato said, “You mean when Hero saw a piece of paper that Beatrice had written on and saw that she had written ‘Benedick and Beatrice’ over and over on it until she had covered the paper.”

“Yes,” Claudio said.

“Oh, Beatrice tears her letters into a thousand pieces,” Leonato said, “and criticizes herself for being so immodest to write to someone who she knows would mock her. She says, ‘I predict what he would do by knowing what I would do. If he were to write to me that he loves me, I would mock him even though I love him.’”

“Then she falls down upon her knees,” Claudio said, “and weeps, sobs, beats her chest, tears her hair, prays, and curses. She says, ‘Oh, sweet Benedick! I love you! God give me patience!’”

“She does that, indeed,” Leonato said. “Hero said so. Beatrice is so overwrought with love that my daughter is sometimes afraid that Beatrice will do a desperate outrage to herself: This is the truth.”

“It would be good if Benedick were to learn of Beatrice’s love for him by some other means, if Beatrice will not herself tell him,” Don Pedro said.

“Why?” Claudio said. “Benedick would only make a sport of it and torment the poor lady.”

“If he would treat her that way, the world would be a better place if we hanged him,” Don Pedro said. “Beatrice is an excellent and sweet lady, and everyone knows that she is virtuous.”

Claudio said, “She is also intelligent.”

“In everything except for loving Benedick,” Don Pedro said.

“My lord, when intelligence and love combat in one body for supremacy, ten times out of eleven love will win. I am sorry for Beatrice. I am her uncle and her guardian, and I care for her.”

“I wish that Beatrice loved me so passionately,” Don Pedro said. “Despite the difference in our births and social ranks, I would make her my wife. Let us tell Benedick that Beatrice loves him, and let us hear what he will say.”

“Is that a good idea?” Leonato asked.

“Hero thinks that Beatrice will die,” Claudio said. “Beatrice said that she will die if Benedick does not love her. And she said that she would rather die than tell him that she loves him. And she said that she would rather die than stop her accustomed crossness toward him even if he woos her.”

“Beatrice may well be right,” Don Pedro said. “If she tells Benedick that she loves him, it is very probable that he will scorn and mock her love. As we all know, Benedick can be contemptuous.”

“He is a very handsome man,” Claudio said.

“He has indeed a fortunate appearance,” Don Pedro said.

“Yes,” Claudio said, “and I think that he is very intelligent.”

“He does indeed show some sparks that are both witty and sensible,” Don Pedro said.

“I know that he is courageous,” Claudio said.

“He is as brave as Hector, leader of the Trojan army,” Don Pedro said. “He shows wisdom in the managing of quarrels. He either avoids them with great discretion, or he undertakes them with a most Christian-like fear that makes him want to do the right thing.”

“If he fears God,” Leonato said, “he must necessarily keep the peace: If he breaks the peace and enters into a quarrel, he ought to do so only with Christian fear and trembling and a desire to act ethically.”

“So he does,” Don Pedro said. “In reality, Benedick fears his God. Fearing God is a good thing because it keeps us from doing sin. However, when Benedick makes some of his most notable and critical jests, he does not seem to fear God. Well, I am sorry for your niece. Shall we go seek Benedick, and tell him that Beatrice loves him?”

“Let us never tell him, my lord,” Claudio said. “Let her get over her love with the help of good counsel.”

“No, that is impossible,” Leonato said. “Her heart will break first.”

“We will hear more from Hero,” Don Pedro said. “For now, let us not tell Benedick. I respect Benedick, and I wish that he would look at and evaluate himself — he would see how much he is unworthy to have the love of so good a lady.”

“My lord, shall we go?” Leonato asked. “Dinner is ready.”

Claudio whispered, “If Benedick does not fall in love with Beatrice after hearing this, I will never again trust my innermost beliefs.”

Don Pedro whispered, “Let’s trick Beatrice the same way we tricked Benedick. We will spread the same net for her and trap her. Hero and her gentlewomen attendants will have to do that. We will have good entertainment when Benedick and Beatrice each think that the other is in love, when that is not true — yet. I really want to see them meet. It will be a dumb show — a pantomime — because both will be too embarrassed to speak to each other. Also, their conversation together has consisted entirely of insulting one another, and they will no longer do that and so they will not speak to each other. Let us send Beatrice to call Benedick to dinner.”

Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato exited, leaving the hidden Benedick alone.

Benedick came out from his hiding place and said to himself, “This is no trick. They were talking seriously, and they learned from Hero that Beatrice loves me. They seem to pity the lady: It seems that her love for me is like a bow that has been fully bent — it is stretched to the limit. Beatrice loves me! I must return her love. I hear how I am censured and criticized. They say that I will be haughty if I learn that Beatrice loves me; they also say that she would rather die than show me any sign of affection. I never thought that I would marry. I must not seem haughty — happy are those people who hear about their faults and work to mend them. They say that Beatrice is beautiful; that is true — I can see that for myself. They say that Beatrice is virtuous; that is also true — I know of no evidence against it. They say that Beatrice is intelligent except for loving me. Her loving me may not be good evidence of her intelligence, but I swear that it will not be good evidence of any stupidity — I intend to be horribly in love with her. I may perhaps have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me; people will tease me because I have railed for so long against marriage, but don’t tastes change? A man may love certain foods in his youth that he cannot endure in his old age. Shall quips and sentences and written criticisms — paper bullets that come from the brain — keep a man from following his heart? No, the world must be populated with people. When I said that I would die a bachelor, I did not think that I would live to see the day during which I would marry.

“Look, here comes Beatrice! By God, she is a beautiful woman! I see some signs of lovesickness in her.”

“Against my will, I have been sent to tell you to come in to dinner,” Beatrice said.

“Beautiful Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.”

“I took no more pains for those thanks than you take pains to thank me. If telling you to come in and eat had been too painful to me, I would not have come.”

“You take pleasure then in delivering the message?”

“Yes, just as much pleasure as you can hold on the point of a knife — it is not even enough to choke a chattering crow.”

Beatrice paused, expecting a witty though insulting reply. Not getting one, she said, “You have no stomach, either for food or invective, Signior Benedick? Then fare you well.”

She exited.

“Ha!” Benedick said to himself. “She said, ‘Against my will, I have been sent to tell you to come in to dinner.’ What she said has a double meaning. ‘I took no more pains for those thanks than you took pains to thank me.’ That means the same thing as ‘Any pains that I take for you are as easy as thanks.’ If I do not take pity on her and love her in return, then I am a villain. If I do not love her, then I am not a Christian. I will commission a miniature portrait of Beatrice to be made and set in a locket.”


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David Bruce: William Shakespeare’s MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: A Retelling in Prose ‚ Act 2, Scene 1

 — 2.1 —

In the ballroom of Leonato’s house, Leonato, Antonio, Hero, and Beatrice talked. Other people were also present.

“Was Don John at the feast?” Leonato asked.

“I did not see him there,” Antonio replied.

“How sour that gentleman looks!” Beatrice said. “Each time I see him I am heartburned for an hour afterward.”

Hero said, “Don John is of a very melancholy and ill-tempered disposition.”

“An excellent man would be he who was made halfway between Don John and Benedick,” Beatrice said. “Don John is too much like a portrait and says nothing, and Benedick is too much like the eldest son of a lady; he is spoiled rotten and always chattering due to his expectation of a rich inheritance. The eldest son always inherits the bulk of the estate.”

“In that case,” Leonato said, “half of Signior Benedick’s speech would be in Don John’s mouth, and half of Don John’s melancholy would appear in Signior Benedick’s face —”

“With a good leg for appearance’s sake and with a good foot for dancing, uncle, or with two of each,” Beatrice said, “and with enough money in his wallet, such a man would win any woman in the world, if he could get her good will.”

She thought, The French use “foutre” to refer to sex, and slang uses “money” to refer to semen. In addition, “will” is used in this culture to refer to “sexual passion.” If a handsome man were capable of giving good foutreto a woman and had enough semen in his scrotum, such a man could win any woman in the world, if he could arouse her sexual passion.

“Truly, niece,” Leonato said, “you will never get yourself a husband because you are so shrewish with your tongue.”

“Truly,” Antonio said, “she is too curst — too ill-tempered.”

“Too curst is more than merely curst,” Beatrice said. “I shall lessen God’s sending of gifts by being too curst. It is said, ‘God sends a curst cow short horns,’ but to a cow too curst he sends no horns. God punishes a curst woman by sending her a husband with a short penis.”

“Therefore,” Leonato said, “because you are too curst, God will send you no horn.”

“No horn means no husband because a husband is capable of being horny and producing a horn,” Beatrice said. “I am blessed and thank God every morning and evening on my knees because I have no husband. I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face. I had rather lie in bed between woolen blankets. Both beards and woolen blankets are scratchy.”

“Perhaps you can find a husband who has no beard,” Leonato said. He thought, Benedick has a beard, and Beatrice is unlikely to ever marry him.

“What should I do with a husband who has no beard?” Beatrice replied. “Dress him in my woman’s clothing and make him my waiting-gentlewoman? He who has a beard is more than a youth, and he who has no beard is less than a man. He who is more than a youth is not for me, and he who is less than a man, I am not for him. Therefore, I will take pay from an animal trainer and lead his apes to Hell, as is supposed to be the punishment for a woman who dies unwed and without bearing the children whom she ought to lead to Heaven.”

“Well, then,” Leonato said, “will you go into Hell?”

“No, not into Hell, but to the gate of Hell,” Beatrice said. “The devil will meet me there, like an old cuckold, with horns on his head, and say, ‘Go to Heaven, Beatrice, go to Heaven. This is no place for you maidens.’ So I will hand over my apes to the devil and go away to Saint Peter to be admitted into Heaven. Saint Peter will show me where the unmarried people sit, and there we will live as merrily as the day is long.”

Antonio said to Hero, “Well, niece, I trust that you will listen to your father when it comes time to make the important decision about marriage.”

Beatrice replied, “Yes, indeed; it is my cousin’s duty to make a curtsy and say, ‘Father, I will do whatever you wish.’ But cousin, let your father choose for you a handsome fellow, or else make another curtsy and say, ‘Father, I will do whatever I wish.’”

“Beatrice,” Leonato said, “I hope to see you one day married to a husband.”

“That will not happen until God makes men of some other material than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to have to obey a piece of valiant dust? Or to make an account of her life to a clod of wayward, crumbly dirt? No, uncle, I want nothing to do with marriage. Adam and Eve’s descendants populate the world; Adam’s sons are my brethren, and I believe that it is a sin to commit incest.”

Leonato said to Hero, “Daughter, remember what I told you. If Don Pedro asks you to marry him, you know what to say.”

“The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you are not wooed in good time,” Beatrice said. “He must woo you properly — at the appropriate time and in the proper rhythm. If Don Pedro is too importunate, tell him that measure, proportion, and rhythm are desired in everything, and so dance out the answer. For — listen to me, Hero — wooing, wedding, and repenting are like a Scotch jig, a slow and stately dance measure, and a cinquepace. The wooing of a woman is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and quite fantastic. The wedding is like a slow and stately dance measure, full of state and tradition, and modest in manner and moderate in tempo. Then comes repentance, and the husband with his legs gone bad due to old age dances the cinquepace faster and faster as the time remaining to him passes faster and faster until he sinks apace — quickly — into his grave.”

“Beatrice, you are very perceptive — your understanding is very sharp,” Leonato said.

“I have a good eye, uncle,” Beatrice said. “I can see a church by daylight — I can see what is obvious.”

“The revelers are entering, Antonio,” Leonato said. “Let’s move aside and make room for them to dance.”

Leonato, Antonio, Hero, and Beatrice all put on their masks as the masked revelers — Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, the singer Balthasar, Borachio, Margaret (a gentlewoman who served Hero and who loved Borachio), Ursula (another gentlewoman who served Hero), and others arrived. Each mask was elegant and did a good job of hiding the wearer’s face.

Don Pedro asked Hero, “Lady, will you dance with me — a man who loves you?”

“Yes,” Hero replied. “As long as you dance gently — without stepping on my toes — and look handsome and say nothing, I am yours for as long as we dance around the room and especially when I walk away in the steps of this formal dance.”

“When you walk away after the dance, will you ask me to accompany you?” Don Pedro asked.

“I may very well do so, if it pleases me to do so.”

“And when would it please you to ask me to accompany you?”

“When I know that I like your face,” Hero said. “A lute is a beautiful instrument, but it is often hidden by the ugly case it is kept in. I would hate for your face to be as ugly as the mask that covers it.”

“My mask is like the humble thatched cottage roof that kept the rain off humble Philemon, whose character was made of gold. When the god Jupiter traveled the earth in disguise to test the hospitality of the people he met, Philemon and his wife, Baucis, gave the disguised god the best hospitality that they were capable of giving.”

“If what you say is true, then your mask should be thatched with hair,” Hero replied.

“Speak quietly, and let us speak about love,” Don Pedro said.

They danced.

In another part of the ballroom, Balthasar said to Margaret, “Well, I wish that you would like me.”

“For your sake, I do not wish that,” Margaret said. She loved Borachio, but she also loved to tease other men. “I have many bad qualities.”

“Name one.”

“I say my prayers out loud.”

“I love you all the more because of it. Those who hear your prayers can cry, ‘Amen!’”

“I hope that God matches me with a good dancer!”


“And I hope that God keeps him out of my sight when the dance is done. Answer me the way the congregation answers a good preacher. Say ‘Amen!’”

“No more words. I have finished,” Balthasar said.

They danced.

In another part of the ballroom, Ursula, who had recognized the masked Antonio, said to him, “I know who you are; you are Signior Antonio.”

Antonio denied it: “No, I am not Antonio.”

“I know that you are Antonio by the way you move your head. Due to your old age, it trembles.”

“No,” Antonio said, like many people at masked dances who deny that they are who they are. “I am imitating Antonio.”

“You could never imitate him so well, including his old age, unless you were Antonio,” Ursula said. “Antonio is an old man, and you are exactly like an old man from top to bottom. Your hands are his hands. You are Antonio, and Antonio is you.”

“I am not Antonio,” Antonio said.

“Come, come, do you think I do not know you by your excellent sense of humor? Can such an excellent quality hide itself? Stop denying it. Your good qualities have revealed that you are Antonio, and there is nothing more to be said about it.”

In another part of the ballroom, Beatrice talked with Benedick, who had earlier recognized her by her voice.

Beatrice asked, “Won’t you tell me who told you what you just said to me?”

Still disguising his voice, Benedick replied, “Please pardon me, but no.”

“And you won’t tell me who you are?”

“Not now,” Benedick replied.

“Someone told you that I was disdainful, and that I stole my witty comments out of an old joke book titled A Hundred Merry Tales. Well, I know who told you that — it was Signior Benedick who said so.”

“Who is Signior Benedick?” Signior Benedick asked Beatrice.

“I am sure you know him well enough.”

“No, I don’t — believe me.”

“Hasn’t he ever made you laugh?”

“Please, who is he?”

“He is Don Pedro’s jester. He is a very dull and stupid fool. His only talent is inventing incredible slanders. No one but libertines who laugh at any joke delight in him, and they like him not because of his wit, but because of his villainies. He pleases some men by telling outrageous and villainous lies about other men, and then some men laugh at him and other men beat him. I am sure he is somewhere in this fleet of masked dancers. I wish that he had tried to board me with his wit — I know how to defend myself against his wit with my wit.”

“When I become acquainted with the gentleman, I will tell him what you are saying,” Benedick said.

“Do so,” Beatrice said. “He will make a joke about me and scornfully compare me to something nasty. If no one hears him or laughs, then he will sink into melancholy, and not eat, thereby saving his host a partridge wing.”

She listened to the music that started a new dance and said, “We must follow the leaders of the dance.”

“In every good thing,” Benedick said.

“If the leaders try to lead us to any bad thing, I will leave the dance floor at the first opportunity I get.”

Benedick and Beatrice danced.

A little later, in another part of the ballroom, Don John and Borachio talked. Claudio was nearby, but out of hearing distance.

Don John said, “I have been watching my half-brother, Don Pedro. I know that he is wooing Hero for Claudio but anyone who did not already know that would think that he was wooing her for himself. I think I can cause some trouble now. Don Pedro has left the dance floor to talk to Hero’s father and tell him that Claudio wishes to marry Hero. Actually, everyone except for we two and this one masked man has left the dance floor. The musicians are taking a break, and almost everyone is getting refreshments.”

“I know who the masked man over there is,” Borachio said. “He is Claudio. I can tell by his posture and the way he carries himself.”

Don John and Borachio walked over to Claudio.

Eager to cause trouble, Don John asked, “Aren’t you Signior Benedick?”

Often, people at masked dances lie to keep their identities hidden and have fun. Claudio did so now.

“You know who I am,” Claudio said. “I am Signior Benedick.”

“Signior Benedick, you are very close to my brother; he greatly respects you. Don Pedro is in love with Hero. Please, try to convince him not to marry her. Don Pedro is a Prince, and her birth is not equal to his birth. If you convince Don Pedro not to marry Hero, you will do a good deed.”

“How do you know that Don Pedro loves Hero?” Claudio asked.

“I heard him swear his affection to her,” Don Pedro lied.

“I did, too,” Borachio said. “Don Pedro swore tonight that he would marry Hero.”

“Come, let us get some refreshments,” Don John said.

He and Borachio left, but Claudio remained behind and said to himself, “I pretended to be Benedick when I spoke, but myears are the ears that have heard this bad news. I believe what I heard. I am certain that Don Pedro, who greatly outranks me and to whom I have sworn my allegiance, loves Hero and has wooed her for himself so that he can marry her. Friendship is enduring in everything except when it comes to love. Therefore, all hearts in love ought to use their own tongues and do their own wooing. Let every eye negotiate for itself and trust no agent to negotiate a wedding. Beauty is a witch that charms the eye and turns friendship into rivalry. Such things as this happen every hour of every day, and I ought not to have trusted Don Pedro. Farewell, therefore, Hero! You shall be married to Don Pedro and not to me.”

Benedick, who had heard Don Pedro’s gossip, now entered the ballroom and, seeing the masked Claudio, asked him, “Are you Count Claudio?”

“Yes, I am.”

“Come, will you go with me?”


“We should seek a weeping willow — that symbol of unrequited love — because I have bad news for you. In what fashion will you wear your weeping-willow garland? Will you wear it about your neck, like a usurer’s gold chain? Or over your right shoulder and under your left arm, like a lieutenant’s scarf? You must wear it one way or another because Don Pedro has won your Hero. You may wish to continue to be his friend and grow rich from his bounty, or you may wish to challenge him to a duel.”

“I wish him joy of her,” Claudio said bitterly.

“You sound like an honorable seller of cattle — that is how they talk when selling a young castrated bull,” Benedick said. Even now, he was unable to stop making unappreciated jokes. “But seriously, did you think that Don Pedro would treat you like this?”

“Please, leave me and let me be alone,” Claudio said.

“Now you are acting like a blind man,” Benedick said. “You are striking out and hitting everything close to you. A boy stole your meat, but in your blindness you are hitting a post.”

“If you will not leave me, then I will leave you,” Claudio said.

He exited.

“Alas, poor hurt fowl!” Benedick said. “Now he will creep into a bush and use it as a hiding place.”

He paused and then added, “I am surprised that my Lady Beatrice should know me very well, and yet not know me when I was wearing a mask! She called me Don Pedro’s fool! Really! It may be that I am called that because I am merry. Perhaps, but I think that I am doing wrong to believe her when she said that. I am not so reputed; no one but Beatrice would call me Don Pedro’s fool. Beatrice has a base and bitter disposition that makes her believe that the entire world has the same opinion of me that she does. Well, I will be revenged on her as soon as I find an opportunity.”

Don Pedro now entered the room and asked Benedick, “Where is Claudio? Have you seen him?”

“Indeed, my lord, I have played the role of Lady Gossip. I found him here as melancholy as a lonely gamekeeper’s lonely lodge in a lonely warren. I told Claudio — and I think I told him the truth — that you had gotten the good will of this young lady and her agreement to marry, and so I offered to accompany Claudio on a visit to a willow-tree, either to make him a garland of weeping willow because he is forsaken by love, or to make him a rod because he deserves to be whipped.”

“To be whipped! What is he guilty of?” Don Pedro said, puzzled. He had done what he had said he would do and had courted Hero for Claudio and had gotten her good will and her father’s permission for Claudio to marry her. Now he wanted to share the good news with Claudio.

“He is guilty of the undeniable transgression of a schoolboy, who, being overjoyed with finding a bird’s nest, shows it to his companion, who steals it,” Benedick said.

“The schoolboy is guilty of nothing. Having trust in someone is a virtue, not a vice. The companion who stole the bird’s nest is the guilty one.”

“Nevertheless, it would have been appropriate for a rod to be made from a weeping willow, and for the garland to be made as well. Claudio could wear the garland himself, and use the rod to beat you because — as I understand it — you have stolen his bird’s nest.”

Understanding dawned on Don Pedro. Gossip is often wrong, and great men are often the subjects of gossip. He said, “My intention is only to teach the nestlings how to sing and then I will return them to their owner. Soon enough, people will be talking about Hero’s marriage to Claudio.”

“If what the nestlings say agrees with what you are saying, then I will know that you are telling the truth.”

Don Pedro could have been insulted by this comment, but he knew and liked Benedick, who had recently fought bravely in battle for him, and one of the things that Don Pedro knew and liked about Benedick was his willingness to say plainly what he was thinking. Right now, Benedick was thinking that Don Pedro really wanted Hero for himself. No matter. Soon the truth would be known.

Right now, Don Pedro changed the subject: “The Lady Beatrice has a quarrel with you. The gentleman who danced with her told her that she is much wronged by you. The gentleman said that you insulted her.”

“I am the masked gentleman who danced with her,” Benedick replied. “She did not recognize me. I told her that someone said to me that she was disdainful and that she stole her witty comments out of an old joke book titled A Hundred Merry Tales. Of course, Beatrice being Beatrice, she immediately concluded that the insulting gentleman was me. Beatrice so abused me in words that even a block of wood would not endure it. An oak with only one green leaf on it would have revived and responded to her abuse. My mask seemed to come to life and answer her. She told me, not knowing that I was Benedick, that I was your jester. She told me that I was duller than a great thaw during which the roads are so muddy that no one can leave home and so is forced to remain at home and be bored. She kept firing jest upon jest with such incredible skill at me — whom she did not think to be me — that I felt that I was standing next to an archery target with a whole army shooting at it. Beatrice’s words are daggers, and every word stabs. If her breath were as terrible as her insulting sentences, no one could live near her; she would infect the air from here to the North Star and the outer limits of the universe. I would not marry her even if she were endowed with all that Adam had before he sinned and was thrown out of the Garden of Eden. She would have forced Hercules to dress in women’s clothing and turn the spit on which meat roasted and do other work in the kitchen — yes, and she would broken his club and made firewood out of it, too. But let us not talk about her — she is a well-dressed but infernal Ate — the goddess of delusion and folly. I wish to God that some scholar would exorcise whatever demon possesses her. It is certain that while she is alive here on Earth, a man may live as quietly in Hell as he could in a sanctuary, and it is certain that people sin on purpose because they prefer to go to Hell for the peace and quiet rather than stay on Earth with Beatrice. Indeed, all disquiet, horror, and perturbation follow that woman.”

Don Pedro said to Benedick, “Look, here comes Beatrice now.”

Claudio, Beatrice, Hero, and Leonato walked over to Don Pedro and Benedick. Claudio was unhappy because he thought that Don Pedro and Hero were going to marry each other.

Benedick said to Don Pedro, “Will your grace command me to perform any service at the end of the world? I will go on any errand now to the opposite side of the Earth that you can think of to send me on. I will fetch you a toothpick from the furthest part of Asia. I will find the Christian emperor Prester John and measure the size of his feet and bring you the measurement. I will bring you a hair from the beard of Kubla Khan. I will embark on any embassy to the Pygmies. I will do any or all of these things rather than exchange three words with this Harpy named Beatrice. Do you have any such far-traveling task that you want me to perform?”

“No,” Don Pedro said. “All I want is your friendship and company.”

“Sir, here before me is a dish I do not love,” Benedick said. “I cannot endure Lady Tongue.”

Benedick exited.

“Beatrice,” Don Pedro said, “you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.”

“Indeed, my lord, he once lent me his heart for a while,” Beatrice said, “and I gave him interest for it. I gave him my heart, and so he received a double heart: my heart, which I gave him, and his own heart, which he lent to me and then took back. In fact, he won my heart and took it from me by using loaded dice, and so you may truthfully say I have lost it.”

“You have put him down, lady. You have put him down with words.”

“I hope that he will not put me down on my back, my lord, lest I should thereafter give birth to fools,” Beatrice said, then added, “I have brought Count Claudio, whom you sent me to seek.”

Don Pedro looked at Claudio and noticed that he did not look happy. Don Pedro said to him, “How are you, Claudio? Why do you look sad?”

“I am not sad, my lord.”

“Are you sick?” Don Pedro asked.

“I am neither sad nor sick, my lord.”

Beatrice said, “Claudio is neither sad, nor sick, nor merry, nor well. Instead, he is as civil as an orange, and we all know that oranges from Seville, Spain, are bitter. If orange is the color of jealousy, then Claudio is jealous.”

“Beatrice, I think your description of Claudio is correct, but if he is jealous, I swear that he has no reason to be jealous,” Don Pedro said.

He then said to Claudio, “As I promised you, I wooed Hero in your name, and I have won her for you. I have spoken with her father and have obtained his good will. He approves of the match, so name the day that you will marry Hero, and may God give you joy!”

Leonato said, “Claudio, take my daughter and marry her, and with her take my fortune. Don Pedro has set up the match of you and my daughter, and may God bless this wedding.”

Claudio was so surprised that he could not speak.

Beatrice said, “Speak, Count Claudio. It is your cue.”

“Complete silence most perfectly announces complete joy,” Claudio said. “I would be only a little happy, if I could say how much I am happy. Hero, as you are mine, I am yours: I give myself to you, and this exchange makes me ecstatic.”

Beatrice said, “Speak, Hero, or, if you cannot, stop his talking with a kiss, and do not let him speak.”

Claudio and Hero kissed.

Don Pedro said to Beatrice, “Lady, you have a merry heart.”

“Yes, I do, my lord,” Beatrice said. “I thank it, poor fool that it is, because it keeps me upwind of and safe from trouble. Look, Hero is whispering in Claudio’s ear that he is in her heart.”

“You are correct, and you are now my relative,” Claudio said.

“Why, so I am,” Beatrice said. “I am now your in-law. With marriage come new relatives and alliances. To the wedding altar goes everyone in the world but I — men must think that I am unattractive and sunburnt like a peasant woman who has to work outside all day. I may as well sit in a corner and sigh for a husband!”

“Lady Beatrice, I can get you a husband,” Don Pedro said.

“I would like to have a husband who is of your father’s begetting. Does your grace have any brothers like you? Your father must have sired excellent husbands, if a maiden could find them.”

“Will you have me, lady?” Don Pedro asked.

Unsure whether this was a real proposal — her birth was not equal to Don Pedro’s birth — and unsure how to act if in fact it were a real proposal, Beatrice took refuge in a joke: “No, my lord, unless I might have another husband for working days. You are too fancy to be my husband except on Sundays. But please pardon me: I was born to speak all mirth and no matter. From me, you get jokes, not serious conversation.”

“Your silence most offends me, and your merriness best becomes you because, no doubt, you were born in a merry hour,” Don Pedro said.

“On the day that I was born, my mother cried during labor,” Beatrice replied, “but a star danced in the sky, and I was born with a horoscope that indicated merriness. May God give all of you joy!”

Leonato said, “Beatrice, will you do those errands I told you about earlier?”

“Yes, uncle,” Beatrice said, understanding that he was a little embarrassed by the joking between Don Pedro and her and so wanted her to leave. She said politely to Don Pedro, “Please excuse me,” and left.

Don Pedro said, “She is a pleasant-spirited lady.”

“There is little of melancholy in her, my lord,” Leonato said. “Beatrice is never sad except when she sleeps, and she is not always sad then, for I have heard my daughter say that Beatrice has often dreamed of unhappiness and then woken herself up with laughing.”

“She cannot endure to hear tell of a husband,” Don Pedro said.

“No, not at all,” Leonato said. “She laughs at all who try to woo her and so they woo someone else.”

“She would be an excellent wife for Benedick,” Don Pedro said.

Surprised, Leonato replied, “My lord, if they were married, they would make each other insane within a week.”

Don Pedro asked Claudio, “On what day do you want to go to church and be married?”

“Tomorrow, my lord. Time travels slowly — like an old man on crutches — until the love of Hero and me is properly recognized in a wedding ceremony.”

“That is too soon,” Leonato said. “Wait until Monday, my dear son, which is just a week away, and a time too brief, too, to properly plan a wedding.”

Don Pedro said to Claudio, “You are shaking your head with disappointment at having to wait so long, but I promise you that this upcoming week will not be boring. I will during this week undertake a new labor of Hercules. He did such things as bring the three-headed guard dog Cerberus out of Hell, but I plan to make Signior Benedick and the Lady Beatrice fall in love with each other. When I am finished, they will feel a mountain of love for each other. I want them to be married, and I believe that I can accomplish it, if you three will only give me such assistance as I shall ask you for.”

Leonato said, “My lord, I will do so even if it keeps me awake for ten nights in a row.”

“So will, I, my lord,” Claudio said.

“How about you, gentle Hero?” Don Pedro said.

“I will do anything that is respectable, my lord, to help Beatrice to get a good husband.”

“Benedick is not the worst candidate for a husband that I know,” Don Pedro said. “I can and do praise him. He is from a noble family, and he has proven that he is courageous in battle and has established that he has a good character. Hero, I will teach you how to influence your cousin so that she will fall in love with Benedick. In addition, I, with the help of Leonato and Claudio, will so work on Benedick that, despite his quick wit and his queasy stomach for marriage, he will fall in love with Beatrice. If we can do this, Cupid will be out of a job because we will take his glory and his job and become the gods of love. I will tell you my plan.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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