Reference > William Shakespeare > The Oxford Shakespeare > Much Ado about Nothing
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William Shakespeare (1564–1616).  The Oxford Shakespeare.  1914.
 
Much Ado about Nothing
 
Act IV. Scene I.
 
The Inside of a Church.
 
Enter DON PEDRO, DON JOHN, LEONATO, FRIAR FRANCIS, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, HERO, BEATRICE, &c.
  Leon.  Come, Friar Francis, be brief: only to the plain form of marriage, and you shall recount their particular duties afterwards.
  Friar.  You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady?
  Claud.  No.        5
  Leon.  To be married to her, friar; you come to marry her.
  Friar.  Lady, you come hither to be married to this count?
  Hero.  I do.
  Friar.  If either of you know any inward impediment, why you should not be conjoined, I charge you, on your souls, to utter it.
  Claud.  Know you any, Hero?        10
  Hero.  None, my lord.
  Friar.  Know you any, count?
  Leon.  I dare make his answer; none.
  Claud.  O! what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily do, not knowing what they do!
  Bene.  How now! Interjections? Why then, some be of laughing, as ah! ha! he!        15
  Claud.  Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave:
Will you with free and unconstrained soul
Give me this maid, your daughter?
  Leon.  As freely, son, as God did give her me.
  Claud.  And what have I to give you back whose worth        20
May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?
  D. Pedro.  Nothing, unless you render her again.
  Claud.  Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
There, Leonato, take her back again:
Give not this rotten orange to your friend;        25
She’s but the sign and semblance of her honour.
Behold! how like a maid she blushes here.
O! what authority and show of truth
Can cunning sin cover itself withal.
Comes not that blood as modest evidence        30
To witness simple virtue? Would you not swear,
All you that see her, that she were a maid,
By these exterior shows? But she is none:
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.        35
  Leon.  What do you mean, my lord?
  Claud.        Not to be married,
Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.
  Leon.  Dear my lord, if you, in your own proof,
Have vanquish’d the resistance of her youth,        40
And made defeat of her virginity,—
  Claud.  I know what you would say: if I have known her,
You’ll say she did embrace me as a husband,
And so extenuate the ’forehand sin:
No, Leonato,        45
I never tempted her with word too large;
But, as a brother to his sister, show’d
Bashful sincerity and comely love.
  Hero.  And seem’d I ever otherwise to you?
  Claud.  Out on thee! Seeming! I will write against it:        50
You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pamper’d animals
That rage in savage sensuality.        55
  Hero.  Is my lord well, that he doth speak so wide?
  Leon.  Sweet prince, why speak not you?
  D. Pedro.        What should I speak?
I stand dishonour’d, that have gone about
To link my dear friend to a common stale.        60
  Leon.  Are these things spoken, or do I but dream?
  D. John.  Sir, they are spoken, and these things are true.
  Bene.  This looks not like a nuptial.
  Hero.        True! O God!
  Claud.  Leonato, stand I here?        65
Is this the prince? Is this the prince’s brother?
Is this face Hero’s? Are our eyes our own?
  Leon.  All this is so; but what of this, my lord?
  Claud.  Let me but move one question to your daughter;
And by that fatherly and kindly power        70
That you have in her, bid her answer truly.
  Leon.  I charge thee do so, as thou art my child.
  Hero.  O, God defend me! how am I beset!
What kind of catechizing call you this?
  Claud.  To make you answer truly to your name.        75
  Hero.  Is it not Hero? Who can blot that name
With any just reproach?
  Claud.        Marry, that can Hero:
Hero itself can blot out Hero’s virtue.
What man was he talk’d with you yesternight        80
Out at your window, betwixt twelve and one?
Now, if you are a maid, answer to this.
  Hero.  I talk’d with no man at that hour, my lord.
  D. Pedro.  Why, then are you no maiden. Leonato,
I am sorry you must hear: upon mine honour,        85
Myself, my brother, and this grieved count,
Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night,
Talk with a ruffian at her chamber-window;
Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
Confess’d the vile encounters they have had        90
A thousand times in secret.
  D. John.  Fie, fie! they are not to be nam’d, my lord,
Not to be spoke of;
There is not chastity enough in language
Without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,        95
I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.
  Claud.  O Hero! what a Hero hadst thou been,
If half thy outward graces had been plac’d
About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!
But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! farewell,        100
Thou pure impiety, and impious purity!
For thee I’ll lock up all the gates of love,
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
And never shall it more be gracious.        105
  Leon.  Hath no man’s dagger here a point for me?  [HERO swoons.
  Beat.  Why, how now, cousin! wherefore sink you down?
  D. John.  Come, let us go. These things, come thus to light,
Smother her spirits up.  [Exeunt DON PEDRO, DON JOHN and CLAUDIO.
  Bene.  How doth the lady?        110
  Beat.        Dead, I think! help, uncle!
Hero! why, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick!
Friar!
  Leon.  O Fate! take not away thy heavy hand:
Death is the fairest cover for her shame        115
That may be wish’d for.
  Beat.        How now, cousin Hero!
  Friar.  Have comfort, lady.
  Leon.  Dost thou look up?
  Friar.        Yea; wherefore should she not?        120
  Leon.  Wherefore! Why, doth not every earthly thing
Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny
The story that is printed in her blood?
Do not live, Hero; do not ope thine eyes;
For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,        125
Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
Myself would, on the rearward of reproaches,
Strike at thy life. Griev’d I, I had but one?
Chid I for that at frugal nature’s frame?
O! one too much by thee. Why had I one?        130
Why ever wast thou lovely in mine eyes?
Why had I not with charitable hand
Took up a beggar’s issue at my gates,
Who smirched thus, and mir’d with infamy,
I might have said, ‘No part of it is mine;        135
This shame derives itself from unknown loins?’
But mine, and mine I lov’d, and mine I prais’d,
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her; why, she—O! she is fallen        140
Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again,
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul-tainted flesh.
  Bene.        Sir, sir, be patient.        145
For my part, I am so attir’d in wonder,
I know not what to say.
  Beat.  O! on my soul, my cousin is belied!
  Bene.  Lady, were you her bedfellow last night?
  Beat.  No, truly, not; although, until last night,        150
I have this twelvemonth been her bedfellow.
  Leon.  Confirm’d, confirm’d! O! that is stronger made,
Which was before barr’d up with ribs of iron.
Would the two princes lie? and Claudio lie,
Who lov’d her so, that, speaking of her foulness,        155
Wash’d it with tears? Hence from her! let her die.
  Friar.  Hear me a little;
For I have only been silent so long,
And given way unto this course of fortune,
By noting of the lady: I have mark’d        160
A thousand blushing apparitions
To start into her face; a thousand innocent shames
In angel whiteness bear away those blushes;
And in her eye there hath appear’d a fire,
To burn the errors that these princes hold        165
Against her maiden truth. Call me a fool;
Trust not my reading nor my observations,
Which with experimental seal doth warrant
The tenour of my book; trust not my age,
My reverence, calling, nor divinity,        170
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
Under some biting error.
  Leon.        Friar, it cannot be.
Thou seest that all the grace that she hath left
Is, that she will not add to her damnation        175
A sin of perjury: she not denies it.
Why seek’st thou then to cover with excuse
That which appears in proper nakedness?
  Friar.  Lady, what man is he you are accus’d of?
  Hero.  They know that do accuse me, I know none;        180
If I know more of any man alive
Than that which maiden modesty doth warrant,
Let all my sins lack mercy! O, my father!
Prove you that any man with me convers’d
At hours unmeet, or that I yesternight        185
Maintain’d the change of words with any creature,
Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death.
  Friar.  There is some strange misprision in the princes.
  Bene.  Two of them have the very bent of honour;
And if their wisdoms be misled in this,        190
The practice of it lives in John the bastard,
Whose spirits toil in frame of villanies.
  Leon.  I know not. If they speak but truth of her,
These hands shall tear her; if they wrong her honour,
The proudest of them shall well hear of it.        195
Time hath not yet so dried this blood of mine.
Nor age so eat up my invention,
Nor fortune made such havoc of my means,
Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends,
But they shall find, awak’d in such a kind,        200
Both strength of limb and policy of mind,
Ability in means and choice of friends,
To quit me of them throughly.
  Friar.        Pause awhile,
And let my counsel sway you in this case.        205
Your daughter here the princes left for dead;
Let her awhile be secretly kept in,
And publish it that she is dead indeed:
Maintain a mourning ostentation;
And on your family’s old monument        210
Hang mournful epitaphs and do all rites
That appertain unto a burial.
  Leon.  What shall become of this? What will this do?
  Friar.  Marry, this well carried shall on her behalf
Change slander to remorse; that is some good:        215
But not for that dream I on this strange course,
But on this travail look for greater birth.
She dying, as it must be so maintain’d,
Upon the instant that she was accus’d,
Shall be lamented, pitied and excus’d        220
Of every hearer; for it so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack’d and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us        225
Whiles it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio:
When he shall hear she died upon his words,
The idea of her life shall sweetly creep
Into his study of imagination,
And every lovely organ of her life        230
Shall come apparell’d in more precious habit,
More moving-delicate, and full of life
Into the eye and prospect of his soul,
Than when she liv’d indeed: then shall he mourn,—
If ever love had interest in his liver,—        235
And wish he had not so accused her,
No, though he thought his accusation true.
Let this be so, and doubt not but success
Will fashion the event in better shape
Than I can lay it down in likelihood.        240
But if all aim but this be levell’d false,
The supposition of the lady’s death
Will quench the wonder of her infamy:
And if it sort not well, you may conceal her,—
As best befits her wounded reputation,—        245
In some reclusive and religious life,
Out of all eyes, tongues, minds, and injuries.
  Bene.  Signior Leonato, let the friar advise you:
And though you know my inwardness and love
Is very much unto the prince and Claudio,        250
Yet, by mine honour, I will deal in this
As secretly and justly as your soul
Should with your body.
  Leon.        Being that I flow in grief,
The smallest twine may lead me.        255
  Friar.  ’Tis well consented: presently away;
For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure.
Come, lady, die to live: this wedding day
Perhaps is but prolong’d: have patience and endure.  [Exeunt FRIAR, HERO, and LEONATO.
  Bene.  Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?        260
  Beat.  Yea, and I will weep a while longer.
  Bene.  I will not desire that.
  Beat.  You have no reason; I do it freely.
  Bene.  Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged.
  Beat.  Ah! how much might the man deserve of me that would right her.        265
  Bene.  Is there any way to show such friendship?
  Beat.  A very even way, but no such friend.
  Bene.  May a man do it?
  Beat.  It is a man’s office, but not yours.
  Bene.  I do love nothing in the world so well as you: is not that strange?        270
  Beat.  As strange as the thing I know not. It were as possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as you; but believe me not, and yet I lie not; I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.
  Bene.  By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.
  Beat.  Do not swear by it, and eat it.
  Bene.  I will swear by it that you love me; and I will make him eat it that says I love not you.
  Beat.  Will you not eat your word?        275
  Bene.  With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest I love thee.
  Beat.  Why then, God forgive me!
  Bene.  What offence, sweet Beatrice?
  Beat.  You have stayed me in a happy hour:
I was about to protest I loved you.        280
  Bene.  And do it with all thy heart.
  Beat.  I love you with so much of my heart that none is left to protest.
  Bene.  Come, bid me do anything for thee.
  Beat.  Kill Claudio.
  Bene.  Ha! not for the wide world.        285
  Beat.  You kill me to deny it. Farewell.
  Bene.  Tarry, sweet Beatrice.
  Beat.  I am gone, though I am here: there is no love in you: nay, I pray you, let me go.
  Bene.  Beatrice,—
  Beat.  In faith, I will go.        290
  Bene.  We’ll be friends first.
  Beat.  You dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.
  Bene.  Is Claudio thine enemy?
  Beat.  Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O! that I were a man. What! bear her in hand until they come to take hands, and then, with public accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour,—O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.
  Bene.  Hear me, Beatrice,—        295
  Beat.  Talk with a man out at a window! a proper saying!
  Bene.  Nay, but Beatrice,—
  Beat.  Sweet Hero! she is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone.
  Bene.  Beat—
  Beat.  Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony, a goodly Count Comfect; a sweet gallant, surely! O! that I were a man for his sake, or that I had any friend would be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into curtsies, valour into compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules, that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.        300
  Bene.  Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee.
  Beat.  Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it.
  Bene.  Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?
  Beat.  Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.
  Bene.  Enough! I am engaged, I will challenge him. I will kiss your hand, and so leave you. By this hand, Claudio shall render me a dear account. As you hear of me, so think of me. Go, comfort your cousin: I must say she is dead; and so, farewell.  [Exeunt.        305
 
 
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