Act 1 Scene 1

  1. Enter Leonato, Governor of Messina; Hero, his daughter; and Beatrice, his niece, with a messenger, Borachio.

  2. Leonato:

    I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Aragon comes this night to Messina.

  3. Messenger:

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

  4. Leonato:

    How many gentlemen have you lost in action? 

  5. Messenger:

    But few of any sort, and none of name.

  6. Leonato:

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

  7. Messenger:

    Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro. He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion. He hath indeed better bettered expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how.

  8. Leonato:

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

  9. Messenger:

    I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him, even so much that joy could not show itself modest enough without a badge of bitterness.

  10. Leonato:

    Did he break out into tears?

  11. Messenger:

    In great measure.

  12. Leonato:

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

  13. Beatrice:

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

  14. Messenger:

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

  15. Leonato:

    What is he that you ask for, niece?

  16. Hero:

    My cousin means Signor Benedick of Padua.

  17. Messenger:

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

  18. Beatrice:

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

  19. Leonato:

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

  20. Messenger:

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

  21. Beatrice:

    You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it. He's a very valiant trencherman, he hath an excellent stomach.

  22. Messenger:

    And a good soldier too, lady.

  23. Beatrice:

    And a good soldier to a lady. But what is he to a lord?

  24. Messenger:

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

  25. Beatrice:

    It is so indeed? He is no less than a stuffed man. But for the stuffing - well, we are all mortal.

  26. Leonato:

    You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her. They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them.

  27. Beatrice:

    Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one. So that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse, for it is all the wealth that he hath left to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.

  28. Messenger:

    Is't possible?

  29. Beatrice:

    Very easily possible. He wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next style.

  30. Messenger:

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

  31. Beatrice:

    No, and if he were, I would burn my study. But I pray you, who is his companion? Is there no young squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the devil?

  32. Messenger:

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

  33. Beatrice:

    O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease! He is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! If he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured.

  34. Messenger:

    I will hold friends with you, lady.

  35. Beatrice:

    Do, good friend.

  36. Leonato:

    You will never run mad, niece. 

  37. Beatrice:

    No, not till a hot January.

  38. Messenger:

    Don Pedro is approached.

  39. Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, and Don John [the Bastard]

  40. Don Pedro:

    Good Signor Leonato, you are come to meet your trouble. The fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it. 

  41. Leonato:

    Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your Grace, for trouble being gone, comfort should remain. But when you depart from me, sorrow abides and happiness takes his leave.

  42. Don Pedro:

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

  43. Leonato:

    Her mother hath many times told me so.

  44. Benedick:

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

  45. Leonato:

    Signor Benedick, no, for then were you a child.

  46. Don Pedro:

    You have it full, Benedick. We may guess by this what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady fathers herself. Be happy lady, for you are like an honourable father.

  47. [Don Pedro and Leonato talk privately.]

  48. Benedick:

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

  49. Beatrice:

    I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor Benedick, nobody marks you.

  50. Benedick:

    What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?

  51. Beatrice:

    Is it possible Disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signor Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in my presence.

  52. Benedick:

    Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted, and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for truly I love none.

  53. Beatrice:

    A dear happiness to women, they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that. I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me.

  54. Benedick:

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

  55. Beatrice:

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

  56. Benedick:

    Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher. 

  57. Beatrice:

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

  58. Benedick:

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

  59. Beatrice:

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

  60. Don Pedro:

    [Ending his talk with Leonato.] That is the sum of all, Leonato. Signior Claudio and Signor Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him we shall stay here, at the least month, and he heartily prays some occasion may detain us longer. I dare swear he is  no hypocrite, but prays from his heart.

  61. Leonato:

    If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn. [To Donna Joan.] Let me bid you welcome, my lord.Being reconciled to the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.

  62. Donna Joan:

    I thank you. I am not of many words, but I thank you. 

  63. Leonato:

    [To Don Pedro.] Please it your Grace lead on?

  64. Don Pedro:

    Your hand Leonato, we will go together.