And . . . cue action!
On the day of Hero's wedding to Claudio, Claudio declares her a whore, and the Prince seconds it. Don John piles on as well, and Hero faints. Exit everyone except Hero, Beatrice, Benedick, Leonato and the Friar, whereupon Leonato, Hero's father, calls Hero a whore as well and threatens to kill her himself. Because he loved her so very much, you see, and love can't tolerate disappointment. Or something.
Remember that bit yesterday in Act I, sc. 1, where I mentioned the foreshadowing, when Claudio said he loved Hero, and the Prince said she was worthy, and Benedick was all "I don't like her"? Well, when the fat hits the fire, Benedick is the first male to be solicitous about Hero's well-being, the first to caution Leonato to chill out for moment, the one to talk Leonato into going along with the story that Friar concocts (claiming that Hero is dead), and the first to suggest that Don John is to blame.
Leonato and the Friar take Hero off to stash her away, and Beatrice and Benedick converse.
In which I give you their entire conversation,
because I love it too much to cut it up or summarize it
Bene. Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?
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.
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?
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?
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.
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.
Beat. In faith, I will go.
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,—
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.
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.
Act IV, sc. 1.
Benedick's line here is one of my very favorites that Shakespeare ever wrote:
I do love nothing in this world so well as you: is not that strange? *swoons*
The dialogue about love that follows Benedick's confession is heartfelt and lovely. Benedick's offer to do anything to prove his love, followed by immediately balking at killing his friend shows him to be a man of sense, I think, even though he later allows himself to be talked around to the notion. Beatrice's impassioned declarations whereby she seeks to convince Benedick to challenge "County" Claudio to a duel show courage and fire and clearly evince protest at the constraints placed on women as well as a hankering for a more active role in her world. At least that's how I take lines such as "O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place." I admire Beatrice's fire here, and have to wonder if Shakespeare wasn't a bit of a closet protofeminist after all, some of his more misogynistic characters notwithstanding.
On to Act IV, sc. 2, where Dogberry manages to get a confession from Borachio
Members of the Night Watch have overheard Don John's lackeys and apprehended them, and the heads of the watch, Dogberry and Verges, take Don John's cohorts before the Sexton. Dogberry displays his idiocy through his misuse and abuse of the English language. In seeking to speak like a gentleman and one of his betters, he frequently seizes on a completely incorrect word – sometimes giving actual offense to those he seeks to impress (at least Shakespeare's original audience would have understood it so):
Dogb. Is our whole dissembly appeared?
Verg. O! a stool and a cushion for the sexton.
Sexton Which be the malefactors?
Dogb. Marry, that am I and my partner.
Verg. Nay, that’s certain: we have the exhibition to examine.
Sexton But which are the offenders that are to be examined? Let them come before Master constable.
Act IV, sc. 2.
You can watch much of what's just transpired in this post in the following clip from the 1993 movie production, which proceeds a bit forwarder in the action at its end. I have to say that much as I laughed at Michael Keaton's take on Dogberry, the Master Constable, the first time I saw this, I'm now a bit disappointed that he played the part so broad – I think he'd have been funnier still if he'd played it straight and serious in a very pompous manner; but that's just my opinion and, moreover, I digress. Here's the clip:
In which challenges are issued and perfidy is brought to light
After getting the full story of Don John's treachery from Borachio and Conrade, the Watch manage to bumble their way to Leonato, who failed in his attempt to challenge Claudio to a duel (Benedick was far more successful, to the dismay of Claudio and the Prince). Leonato learns what has occurred, thus letting Hero off the hook. Both Dogberry and Verges are proof, I think, that a little knowledge is indeed a dangerous thing.
Prince Officers, what offence have these men done?
Dogb. Marry, sir, they have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust things; and to conclude, they are lying knaves.
Prince First, I ask thee what they have done; thirdly, I ask thee what’s their offence; sixth and lastly, why they are committed; and, to conclude, what you lay to their charge?
Claud. Rightly reasoned, and in his own division; and, by my troth, there’s one meaning well suited.
Prince Who have you offended, masters, that you are thus bound to your answer? this learned constable is too cunning to be understood. What’s your offence?
Borachio Sweet prince, let me go no further to mine answer: do you hear me, and let this count kill me. I have deceived even your very eyes: what your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light; who, in the night overheard me confessing to this man how Don John your brother incensed me to slander the Lady Hero; how you were brought into the orchard and saw me court Margaret in Hero’s garments; how you disgraced her, when you should marry her. My villainy they have upon record; which I had rather seal with my death than repeat over to my shame. The lady is dead upon mine and my master’s false accusation; and, briefly, I desire nothing but the reward of a villain.
Act V, sc. 1.
Having learned what transpired, and having spoken with Leonato, Claudio is made to realize (through a combination of Benedick's quite serious challenge to him and evidence from the bad guys) that Hero was innocent, and that he wronged her. He is chastened, but completely willing to marry her (fictive) cousin in her stead. Because, as I believe I said earlier, he's a bit of a wanker. You are welcome to disagree with me on that point, however, and I welcome you to do so in the comments.
I should note that in the BBC's production of Much Ado About Nothing for its Shakespeare Re-Told series back in 2005, Claude turns out to be a prat, and Hero (played by Billie Piper) will have nothing to do with him once she comes out of her coma, and tells Claude off, saying she's sick of being treated like someone's property. I clapped like a seal at that point. (One can watch a very bad copy indeed in 9-10 min. segments on YouTube, after which time one will likely find one ordering a copy of the DVD - I mean seriously, Damian Lewis and Sarah Parish as Benedick and Beatrice? James McAvoy as a sous-chef named Macbeth with Richard Armitage as Macduff? Rufus Sewell as Petruchio in The Taming of the Shrew? Imelda Staunton and Rupert Evans in A Midsummer Night's Dream? How can one NOT order it?) I suppose I've digressed. Kind of. Forgive me?
In which Benedick and Beatrice have further conversation about love
Bene. . . . And, I pray thee now, tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?
Beat. For them all together; which maintained so politic a state of evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them. But for which of my good parts did you first suffer love for me?
Bene. ‘Suffer love,’ a good epithet! I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will.
Beat. In spite of your heart, I think. Alas, poor heart! If you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours; for I will never love that which my friend hates.
Bene. Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.
. . .
Bene. . . . And now tell me, how doth your cousin?
Beat. Very ill.
Bene. And how do you?
Beat. Very ill too.
Bene. Serve God, love me, and mend. There will I leave you too, for here comes one in haste.
Urs. Madam, you must come to your uncle. Yonder’s old coil at home: it is proved, my Lady Hero hath been falsely accused, the prince and Claudio mightily abused; and Don John is the author of all, who is fled and gone. Will you come presently?
Beat. Will you go hear this news, signior?
Bene. I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes; and moreover I will go with thee to thy uncle’s. [Exeunt.]
Act V, sc. 2.
A few things to note about some of the lines here. The line "suffer love" is indeed a good epithet, and constituted at least a triple entendre to audiences in Shakespeare's day. It means that Benedick was experiencing love, that he was subjected to love (which we all know can be a painful condition), and, moreover, that he was allowing himself to love and be loved. In the last case, the meaning of the verb is similar to the phrase "suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not" from the New Testament, Luke 18:16, which is from the King James Bible (King James I being Elizabeth I's successor).
Ursula's line about "old coil" just means that everyone's in a tizzy, or something roughly equivalent.
Benedick's closing line in this scene, like many of Shakespeare's lines, contains a double entendre in the form of a sexual pun. The phrase "die in thy lap" means, on its surface, that he will die of love for her. It also means that he will reach orgasm in that general vicinity, if you catch my drift. And I think you do.
A Funeral and a Wedding
Scene 3 of Act V finds Claudio and the Prince mourning for Hero, with Claudio reading a poem and singing a song in her memory. Knowing as you do my take on Claudio, you will not be surprised to hear me say that I find his poem lacking in true feeling – it's more of an obligation he's setting out to fulfill – and I find his song worse.
In the closing scene of the play, Act V, sc. 4, the Messina clan prepares for the upcoming wedding. Benedick pulls the Friar and Leonato aside for a little consult:
Bene. Friar, I must entreat your pains, I think.
Friar To do what, signior?
Bene. To bind me, or undo me; one of them.
Signior Leonato, truth it is, good signior,
Your niece regards me with an eye of favor.
Leon. That eye my daughter lent her: 'tis most true.
Bene. And I do with an eye of love requite her.
Leon. The sight whereof I think you had from me,
From Claudio and the prince: but what's your will?
Bene. Your answer, sir, is enigmatical:
But, for my will, my will is your good will
May stand with ours, this day to be conjoined
In the state of honorable marriage:
In which, good friar, I shall desire your help.
Leon. My heart is with your liking.
Friar And my help.
Here comes the prince and Claudio.
Act V, sc. 4.
I love Benedick's line about Leonato being "enigmatical" - it is a word we should all be striving to use more often, I think. Also, one must remember that at this point, Benedick has absolutely no idea that he and Beatrice have been set up. Moving on . . . Claudio turns up at the betrothal ceremony, where he asks which of the veiled women he "must seize" (die-hard romantic that he is, eh?) Only after he commits himself to the veiled "cousin", sight unseen, does Hero reveal herself alive:
Re-enter ANTONIO with the ladies masked.
Claud. Which is the lady I must seize upon?
Antonio This same is she, and I do give you her.
Claud. Why, then she’s mine. Sweet, let me see your face.
Leon. No, that you shall not, till you take her hand
Before this friar, and swear to marry her.
Claud. Give me your hand: before this holy friar,
I am your husband, if you like of me.
Hero And when I lived, I was your other wife: [Unmasking. ]
And when you loved, you were my other husband.
Act V, sc. 4.
You can see these scenes, rearranged in order ever so slightly in the 1993 movie version. Even thought it's nothing to do with me, I feel constrained to apologize for the poor acting by the young Robert Sean Leonard (aka Claudio), who adds a bit of injury to what I consider an already insulting role (although to be truthful, he does try to seem sincere, even if his character is a wanker):
Bring it all home, Will!
The marriage of Claudio and Hero is set to go when Benedick recalls that he meant to get married himself.
Bene. Soft and fair, friar. Which is Beatrice?
Beat. [Unmasking.] I answer to that name.
What is your will?
Bene. Do not you love me?
Beat. Why, no; no more than reason.
Bene. Why, then, your uncle and the prince and Claudio
Have been deceived; for they swore you did.
Beat. Do not you love me?
Bene. Troth, no; no more than reason.
Beat. Why, then, my cousin, Margaret, and Ursula,
Are much deceived; for they did swear you did.
Bene. They swore that you were almost sick for me.
Beat. They swore that you were well-nigh dead for me.
Bene. ’Tis no such matter. Then, you do not love me?
Beat. No, truly, but in friendly recompense.
Leon. Come, cousin, I am sure you love the gentleman.
Claud. And I’ll be sworn upon ’t that he loves her;
For here’s a paper written in his hand,
A halting sonnet of his own pure brain,
Fashioned to Beatrice.
Hero And here’s another,
Writ in my cousin’s hand, stolen from her pocket,
Containing her affection unto Benedick.
Bene. A miracle! here’s our own hands against our hearts. Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take thee for pity.
Beat. I would not deny you; but, by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion, and partly to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption.
Bene. Peace! I will stop your mouth. [Kisses her.]
Prince How dost thou, Benedick, the married man?
Bene. I’ll tell thee what, prince; a college of witcrackers cannot flout me out of my humour. Dost thou think I care for a satire or an epigram? No; if a man will be beaten with brains, a’ shall wear nothing handsome about him. In brief, since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it; and therefore never flout at me for what I have said against it, for man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion. For thy part, Claudio, I did think to have beaten thee; but, in that thou art like to be my kinsman, live unbruised, and love my cousin.
Act V, sc. 4
Wedding merriment and dancing ensue, with the actual wedding to occur after the curtain falls.
A further note about this play.
It includes a lovely song in the midst of Act II, often called "Sigh no more, ladies", which is performed by a character named Balthazar in the company of men only. (You may recall from yesterday that the role of Balthazar was played by actor and composer Patrick Doyle.)
The play includes a good deal of misogynism on the part of any number of the male characters (pretty much only the good Friar is exempted, I must say), and quite a number of references to cuckolding, both in references to the cuckoo and in references to horns – the "putting on of horns" was one of the ways in which Elizabethans talked about cuckoldry, and the men in the play seem somewhat obsessed with the notion that their women have cheated or will cheat on them (from Leonato saying that his wife "has many times told him" that Hero is actually his daughter to Benedick saying that if he ever marries, he's to be hung up "at the door of a brothel-house for the sign of blind Cupid" and saying, moreover, that they ought to "pluck off the bull's horns and set them in [his] forehead."
And now, the text of Sigh no more, ladies and a lovely YouTube montage with the full Patrick Doyle solo version:
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 dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.