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I am more an antique Roman than a Dane,
As thou’rt a man,
[Dies. Her. Now cracks a noble heart ;-Good-night, sweet prince ; And dights of angels sing thee to thy rest !
VARIOUS sources have be assigned, from which Shakspeare borrowed he story of this comedy; Orlando Furioso, The Faëry Queen, and a novel of Bandello's, have each been cited as furnishing the original conception of the plot. It is perhaps of little consequence whence the poet drew his materials: the play itself is so full of life and character, so teeming with wit, poetry, and humor, as to render the mere superstructure on which the incidents are founded a matter of no account to the general reader.
ACT I. SCENE I.-Before Leonato's House. Enter LEONATO, HERO, BEATRICE, and others, with a Messenger.
Leon. I learn in this letter, that Don Pedro of Arragon comes this night to Messina.
Mess. He is very near by this; he was not three leagues off when I left him.
Leon. How many gentlemen have you lost in this action ?
Leon. A victory is twice itself, when the achiever brings home full numbers. I find here, that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honor on a young Florentine, called Claudio.
Mess. 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.
Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
Mess. 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.
Leon. Did he break out into tears?
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness : There are no faces truer than those that are so washed. How much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping ?
Beat. I pray you, is signior Montanto returned from the wars, or no ?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady ; there was none such in the army of any sort.
Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece ?
Beat. 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.
Leon. Faith, niece, you tax signior Benedick too much ; but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.
Mess. He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
Beat. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it: he is a very valiant trencher-man, he hath an excellent stomach.
Mess. And a good soldier too, lady.
Mess. A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all honorable virtues.
Beat. It is so, indeed : he is no less than a stuffed man: but for the stuffing, -Well, we are all mortal.
Leon. You must not, sir, mistake my niece: there is a kind of merry war betwixt signior Benedick and her: they never meet, but there is a skirmish of wit beiween them.
Beat. Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict, four of his five wits went halting off, and ww is the old man governed with
one : so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature.Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.
Mess. Is it possible ?
Beat. Very easily possible : he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next block.
Mess. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.
Beat. No: an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray you, who is his companion ?
Mess. He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
Beat. O! he will hang upon him like a disease: he is sooner caught than the pestilence and the taker runs presently mad. Heaven help the noble Claudio ! if he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured. Mess. I will hold friends with you, lady. Beat. Do, good friend. Leon. You will never run mad, niece. Beat. No, not till a hot January. Mess. Don Pedro is approached.
Enter Don PEDRO, attended by BALTHAZAR and others, Don John,
CLAUDIO, and BENEDICK. D. Pedro. Good signior Leonato, you are come to meet your trouble: the fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it.
Leon. Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace ; for trouble being gone, comfort should remain; but when ou depart from me, sorrow abides, and happiness takes his leave.
D. Pedro. You embrace your charge too willingly.—I think, this is your daughter.
Leon. Her mother hath many times told me so.
Bene. If signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head on her shoulders, for all Messina, as like him as she is.
Beat. I wonder that you will still be talking, signior Benedick; nobody marks you.
Bene. What, my dear lady Disdain ! are you get living ?
Beat. Is it possible, disdain should die, while she hath such meet food to feed it, as signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence.
Bene. Then is courtesy a turn-coat :-But it is certain, I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted : and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart : for, truly, I love none.
Beat. A dear happiness to woman; they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.
Bene. Heaven keep your ladyship still in-that mind! so some gen. tleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were.
Bene. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Bene. I would, my horse had the speed of your tongue; and so good a continuer: But keep your way; I have done.
Beat. You always end with a jade's trick; I know you of old.
D. Pedro. This is the sum of all :—Leonato,-signior Claudio, and signior Benedick,—my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him, we shall stay here at the least a month ; and he heartily prays some occasion may detain us longer: I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but prays from his heart.
Leon. If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.—Let me bid you welcome, my lord : being reconciled to the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.
D. John. I thank you : I am not of many words, but I thank you.
[Exeunt all but BENEDICK and CLAUDIO.
Bene. Do you question me as an honest man should do, for my simple true judgment; or would you have me speak after my custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex?
Claud. No, I pray thee, speak in sober judgment.
Bene. Why, i' faith, methinks she is too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise: only this commendation I can afford her; that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome; and being no other but as she is, I do not like her.
Claud. Thou thinkest I am in sport; I pray thee, tell me truly how thou likest her ?
Bene. Would you buy her, that you inquire after her ?
Bene. Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this with a sad brow? or do you play the flouting jack; to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare carpenter ? Come, in what key shall a man take you, to go in the song ?
Claud. In mine eye, she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked
Bene. I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter : there's her cousin, an she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty, as the first of May doth the last of December. But I hope, you have no intent to turn husband; have you ?
Claud. I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the contrary, if Hero would be my wife.