Shakespeare For White Trash: Much Ado About Nothing

December 27, 2010

(Index to the Series appears on Oct. 7, 2010 — )

Main Characters

Don Pedro — Prince of Aragon

Don John — his bastard brother

Claudio — young lord of Florence, allied to Don Pedro

Benedick — young lord of Padua, allied to Don Pedro

Leonato — Governor of Messina

Antonio — Leonato’s older brother

Hero — Leonato’s daughter

Beatrice — Leonato’s niece

Balthasar — servant of Don Pedro

Borachio and Conrade — followers of Don John

Friar Francis

Dogberry — Chief Constable of Messina

Verges — Dogberry’s deputy (Shakespeare uses the term “headborough”)

Sexton (equivalent to a town clerk)

Margaret and Ursula — ladies-in-waiting to Hero


Gist of the story: We have three sub-plots here.  First, Don John wants revenge against his brother, Don Pedro, after being defeated in a civil war.  Second, Claudio is in love with Hero but needs a little help proposing.  And third, Benedick and Beatrice are constantly sparring in an ongoing battle of put-downs, but those closest to them are determined to marry them off to each other.  Don John orchestrates a cruel trick to sabotage Claudio’s marriage to Hero, but his treachery is exposed.  (This is better than any soap opera or sitcom on TV.  Dogberry and his watchmen are hilarious, and I’m sure Shakespeare won’t mind that I’ve made Antonio hard of hearing.)

Act 1, Scene 1.  In front of Leonato’s house in Messina.  Leonato, the Governor of Messina, comes in, along with his daughter, Hero, his niece, Beatrice, and a Messenger.

Leonato (Holding a letter): So, according to this letter, Don Pedro of Aragon is coming to Messina tonight.

Messenger: He was nine miles away when I left him, but he should be here in a couple of minutes.

Leonato: How many nobles were killed in the war between Don Pedro and his bastard brother, Don John?

Messenger: Not too many.  Nobody important.

Leonato: Don Pedro writes that he gave a medal to a young lord named Claudio.

Messenger: Count Claudio was awesome on the battlefield.  He was the best fighter by far.  But in real life, he’s actually quite mild-mannered.

Beatrice: Did Signior Mountanto get back all right?

Messenger: Signior Mountanto?  Why, I’ve never heard of him.

Leonato: Who is that, Beatrice?

Hero: It’s a private joke, father.  She’s referring to Signior Benedick.

Messenger: Oh, Benedick.  Sure.  He’s fine.

Beatrice: How many men did he kill in the battle?  I promised him I would eat anyone he killed.

Messenger: What!

Leonato (To the Messenger): My niece, Beatrice, has a rather strange  sense of humour.  (To Beatrice) You know, if you keep insulting Benedick the way you do, one of these days he’ll get even with you.

Messenger (To Beatrice): Signior Benedick served very well in the battle.  I can assure you he is a man full of virtues.

Beatrice: I always knew he was full of something.

Leonato (To the Messenger): Don’t take my niece too seriously.  She has this ongoing battle with Benedick.  She tries to push his button, and he tries to push hers.

Beatrice: And I push better than he does.

Messenger: You don’t like the guy, do you?

Beatrice: Not much.–So tell me, who’s he hanging with these days?  He wears out friends faster than I wear out stockings.

Messenger: Well, if you want to know, he’s quite good friends with Claudio.

Beatrice: Then I feel sorry for Claudio.

    (Don Pedro arrives, along with Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, and Don John.)

Messenger: Told you he’d be here in a couple of minutes!

Don Pedro: Signior Leonato!

Leonato: Don Pedro!

Don Pedro: It’s very kind of you to receive us on such short notice.

Leonato: Not at all.  It’s a pleasure.  In fact, I expect you to make it an extended visit.

Don Pedro (Turning to Hero): And this must be your daughter, Hero.  She looks like you.

Leonato: Well, her mother swore she was mine.  She couldn’t be Benedick’s because he was too young at the time.

Benedick: True.  Otherwise I’d be under suspicion.

Don Pedro: Ha!  Listen to the ladies’ man!

Beatrice (Aside): I’m not listening.

    (Leonato takes Don Pedro aside for a private conversation.)

Benedick: She looks like her father, all right–except for the white hair.

Beatrice: Are you trying to be funny?

Benedick: Oh, it’s Lady Shrew!–Taking a vacation from hell, are you?

Beatrice: Yes.  Your picture hangs on every wall down there.

Benedick: My picture hangs in the cabinets of many ladies.  I imagine they’re pining away for me right now.

Beatrice: But you would never pine for them.

Benedick: Goodness, no!  I’d sooner catch the plague than fall in love.

Beatrice: I feel exactly the same way.  I’ll never get married.

Benedick: Let’s hope not, or some poor sod would be miserable for the rest of his life.

Beatrice: Not nearly as miserable as your wife would be.

Benedick: Is there a circuit breaker for your mouth?

    (Leonato and Don Pedro rejoin the others.)

Don Pedro: Good news, everyone!  My dear friend Leonato has invited all of us to stay for a month.

Leonato: After all, it’s a happy occasion.  Don Pedro has made peace again with his brother, Don John.  (To Don John) So we are friends, too.

Don John: Thank you, sir.  I don’t talk as much as my brother, but I thank you.

Leonato: Let’s go inside.

    (Everyone goes inside except for Benedick and Claudio.  Claudio has held him back with a discreet tug on the sleeve.)

Claudio: Benedick, did you get a good look at his daughter?

Benedick (Shrugs): Well, I noticed her.  That’s all.

Claudio: What a lovely girl!

Benedick: Hero?  You think so?  Hmm.  I’d say she is extremely average–which makes her inherently contradictory.  And I don’t like that too much in a woman.  If a woman is going to be average, she should be moderately average–like Beatrice, for example.  She’s the sort of average type I like–if you disregard her bad personality.

Claudio: I wish you’d be serious for a change.  Come on, what do you really think of Hero?

Benedick: Why?  Are you thinking of buying her?  You should find out what accessories she comes with, and what sort of warranty.

Claudio (Sighs): Hero!–I think she’s–wonderful!

    (Benedick touches Claudio’s forehead.)

Benedick: Are you coming down with something?  A tropical disease, perhaps?

Claudio: The moment I saw her–I knew.

Benedick: Another bachelor bites the dust!  What a pity!

    (Don Pedro returns.)

Don Pedro: What are you guys doing hanging around out here?  Why don’t you come inside?

Benedick: Claudio has been confiding something personal to me.  But I refuse to tell you what it is unless you want to know.

Don Pedro: All right.  Tell me.

Benedick: He’s in love–with Leonato’s extremely average daughter, Hero.

Claudio: I didn’t want you to tell anyone.

Don Pedro: She’s a good match for you, Claudio!

Claudio: You really think so?

Don Pedro: Absolutely!  And I’m delighted to hear it.

Benedick: He has a fever.  He’s delirious.

Don Pedro: You’re such a cynic, Benedick.

Benedick: I’m not disparaging Hero or any other specific woman.  I’m just saying as a general principle that I would never let a woman make a fool of me, and the only way to be sure of that is to stay single.  I value my freedom.  And it’s a lot cheaper to be single.

Don Pedro: One of these days you’ll fall for someone, and I want to see it happen.

Benedick: Never.  And if I show the slightest symptom of lovesickness, I want you to kick my ass to snap me out of it.

Don Pedro: I should take you to Venice.  That place is chock-a-block with gorgeous women.  You’d never get out of there a bachelor. 

Benedick: So you say!

Don Pedro: Well, we’ll see.  Anyway, go tell Leonato I’ll be right in for dinner.  I want to have a word with Claudio.

Benedick: Will do.

    (Benedick leaves.)

Don Pedro: So!–Claudio. 

Claudio: My lord, you could really do me a huge favour.

Don Pedro: Of course.  Anything.

Claudio: Well, my lord–I’m a bit shy with women.  I really love Hero, but I don’t know how to approach her.  Maybe you could–help. 

Don Pedro: Oh, I can fix it easily.  Listen, they’re going to have a costume party tonight.  This is what I’ll do.  I’ll disguise myself and pretend to be you, and I’ll tell Hero how much I love her.  And if she accepts me, I’ll go and report it to her father, and he’ll agree to let you marry her.

Claudio: Wait a minute.–You’re going to pretend to be me under a disguise?

Don Pedro: Yes.

Claudio: And she’s not going to know the difference.

Don Pedro: No.

Claudio: And she won’t notice that your voice is different?

Don Pedro: I’ll disguise my voice.

Claudio: And you’ll declare your love to her–that is, my love–and if she accepts you, you’ll tell her father, and he’ll approve of me marrying her.

Don Pedro: Exactly.

Claudio: Well, I sure hope this is a comedy, because that’s just about the most crackpot idea I ever heard.

    (Don Pedro acts surprised by this comment, as if the other player has departed from the script.  After an awkward moment of silence, the curtain comes down, leaving the audience with the impression that some sort of blooper has taken place.)

Act 1, Scene 2.  In Leonato’s house.  Leonato comes in with his older brother, Antonio.  Antonio is somewhat hard of hearing.

Leonato: Antonio, who picked that music–your son?

Antonio: Picture what?

Leonato: No, not picture.  I said–did your son pick that music?

Antonio: Oh, yes!  He loves music!

Leonato: That’s fine.  You don’t have to shout.

Antonio: Have a what?

    (Leonato steps very close to Antonio and puts on an exaggerated smile.)

Leonato: You–don’t–have–to shout.

Antonio: No!  I won’t!  But listen–I have some secret news to tell you.

Leonato: All right, then.  Tell me.

Antonio: I overheard Don Pedro and Claudio talking outside.

Leonato: Did you, now?  It’s not nice to eavesdrop on people.

Antonio: Oh, I didn’t do it deliberately.  It was by accident.  And I heard Don Pedro say–

Leonato: Yes?

Antonio: That he’s in love with your daughter.

Leonato: Don Pedro said that?

Antonio: Yes!  He told Claudio he would propose to Hero during the party tonight, and if she accepted him, he would ask for your permission immediately.

Leonato: Are you quite sure you heard him correctly?

Antonio: Of course!

Leonato: Well–I’ll believe it when it happens.  Anyway, we should tell her so she won’t be taken by surprise.

Antonio: She’s taken some pies?

Leonato: No, she hasn’t taken any–Never mind.  Let’s go.

    (They leave.) 

Act 1, Scene 3.  In Leonato’s house.  Don John comes in with his friend Conrade.

Conrade: What the hell’s eating you, Sir John?  You look really down.

Don John: What have I got to be happy about?  My brother is sitting on top of the world, and I’m at the lowest point in my entire life.  Should I be happy just because he’s happy?  We fought a war and he beat me.  Am I supposed to forget it? 

Conrade: Look.  You know, you and your brother have finally made peace, and you should put on a good face.  It’s for your own good.

Don John: Yeah, because now I’m dependent on him.  He’s got the power, the money, and the status.  And I’ve got shit.  And I’ll always be the bastard brother, remember.  I’ll never be equal to him.

Conrade: It’s too bad you feel that way.

    (Borachio comes in.)

Don John: Hey, Borachio, wassup?

Borachio: I just heard something interesting.  Your brother’s golden boy, Claudio, intends to marry Leonato’s daughter, Hero.

Don John: Well!  I guess he wants to move up in the world, doesn’t he?  How did you find this out?

Borachio: Purely by coincidence.  I was hiding behind a wall when your brother was having a serious talk with Claudio.  The deal is that your brother is going to propose to Hero in Claudio’s behalf, and when she agrees, he’ll hand her over to Claudio.

Don John: That fucking Claudio!  He was a nobody in Florence.  Then he helped my brother beat me in the war, and now he’s like a fucking superstar.  If I could just fuck up their plans somehow–Would you guys help me?

Conrade: Absolutely!

Borachio: I’m up for any mischief.

Don John: Come on.  Let’s go inside.

Act 2, Scene 1.  In Leonato’s house.  Leonato and Antonio come in, along with Hero and Beatrice; also Margaret and Ursula, two ladies attending on Hero.

Leonato: Wasn’t Sir John here for dinner?

Antonio: I didn’t see him.

Beatrice: That guy gives me the creeps.

Hero: Me, too.

Beatrice: He doesn’t say a word, and Benedick never shuts up.  I’d prefer a man who was exactly halfway between them.

Leonato: Well, we could transplant half of Benedick’s tongue into Sir John’s mouth and give him a smiley face with plastic surgery.  How’s that?

Beatrice: Perfect.  And if he had money, I might even marry him.

Leonato: You’ll never marry anyone until you put a padlock on that sharp tongue of yours.

Antonio: A paddock on her shop talkers?

Beatrice: Any man who can’t take my tongue can go to hell.

Antonio: Oh, my goodness!  (To Hero) I hope you don’t have such an attitude.  Your father would like very much to see you marry a fine gentleman, and so would I.

Beatrice: Oh, she’ll do what she’s told, I’m sure.

Leonato (To Beatrice): I’d like to see you get married as well.

Beatrice: Ugh! No, thanks, uncle.

Leonato (To Hero): Remember what we discussed.  If Don Pedro proposes to you, you know what to say.

Beatrice (To Hero): Don’t commit yourself.  You know the old saying–marry in haste, repent in leisure.

Leonato (Nodding): Mm–Well, let’s get the party going.

    (They put on their masks.  Then Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, and Balthasar come in, wearing masks; Borachio and Don John come in without masks.  Music begins, and the couples pair off and stand together or dance.

Don Pedro (To Hero): My lady, how about taking a walk with me?

Hero: A walk? All right.  But don’t expect me to go too far with you.

Don Pedro: Why not?

Hero: Not with a face like that, Signior–Whoever-you-are.

Don Pedro: Oh, but if you could see me as I really am.

Hero: No, no.  Leave your mask on, please.

Don Pedro: My lady–you’re getting me hot–that is–

    (Don Pedro draws Hero aside.)

Benedick (To Margaret): So, uh, you want to meet me later?  We could go outside and, uh, you know, look at the stars.

Margaret: Oh, you don’t want me, Signior.  I’m neurotic.  I can only love a man with very big feet.

Balthasar (Butting in): I have big feet.  And I have other parts that are big, too.

Margaret: I only care about feet.

Balthasar: You’re pretty weird–but maybe it could work.

    (Benedick has gone over to talk to Beatrice.  Now Ursula approaches Antonio.)

Ursula: I know who you are.  You’re Signior Antonio.

Antonio: Who?  Me?  Nahh!

Ursula: You walk like him, and you talk like him.

Antonio: I merely imitate him because he’s such a fashionable gentleman.

Ursula: Do you think so?  I would say he is noteworthy for his peccadillos.

Antonio (Puzzled): Oh–well, he works out.

    (Benedick and Beatrice are dancing.)

Beatrice: So, who are you really?

Benedick: Oh, I just work for the caterers.

Beatrice: You remind me of Benedick.

Benedick: Who’s he?

Beatrice: Oh, he’s the most obnoxious character, and a complete scoundrel.  Only loose women like him, and for all the wrong reasons.  He’s not fit for respectable society.

Benedick: Well, if I ever bump into him, I’ll tell him you said so.

Beatrice: Oh, please do!  It’ll spoil his day–You’re leading me in the wrong direction.

Benedick: Oh, sorry.  It’s a bad habit I have with women.

    (They all go out dancing, except for Don John, Borachio, and Claudio.)

Don John (To Claudio): I know you.  You’re Signior Benedick.

Claudio: Ha! Ha!–Yes, I am!

Don John: My brother, Don Pedro, thinks very highly of you.  That’s why you must talk him out of the foolish idea he has in mind.

Claudio: What foolish idea is that?

Don John: Well, you see, he wants to marry Leonato’s daughter, Hero.  He’s going to ask Leonato’s permission to marry her.

Claudio: What!  How do you know that?

Don John: I heard him say he loves her.

Borachio: Yes.  It’s true.  He intends to marry her tonight.

Claudio: But–surely you’re mistaken.

Don John: Oh, no.

Borachio: I’m hungry.  Let’s get some food.

    (Don John and Borachio leave, but Claudio stays behind.)

Claudio: Fuck me.  Don Pedro’s going to steal Hero from me?  And I trusted the guy.  It just goes to show that you can’t trust anyone if there’s a woman involved.

    (Benedick comes in.)

Benedick: Count Claudio.

Claudio: Yes.

Benedick: Well, sport, this is what you get for falling in love.  Your good patron, Prince Pedro, steals your woman from you–although technically she was never yours.

Claudio: I hope he’s happy with her.

Benedick: This is one of the hazards of romance.  I could have told you.

Claudio: You don’t have to rub it in.

Benedick: Well, maybe you’ve learned a lesson.  All experience is instructive.

Claudio: Nuts!

    (Claudio leaves.)

Benedick: Poor sap.

    (Don Pedro, Hero, and Leonato come in.)

Don Pedro: Where’s Claudio?

Benedick: Oh, he’s off sulking somewhere.  I told him–quite correctly, I’m sure–that you had made a move on Hero yourself.  At any rate, that’s what I heard.

Don Pedro: Well, you heard wrong.  And anyone who would spread such a rumour deserves to get his ass kicked.

Benedick: Then I take you at your word, your Grace.

Don Pedro: Listen, Lady Beatrice is very pissed off with you.  It seems that the fellow she was dancing with told her you said some very unkind things about her.

Benedick: I said unkind things about her?  Well!  It seems that the villain is accusing the victim!  That bitch never stops puking insults all over me!  She ought to be given a heavy dose of Thorazine and put in a strait jacket.

    (Claudio and Beatrice come in.)

Don Pedro: Ah, here she is now.

Benedick: Your Grace, do me a favour.  Please!   Send me on a long errand somewhere so I can get away from this–this Gorgon Medusa.  Send me to the South Pole!  Send me to the earth’s core!  I’ll go!

Don Pedro: No, no.  I want you right here.

Benedick: In that case, you’ll have to excuse me, your Grace.  I gotta take a tranq.

    (Benedick leaves.)

Don Pedro (To Beatrice): There.  You see?  You’ve lost him–a fine gentleman, too.

Beatrice: He can stay lost.  I don’t want him.

Don Pedro: You don’t even give the guy a chance.

Beatrice: If he wants a chance, let him go to a casino.–Anyway, I brought Claudio.  You wanted to speak to him.

Don Pedro: Claudio, you look depressed.

Claudio: No, my lord.

Don Pedro: Are you not feeling well?

Beatrice: He’s too polite to tell you outright–but he’s jealous.

Don Pedro: Oh, is that it?–Claudio, you have no reason to be jealous.  I did exactly what I promised.  Hero will marry you, and her father approves.

Leonato (Shaking Claudio’s hand enthusiastically): Yes, my boy! I’m all for it!  It’s wonderful!

    (Claudio is stunned and speechless.)

Beatrice (To Claudio): Well, say something.

Claudio: I–I–I can’t find the words–Hero–I–

    (Hero takes his hands in hers, and they look into each other’s eyes lovingly.)

Beatrice: Well, that’s a happy match made!  Everyone’s getting married–except for me.  I might as well hide in my room since no one wants me.

Don Pedro: I’ll fix that.  I’ll hook you up with a man if it’s the last thing I do.

Beatrice: He’ll have to be able to take a joke.

Leonato: Ahem!–Remember what I told you before.

Beatrice: Ah, yes, uncle.  My tongue is too sharp.  I shall run along at once and sandpaper it down.–By your leave, your Grace.

    (She curtsies to Don Pedro and leaves.)

Don Pedro: She’s funny.  I like her.  But I don’t think she wants to get married.

Leonato: I’m not so sure of that.  She just has a bad habit of making fun of men, and they get discouraged and give up on her.

Don Pedro: You know, I think she and Benedick would be a perfect match.

Leonato (Clutching his heart): Oh, my God!

Don Pedro: Claudio, when do you intend to get married?

Claudio: Tomorrow, if possible.

Leonato: There’s no rush, my boy.  Let’s make it a week from now.

Claudio (Sighs): A whole week?

Don Pedro: Oh, it’ll pass like that (Snaps his fingers).  In the meantime, I have a project.  I want to get Benedick and Beatrice together.  They’re perfect for each other.  They just don’t realize it.  And I’d like the three of you to help me.

Leonato: You’re a brave man.  All right.  I’m game.

Claudio: Okay, me, too.

Hero: She’s my cousin.  Why not?

Don Pedro: Benedick is a good guy.  He’s got noble blood, he’s courageous, he’s honest, and he’s always cheerful.–Hero, you work on your cousin.  I’ll give you some advice on that.  (To Leonato and Claudio) And we’ll work on Benedick.  We’ll get those two to fall in love with each other.  We’ll do it cleverly.  And when Cupid sees what we’ve done, he’ll retire and give us his bow and arrows.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 2.  In Leonato’s house.  Don John and Borachio come in.

Don John: That creep Claudio is going to marry Hero a week from now.

Borachio: I know a way to stop it.

Don John: Dude, if you could do that, it would be fucking beautiful–and there’d be a big reward in it for you.

Borachio: I’ve got a plan.  You know Hero’s waiting maid, Margaret?

Don John: Yeah.

Borachio: She’s my girlfriend, you know.

Don John: Yeah, you told me.  Go on.

Borachio: Okay, here’s the deal.  The night before the wedding, I’ll arrange to meet Margaret in Hero’s bedroom.

Don John: Where will Hero be?

Borachio: Margaret will get Hero to sleep in another room.  She can tell her she saw a mouse or something.  Now, you’ve got to get your brother and Claudio to be outside where they can see Hero’s balcony.  Tell them you can prove Hero’s a slut–that she has a secret boyfriend.  I’ll have Margaret wear one of Hero’s nightgowns, and we’ll be on the balcony making out.  I’ll call her Hero.  And your brother and Claudio will catch all this, and they won’t know it’s a trick.

Don John: You’re a genius!   This’ll kill Claudio.  And my brother will be totally humiliated, too.  Man, if you can pull this off, it’s worth a thousand ducats to me. 

Borachio: Okay.  You’ve got to concentrate on making heavy accusations against Hero so everyone will blame her and forget about me.  She’s a total whore, get it?

Don John: Right.  This is brilliant.  Now we just have to find out the exact day of the wedding so you can start making plans with Margaret.  Come on.

    (They leave.)

Act 2, Scene 3.  In Leonato’s garden.  Benedick comes in by himself.

Benedick: Ah, poor Claudio!  He was a tough son of a bitch on the battlefield, and now he’s going to end up as Hero’s pet poodle.  Boy, I hope that never happens to me.  It would take nothing less than a perfect woman to get a ring on my finger.  Of course, by ‘perfect’ I mean as perfect as myself.–Oh!  I think I see Don Pedro and Claudio coming this way.  I’ll hide in the bushes and eavesdrop.  (To the audience) Kids, don’t copy my example.

    (He hides.  Then Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato come in quite casually.  Don Pedro notices Benedick out of the corner of his eye and huddles momentarily with the other two.)

Don Pedro (In a hushed voice): Don’t look behind me, but Benedick is in the bushes.

    (The others nod.  They pretend not to be aware of Benedick.  Then Balthasar comes in with a guitar.)

Balthasar: Hi, guys!

Don Pedro: Hey, Balthasar, why don’t you play that song we like so much.

Balthasar: What, again?  Aren’t you sick of my terrible singing by now?

Don Pedro: Not at all!  We like to hear you sing.

Claudio and Leonato: Yes! Yes!

Balthasar: I got thrown out of the musicians’ union, you know.  But if you insist–

    (He plucks his guitar and then sings.)

    Oh, ladies, keep your panties on

    And hold on to your virtue,

    For every man’s a horny dog,

    And every one will hurt you.

      They’ll swear they love you every time,

      But you should not believe them,

      And if they knock upon your door,

      Be wise and don’t receive them.

    Oh, every man’s a lover pure

    And noble till he comes,

    And then goes his merry way

    And brags it to his chums.

      So, ladies, keep your panties on

      And do not be a fool,

      For men will come and men will go–

      Believe me, that’s the rule.

    (The others cheer and clap.)

Others: Bravo! Bravo!

Benedick (Aside to the audience): I’ve heard dogs howl better than that.

Don Pedro: You should practice your other songs, and we’ll go serenade Lady Hero outside her window.

Balthasar: I hope she doesn’t drop a pitcher on my head.  Okay, see you later.

    (Balthasar leaves.)

Don Pedro: Leonato, I’m still in shock over what you told me earlier.  I can’t believe your niece, Beatrice, is in love with Benedick.

Leonato: Indeed, she is.

Claudio: I never would’ve believed it either, the way she snipes at the guy all the time.

Leonato: It’s what psychologists call a reaction formation.

Benedick (Aside): What?

Don Pedro: What’s that?

Leonato: She’s doing the exact opposite of what she really feels deep down.  I didn’t realize it before, but it’s all clear now.

Don Pedro: Are you quite sure?

Leonato: Of course!  She woke up this morning and suddenly realized she loved the guy.  She confided everything to me.  She said she realized that deep down she always loved him.

Claudio: Yes, and I heard her say it, too.

Benedick (Aside): What!

Don Pedro: Why doesn’t she just tell Benedick she loves him?

Leonato: How can she?  She’s been so nasty to him for so long, she wouldn’t know how to tell him.  She tried to write him a letter, but she lost her courage and tore it up.

Claudio: She was crying over him.  I never saw a woman cry so much for love.

Leonato: Yes, indeed.  And now I’m quite worried about her, to be perfectly honest with you.  She’s in such emotional pain, I’m afraid she might–do herself some harm.

Don Pedro: Oh, my goodness!  We can’t let that happen!  Someone should tell Benedick.

Claudio: What good would it do?  He’d treat the whole thing as a joke.  He’d make fun of her, and then she’d feel worse than ever.

Don Pedro: Oh, dear.  If she kills herself because of him, it’ll be his fault.  I wonder if he could live with her death on his conscience.

Leonato: I’m her uncle and her guardian, and it hurts me deeply to see her suffer this way.

Don Pedro: Beatrice is such a fine lady.  She really is.

Claudio: Yes.  Any man with any sense in his head would see it at once.  I sure wish Benedick would.

Don Pedro: Tell him, Leonato.  Tell him your niece loves him.

Leonato: Do you think I should?

Claudio: Hero thinks her cousin will die if Benedick won’t have her.  But Beatrice will never come right out and tell him.  The only way she can keep her sanity is to keep being nasty to him.

Leonato: Psychologists call it suppression.

Don Pedro: Ah, I see.  She’s trying to protect herself.

Claudio: Yes.  Exactly.

Don Pedro: If she took a chance, Benedick might take advantage and humiliate her.

Claudio: Yes.  Yes.

Don Pedro: He can be pretty sharp with his tongue, too, you know.

Claudio: Oh, I know, I know.–Still, women do go for him.  He’s certainly a handsome fellow.

Don Pedro: Yes, and he’s quite cheerful to be around.  Quite humourous and clever.

Claudio: And he’s a man of wisdom, too.  Knows a lot about life.

Don Pedro: A very smart man.  Absolutely.

Claudio: And very brave.  Very loyal.

Don Pedro: And he’s a God-fearing Christian, regardless of his occasional rude jokes.–So, should we go have a talk with Benedick?

Claudio: No, no.  It would be better if Beatrice had time to get over him.

Leonato: Oh, I don’t know if that’s possible.

Don Pedro: Well, then–let’s just leave her alone for the time being.  We can find out from Hero how she’s getting along.–Tsk!–Ah, well!–I wish I could open Benedick’s eyes so he could see Beatrice as she really is.  And he’s a fine fellow.  I care about him.  I only want the best for him.

Claudio: Don’t we all.

Leonato: Yes, yes–Shall we go back to the house?  Dinner should be ready.

    (Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato begin to leave.)

Don Pedro (Aside to Leonato): You should tell Beatrice to come out and call Benedick to dinner.

    (Leonato nods, and the three of them leave.  Then Benedick emerges from concealment.)

Benedick: This can’t be a trick.  I could tell from their manner that they were telling the truth.  Beatrice really loves me!–It’s a good think I found this out.  I certainly don’t want to hurt her.–She’s really quite a lovely lady.  Quite noble.  I always sort of liked her.  Perhaps more than I ever would’ve admitted to myself.  I never thought seriously about getting married, but now–well, it’s not such a bad idea.  I could see myself married to Beatrice.–Yes.  For sure.  She’s quite wonderful, isn’t she?–And sometimes I’ve seen a look in her eye that tells me she rather likes me.

    (Beatrice comes in.)

Beatrice: I was sent to fetch you for dinner, Signior.

Benedick: Oh, thank you!  Thank you!

Beatrice: It’s all right.  I had to call in the dogs anyway.

    (She leaves.)

Benedick: Is there a declaration of love hidden in her words?  I do believe so.–I must find a picture of her so I can carry it with me–close to my heart!

    (He leaves.)

Act 3, Scene 1.  In Leonato’s garden.  Hero comes in with Margaret and Ursula.

Hero: Okay, girls, you agreed to help me work on Beatrice.  We’re going to fix her up with Benedick.

Margaret and Ursula: Right.  Yes.

Hero: Margaret, you go back to the house and tell Beatrice that Ursula and I are talking about her.  Tell her to hide in the honeysuckles so she can spy on us.

Margaret: Got it.

    (Margaret leaves.)

Hero: Okay, now, Ursey, we’ll be strolling up and down the path, and we’ll be talking about Benedick–what a good guy he is and how much he’s in love with Beatrice.

Ursula: Right.

Hero (Looking back discreetly): I see her.  She’s taking her position .  Let’s just move a little closer.  (They walk toward Beatrice’s concealment.)  No, really, Ursey, she won’t give the guy a chance.  She’s always heaping scorn on him.

Ursula: But are you sure Benedick loves her?

Hero: Oh, he’s absolutely crazy about her.  Don Pedro told me, and Claudio confirmed it.

Ursula: Do they want you to tell her?

Hero: They wanted me to, but I suggested they tell Benedick to stifle himself and not tell Beatrice how much he loves her.

Ursula: Oh, now why did you do that?  Don’t you think he deserves someone as wonderful as Beatrice?

Hero: Of course, he does.  But she has such an attitude, you know.  I don’t think she can love a man at all.

Ursula: I guess you’re right.  If she knew Benedick loved her, she’d probably ridicule him.

Hero: Yes.  I think she would.  And it’s too bad.  He’s such a fine man.  He’s wise, he’s noble, and he’s so handsome.  But all she sees in him are faults.

Ursula: She’s so wrong.

Hero: I’d like to talk some sense into her, but she wouldn’t listen.  To her, everything’s a big joke.–Poor Benedick!  If he keeps his love a secret, he’ll just pine away until he’s dead.  And if he tells her, she’ll laugh at him, and he’ll die of humiliation.

Ursula: Really, I think you should tell her.  At least find out how she feels about him.

Hero: No.  I can’t.  It’s impossible.  I think it’s better to tell Benedick to try to get over her.  Maybe I could make up some lie about her so he’d fall out of love with her.

Ursula: Oh, no!   You shouldn’t tell lies about your own cousin.

Hero: Well, I don’t know what else to do.

Ursula: Really, I think she’s wiser than you think.  No one has ever called her a fool, or stupid.

Hero: You’re right about that.  She’s extremely intelligent.

Ursula: Then surely she would have the good sense to see what a fine fellow Benedick is.

Hero: He certainly is fine.  My Claudio is the best man in Italy, but Benedick is a close second.

Ursula: Well, forgive me for disagreeing, but personally, I think Benedick is the finest man in Italy.  He’s so handsome–and noble!

Hero: Everyone admires him, without a doubt.

Ursula: So, when are you getting married?

Hero: Tomorrow.  But I still haven’t decided what gown to wear.  Why don’t you come with me and help me choose.

Ursula: All right.  Let’s do that.

    (Hero and Ursula leave.  Then Beatrice emerges from concealment.)

Beatrice: Girl, did you hear that?  Oh, my God!  Have I been stupid all this time?  Must be.–Oh–oh–oh–You never know you’ve been in the dark until somebody lights a candle.  Well, this girl is going to turn over a new leaf.–Benedick, I won’t let you pine away.  We can get married!  We can be happy!

    (She leaves.) 

Act 3, Scene 2.  In Leonato’s house.  Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, and Leonato come in.

Don Pedro: I can only stay until the wedding.  Then I have to return to Aragon.

Claudio: I’d be glad to escort you back, your Grace.

Don Pedro: Oh, no, no, no.  You don’t want to leave your wife so soon.  Benedick will come back with me.  He’s good company on a trip–always full of jokes, always laughing.

Benedick: I don’t feel that way any more.

Leonato: No, you don’t seem so, do you, Benedick?  You’ve become quite serious all of a sudden.

Claudio: Maybe he’s in love.

Don Pedro: Benedick?  In love?  Ha!  No way!  (To Benedick) Perhaps it’s a money problem?

Benedick: No, it’s not that.

Don Pedro: What, then?

Benedick: It’s–uh–it’s a toothache.

Don Pedro: Is that all?  Well, we’ll just go see the surgeon and have it removed.

Claudio: No.  He doesn’t have a toothache.  He’s in love.

Don Pedro: How do you know?

Claudio: Oh, I’ve noticed a few things.  Like the way he fusses with his clothes.  And he brushes his hat and shines his shoes.  And he shaved his beard–see?

Leonato: Yes.  I noticed.–It makes you look younger, Benedick.

Claudio: And he wears cologne now.  (He sniffs.)  I recognize it–“Gypsy Vampire Bat.”  He must be in love.

Don Pedro: Claudio, I believe you’re right.

Claudio: And I know who loves him.

Don Pedro: Do you, now?

Claudio: Yes, and I’m sure she’s suffering as much as he is.

Benedick: Go on.  Make fun of my toothache.  (To Leonato) My lord, I wonder if I might have a word with you privately?

Leonato: Of course, my boy!

    (Benedick and Leonato leave.)

Don Pedro: This is it.  He’s going to spill it all out to Leonato.

Claudio: For sure.  And Hero and Margaret have done their little number on Beatrice, so she’s primed.

    (Don John comes in.)

Don John: Brother–Claudio–I’m glad I found the two of you together, because I have something very important to tell you that concerns you both.

Don Pedro: Yeah?  What is it?

Don John: Is Claudio getting married tomorrow?

Claudio: Yes.

Don John: Tsk!–You may change your mind when you hear what I’ve learned.

Claudio: Why?  What’s the problem? 

Don John: I’m afraid this is going to hurt you, Claudio–and you, too, brother, seeing as how you encouraged Claudio to marry Hero.

Don Pedro: Come on, out with it, whatever it is.

Don John: I have proof that Hero is–how shall I put it?–a whore.

Claudio: What?  That’s bullshit!

Don Pedro: I don’t believe it.

Don John: I don’t blame you for being skeptical.  And I wouldn’t expect you to believe it just on my say-so.  But I’m prepared to show you proof.

Claudio: Well, you’ll have to prove it to me.  If it’s true, then I certainly won’t marry her.  I’ll–I’ll denounce her right in the church in front of everyone.

Don Pedro: And I’ll back you up.  (To Don John) But you have to prove it to us.

Don John: Oh, you’ll have your proof, all right.  You’ll see and hear it with your own eyes and ears–tonight at midnight.  And you’ll be glad I warned you in time.

    (They leave.)

Act 3, Scene 3.  On a street, Chief Constable Dogberry, his deputy, Verges, and four Officers of the Watch come in.

Dogberry: As Chief Constable, it is my duty to keep law and order in Messina.  And when I’m not around, you men will obey Deputy Verges.  (He pats Verges on the shoulder for the benefit of the audience.)

First Watch: What if neither of you is around?

Dogberry: Just keep law and order in Messina.

Second Watch: When you say keep them in Messina, do you mean prevent them from leaving?

Dogberry: No.  I mean maintain them at all times.

Third Watch: Do they need maintenance, then?

Dogberry: In a manner of speaking, yes.

Fourth Watch: In which order shall we maintain them–law first and order second, or order first and law second?

Verges: They naturally go together, you donkey!

First Watch: Go where?

Verges: Where?  They don’t go anywhere.

Second Watch: Then you don’t need us to keep them in Messina.  We can take a nap and not worry about them.

Dogberry (To Verges): Where did you find these men?

Verges: I got them right out of the police academy.  They can read and write.

First Watch: In either order.

Second Watch: But not necessarily simultaneously.

Dogberry: That’s all right.  They are two sides of the same coin.

Third Watch: Of what denomination?

Verges: Shut up!  Don’t you men know your duties?

Others: No.

Dogberry: You are men of the watch.  That means you have the authority to make any man stop in the name of the Prince.

First Watch: Stop what?

Dogberry: Why, stop moving, of course.  That is–to stand still.

Second Watch: What if he’s lying down?

Third Watch: Then you wouldn’t have to tell him to stop in the first place, as he wasn’t going anywhere.

Fourth Watch: Suppose he’s lying down and wishes to stand up?

Dogberry: Yes, he can stand up.

Fourth Watch: But not lie down?

Dogberry: Why in the world would he want to lie down?

Fourth Watch: He might be tired.  I often lie down when I’m tired.

First Watch: Constable, what shall we do with a drunk?

Verges: A drunk is to be apprehended at all times, you donkey!

Second Watch: What, even when he’s not drunk?

Third Watch: No one can be drunk at all times.

Fourth Watch: Even a drunk has to sleep.

First Watch: But he would still be drunk.

Third Watch: But he would sober up eventually.

Second Watch: You’d have to awaken him at regular intervals to determine his actual condition.

Third Watch: Ah–of course.

First Watch: Constable, what shall we do if we catch someone telling fortunes?

Dogberry: Arrest him for fraud.

Second Watch: But what if the fortune comes true?  You wouldn’t arrest someone for telling the truth.

    (A pause as everyone ponders this.)

Dogberry: Ahem–To be on the safe side, you’d have to wait to see if the fortune did come true or not.

Third Watch: I was just about to say that.

Fourth Watch: So was I.

First Watch: Constable, what if we catch a peeping tom?

Dogberry: Arrest him, of course.

Second Watch: What if he’s legally blind?

Third Watch: They would throw it out of court, I should think.

Dogberry: Uh–yes–quite so.  If he appears to be blind, let him go–with a warning.

First Watch: Constable, what if someone is shouting obscenities?

Dogberry: Tell him to be quiet.

Second Watch: What if the obscenities are in a foreign language?  We wouldn’t know they were obscenities.

Verges: You donkey!  Didn’t they teach you anything at the academy?

Second Watch: What, are we supposed to know every language in the world?

Dogberry: Just use your own judgment.  If he sounds like he’s cursing, tell him to stop.

Second Watch: In what language?

Verges: In whatever language you can speak, you donkey!

Third Watch: Couldn’t we just slap him?

Dogberry: No, no.  You can only hit people in self defense–or–um–

Verges: Or if they insult the name of the Prince!

Dogberry: Yes, yes!  That’s in the law–somewhere–I think.

First Watch: What should we do about thieves?

Dogberry: You must catch them in the act, otherwise there’s very little you can do.

Second Watch: It’s usually the victim’s fault.  After all, you can’t have a theft without a victim.  They taught us that at the academy.

Third Watch: “The Politics of Oppression.”  That was the course.  Every thief is merely compensating for his own victimization by previous thieves.  Therefore, if you interrupt the cycle of theft and victimization, the man you arrest becomes the victim of the system.

Verges: What rubbish!  They taught you that?

Others: Yes.

Dogberry: Um–if you’re not sure, you must give the fellow the benefit of the doubt.  That’s the–uh–the Christian way.

Others (Nodding): Ah.  Yes.

Dogberry: Remember that as watchmen, you’re not supposed to do anything to annoy or offend anyone.

Verges: That’s right.  Just maintain law and order, but don’t hurt anyone’s feelings.

Dogberry: We don’t want Messina to get a bad reputation.

Verges: I think we can trust these men to look after things, Chief Constable.

Dogberry: Yes.  Very good.–Just one more thing, men.  Keep a close eye on Signior Leonato’s house tonight.  They’re having a late party before the wedding tomorrow.

Others: Yes, Chief Constable.

    (Dogberry and Verges leave.  The Watchmen sit down lazily in a place of suggested concealment.  Then Borachio and Conrade come in, drunk.  They are unaware of the Watchmen.  The Watchmen notice them and signal each other to be quiet and pay attention.)

Borachio (Gesturing to Conrade, who is lagging behind): Hey, Conrade!  Move your ass!

Conrade: Fuck me.  I’m drunk.

Borachio: I think it’s starting to rain.  Let’s get under this awning.

Conrade: Yeah, yeah.

Borachio: Listen.  I gotta tell ya what happened. I got paid a thousand ducats for doing a favour for Sir John.

Conrade: A thousand ducats!  What did you do, murder somebody?

Borachio: Heh, heh–no, no.  Not quite.  But it was a wicked piece of work, you can be sure of that.

Conrade: Well, I’d assume that much, knowing you.  What did you do?

Borachio: Don’t you remember Sir John wanted to screw up Claudio’s wedding plans?

Conrade: Oh, yeah.  Right.  What about it?

Borachio: I thought of a mean trick to play on Claudio and Don Pedro.

Conrade: What kind of trick?

Borachio: You know Lady Hero’s waiting maid Margaret?  She’s my girlfriend.

Conrade: Yeah, I know.

Borachio: We were on Lady Hero’s balcony, you see.  And Margaret was wearing Hero’s clothes, and we were necking, and I was calling her Hero.  And Don Pedro and Claudio were down below watching.  Sir John brought them there to prove Hero was a whore.–Are you following this?

Conrade: Yeah, yeah.  And the trick worked?

Borachio: Totally. 

Conrade: And Sir John paid you a thousand ducats for that?

Borachio: Hell, yes!  And now Claudio intends to make a big scene in church and call Hero a whore in front of everybody.  And Don Pedro is just as pissed off as Claudio, because the marriage was his idea in the first place.

Conrade: Ha!  That’s the best trick I ever heard! 

    (The Watchmen signal each other and come out into the open.)

First Watch: Stand in the name of the Prince!

Second Watch: You two are under arrest!

    (The Watchmen grab Conrade and Borachio by the collar.)

Conrade: What the fuck?

Borachio: Hey, watch it!  I’m a gentleman.  What’s the charge anyway?

    (The Watchmen look at each other with uncertainty.)

First Watch: Um–being, uh–evil!

Second Watch: Being villains!

Third Watch: Public–despicability!

Fourth Watch: Conspiring to–be an asshole!

First Watch: It doesn’t matter.  Chief Constable Dogberry will do the paper work.  He can read and write simultaneously.

Second Watch: In either order–and in all coins of a denomination.

Others: Yes.

Conrade: All right.  All right.  We’re not resisting.

Borachio: They’re happy now, aren’t they?  Dogberry’s canine corps have made a big arrest.–Arf!  Arf!

Watchmen: Come on!

    (They leave.)  

Act 3, Scene 4.  This scene is deleted.

Act 3, Scene 5.  In Leonato’s house the next morning.  Leonato comes in with Dogberry and Verges.

Leonato: So, what can I do for you, Dogberry?  You’ll have to make it short because I have a busy day today.

Dogberry: Yes.  Quite.  Well, there is a matter that I believe somewhat concerns you, sir.

Verges: Yes.  Somewhat.  Perhaps a little, perhaps more.

Dogberry: Perhaps in between those extremes–to be hypnothetical–in a Greek sort of way.

Leonato: Yes, yes.  What is it?

Dogberry: Well, sir, it seems that last night my men brought in a couple of bad fellows.  It was quite late.–I believe it just started raining, didn’t it, Verges?

Verges: It was raining lightly, I would say–or perhaps a bit more.  The watchmen came in rather wet.

Leonato: They’re good men, sir.  They don’t mind getting wet in the name of the Prince.

Verges: Good men.  Yes, indeed.  Wet or dry.  Ever faithful.

Leonato: Really, gentlemen, I’m in a hurry.

Dogberry: Yes, my lord.  Well, these two fellows of which I was preambling, and which were arrested–

Verges: Who were arrested.

Dogberry: What?

Verges: Who were arrested, not which were arrested.

Dogberry: Ah, yes, precisely.–The fellows whom were arrested were rather suspicious as pertaining to their circumstances.  That is, we were suspicious of them because they were suspicious to begin with–

Verges: Quite.

Dogberry: And we would like to have your lordship present when we interpolate them.

Verges: Interrogate.

Dogberry: Yes–that, too.

Leonato: Look, fellas, I’m way too busy.  I have a wedding to go to.  My daughter, Hero.

Dogberry: Congratulations, sir!

Verges: We wish her the best.

Leonato: Thank you.–Now, look, why don’t you interrogate your prisoners yourselves and send me a report if you think it’s advisable.

Dogberry: Yes, yes, we’ll do that, sir.

Verges: Yes, that’s very wise of you, sir.

    (A Messenger arrives.)

Messenger: My lord, everyone’s waiting for you to go to the church.

Leonato: Yes, yes, I’ll be right along.–You fellas can help yourselves to a cup of wine before you go.  I have to leave.

Dogberry: Thank you, sir.  Very good, sir.

    (Leonato leaves with the Messenger.)

Dogberry: Yes.  Well.  Um–we’ll need someone to write down the testimonials of the prisoners.

Verges: I would recommend the Sexton, Mr. Clyde Urchin.  He’s good at that sort of thing.  His calligraphy is exquisite.

Dogberry: Eh?–Well, as long as his handwriting is plainly illegible, that’s fine with me.  You bring him to the jail.

Verges: Yes.  At once.

    (Verges leaves.  Dogberry pours himself a quick cup of wine, gulps it, and follows Verges.)

Act 4, Scene 1.  In the church.  Don Pedro, Don John, Leonato, Father Francis, Claudio, Benedick, Hero, and Beatrice come in (optionally with Attendants).

Leonato: Okay, Father Francis, we don’t want the long ceremony.  Let’s do this quick.

Friar Francis: Right.–Ahem.  Count Claudio, are you here to marry this lady?

Claudio: No.

Laonato: Heh, heh–You’re the one who’s marrying them, Father.  That’s what he means.

Friar: Oh.  I thought my grammar was correct.–All right, then.  I assume Claudio’s good to go.–Hero, are you here–to be married–by me–to Count Claudio?

Hero: Yes.

Friar: Fine.  If anyone here knows any reason why these two should not be married, let him speak now.

Leonato: There is no reason, Father.  I can speak for everyone.

Claudio: Except me.

Benedick: Claudio, this is no time for jokes.

Claudio: I’m not joking.  (To Leonato) Sir, you may take your daughter back.  She’s not what I thought she was.

Leonato: What?  What do you mean, Claudio?

Claudio: I was led to believe she was a virgin.  I had no idea she was really–a whore.

Leonato: What are you saying?  Have you already had sex with her?

Claudio: No, not me.  She’s had another boyfriend all along.

Hero: I have not!  Have you lost your mind?

Claudio: No.  Neither have I lost my eyes and ears.

Leonato: What are you accusing her of?

Claudio: Last night between midnight and one o’clock, I saw her on her balcony with her–lover–and they were necking.

Hero: I wasn’t with anyone last night!

Don Pedro: I saw you, too.  And so did my brother.  (To Leonato) Leonato, I’m truly sorry.  But the three of us saw and heard it all plainly.  And the man has even admitted to my brother that he has met secretly with your daughter many times. 

Don John: Please don’t say any more.  (To Hero) I’m sorry for you, Hero.

Leonato: I can’t bear this!  Someone kill me now!

    (Hero faints into Beatrice’s arms.)

Beatrice: Hero!–Hero!  (Trying to revive her)  She’s dead!

Don John (To Don Pedro): We should go.

    (Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio leave.)

Benedick: Is she all right?

Beatrice: Oh, God!–Hero!  Wake up!–Uncle!

Leonato (Crying): I’m disgraced!  May God take her soul now!

Friar: No!  No!  (He tries to revive Hero.)  Hero–Hero–It’s all right.  Please wake up.

Leonato: All right?  How can it be all right?  She’s ruined herself, and she’s ruined me.  I loved her so much.  I did everything for her.  I was so proud of her.  And now–(He sobs.)

Benedick: Try to get hold of yourself, sir–please.  I don’t know whether to believe this or not.

Beatrice: She’s innocent!  I know my cousin!

Benedick: Were you with her last night?

Beatrice: No.  Usually I sleep in the same room with her, but–I didn’t last night.

Leonato: Then it’s true.  Would Don Pedro lie?  Would Don John lie?  Would Claudio?  Would he denounce her in front of everyone if it weren’t true?

Friar: Wait, wait, wait.–Let’s not jump to conclusions.  Everyone should calm down.  Unless I really don’t know people as well as I thought I did, I say she’s innocent.

Leonato: She didn’t deny the accusation.

    (Hero regains consciousness.)

Friar: Hero, tell me the truth.  Who is the man you were with last night?

Hero: Ask Claudio and Don Pedro.  I have no idea what they saw.  (To Leonato)  Father, if you can prove I was with some man last night, you can do whatever you want with me.  You can kill me.

Friar: I’m convinced this is all a mistake.

Benedick: I trust Don Pedro and Claudio, but I don’t trust Don John.  He could have misled the other two in some way.  If there’s anything rotten going on here, he’s the most likely culprit.

Leonato: I don’t know what to think.  If they told the truth, then my daughter will pay the price.  And if they lied, then they’ll pay the price.

Friar: Listen, I have a plan.  The two Princes and Claudio don’t know what Hero’s condition really is.  We’ll hide her, and you report that she’s dead.

Leonato: What good will that do?

Friar: If they hear that she’s dead and they were wrong about her, somebody may feel quilty enough that the truth will come out.  And in the other case–if you understand what I mean–you can pack your daughter off to a convent far away and she’ll never be seen again.  People will have pity for her if they think she’s dead, and it won’t be so bad for you.

Leonato: I don’t know–I’m so confused–All right, Father, we’ll do whatever you think is best.

Friar (To Hero): Try to be patient.  Everything may still work out all right.  Come with me.

    (All leave except Beatrice and Benedick.)

Benedick: I know you feel terrible about this.  I feel terrible, too.

Benedick: Why should you?  You’re not involved.

Benedick: Hey, Claudio’s my best friend.  But I agree with Friar Francis.  It’s got to be a mistake.  I don’t think your cousin did anything.  I don’t believe she’s a–what Claudio said.

Beatrice: I wish someone would give her back her honour.  It matters to me more than anything else in the world.

Benedick: Is there something I could do?

Beatrice: There is something someone could do–but you’re not the one to do it.

Benedick: I would do it–because I love you.

Beatrice: It’s strange to hear you say that.  And it’s just as strange that I might say I love you, too.  But right now I’m thinking only of my cousin.

Benedick: Beatrice, I know you love me.

Beatrice: Yes–I suppose I do.

Benedick: I’d do anything for you.  You said there was something someone could do.

Beatrice: Yes.

Benedick: Tell me what it is, and I’ll do it.

Beatrice: To prove that you love me?

Benedick: Yes.

Beatrice: All right, then.–I want you to kill Claudio.

Benedick: Kill Claudio?  You want me to kill my best friend?

Beatrice: He slandered my cousin, and for that he has to die!

Benedick: I–I can’t do that.

Beatrice: Goodbye, then.

    (She turns to leave, but he holds her.)

Benedick: Wait!

Beatrice: You don’t love me.  Let me go.

Benedick: I don’t love you unless I kill Claudio?  Is that what you’re saying?  Be reasonable.

Beatrice: Oh, if I were a man!  If I were a man, I’d know what to do!  Find me a real man–if there are any left in the world!

Benedick: Beatrice, I swear that I love you.

Beatrice: Any man can swear he loves me.  Words are cheap.  I want to see actions.

Benedick: Are you absolutely, completely sure that Claudio slandered your cousin?

Beatrice: Of course!  I’m as sure of her as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow.

Benedick: All right.–I’ll challenge him to a duel.  I’ll make him pay for the wrong he’s done.–Then you’ll be satisfied.–Goodbye.

    (He leaves.)

Act 4, Scene 2.  In the jail.  Dogberry and Verges come in with the Sexton, who has his writing implements.  Borachio and Conrade are escorted in by the Watchmen.

Dogberry: Well–I believe the entire assemblage is now assembled..

Verges (Offering a chair in front of a writing table): Sexton, you may sit here.

Sexton: Thank you.–Now, then, who are the malefactors?

Dogberry: That would be Verges and myself, sir.

Sexton: No.  I mean, who are the offenders?

Dogberry: Oh, sorry.–These two.  (To Borachio) Come here, you.  State your name for the Sexton.

Borachio: Borachio.

Dogberry: His name is Borachio.

Sexton: Yes.  I heard.  I’m writing everything down, don’t worry.

Dogberry (To Conrade): And you.  What’s your name?

Conrade: Conrade.

Dogberry: And his name is Conrade.

Sexton: Yes.  I’ve got it.

Dogberry: You, Conrade–and you, Borachio–the facts prove that you are both maloffenders, and it will be produced presently in evidentiary fashion that no other conclusion could be misled to.  What do you say to that?

Conrade: I haven’t done anything illegal.

Borachio: Me neither.

Dogberry: Well, that’s perjury if I ever heard it, and I think that settles the matter.

Sexton: Constable Dogberry, you must secure the testimony of the men of the watch.

Dogberry: Oh, I can secure it, all right.  I guarantee you they’re telling the truth.

Sexton: But you must ask them questions for the record.

Dogberry: Oh–of course.  Good thinking.  (To the Watchmen) Now, then–um–what is your testimony, that I may secure it at once?

First Watch: This man, Borachio, said that Don John was a no-good son of a bitch.

Dogberry: What?  He called the Prince’s brother a no-good son of a bitch?  (To Borachio) That’ll get you an additional six months extra, for sure.

Borachio: You’re an idiot.

Dogberry (To the Sexton): You write that down.

Sexton: Yes.–“You’re an idiot.”

Dogberry (To the Watchmen): What else?

Second Watch: He said Don John paid him a thousand ducats to compromise Lady Hero’s honour.

Dogberry: Well, that sounds like theft to me. 

Sexton: Yes, go on.

Third Watch: He staged a scene on Lady Hero’s balcony with his girlfriend, Margaret, with the intention of deceiving Don Pedro and Count Claudio.

Fourth Watch: And they were in fact deceived, and the marriage was called off.  And Lady Hero’s reputation is now in, um–disrepute.

Dogberry (To Borachio): You’ll be condemned to everlasting condemnation for that!

Sexton: Anything else?

Watchmen: No.  That’s it.

Sexton: Right.  Well, that explains everything.  Don John left town this morning–no one knows where.  And Lady Hero has been reported dead by her father.  Apparently, she died of shame over the false accusation made against her by Count Claudio, whom she was to have married.  Constable Dogberry, I suggest you tie up these men and take them to Governor Leonato’s house.  I’ll go on ahead of you and give him a complete report on this interrogation.

Dogberry: Very good, sir.  You are a consumptive professional!

    (The Sexton leaves.)

Dogberry (To the Watchmen): Tie them up!   Use rope if you have to.  (To Borachio and Conrade) You are both rotten maloffenders and felonious felons!

Conrade: Up yours.

Dogberry: And if you don’t watch out, your disrespect of authoritarianism will get you a kick in the ass!  And when you are punished for your malocutions and predilections, you’ll know the meaning of suffrage!

Verges: You tell ’em!

    (They leave.)

Act 5, Scene 1.  In front of Leonato’s house.  Leonato and Antonio come in.

Antonio: Brother, you must collect yourself or you’ll have a stroke or heart attack.

Leonato: Everyone tells me not to take it so hard, but they don’t know how I angry and miserable I feel.  It’s eating me up from the inside.

Antonio: Don’t do that to youself.  Take it out on those who deserve it.

Leonato: Yes.–I should.–I don’t believe those lies about Hero.  Claudio and Don Pedro are going to pay for it.

    (Don Pedro and Claudio come in.)

Don Pedro and Claudio: Good morning.

Leonato: You bastards!  I hate you!

Don Pedro: Don’t be angry with us, Leonato.

Claudio: We haven’t done anything to be ashamed of, Governor.

Leonato: You’re both liars!–Go ahead, Claudio, reach for your sword.  I’m not afraid of you.

Claudio: I wasn’t doing any such thing.

Leonato: I may be old, but I’ll still fight you!  You killed my daughter with your lies!

Claudio: Lies?  You’re saying we lied?

Leonato: You’re damned right!

Don Pedro: Now, wait a minute, Leonato.  We’re sorry about your daughter, but we didn’t lie.

Leonato: I’ll duel either one of you right now for the sake of my daughter’s honour!

Claudio: Get serious, Governor.  I’m not going to duel an old man.

Leonato: You’re a child.  You won’t face a real man in a duel.

Antonio: Let him duel me first!–Come on, Claudio!  I’m even older than he is!  I’ll fight you!  (He struggles with his sword, which is stuck.)

Leonato: Antonio, keep out of this.

Antonio: No!  I won’t!  I loved my niece!  (He continues to struggle with his sword.)

Don Pedro: Come, come now, gentlemen.  There’s not going to be any dueling.  Claudio and I are also men of honour, but we’re not going to indulge you in any stupid theatrics.

Leonato: You’re both bastards!  I’ll fight you now!

Don Pedro: You should go inside and lie down before you have a stroke.

Antonio: Don’t tell us to smoke!  We don’t smoke!

Claudio: Signior Leonato, you don’t look well.   I suggest you go inside with your brother.

Don Pedro: Yes.  You really should.

    (Leonato acts slightly faint.)

Leonato: Come on, brother.–Let’s go inside.  (They leave, but Leonato shouts over his shoulder tearfully) This matter isn’t finished!–I’ll tell everyone!–People will listen–My poor sweet girl!  (He leans on Antonio as they go out.)

Claudio: What a mess.

Don Pedro: You can say that again.

    (Benedick comes in slowly, looking very serious.)

Don Pedro: Benedick!  We were just coming to look for you.

Claudio: Hello, Benedick.

Benedick (Coldly): Good morning.

Don Pedro: You almost witnessed a fight.  Leonato and his brother wanted to duel us.

Benedick: That would hardly have been a fair fight.–I’ve been looking for you guys, too–or rather, Claudio in particular.

Claudio: Then we’re well met, as they say.  Don Pedro and I have both been very sad about what’s happened.  We were hoping  to get a dose of your customary good cheer.

Benedick (Coldly, hand on scabbard): Yeah, I can give you a dose of good cheer, all right.

Claudio (Alarmed): Benedick–what’s the matter?

Benedick: You lied about Hero.  And now I’m challenging you.  I’ll fight you wherever you want, however you want.  Do you accept my challenge–or are you a coward?

Claudio (Angrily): A coward?

Don Pedro (Restraining him): No!  Not now.

Claudio: If you want to fight me, I’ll fight you, Benedick.  And you’ll lose.

Don Pedro: Really, Benedick!  I thought you were smarter than this.

Benedick: Your brother, Don John, has left town.  That proves you all lied.  (To Claudio) I’ll be meeting you later.

    (Benedick leaves.)

Don Pedro: I don’t believe this.  What’s gotten into him?

Claudio: I’ll bet anything Beatrice put him up to it.

Don Pedro: Wait a minute.  He said my brother left town?–What the hell?

    (Dogberry, Verges, and the Watchmen come in with Conrade and Borachio, tied up.)

Dogberry (To the Prisoners): Come on, you villains!  Now you’ll pay for your dirty deeds!

Don Pedro: Hey!  What gives?  These are my brother’s men, Conrade and Borachio.  What’s going on?

Dogberry: My lord, these two no-goods are guilty of slander.  Not only that, but they’ve told lies that are untrue.

Don Pedro: Hold on.  (To Borachio and Conrade) Gentlemen, what’s all this about?

Borachio (Remorsefully): My lord, I won’t lie to you.  I–well–you see–Don John paid me–he paid me to–to–

Don Pedro: Out with it, man.  My brother paid you to do what?

Borachio: Remember when you and Claudio saw Hero making love to a strange man on her balcony?

Don Pedro: Yes.

Borachio: It was a trick.  It wasn’t her.  It was Margaret–and me.  She was wearing Hero’s clothes.  Don John paid me a thousand ducats.  He wanted to hurt Claudio and you.–And now Hero’s dead.–I’ll take whatever punishment I deserve.

    (Don Pedro and Claudio exchange a long look of shocked realization.)

Don Pedro: That bastard brother of mine!  No wonder he ran away.

Claudio (Very sadly): Hero–we could’ve been married now.

Dogberry (To Don Pedro): The Sexton has informed the Governor of all the details.  Please don’t forget to mention the fine work of myself and Verges and the men of the watch in the comprehension and foreclosure of these maloffenders.

    (Leonato, Antonio, and the Sexton come in.  Leonato and Antonio are both quite composed.)

Leonato: Who’s the guilty one?  I want to look him in the eye.

Borachio: It’s myself, sir.  Conrade didn’t take part in it.

Leonato: My daughter is dead because of you.  (To Claudio and Don Pedro) I hoope you’re proud of yourselves.  The blame falls on you as well.

Claudio: Sir, I can’t find the words to tell you how sorry I am.–We didn’t realize–Whatever I have to do to atone for this–this terrible mistake–I’ll do.

Don Pedro: That goes for me, too, Governor.

Leonato: Good.  Now we’re getting to a proper resolution of the matter.  This is what I want you to do.  I want you to let it be known throughout Messina that my daughter was always innocent and pure, and that you were mistaken.  Then I want you to come to my house tomorrow morning.–Claudio, it is my wish that you should marry my brother Antonio’s daughter.  You don’t know her, but she looks a lot like Hero.  And I want you to treat her with the same love and kindness that you would have treated Hero with.  If you agree to do this, I will be satisfied.

Claudio: My lord!–I–That’s incredibly gracious of you!  I will agree!

Leonato: Fine.  Now the only loose end to deal with is Margaret.  She was involved in this, too.

Borachio: My lord, Margaret is innocent.  She didn’t know anything about the trick.

Dogberry: My lord, all the men of the watch were very efficient and deleterious in the indulgence of their duties, and myself and Verges were simple-minded in extricating this misconstruction to your noble attention.

Leonato: Yes.  Well done.  (He gives Dogberry a gold coin.)  This is a small token of gratitude.

Dogberry: God bless you, sir!  You’re an inspiration to every menial public servant in Italy!

Leonato: Leave your prisoners with me.

Dogberry: Gladly, sir!  I leave them in the hands of injudiciousness itself, bless you, sir!–Come on, Verges.

    (Dogberry and Verges leave.)

Leonato (To the Watchmen): Bring them along with me.

    (They all leave.)

Act 5, Scene 2.  This scene is deleted.

Act 5, Scene 3.  This scene is deleted.

Act 5, Scene 4.  In Leonato’s house.  Leonato, Benedick, Beatrice, Margaret, Ursula, Antonio, Frair Francis, and Hero come in.

Friar: I told you she was innocent!  I knew she was!

Leonato: You were right, Father.  And Don Pedro and Claudio were tricked.  And so was Margaret.

Antonio: The truth always comes out.  I’m certainly glad for that.

Benedick: Not half as glad as I am.  I would’ve had to duel my best friend.

Leonato: Now there’s just one thing left to be done.  It’s time to play a little trick of my own.  I want you ladies to go into the other room and put on masks.  (To Antonio) And you, brother, will be giving away a daughter to Count Claudio.

Antonio: But I don’t have a daughter.

Leonato: I’m lending you Hero–in disguise.

Antonio: Ha!  I get it!

Leonato: Can you make it convincing?

Antonio: Absolutely!

Benedick: Excuse me–Father Francis, as long as you’re here–

Friar: Yes?

Benedick: Well–I should ask Leonato first.

Leonato: Yes, my boy, what is it?

Benedick: Well, sir–it’s about your niece, Beatrice.

Leonato: Mm?  Yes?

Benedick: Um–I want to marry her.

Leonato: Will she have you?

Benedick: I believe she will.

Leonato: Splendid!  I approve!

Friar: A double wedding!  I don’t get to do that very often.

    (Don Pedro and Claudio arrive.)

Don Pedro and Claudio: Good morning.

Leonato: Good morning.–Claudio, are you ready to marry Antonio’s daughter?

Claudio: I said I would, and I will.

Leonato: Antonio, have her come in.

    (Antonio leaves, chuckling.)

Don Pedro: Benedick, you seem nervous today.

Claudio: You’d think he was the one getting married.

Benedick: Oh!  Ha, ha!  Me get married?  What an idea!

    (Antonio returns with Hero, Beatrice, Margaret, and Ursula, wearing masks.)

Claudio: Which is the lady I’m supposed to marry?

    (Antonio brings Hero forward.) 

Antonio: Here she is.  Her name is, um–

Leonato: Lucinda.

Antonio: Belinda.  Yes.

Leonato: Lucinda.

Antonio: Yes, Linda.  That’s her middle name.

Claudio: O-kay–whatever.  (To Hero) Now, my good lady, take off your mask so I can see you.

Leonato: Not so fast.  Take her by the hand and swear to marry her–no matter what she looks like.

Claudio: All right.  Give me your hand then, lady.  I swear to marry you–that is, if you’ll have me.

Hero (Taking off her mask): Yes.  I’ll have you.

Claudio: Hero!

Don Pedro: But you were–dead!

Leonato: And she would’ve stayed dead if we hadn’t learned the truth.

Friar: I’ll explain it to you later, after the ceremony.

Benedick: Uh, Father Francis–which one is Beatrice?

Beatrice (Removing her mask): Here I am.  Did you want to say something to me?

Benedick: Um, yes–I think so.–Now, look here, Beatrice, you do love me, don’t you?

Beatrice: Mm–yes–within reason.

Benedick: Your uncle and Don Pedro and Claudio said you were sick in love with me.

Beatrice: Did they?  Oh, well!  Hero and Margaret and Ursula assured me you were pining away for me.  Were you pining away?

Benedick: Well–I don’t recall if I was pining away, exactly.  But never mind.  Do you love me, or don’t you?

Beatrice: As a friend, yes.

Leonato: Come on, now.  Don’t give the guy a hard time.  You love him.  Admit it.

Claudio: I know he loves her.  He even wrote her a love poem.  (He produces a paper.)  I found it in one of his books.

Benedick: Don’t read that!  It’s a terrible poem!

Hero: Ha!  Beatrice wrote you a love letter! (She produces a paper.) I stole it from her pocket!

Beatrice: Oh, my God!  (She tries to snatch it away from Hero, but Hero keeps it out of reach.)  I’m so embarrassed!

Benedick: Ah!  Well!  You’ve signed your own confession, haven’t you?

Beatrice: So did you.

Benedick: It’s all right.  I don’t mind marrying you–out of pity for your aching heart.

Beatrice: Then I suppose I should accept–before you pine away to extinction.

Benedick: You and your smart mouth.  You really have this coming to you.  (He kisses her.)

Claudio: Another bachelor bites the dust!  What a pity!

Benedick: In case my brains have gone for a walk, let’s get to the chapel before they return to me.

    (A Messenger arrives.)

Messenger (To Don Pedro): My lord, your brother, Don John, has been arrested.  He’s being returned to Messina.

Don Pedro (Smacking his hands): Aha!

Benedick: Even more to celebrate!–Hey, let’s have some music!–Musicians!

    (Some musicians appear out of nowhere, led by Balthasar with his guitar.  They play something corny or silly [Director’s choice] and everyone dances as the curtain falls.)


    Copyright@ 2010 by Crad Kilodney.  E-mail:  





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