Scene Index with Summaries:
- ACT 1, SCENE 1
- (1.1.1) Enter LEONATO, governor of Messina, HERO his daughter, and BEATRICE his niece, with a Messenger.
Leonato receives the news that Don Pedro, with his troops, is soon to arrive in Messina. Don Pedro has won "these wars" with little loss of life. Claudio, a young man in Don Pedro's company, is praised. Beatrice asks about "Signior Mountanto" (Benedick) and makes many sarcastic remarks about him. Leonato explains to the messenger that "There is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her."
(1.1.96) Enter DON PEDRO, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, BALTHASAR, and [DON] JOHN the Bastard.
Leonato warmly welcomes Don Pedro and his followers. Meanwhile, Benedick and Beatrice get into an exchange of insults, during which they both proclaim that they are immune to love.
Don Pedro and Leonato announce that Don Pedro and his company will stay at least a month. Leonato welcomes Don John, bastard brother of Don Pedro. Don John receives the welcome coldly. All exit except Benedick and Claudio.
- (1.1.162) Exeunt. Manent BENEDICK and CLAUDIO.
After the rest have left, Claudio asks Benedick if he noticed what a wonderful young lady Hero is. Benedick teases him, saying she's "too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise and too little for a great praise." Benedick goes on to accuse Claudio of an intent to "turn husband"; Claudio admits that he would like to marry Hero.
- (1.1.204) Enter DON PEDRO.
Benedick attempts to get Don Pedro to join in mocking Claudio's love for Hero, but Don Pedro believes that Claudio and Hero are worthy of each other. Don Pedro then turns the tables on Benedick, and declares that "I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love." Benedick emphatically denies that such a thing will ever happen, saying that he will never be such a monster as a married man.
Don Pedro sends Benedick to assure Leonato that Don Pedro will come to supper with him.
- (1.1.290) Exit [Benedick].
Claudio declares his love for Hero and asks Don Pedro for help. Don Pedro sees no need for dilly-dallying; he promises that at Leonato's "revelling" that night he will disguise himself as Claudio, win Hero's heart, and make the proper arrangements with Leonato, so that "the conclusion is, she shall be thine." And so away they go.
- ACT 1, SCENE 2
- (1.2.1) Enter LEONATO and an old man [ANTONIO], brother to Leonato, [meeting].
Antonio tells Leonato that a servant of his heard Don Pedro and Claudio talking about Hero. However, somebody has gotten the story wrong. Antonio thinks it is Don Pedro who is in love with Hero and will propose marriage to her that very night. Leonato is very happy at this prospect.
- ACT 1, SCENE 3
(1.3.1) Enter [DON] JOHN the Bastard and CONRADE, his companion.
Don John is in a foul mood, and Conrade tries to talk him down, but Don John holds firmly to his resentment of his brother, who has defeated him in battle, and who has then forgiven him. Don John hates his own hypocrisy and says, "If I had my mouth, I would bite."
(1.3.41) Enter BORACHIO.
Borachio delivers the news that Claudio is about to marry Hero. (However, Borachio has gotten the story wrong. He says, "it agreed upon that the prince should woo Hero for himself, and having obtained her, give her to Count Claudio.") Don John sees this as an opportunity to get back at Claudio, who has gotten credit for his "overthrow." He and his companions head for the feast, intending to do something to ruin Claudio's happiness.
ACT 2, SCENE 1
(2.1.1) Enter LEONATO, [ANTONIO] his brother, HERO his daughter, and BEATRICE his niece, [MARGARET, URSULA,] and a KINSMAN.
Just after supper, and just before the dancing begins, there is light-hearted chatter, mostly by Beatrice, who has an opinion about everybody. She comments on how sour Don John is and on what a babbler Benedick is. Antonio says that Beatrice is "too curst" to get a husband, and Beatrice replies that she is glad of it, because it would "grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust."
Leonato strongly encourages Hero to accept Don Pedro if he proposes to her, but Beatrice strongly encourages Hero to please herself.
(2.1.86) Enter [as maskers] Prince [Don] Pedro, Claudio, and Benedick, and Balthasar, [Borachio,] and Don John.
At the masked ball, various couples pair off for dancing: Don Pedro with Hero, Balthasar with Margaret, Ursula with Antonio, and Beatrice with Benedick. The ladies all tease the gentlemen, and Beatrice teases Benedick the most, speaking of "Signior Benedick" as "a very dull fool."
(2.1.155) Dance. [Then] exeunt [all but DON JOHN, BORACHIO, and CLAUDIO].
After the dance, Don John and Borachio play a dirty trick on Claudio. They pretend to believe that Claudio, who is wearing a mask, is Benedick, and they tell him that he should dissuade Don Pedro from marrying Hero, because Hero's social station is too low. They add that they heard Don Pedro swear his affection for Hero.
(2.1.172) Exeunt [Don John and Borachio]. Manet Claudio.
In a short soliloquy, Claudio shows that he has taken the bait. He is sure that Don Pedro has betrayed him and wooed Hero for himself.
(2.1.183) Enter BENEDICK.
Benedick has heard and believed the news that Don Pedro has wooed and won Hero. He tries to kid Claudio out of his melancholy, but Claudio is too depressed to put up with Benedick's jokes.
(2.1.202) Exit [Claudio].
In a short soliloquy, Benedick reflects on Beatrice's witty remarks about him. He wonders if he really is considered to be "the prince's fool," but decides that is only Beatrice's opinion.
(2.1.211) Enter the Prince [DON PEDRO].
Don Pedro is looking for Claudio and asks Benedick if he has seen him. Benedick tells Don Pedro about his encounter with Claudio and makes some witty remarks about Don Pedro stealing Hero from Claudio.
Don Pedro clears up the confusion about Hero, then says, "The Lady Beatrice hath a quarrel to you: the gentleman that danced with her told her she is much wronged by you." This launches Benedick into a rant about how badly Beatrice has verbally abused him, and declares that "all disquiet, horror and perturbation follows her."
(2.1.263) Enter CLAUDIO and BEATRICE, [LEONATO, and HERO].
Benedick comically implores Don Pedro to send him on a mission to the ends of the world so that he can avoid Beatrice. Don Pedro replies that all he wants of Benedick is his company, and Benedick rushes out, saying, "here's a dish I love not: I cannot endure my Lady Tongue."
(2.1.276) Exit [Benedick].
Don Pedro remarks to Beatrice that she has "lost the heart of Signior Benedick." Beatrice replies with some witticisms that indicate that she once had a flirtation with Benedick, but now is glad that she is not married to him, because if she were, she would be "the mother of fools."
Beatrice points out that she has brought along Claudio, who Don Pedro sent her to seek. Don Pedro notes that Claudio is melancholy, and asks the reason why. Claudio says that there's nothing wrong with him, but Beatrice guesses that he is jealous. Don Pedro agrees, then reveals the good news to Claudio: "I have wooed in thy name, and fair Hero is won: I have broke with her father, and his good will obtained: name the day of marriage, and God give thee joy!" Everyone is happy, and Claudio and Hero kiss.
Beatrice humorously complains that everyone is getting married but her, and she can't get a husband. Don Pedro offers to get one for her: himself. He seems to be at least half-serious, but Beatrice turns him down with a flattering jest; when he asks if she will have him, she replies, "No, my lord, unless I might have another for working-days: your grace is too costly to wear every day." Don Pedro admires her merry spirit, and then Leonato sends her away on an errand.
(2.1.341) Exit [Beatrice].
Don Pedro and Leonato discuss Beatrice, especially her aversion to marriage, and then Don Pedro makes an amazing statement: "She were an excellent wife for Benedict." Leonato exclaims, "O Lord, my lord, if they were but a week married, they would talk themselves mad," but Don Pedro isn't just joking; he has a plan to make Benedick and Beatrice fall in love. He asks if all present (Claudio, Hero, and Leonato) will assist him. They say they will, and he invites them to go in with him and hear about his plan.
ACT 2, SCENE 2
- (2.2.1) Enter [DON] JOHN and BORACHIO.
Borachio describes his plan for ruining the wedding of Claudio and Hero. Margaret, Hero's chambermaid, likes Borachio and will agree to play a flirtatious game with him, in which she will pretend to be the lady Hero. Margaret, not having any idea about Borachio's evil intentions, will appear at Hero's window in the night, where Borachio will talk sweet nothings to her and call her "Hero." Don John will have Claudio and Don Pedro witness this charade. They will think that Margaret is Hero and be convinced that Claudio is about to marry a "contaminated stale."
Naturally, the evil Don John is pleased with Borachio's proposal, and promises him a thousand ducats if everything goes as planned.
ACT 2, SCENE 3
- (2.3.1) Enter BENEDICK alone.
Benedick, alone in a garden, wonders at the transformation of Claudio from a soldier to a lover. He asks himself if he could be similarly transformed, but asserts that "till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace." He goes on to specify all the qualities that a woman must have, if he were to consider her. She would be absolutely perfect, although "her hair shall be of what color it please God."
Benedick sees Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio come into the garden, and decides to hide in an arbor.
- (2.3.37) Enter prince [DON PEDRO], LEONATO, CLAUDIO.
Don Pedro and Claudio see that Benedick is hiding nearby. They call for music, and Balthasar enters with a small band and sings a song, "Sigh no more ladies," about how men always have "One foot in sea and one on shore."
- (2.3.89) Exit Balthasar.
Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato conduct a loud conversation (so that Benedick will be sure to hear) about how they have learned from Hero that Beatrice is desperately in love with Benedick, but will never reveal it, because Benedick would scorn her.
At the end of this charade, the three men are convinced that Benedick has been taken in, and Don Pedro orders that the same trick be played on Beatrice. Meanwhile, dinner-time has come, and Don Pedro arranges that Beatrice will be sent to call Benedick into dinner.
- (2.3.220) [Exeunt Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato.]
Benedick, convinced that Beatrice loves him, vows to return her love. He promises himself that he will not be proud, and praises Beatrice's beauty and wisdom (except for loving him). He knows that many will laugh at him because he has made so many jests against marriage, but rationalizes that he must marry because "the world must be peopled."
Just as he has come to believe that he must love and marry Beatrice, Benedick sees her coming. In the throes of his new passion, he is sure that he can see "some marks of love in her."
- (2.3.247) Enter BEATRICE.
"Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner," Beatrice announces, and soon leaves again. Despite all of her scornful words, Benedick is sure that there is a "double meaning" in each one, and vows to love her.
ACT 3, SCENE 1
(3.1.1) Enter HERO and two gentlewomen, MARGARET and URSLEY.
Hero sends Margaret to lure Beatrice into the garden by telling her that she is being talked about by Hero and Ursula. Hero then lays out the plan to Ursula: while Beatrice hides and listens in, they will praise Benedick and speak of how he is "sick in love with Beatrice." Beatrice appears, hides in the arbor, and the plan works perfectly. At the end of the scene, after Hero and Ursula have left, Beatrice says, "Benedick, love on; I will requite thee, / Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand."
ACT 3, SCENE 2
(3.2.1) Enter prince [DON PEDRO], CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, and LEONATO.
Benedick's appearance and manner have been transformed. He has shaved off his beard; he is wearing fashionable clothes, and he is serious, rather than witty. Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato tease Benedick about being in love. Benedick claims to have a toothache, but nothing stops the kidding. After a bit, Benedick takes Leonato aside for a private talk, and Don Pedro and Claudio are sure that Benedick wants to obtain Leonato's permission to marry Beatrice. Don Pedro and Claudio find all of this hugely humorous, and look forward to the moment when Beatrice (similarly fooled into love) meets up with Benedick; then, says Claudio, "the two bears will not bite one another when they meet."
- (3.2.80) Enter [DON] JOHN the Bastard.
Don John, pretending deep concern for the honors of both Claudio and Don Pedro, tells Claudio that he should not marry Hero because "the lady is disloyal." Don Pedro offers to prove his accusation by escorting the other two men to a place where they will "see her chamber-window entered, even the night before her wedding-day." Don Pedro and Claudio take Don John's bait, and leave with him to witness Hero's disgusting sexual behavior.
ACT 3, SCENE 3
(3.3.1) Enter DOGBERRY and his compartner [VERGES] with the WATCH.
Dogberry, the pompous and dim-witted constable, accompanied by his ancient sidekick, Verges, gives the watchmen their instructions. They are not to bother anybody, sit around until 2 a.m., and then go home and go to bed.
(3.3.95) Exeunt [DOGBERRY and VERGES]. Enter BORACHIO and CONRADE.
Borachio, drunk, tells Conrade about the success of his plan. He talked with Margaret at Hero's window, and called her "Hero." Claudio and Don Pedro, viewing this charade from far off, were convinced that they had seen Hero in an "amiable encounter" with another man the night before her wedding to Claudio. Claudio, enraged, vowed that the next morning he would shame Hero before the whole congregation who would come to the planned wedding.
The watchmen, although they have overheard everything, are confused about what Borachio has said, but they are sure that they have "recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever was known in the commonwealth," and so they arrest both Borachio and Conrade.
- ACT 3, SCENE 4
(3.4.1) Enter HERO and MARGARET and URSULA.
On the morning of Hero's wedding, she sends Ursula for Beatrice, and then she and Margaret happily discuss the beautiful wedding attire. Margaret teases Hero, joking that she is ashamed to admit that she is eagerly looking forward to the amorous activities of her wedding night.
(3.4.39) Enter BEATRICE.
Beatrice, not her usual witty self, is teased by Margaret about falling in love. Though Beatrice claims that she only has a bad cold, Margaret says, "methinks you look with your eyes as other women do." The teasing ends only when Ursula comes with the news that the men have come to fetch the bride, Hero, to church.
ACT 3, SCENE 5
(3.5.1) Enter LEONATO and the Constable [DOGBERRY] and the Headborough [VERGES].
Leonato, on his way to give away his daughter, Hero, at her wedding, is intercepted by Dogberry and Verges, who, despite a lot of meaningless chatter, manage to deliver the news that the watch has arrested two suspicious men. They want Leonato to conduct the examination of the men, but Leonato, in a hurry to get to the wedding, tells Dogberry to do the questioning himself. Dogberry is elated with this important responsibility and says, "here's that shall drive some of them to a non-come."
ACT 4, SCENE 1
(4.1.1) Enter Prince [DON PEDRO, DON JOHN the] Bastard, LEONATO, FRIAR [FRANCIS], CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, HERO, and BEATRICE [with ATTENDANTS].
At his wedding Claudio publicly denounces Hero as a "rotten orange"; Don Pedro backs him up, saying that he has seen her "Talk with a ruffian at her chamber-window." Hero declares that there was no man at her window, but faints under the storm of accusations. Don John says that her fainting is a sign of her guilt, and leads away Don Pedro and Claudio.
(4.1.113) [Exeunt Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio.]
Leonato, certain that Hero is guilty, and wallowing in self-pity, expresses the terrible wish that she would die, but Friar Francis is sure that she is innocent. The Friar proposes that they keep Hero hidden and report to the world that she died, so that "She dying, as it must so be maintain'd, / Upon the instant that she was accused, / Shall be lamented, pitied and excused / Of every hearer." At Benedick's urging, Leonato agrees to the Friar's plan, and everyone leaves except Beatrice and Benedick.
(4.1.255) Exit [Friar Francis, with all but Beatrice and Benedick].
Alone with Beatrice, Benedick sees that she is weeping, and asks if she has been weeping "all this while." Beatrice says she has, and Benedick commiserates with her sorrow for Hero. Beatrice wishes that there was a man who could right the wrong done to Hero, but tells Benedick it's not his job. Apparently inspired by this, Benedick suddenly declares his love for Beatrice. In return, she confesses her love for him, and he joyfully exclaims, "Come, bid me do any thing for thee." Her astounding and strangely funny reply is: "Kill Claudio! "Benedick, nonplussed, tries to back down from his promise to do anything for her, but Beatrice overwhelms him with passionate denunciations of Claudio and of men who don't keep their word. Finally, Benedick asks if Beatrice thinks in her soul that Claudio has wronged Hero. Beatrice answers, "Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul." At this, Benedick promises to challenge Claudio to a duel. He kisses her hand, repeats his promise, and leaves. Beatrice goes off to comfort Hero.
ACT 4, SCENE 2
(4.2.1) Enter the Constables [DOGBERRY and VERGES] and the Town Clerk [or SEXTON] in gowns, [and the WATCH with CONRADE and] BORACHIO.
Dogberry's examination of Borachio and Conrade is a mess; he is too muddle-headed to do anything except tell them that they are knaves. After a while, the Sexton manages to get a member of watch to deliver the incriminating information about the deception of Claudio and Don Pedro. Once the Sexton has written down all that is necessary, he tells Dogberry to bind the culprits and bring them to Leonato's. Then, saying that he will immediately deliver his report to Leonato, the Sexton leaves.
(4.2.67) [Exit Sexton.]
When Dogberry tries to bind Conrade's hands, Conrade calls him a coxcomb and an ass. Dogberry is indignant, and wishes that the Sexton had been there to record in writing Conrade's crime of calling the prince's officer (Dogberry himself) an ass. Dogberry exits saying, "O that I had been writ down an ass!"
ACT 5, SCENE 1
(5.1.1) Enter LEONATO and his brother [ANTONIO].
Leonato is still wallowing in self-pity, as though his daughter really were dead or really had committed shameful acts. Antonio, Leonato's brother, tries to get him to calm down, but Leonato refuses to be comforted. Finally Antonio suggests that Leonato make "those that do offend you suffer too." Leonato thinks this is a good idea and vows to tell Claudio and Don Pedro that Hero has been slandered.
(5.1.45) Enter Prince [DON PEDRO] and CLAUDIO.
Claudio and Don Pedro try to brush by Leonato and Antonio with a hurried greeting, but the two old men get carried away in anger; Leonato challenges Claudio to a duel, and Antonio catches the same fever, also challenging Claudio and denouncing "Boys, apes, braggarts, Jacks, milksops!" Don Pedro puts an end to this embarrassing incident by declaring that although he is sorry for Hero's death, she was surely guilty. He tells the two old men that he will listen to them no more, whereupon Leonato and Antonio storm away.
(5.1.110) Exeunt [LEONATO and ANTONIO]. Enter BENEDICK.
Don Pedro and Claudio are very glad to see Benedick, because they are "high-proof melancholy and would fain have it beaten away" by the witty Benedick. Benedick, however, is not in a jesting mood. The other two try get him to laugh with them about having their "two noses snapped off with two old men without teeth," and they tease him about being in love with Beatrice, but Benedick scorns them and issues a challenge to Claudio, saying "You are a villain; I jest not."
(5.1.194) [Exit Benedick].
Don Pedro and Claudio tell each other that Benedick's challenge to Claudio is "in earnest," though they think it must be only because of the influence of Beatrice.
(5.1.201) Enter Constables [DOGBERRY and VERGES, and the WATCH with] CONRADE and BORACHIO.
Don Pedro realizes that the men that Dogberry has in custody are followers of his brother, Don John. He asks Dogberry what Borachio and Conrade are guilty of, but Dogberry says so much that he conveys no useful information. Don Pedro then asks the two men what they have done, and Borachio remorsefully confesses that "the lady is dead upon mine and my master's false accusation."
Don Pedro confirms that his brother Don John, who has fled from Messina, is the source of the slander of Hero. Claudio feels his love for Hero returning, and Dogberry reminds everyone that they should not forget "to specify, when time and place shall serve, that I am an ass."
(5.1.259) Enter LEONATO, his brother [ANTONIO], with the SEXTON.
Leonato, who now knows all that has happened, lays the guilt for Hero's (supposed) death on Don Pedro and Claudio. They offer to do any penance for the wrong done to Hero, and Leonato enjoins them to visit Hero's funeral monument that night and proclaim her innocence. As a further penance, Claudio must agree to marry Antonio's daughter, who is "almost the copy of my child that's dead." (We know that it is Hero herself who is going to appear as the bride for Claudio.) Claudio instantly agrees.
At this point Dogberry informs Leonato that "this plaintiff here, the offender, did call me ass," and then goes on and on about Conrade's other crimes. Leonato has a hard time getting Dogberry to stop talking, but finally he takes custody of the prisoners and Dogberry leaves. Leonato reminds Don Pedro and Claudio that he will see them the next morning for the wedding, and then leads away the prisoners.
ACT 5, SCENE 2
(5.2.1) Enter BENEDICK and MARGARET, [meeting].
Benedick asks Margaret to tell Beatrice that he wants to speak with her. Margaret, after a bout of witty, flirtatious teasing, promises Benedick that she will "call Beatrice to you."
(5.2.25) Exit MARGARET.
As Benedick waits for Beatrice, he sings a little love song that he is trying to compose, but then says that though he is "turned over and over" in love, he "cannot show it in rhyme."
(5.2.42) Enter BEATRICE.
Benedick and Beatrice tease one another about their love for one another, and Benedick comments, "Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably."
(5.2.95) Enter URSULA.
Ursula comes with an urgent summons from Leonato and the news that Hero has been falsely accused. All threeBenedick, Beatrice, and Ursularush away.
ACT 5, SCENE 3
(5.3.1) Enter CLAUDIO, Prince [Don Pedro], and three or four with tapers.
Claudio, accompanied by Don Pedro and an entourage of musicians and candle-bearers, places a scroll on Leonato's family funerary monument. The scroll bears an epitaph proclaiming Hero's innocence. Then the musicians sing a mourning song. As the song ends, dawn "dapples the drowsy east with spots of grey," and everyone leaves to go to Claudio's wedding.
ACT 5, SCENE 4
(5.4.1) Enter LEONATO, BENEDICK, [BEATRICE,] MARGARET, URSULA, old man [ANTONIO,] FRIAR [FRANCIS], HERO.
Leonato reminds Antonio that he is supposed to pretend to be the father of the lady that Claudio has promised to marry. (We know that the lady is Hero, who Claudio thinks is dead.) The ladies are sent away to don masks.
After the ladies have gone, Benedick tells the Friar that he believes he will need the Friar to perform a wedding ceremony for himself and Beatrice. The Friar agrees, and Leonato gives his blessing to the match.
Don Pedro and Claudio arrive, and Claudio again promises to marry Antonio's daughter, no matter what she looks like. Leonato sends Antonio to fetch the ladies, and as everyone awaits them, Claudio and Don Pedro tease Benedick about falling in love.
The ladies come in, masked. Antonio leads Hero to Claudio. Claudio asks to see her face, but is not allowed to until he formally vows to marry her. When Claudio has made the vow, Hero unmasks and everyone is filled with wonder and joy
Just as everyone is about to leave for the chapel where the wedding of Claudio and Hero will take place, Benedick halts the procession by asking for Beatrice. Beatrice unmasks and asks him what he wants. He asks, "Do not you love me?" She replies, "Why, no; no more than reason." And so begins a hilarious exchange in which the two wits almost talk their way out of being in love. Finally Claudio and Hero save the day by swearing that Benedick and Beatrice do indeed love one another.
Don Pedro and Claudio tease Benedick about his change of heart about love and marriage, but Benedick is not fazed and delivers his philosophy of life: "man is a giddy thing." Benedick then leads everyone in a dance.
The celebration is interrupted by a messenger with the news that Don John has been captured. Benedick assures everyone that no one has to worry about Don John until the next day. For now, it's going to be all music and dancing.