Much Ado About Nothing: Act 4, Scene 1

           Enter Prince [DON PEDRO, DON JOHN the]
           Bastard, LEONATO, FRIAR [FRANCIS],
           [with ATTENDANTS].

  1   Come, Friar Francis, be brief; only to the plain
  2   form of marriage, and you shall recount their
  3   particular duties afterwards.

  4   You come hither, my lord, to marry this
  5   lady.

  6   No.

  7   To be married to her: friar, you come to
  8   marry her.

  9   Lady, you come hither to be married to
 10   this count.

 11   I do.

12. inward: secret, private.
 12   If either of you know any inward impediment
 13   why you should not be conjoined, I charge you,
 14   on your souls, to utter it.

 15   Know you any, Hero?

 16   None, my lord.

 17   Know you any, count?

 18   I dare make his answer, none.

 19   O, what men dare do! what men may do! what
 20   men daily do, not knowing what they do!

21-22. How now!  . . .  ha, he!: Interjections are sudden expressions of emotion, such as "Wow!" or "Hooray!" Benedick's point is that at a wedding any interjections should express laughter (and sexual joy), not the bitterness expressed by Claudio. 23. Stand thee by: stand aside. —Claudio takes the friar's place and faces the congregation.  Father: —Claudio is speaking to Leonato, who is his "father" in the sense of being his presumptive father-in-law.
 21   How now! interjections? Why, then, some be
 22   of laughing, as, ah, ha, he!

 23   Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave:
 24   Will you with free and unconstrained soul
 25   Give me this maid, your daughter?

 26   As freely, son, as God did give her me.

 27   And what have I to give you back, whose worth
28. counterpoise: balance, be equivalent to.

29. render her again: give her back.
 28   May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?

 29   Nothing, unless you render her again.

30. learn: teach.
31. There: —This word indicates that Claudio makes some dramatic gesture; perhaps he mockingly hands Hero back to her father, or he may shove her back.
 30   Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
 31   There, Leonato, take her back again:
 32   Give not this rotten orange to your friend;
 33   She's but the sign and semblance of her honor.
 34   Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
35. authority: assurance, authenticity.

37. that blood: i.e., Hero's blush.  modest evidence: natural, believable evidence.
 35   O, what authority and show of truth
 36   Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
 37   Comes not that blood as modest evidence
 38   To witness simple virtue? Would you not swear,
 39   All you that see her, that she were a maid,
 40   By these exterior shows? But she is none:
41. luxurious: lascivious, lustful.
 41   She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
 42   Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.

 43   What do you mean, my lord?

 43                                         Not to be married,
44. approved: convicted, proven.

45. proof: i.e., test or trial of her.
 44   Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.

 45   Dear my lord, if you, in your own proof,
 46   Have vanquish'd the resistance of her youth,
 47   And made defeat of her virginity,—

48. known her: had sex with her.
 48   I know what you would say: if I have known her,
 49   You will say she did embrace me as a husband,
50. extenuate: lessen, excuse. 'forehand sin: sin of anticipating (marriage); i.e., premarital sex relations.
52. large: broad, immodest.
 50   And so extenuate the 'forehand sin:
 51   No, Leonato,
 52   I never tempted her with word too large;
 53   But, as a brother to his sister, show'd
 54   Bashful sincerity and comely love.

 55   And seem'd I ever otherwise to you?

 56   Out on thee! Seeming! I will write against it:
57. Dian: Diana.  orb: sphere [of the moon]. Diana was a Roman goddess of the moon and chastity. ...more 58. the bud ere it be blown: the bud before it blooms.
60-61. those pamper'd animals / That rage in savage sensuality: This may be an allusion to the royal lions kept in the Tower of London. Apparently the lions relieved their boredom with frequent copulation.
62. wide: wide of the mark, far from the truth.
 57   You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
 58   As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;
 59   But you are more intemperate in your blood
 60   Than Venus, or those pamper'd animals
 61   That rage in savage sensuality.

 62   Is my lord well, that he doth speak so wide?

 63   Sweet prince, why speak not you?

 63                                                     What should I speak?
64-65. gone about / To: taken a lot of trouble to.
 64   I stand dishonor'd, that have gone about
65. common stale: low-class prostitute.
 65   To link my dear friend to a common stale.

 66   Are these things spoken, or do I but dream?

      DON JOHN
 67   Sir, they are spoken, and these things are true.

 68   This looks not like a nuptial.

68. True! O God!: Hero could be responding to Benedick's statement that "This looks not like a nuptial," but I think it's more likely that she is expressing shock and dismay at Don John's assertion that "these things are true."
 68                                                 True! O God!

 69   Leonato, stand I here?
 70   Is this the prince? is this the prince's brother?
 71   Is this face Hero's? are our eyes our own?

 72   All this is so: but what of this, my lord?

73. move: propose.
 73   Let me but move one question to your daughter;
74. kindly: natural.
 74   And, by that fatherly and kindly power
 75   That you have in her, bid her answer truly.

 76   I charge thee do so, as thou art my child.

77. beset: attacked from all sides.
 77   O, God defend me! how am I beset!
78. catechising: i.e., hostile questioning. ...more
 78   What kind of catechising call you this?

79. To make you answer truly to your name: i.e., this question will force you to tell the truth about who you are and what your name really means.
 79   To make you answer truly to your name.

 80   Is it not Hero? Who can blot that name
 81   With any just reproach?

 81                                       Marry, that can Hero;
82. Hero itself: the name Hero (which is now the name for a whore).
 82   Hero itself can blot out Hero's virtue.
 83   What man was he talk'd with you yesternight
 84   Out at your window betwixt twelve and one?
85. if you are a maid, answer to this: i.e., if you are a virgin, explain this away.
 85   Now, if you are a maid, answer to this.

 86   I talk'd with no man at that hour, my lord.

 87   Why, then are you no maiden. Leonato,
 88   I am sorry you must hear: upon mine honor,
89. grieved: aggrieved, wronged.
 89   Myself, my brother and this grieved count
 90   Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night
 91   Talk with a ruffian at her chamber-window
92. liberal: gross, licentious.
 92   Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
 93   Confess'd the vile encounters they have had
 94   A thousand times in secret.

      DON JOHN
 95   Fie, fie! they are not to be named, my lord,
 96   Not to be spoke of;
 97   There is not chastity enough in language
 98   Without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,
99. much misgovernment: great misconduct, evil conduct.
 99   I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.

100   O Hero, what a Hero hadst thou been,
101   If half thy outward graces had been placed
102   About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!
103   But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! farewell,
104   Thou pure impiety and impious purity!
105. For thee: because of my experience with you.
105   For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love,
106. conjecture: evil suspicion.
106   And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
107   To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
108. be gracious: seem beautiful, attractive, graceful.
108   And never shall it more be gracious.

109   Hath no man's dagger here a point for me?

           [Hero swoons.]

110   Why, how now, cousin! wherefore sink you down?

      DON JOHN
111   Come, let us go. These things, come thus to light,
112   Smother her spirits up.

           [Exeunt Don Pedro, Don John, and Claudio.]

113   How doth the lady?

113                               Dead, I think. Help, uncle!
114   Hero! why, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick! Friar!

115   O Fate! take not away thy heavy hand.
116   Death is the fairest cover for her shame
117   That may be wish'd for.

117                                     How now, cousin Hero!

118   Have comfort, lady.

119   Dost thou look up?

119                               Yea, wherefore should she not?

120   Wherefore! Why, doth not every earthly thing
121   Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny
122. blood: blushes.
122   The story that is printed in her blood?
123   Do not live, Hero; do not ope thine eyes:
124   For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,
125. shames: feelings of shame.
125   Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
126. on the rearward of reproaches: after reproaching you.
126   Myself would, on the rearward of reproaches,
127   Strike at thy life. Grieved I, I had but one?
128. frugal nature's frame: nature's frugal design (in giving me only one child).
128   Chid I for that at frugal nature's frame?
129   O, one too much by thee! Why had I one?
130   Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes?
131   Why had I not with charitable hand
132   Took up a beggar's issue at my gates,
133   Who smirch'd thus and mired with infamy,
134   I might have said 'No part of it is mine;
135   This shame derives itself from unknown loins'?
136   But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised
137   And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
138-139. I myself was to myself not mine / Valuing of her: i.e., I valued her so highly that I lived only for her, and valued myself at nothing.
138   That I myself was to myself not mine,
139   Valuing of her,—why, she, O, she is fallen
140   Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
141   Hath drops too few to wash her clean again
142. season give: act as a preservative. —Salt was used to preserve meat from rotting.
142   And salt too little which may season give
143   To her foul-tainted flesh!

143                                             Sir, sir, be patient.
144. attired: wrapped.
144   For my part, I am so attired in wonder,
145   I know not what to say.

146   O, on my soul, my cousin is belied!

147   Lady, were you her bedfellow last night?

148   No, truly not; although, until last night,
149   I have this twelvemonth been her bedfellow.

150   Confirm'd, confirm'd! O, that is stronger made
151   Which was before barr'd up with ribs of iron!
152   Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie,
153   Who loved her so, that, speaking of her foulness,
154   Wash'd it with tears? Hence from her! let her die.

155   Hear me a little;
156-158. I have  . . .  the lady: I have been silent so long, and not interfered with these happenstances, only because I have concentrated on observing the lady. ...more  158-161. I have mark'd  . . .  blushes: i.e., I have seen innocence in her change of color. ...more
156   For I have only been silent so long
157   And given way unto this course of fortune,
158   By noting of the lady. I have mark'd
159   A thousand blushing apparitions
160   To start into her face, a thousand innocent shames
161   In angel whiteness beat away those blushes;
162-164. And in her eye  . . .  her maiden truth: i.e., And in her eyes there burns a fire which should burn away any doubt of her innocence. ...more
162   And in her eye there hath appear'd a fire,
163   To burn the errors that these princes hold
164   Against her maiden truth. Call me a fool;
165   Trust not my reading nor my observations,
166-167. Which with experimental seal doth warrant / The tenor of my book: —A seal on a document guarantees its authenticity. Metaphorically, the friar's seal is his experience in reading people; in this case, his "book" is Hero's face, and its meaning ("tenor") is her innocence.
166   Which with experimental seal doth warrant
167   The tenor of my book; trust not my age,
168   My reverence, calling, nor divinity,
169   If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
170   Under some biting error.

170                                           Friar, it cannot be.
171   Thou seest that all the grace that she hath left
172   Is that she will not add to her damnation
173   A sin of perjury; she not denies it:
174   Why seek'st thou then to cover with excuse
175. proper: its own.
175   That which appears in proper nakedness?

176   Lady, what man is he you are accused of?

177   They know that do accuse me; I know none:
178   If I know more of any man alive
179   Than that which maiden modesty doth warrant,
180   Let all my sins lack mercy! O my father,
181   Prove you that any man with me conversed
182. unmeet: improper.
182   At hours unmeet, or that I yesternight
183. Maintain'd the change of words: had an exchange of words. 184. Refuse: renounce, cast off.
183   Maintain'd the change of words with any creature,
184   Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death!

185. misprision: mistake, misunderstanding, misapprehension.
185   There is some strange misprision in the princes.

186. the very bent of: a perfect inclination of the mind toward.
186   Two of them have the very bent of honor;
187   And if their wisdoms be misled in this,
188. practice: scheming, plotting.
188   The practice of it lives in John the bastard,
189. Whose spirits toil in frame of villanies: i.e., whose nature it is to be always hard at work plotting villanies.
189   Whose spirits toil in frame of villanies.

190   I know not. If they speak but truth of her,
191   These hands shall tear her; if they wrong her honor,
192   The proudest of them shall well hear of it.
193   Time hath not yet so dried this blood of mine,
194. age: i.e., old age eat: eaten. invention: ability to make plans (for revenge).
194   Nor age so eat up my invention,
195   Nor fortune made such havoc of my means,
196   Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends,
197. kind: degree.
197   But they shall find, awaked in such a kind,
198. policy of mind: shrewdness in planning (revenge).
198   Both strength of limb and policy of mind,
199   Ability in means and choice of friends,
200. quit me of them throughly: settle my account with them thoroughly; i.e., take revenge on them.
200   To quit me of them throughly.

200                                                   Pause awhile,
201. let my counsel sway you: let my advice guide you.
201   And let my counsel sway you in this case.
202   Your daughter here the princes left for dead:
203   Let her awhile be secretly kept in,
204. publish it: let it be known.
204   And publish it that she is dead indeed;
205. Maintain a mourning ostentation: keep up a show of mourning.
205   Maintain a mourning ostentation
206   And on your family's old monument
207   Hang mournful epitaphs and do all rites
208   That appertain unto a burial.

209. become of: result from.
209   What shall become of this? what will this do?

210. carried: managed.
210   Marry, this well carried shall on her behalf
211   Change slander to remorse; that is some good:
212   But not for that dream I on this strange course,
213. on this travail look for: from this labor expect.
214-215. She dying, as it must so be maintain'd, / Upon the instant that she was accused: because she died, as it must be given out, at the very instant that she was accused.
213   But on this travail look for greater birth.
214   She dying, as it must so be maintain'd,
215   Upon the instant that she was accused,
216   Shall be lamented, pitied and excused
217. Of: by.
217   Of every hearer: for it so falls out
218   That what we have we prize not to the worth
219   Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost,
220. rack: closely examine. ...more
221. virtue: value, worth.
220   Why, then we rack the value, then we find
221   The virtue that possession would not show us
222   Whiles it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio:
223. upon: in consequence of, as a result of.
223   When he shall hear she died upon his words,
224   The idea of her life shall sweetly creep
225. study of imagination: imaginative study; i.e., musing contemplation, reverie. 226. every lovely organ of her life: every aspect of her lovely life. 227. habit: dress.
225   Into his study of imagination,
226   And every lovely organ of her life
227   Shall come apparell'd in more precious habit,
228   More moving-delicate and full of life,
229. prospect: view, range of vision.
229   Into the eye and prospect of his soul,
230   Than when she lived indeed; then shall he mourn,
231. interest in: any claim upon (a legal term). liver: —The liver was believed to be the source of the passion of love.
231   If ever love had interest in his liver,
232   And wish he had not so accused her,
233   No, though he thought his accusation true.
234-236. Let this  . . .  likelihood: If you believe this ...more
234   Let this be so, and doubt not but success
235   Will fashion the event in better shape
236   Than I can lay it down in likelihood.
237-239. But  . . .   infamy: i.e., if every other aim except this comes to nothing, at least the belief that the lady is dead will drown out the amazement at her infamy.
237   But if all aim but this be levell'd false,
238   The supposition of the lady's death
239   Will quench the wonder of her infamy:
240. sort: turn out.
240   And if it sort not well, you may conceal her,
241   As best befits her wounded reputation,
242. reclusive: retired, secluded (as a religious recluse).
243. Out of: out of reach of. injuries: insults.
242   In some reclusive and religious life,
243   Out of all eyes, tongues, minds and injuries.

244   Signior Leonato, let the friar advise you:
245. inwardness and love: trusting familiarity and close friendship.
245   And though you know my inwardness and love
246   Is very much unto the prince and Claudio,
247   Yet, by mine honor, I will deal in this
248   As secretly and justly as your soul
249   Should with your body.

249. Being that I flow in grief: since I am carried away by the current of grief.
249                                       Being that I flow in grief,
250   The smallest twine may lead me.

251. presently away: i.e., let's leave immediately.
252. For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure: i.e., for strange diseases physicians come up with strange cures.
251   'Tis well consented: presently away;
252   For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure.
253   Come, lady, die to live: this wedding-day
254. but prolong'd: only postponed.
254   Perhaps is but prolong'd: have patience and endure.

           Exit [with all but Benedick and Beatrice].

255   Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?

256   Yea, and I will weep a while longer.

257   I will not desire that.

258   You have no reason; I do it freely.

259   Surely I do believe your fair cousin is
260   wrong'd.

261   Ah, how much might the man deserve of me
262   that would right her!

263   Is there any way to show such friendship?

264. even way: clear path.
264   A very even way, but no such friend.

265   May a man do it?

266. a man's office: the kind of service that a man would be expected to do. but not yours: —What Beatrice has in mind becomes clear a little later. She wants Benedick to punish Claudio for his accusations against Hero. Perhaps she means that the "office" is not Benedick's because he is Claudio's friend, or perhaps she means that Benedick is not the sort of man to challenge Claudio to a duel.
266   It is a man's office, but not yours.

267   I do love nothing in the world so well as you:
268   is not that strange?

269. As strange as the thing I know not: i.e., as strange as my confused emotions.
269   As strange as the thing I know not. It were
270   as possible for me to say I loved nothing so
271   well as you: but believe me not; and yet I lie
272   not; I confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I
273   am sorry for my cousin.

274   By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.

275. eat it: eat your sword; i.e., go back on your oath.
275   Do not swear, and eat it.

276   I will swear by it that you love me; and I
277. eat it: eat my sword.
277   will make him eat it that says I love not you.

278   Will you not eat your word?

279   With no sauce that can be devised to it.
280. protest: declare, swear.
280   I protest I love thee.

281   Why, then, God forgive me!

282   What offence, sweet Beatrice?

283. in a happy hour: at just the right moment, opportunely.
283   You have stayed me in a happy hour:
284   I was about to protest I loved you.

285   And do it with all thy heart.

286   I love you with so much of my heart
287. none is left to protest: —Here Beatrice uses the word "protest" in the sense of "object to."
287   that none is left to protest.

288   Come, bid me do any thing for thee.

289   Kill Claudio!

290   Ha! not for the wide world.

291. deny: refuse.
291   You kill me to deny it. Farewell.

292   Tarry, sweet Beatrice.

293. am gone: have left you (in spirit).
293   I am gone, though I am here: there is no
294. nay, let me go: —Shakespeare often implies stage directions. Here, it seems that Benedick is somehow preventing Beatrice from leaving.
294   love in you: nay, I pray you, let me go.

295   Beatrice,—

296   In faith, I will go.

297   We'll be friends first.

298   You dare easier be friends with me than
299   fight with mine enemy.

300   Is Claudio thine enemy?

301. approved: proved. height: highest degree.
301   Is he not approved in the height a villain,
302   that hath slandered, scorned, dishonored
303   my kinswoman? O that I were a man! What,
304. bear  . . .  hands: i.e., lead her on until the moment when they exchange marriage vows. 305. uncovered: unconcealed, open.
304   bear her in hand until they come to take hands;
305   and then, with public accusation, uncovered
306   slander, unmitigated rancour, —O God, that I
307   were a man! I would eat his heart in the market-place.

308   Hear me, Beatrice,—

309-310. proper saying: i.e., believable statement. —Beatrice is being extremely sarcastic; she means that the idea of Hero talking with a man at her window is wildly unbelievable.
309   Talk with a man out at a window! A proper
310   saying!

311   Nay, but, Beatrice,—

312   Sweet Hero! She is wronged, she is slandered,
313   she is undone.

314   Beat—

315   Princes and counties! Surely, a princely testimony,
316   a goodly count, Count Comfect; a sweet gallant,
317   surely! O that I were a man for his sake! or that I
318   had any friend would be a man for my sake! But
319   manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into
320   compliment, and men are only turned into tongue,
321. trim: fine, nice (used ironically).
322. swears it: swears it is true.
321   and trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules
322   that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a man
323   with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.

324   Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love
325   thee.

326   Use it for my love some other way than
327   swearing by it.

328   Think you in your soul the Count Claudio
329   hath wrong'd Hero?

330   Yea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.

331. engaged: bound by a pledge.

333. Claudio shall render me a dear account: i.e., I will make Claudio pay dearly for what he has done.
331   Enough, I am engaged; I will challenge him.
332   I will kiss your hand, and so I leave you. By
333   this hand, Claudio shall render me a dear account.
334   As you hear of me, so think of me. Go, comfort
335   your cousin: I must say she is dead: and so,
336   farewell.