Act II - Scene II

[A Hall in Leonato's House]

Enter [Don] John and Borachio.

DON JOHN:
It is so. The Count Claudio shall marry the daughter
of Leonato.
BORACHIO:
Yea, my lord; but I can cross it.
DON JOHN:
Any bar, any cross, any impediment will be
medicinable to me. I am sick in displeasure to him, and(5)
whatsoever comes athwart his affection ranges evenly with
mine. How canst thou cross this marriage?
BORACHIO:
Not honestly, my lord, but so covertly that no
dishonesty shall appear in me.
DON JOHN:
Show me briefly how.(10)
BORACHIO:
I think I told your lordship, a year since, how
much I am in the favour of Margaret, the waiting
gentlewoman to Hero.
DON JOHN:
I remember.
BORACHIO:
I can, at any unseasonable instant of the night,(15)
appoint her to look out at her lady's chamber window.
DON JOHN:
What life is in that to be the death of this
marriage?
BORACHIO:
The poison of that lies in you to temper. Go you to
the prince your brother; spare not to tell him that he hath(20)
wronged his honour in marrying the renowned Claudio
whose estimation do you mightily hold up, to a
contaminated stale, such a one as Hero.
DON JOHN:
What proof shall I make of that?
BORACHIO:
Proof enough to misuse the prince, to vex Claudio,(25)
to undo Hero, and kill Leonato. Look you for any other
issue?
DON JOHN:
Only to despite them I will endeavour anything.
BORACHIO:
Go then; find a meet hour to draw Don Pedro and
the Count Claudio alone; tell them that you know that(30)
Hero loves me; intend a kind of zeal both to the prince
and Claudio, as—in love of your brother's honour, who
hath made this match, and his friend's reputation, who is
thus like to be cozened with the semblance of a maid—
that you have discovered thus. They will scarcely believe(35)
this without trial. Offer them instances; which shall bear
no less likelihood than to see me at her chamber window,
hear me call Margaret, Hero, hear Margaret term me
Claudio; and bring them to see this the very night before
the intended wedding—for in the meantime I will so fashion(40)
the matter that Hero shall be absent—and there shall appear
such seeming truth of Hero's disloyalty that jealousy shall be
called assurance and all the preparation overthrown.
DON JOHN:
Grow this to what adverse issue it can, I will put it in
practice. Be cunning in the working this, and thy fee is a(45)
thousand ducats.
BORACHIO:
Be you constant in the accusation, and my cunning
shall not shame me.
DON JOHN:
I will presently go learn their day of marriage.

[Exeunt.]

Footnotes

  1. In Elizabethan times, it was expected that middle- and upper-class women retain their virginity until they were married. If a women did lose her virginity before marriage, she would be subject to social scorn, ridicule, and would bring shame on her family and future husband. Here, Don John suggests that after his plot Hero will seem “contaminated” to Claudio because she will no longer be a virgin. It would then be shameful for Claudio to marry her.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. When Don John asks Borachio “How canst thou cross this marriage?”, he is asking how the marriage can be prevented. Notice that this scene opens with Don John deciding to destroy a marriage while the previous scene ended with Don Pedro designing a plan to spark one. By placing these two plots in contrast to one another, Shakespeare emphasizes how vastly different Don John and Don Pedro are in character. Don Pedro’s well-intentioned scheme shows his benevolent nature, whereas Don John’s plot shows his destructive and malevolent character.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Don John, who is Don Pedro's illegitimate brother, hates both Don John and Claudio. Borachio, his friend and confidante, devises a plan to destroy them: he will pretend to make love to Hero (who will be impersonated by Margaret, who is in love with Borachio) in a window where Claudio and Don Pedro can see them. Claudio will be devastated once he thinks Hero has betrayed him, and Don Pedro will presumably fall out of favor with Claudio because he was the one who brought Claudio and Hero together in the first place.

    — Sarah St. Albin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. A ducat (also, a Venetian ducat) was equal to a Crown or five shillings in Shakespeare's day.  Twenty shillings equaled a Pound Sterling, so a thousand ducats would allow Borachio to live in luxury for at least a couple of years.

    — Stephen Holliday
  5. That is, the suspicion (of jealousy) will be converted to the certainty of Hero's guilt.

    — Stephen Holliday
  6. That is, pretend you are doing this only because you want to protect Don Pedro and Claudio

    — Stephen Holliday
  7. That is, what more could you ask for?  Note how deception, which is an innocent pastime in the hands of Don Pedro, becomes deadly in Don John's hands--simply to  amuse himself, he is willing to deceive his brother, torment Claudio, ruin an innocent girl's reputation, and perhaps kill her father with shame.

    — Stephen Holliday
  8. That is, that Don Pedro has harmed his own honor by encouraging Claudio

    — Stephen Holliday
  9. In other words, what good will that do to kill this marriage?

    — Stephen Holliday