Act II - Scene III

[Enter Benedick alone.]

BENEDICK:
Boy!

[Enter Boy.]

BOY:
Signior?
BENEDICK:
In my chamber window lies a book. Bring it hither to
me in the orchard.
BOY:
I am here already, my lord.(5)
BENEDICK:
I know that, but I would have thee hence and here
again. [Exit Boy.] I do much wonder that one man, seeing
how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his
behaviours to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow
follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn(10)
by falling in love; and such a man is Claudio. I have known
when there was no music with him but the drum and the
fife; and now had he rather hear the tabor and the pipe.
I have known when he would have walked ten mile afoot to
see a good armour; and now will he lie ten nights awake(15)
carving the fashion of a new doublet. He was wont to
speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man and a
soldier; and now is he turned orthography; his words are a
very fantastical banquet—just so many strange dishes. May
I be so converted and see with these eyes? I cannot tell; I(20)
think not. I will not be sworn but love may transform me to
an oyster; but I'll take my oath on it, till he have made an
oyster of me he shall never make me such a fool. One
woman is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am
well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all graces be(25)
in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace.
Rich she shall be, that's certain; wise, or I'll none; virtuous,
or I'll never cheapen her; fair, or I'll never look on
her; mild, or come not near me; noble, or not I for an
angel; of good discourse, an excellent musician, and her(30)
hair shall be of what colour it please God. Ha, the prince
and Monsieur Love! I will hide me in the arbour.

[Hides.]

Enter Prince [Don Pedro], Leonato, Claudio.

DON PEDRO:
Come, shall we hear this music?
CLAUDIO:
Yea, my good lord. How still the evening is, as
hushed on purpose to grace harmony!(35)
DON PEDRO:
See you where Benedick hath hid himself?
CLAUDIO:
O, very well, my lord. The music ended, We'll fit the
kid-fox with a pennyworth.

Enter Balthasar with Music.

DON PEDRO:
Come, Balthasar, we'll hear that song again.
BALTHASAR:
O, good my lord, tax not so bad a voice(40)
To slander music any more than once.
DON PEDRO:
It is the witness still of excellency
To put a strange face on his own perfection.
I pray thee, sing, and let me woo no more.
BALTHASAR:
Because you talk of wooing, I will sing;(45)
Since many a wooer doth commence his suit
To her he thinks not worthy, yet he wooes,
Yet he will swear he loves.
DON PEDRO:
Nay, pray thee, come;
Or, if thou wilt hold no longer argument,(50)
Do it in notes.
BALTHASAR:
Note this before my notes;
There's not a note of mine that's worth noting.
DON PEDRO:
Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks;
Note, notes, forsooth, and nothing.(55)
BENEDICK:
[Aside] Now, divine air! now is his soul ravished! Is it not
strange that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of men's
bodies? Well, a horn for my money, when all's done.
BALTHASAR:
The Song.
Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,(60)
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,(65)
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.
Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
Of dumps so dull and heavey;
The fraud of men was ever so,(70)
Since summer first was leavy:
Then sigh not so, &c.
DON PEDRO:
By my troth, a good song.
BALTHASAR:
And an ill singer, my lord.
DON PEDRO:
Ha, no, no, faith! Thou singest well enough for a(75)
shift.
BENEDICK:
[Aside] An he had been a dog that should have
howled thus, they would have hanged him; and I pray God
his bad voice bode no mischief. I had as live have heard the
night raven, come what plague could have come after it.(80)
DON PEDRO:
Yea, marry. Dost thou hear, Balthasar? I pray thee get
us some excellent music; for to-morrow night we would
have it at the Lady Hero's chamber window.
BALTHASAR:
The best I can, my lord.
DON PEDRO:
Do so. Farewell. [Exit Balthasar.] Come hither, Leonato.(85)
What was it you told me of to-day? that your niece
Beatrice was in love with Signior Benedick?
CLAUDIO:
O, ay! [Aside to Don Pedro] Stalk on, stalk on; the
fowl sits.—I did never think that lady would have loved
any man.(90)
LEONATO:
No, nor I neither; but most wonderful that she
should so dote on Signior Benedick, whom she hath in all
outward behaviours seemed ever to abhor.
BENEDICK:
[Aside] Is't possible? Sits the wind in that corner?
LEONATO:
By my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think of it,(95)
but that she loves him with an enraged affection. It is past
the infinite of thought.
DON PEDRO:
May be she doth but counterfeit.
CLAUDIO:
Faith, like enough.
LEONATO:
O God, counterfeit? There was never counterfeit of
passion came so near the life of passion as she discovers(100)
it.
DON PEDRO:
Why, what effects of passion shows she?
CLAUDIO:
[Aside] Bait the hook well! This fish will bite.
LEONATO:
What effects, my lord? She will sit you—you heard(105)
my daughter tell you how.
CLAUDIO:
She did indeed.
DON PEDRO:
How, how, I pray you? You amaze me. I would
have thought her spirit had been invincible against all
assaults of affection.(110)
LEONATO:
I would have sworn it had, my lord—especially
against Benedick.
BENEDICK:
[Aside] I should think this a gull but that the
white-bearded fellow speaks it. Knavery cannot, sure,
hide himself in such reverence.(115)
CLAUDIO:
[Aside] He hath ta'en th' infection. Hold it up.
DON PEDRO:
Hath she made her affection known to Benedick?
LEONATO:
No, and swears she never will. That's her torment.
CLAUDIO:
'Tis true indeed. So your daughter says. ‘Shall I,’ says
she, ‘that have so oft encountered him with scorn, write(120)
to him that I love him?’”
LEONATO:
This says she now when she is beginning to write to
him; for she'll be up twenty times a night, and there will
she sit in her smock till she have writ a sheet of paper. My
daughter tells us all.(125)
CLAUDIO:
Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a
pretty jest your daughter told us of.
LEONATO:
O, when she had writ it, and was reading it over, she
found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet?
CLAUDIO:
That.(130)
LEONATO:
O, she tore the letter into a thousand halfpence,
railed at herself that she should be so immodest to write
to one that she knew would flout her. ‘I measure him,’
says she, ‘by my own spirit; for I should flout him if he
writ to me. Yea, though I love him, I should.’(135)
CLAUDIO:
Then down upon her knees she falls, weeps, sobs,
beats her heart, tears her hair, prays, curses—O sweet
Benedick! God give me patience!'
LEONATO:
She doth indeed; my daughter says so. And the
ecstasy hath so much overborne her that my daughter is(140)
sometime afeard she will do a desperate outrage to herself. It
is very true.
DON PEDRO:
It were good that Benedick knew of it by some other,
if she will not discover it.
CLAUDIO:
To what end? He would make but a sport of it and torment(145)
the poor lady worse.
DON PEDRO:
An he should, it were an alms to hang him! She's an
excellent sweet lady, and, out of all suspicion, she is
virtuous.
CLAUDIO:
And she is exceeding wise.(150)
DON PEDRO:
In everything but in loving Benedick.
LEONATO:
O, my lord, wisdom and blood combating in so tender
a body, we have ten proofs to one that blood hath the victory.
I am sorry for her, as I have just cause, being her uncle and
her guardian.(155)
DON PEDRO:
I would she had bestowed this dotage on me. I
would have daffed all other respects and made her half
myself. I pray you tell Benedick of it and hear what 'a will
say.
LEONATO:
Were it good, think you?(160)
CLAUDIO:
Hero thinks surely she will die; for she says she will die
if he love her not, and she will die ere she make her love
known, and she will die, if he woo her, rather than she will
bate one breath of her accustomed crossness.
DON PEDRO:
She doth well. If she should make tender of her
love, 'tis very possible he'll scorn it; for the man, as you(165)
know all hath a contemptible spirit.
CLAUDIO:
He is a very proper man.
DON PEDRO:
He hath indeed a good outward happiness.
CLAUDIO:
Before God! and in my mind, very wise.(170)
DON PEDRO:
He doth indeed show some sparks that are like wit.
CLAUDIO:
And I take him to be valiant.
DON PEDRO:
As Hector, I assure you; and in the managing of
quarrels you may say he is wise, for either he avoids them
with great discretion, or undertakes them with a most(175)
Christianlike fear.
LEONATO:
If he do fear God, 'a must necessarily keep peace. If he
break the peace, he ought to enter into a quarrel with fear
and trembling.
DON PEDRO:
And so will he do; for the man doth fear God,(180)
howsoever it seems not in him by some large jests he will make.
Well, I am sorry for your niece. Shall we go seek Benedick
and tell him of her love?
CLAUDIO:
Never tell him, my lord. Let her wear it out with
good counsel.(185)
LEONATO:
Nay, that's impossible; she may wear her heart out
first.
DON PEDRO:
Well, we will hear further of it by your daughter.
Let it cool the while. I love Benedick well, and I could
wish he would modestly examine himself to see how(190)
much he is unworthy so good a lady.
LEONATO:
My lord, will you walk? Dinner is ready.
CLAUDIO:
If he do not dote on her upon this, I will never trust
my expectation.
DON PEDRO:
Let there be the same net spread for her, and that(195)
must your daughter and her gentlewomen carry. The
sport will be, when they hold one an opinion of another's
dotage, and no such matter. That's the scene that I would
see, which will be merely a dumb show. Let us send her
to call him in to dinner.(200)
BENEDICK:
This can be no trick. The conference was sadly
borne; they have the truth of this from Hero; they seem
to pity the lady. It seems her affections have their full
bent. Love me? Why, it must be requited. I hear how I am
censured. They say I will bear myself proudly if I perceive(205)
the love come from her. They say too that she will
rather die than give any sign of affection. I did never
think to marry. I must not seem proud. Happy are they
that hear their detractions and can put them to mending.
They say the lady is fair—'tis a truth, I can bear them witness;(210)
and virtuous—'tis so, I cannot reprove it; and wise,
but for loving me—by my troth, it is no addition to her
wit, nor no great argument of her folly, for I will be horribly
in love with her. I may chance have some odd quirks
and remnants of wit broken on me because I have railed(215)
so long against marriage. But doth not the appetite alter?
A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure
in his age. Shall quips and sentences and these paper
bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his
humour? No, the world must be peopled. When I said
I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I(220)
were married. Here comes Beatrice. By this day! she's a
fair lady: I do spy some marks of love in her.

[Enter Beatrice.]

BEATRICE:
Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to
dinner.
BENEDICK:
Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.(225)
BEATRICE:
I took no more pains for those thanks than you take
pains to thank me. If it had been painful, I would not have
come.
BENEDICK:
You take pleasure then in the message?
BEATRICE:
Yea, just so much as you may take upon a knife's point,(230)
and choke a daw withal. You have no stomach, signior?
Fare you well.
BENEDICK:
Ha! ‘Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to
dinner.’ There's a double meaning in that. ‘I took no more
pains for those thanks than you took pains to thank me.’(235)
That's as much as to say, ‘Any pains that I take for you is as
easy as thanks.’ If I do not take pity of her, I am a villain; if
I do not love her, I am a Jew. I will go get her picture.

[Exit.]

Footnotes

  1. Benedick takes the rumors he has just heard to be true on faith, despite Beatrice’s continued icy manner towards him. He interprets reality differently based entirely on hearsay, wholeheartedly believing that she loves him. Keep in mind, however, that the true nature of Beatrice’s feelings for Benedick are still unclear. Regardless, language and deception both continue to shape characters’ perceptions of reality.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. A “daw” or “jackdaw” is a type of bird. When Beatrice says that it did not pain her to bring Benedick the message that dinner was served, he asks hopefully if she instead took pleasure in it. But Beatrice replies that it pleasures her as much as “[one] may take upon a knife's point, and choke a daw withal.” As jackdaws eat very small amounts of grain, her witty reply means that she took little pleasure in delivering her message to him.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. In Elizabethan times, suicide was considered a “desperate outrage” because it was seen as a sin against the church and against God. Suicide was thought to destroy the “gift of life” that God had created. Further, since the church and the monarchy ruled Elizabethan England, suicide was not only sin, it was illegal. Those who were caught having attempted suicide would have been placed on trial and faced punishment.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. A “kid fox” is a young fox, but here it means something like “crafty young man.” Claudio means that the group will give Benedick—now in hiding—more than he has bargained for.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Balthazar’s off-key singing also hints that there is something that is “off” about this conference, which the audience of course knows to be true. Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato, are not fooled by Benedick’s hiding. They know he is there. The entire conversation that occurs is part of their trick.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. This is a heavily layered pun. Balthazar says that one should take “note.” He then says that there is not a musical note of his that is worth listening to (“noting”) or worth anything (“nothing”). Balthazar’s pun on “noting” and “nothing” reflects the the pun in the play’s title. Much “ado” (needless commotion) ensues throughout the play because characters continually make “note” of “nothing.” They make a fuss over perceptions of things rather the things themselves.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Before hearing of Claudio’s engagement, Benedick refused to even to think about getting married. However, now that Benedick feels more pressure to get married, he lists traits that he finds preferable in a potential partner. He constructs a perfect romantic partner who could not possibly exist outside of the imagination. By doing so, Benedick continues to avoid the possibility of marriage by waiting indefinitely for an idealized partner.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Oysters are thought to be aphrodisiacs and are thus often used as a symbol for attraction and love. When Benedick says that he “will not be sworn but love may transform [him] to an oyster,” he means that true love may eventually affect him in the way that it does Claudio. However, Benedick stresses that until he has found a true love who possesses all of the qualities that he desires, he will not be made a fool by romance.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. The drum and fife are military instruments that symbolize warfare. The tabor and pipe are more sweet and gentle, associated with fun and dancing. Benedick continues to contrast courtship with warfare. He suggests that love has softened Claudio, a soldier by trade, and is upset by his engagement. Benedick’s annoyance at Claudio may indicate that Benedick himself feels pressured to get engaged.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. Here Shakespeare establishes the theme of love and desire as foolish. These forces can turn the lover’s behaviors irrational and impulsive. Note, too, that Benedick expresses another theme here: marriage as a loss of freedom. When he says that Claudio has “become the argument of his own scorn,” he is suggesting that Claudio’s love for Hero has made him helpless and without his characteristic determination. Pay attention to how this theme becomes complicated. As the play moves forward, characters’ actions are increasingly influenced by love and jealousy.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. “Sigh no more” could be interpreted as do not cry or feel sad anymore. Its repetition along with the following line reflect a tone of acceptance. “One foot in sea and one on shore” suggests unfaithfulness and unwillingness to commit to a relationship. “To one thing constant never” can be interpreted in a more general context; it is essentially saying that men can never be “constant” or devoted to anything.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. In Shakespeare's time, Jews were a distrusted minority in England.  After having been officially expelled by King Edward I in 1290 (the Edict of Expulsion), Jews who remained in England practiced their religion in secret and tried to blend into the population.  The prejudice that caused their expulsion 1290 still existed when Shakespeare wrote this play in about 1600.

    — Stephen Holliday
  13. In other words, if Benedick should make fun of Beatrice, it would be a good deed to hang him.

    — Stephen Holliday
  14. Benedick is observing that Leonato looks so honest and respectable that he could not be lying.

    — Stephen Holliday
  15. At this point, Leonato is having trouble coming up with a good lie to fool Benedick, so he's looking to either Claudio or Don Pedro to come up with something convincing.

    — Stephen Holliday
  16. In other words, Beatrice's passion is so strong that it couldn't possibly be false.

    — Stephen Holliday
  17. In Renaissance and Elizabethan folklore, the night raven is an omen of disaster--in this case, Benedick mentions the plague.

    — Stephen Holliday
  18. Because stringed instruments, such as the lute and guitar, used sheep's intestines for strings, we know that Balthasar is accompanying himself with a lute or guitar.

    — Stephen Holliday
  19. That is, it is typical of someone skilled not to acknowledge that skill.

    — Stephen Holliday
  20. That is, don't ask my poor singing to ruin any more music than I already have.

    — Stephen Holliday
  21. In other words, is it possible for me to become like Claudio?

    — Stephen Holliday
  22. Benedick means that Claudio has gone from talking like a soldier to using fancy and flowery language.

    — Stephen Holliday