Act III - Scene I

[Leonato's Orchard]

Enter Hero, and two gentlewomen, Margaret, and Ursula.

Good Margaret, run thee to the parlour.
There shalt thou find my cousin Beatrice
Proposing with the prince and Claudio.
Whisper her ear and tell her, I and Ursula
Walk in the orchard, and our whole discourse(5)
Is all of her. Say that thou overheard'st us;
And bid her steal into the pleached bower,
Where honeysuckles, ripened by the sun,
Forbid the sun to enter—like favourites,
Made proud by princes, that advance their pride(10)
Against that power that bred it. There will she hide her
To listen our propose. This is thy office.
Bear thee well in it and leave us alone.
I'll make her come, I warrant you, presently.


Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come,(15)
As we do trace this alley up and down,
Our talk must only be of Benedick.
When I do name him, let it be thy part
To praise him more than ever man did merit.
My talk to thee must be how Benedick(20)
Is sick in love with Beatrice. Of this matter
Is little Cupid's crafty arrow made,
That only wounds by hearsay.

[Enter Beatrice.]

Now begin,
For look where Beatrice like a lapwing runs,
Close by the ground, to hear our conference.(25)

[Beatrice hides in the arbour.]

The pleasant'st angling is to see the fish
Cut with her golden oars the silver stream.
And greedily devour the treacherous bait.
So angle we for Beatrice, who even now
Is couched in the woodbine coverture.(30)
Fear you not my part of the dialogue.
Then go we near her, that her ear lose nothing
Of the false sweet bait that we lay for it.
No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful.
I know her spirits are as coy and wild(35)
As haggards of the rock.
But are you sure
That Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?
So says the prince, and my new-trothed lord.
And did they bid you tell her of it, madam?(40)
They did entreat me to acquaint her of it;
But I persuaded them, if they loved Benedick,
To wish him wrestle with affection,
And never to let Beatrice know of it.
Why did you so? Doth not the gentleman(45)
Deserve as full, as fortunate a bed
As ever Beatrice shall couch upon?
O god of love! I know he doth deserve
As much as may be yielded to a man:
But Nature never framed a woman's heart(50)
Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice.
Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,
Misprizing what they look on; and her wit
Values itself so highly, that to her
All matter else seems weak. She cannot love,(55)
Nor take no shape nor project of affection,
She is so self-endeared.
Sure I think so;
And therefore certainly it were not good
She knew his love, lest she'll make sport at it.(60)
Why, you speak truth. I never yet saw man,
How wise, how noble, young, how rarely featured,
But she would spell him backward. If fair-faced,
She would swear the gentleman should be her sister;
If black, why, Nature, drawing of an antique,(65)
Made a foul blot; if tall, a lance ill-headed;
If low, an agate very vilely cut;
If speaking, why, a vane blown with all winds;
If silent, why, a block moved with none.
So turns she every man the wrong side out(70)
And never gives to truth and virtue that
Which simpleness and merit purchaseth.
Sure, sure, such carping is not commendable.
No, not to be so odd, and from all fashions,
As Beatrice is, cannot be commendable.(75)
But who dare tell her so? If I should speak,
She would mock me into air; O, she would laugh me
Out of myself, press me to death with wit!
Therefore let Benedick, like covered fire,
Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly.(80)
It were a better death than die with mocks,
Which is as bad as die with tickling.
Yet tell her of it. Hear what she will say.
No; rather I will go to Benedick
And counsel him to fight against his passion.(85)
And truly, I'll devise some honest slanders
To stain my cousin with. One doth not know
How much an ill word may empoison liking.
O, do not do your cousin such a wrong!
She cannot be so much without true judgment,(90)
Having so swift and excellent a wit
As she is prized to have, as to refuse
So rare a gentleman as Signior Benedick.
He is the only man of Italy,
Always excepted my dear Claudio.(95)
I pray you be not angry with me, madam,
Speaking my fancy: Signior Benedick,
For shape, for bearing, argument, and valour,
Goes foremost in report through Italy.
Indeed he hath an excellent good name.(100)
His excellence did earn it ere he had it.
When are you married, madam?
Why, every day to-morrow! Come, go in.
I'll show thee some attires, and have thy counsel
Which is the best to furnish me tomorrow.(105)
She's limed, I warrant you! We have caught her, madam.
If it prove so, then loving goes by haps;
Some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps.

[Exeunt Hero and Ursula.]

What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true?
Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much?(110)
Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu!
No glory lives behind the back of such.
And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,
Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand.
If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee(115)
To bind our loves up in a holy band;
For others say thou dost deserve, and I
Believe it better than reportingly.



  1. Beatrice claims to believe in Benedick’s worth “better than reportingly.” Her use of the word “reportingly” is intriguing, and suggests that the reports she heard about Benedick are not responsible for her new opinion of him. Either she is mistaken, or she has held affections for Benedick since the beginning of the play’s events.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  2. Ursula and Hero describe Benedick’s reputation, which, according to Ursula’s word, “goes foremost in report through Italy.” Hero, despite holding a higher opinion of Claudio, agrees with Ursula with the intention of tricking Beatrice into loving Benedick.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  3. In an ironic gesture, Hero claims that she will not tell Beatrice of Benedick’s passion for her. She knows, however, that Beatrice can hear her every word. Hero suggests that Benedick should suppress his passion “like covered fire,/Consume away in sighs.” The lines evoke the image of a candle being snuffed out, the resulting smoke of which is alluded to in the ethereal reference to “sighs.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  4. Before discussing Benedick, Hero describes Beatrice’s proud nature. As Hero sees it, Beatrice is so critical that she would find fault with any man. Issuing a list of characteristics, Hero imagines the problem Beatrice would complain of: “if tall, a lance ill-headed;/If low, an agate very vilely cut.”

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  5. It is clear that there are multiple levels of deception here. Hero intends to trick Beatrice into falling in love with Benedick. However, Hero is acting according to the lie Don Pedro told her about Benedick’s affections for Beatrice. Thus, none of the characters in the scene understand the full picture. One of the central themes of the play is the use and consequences of deception.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  6. Ursula is referring to the arbour—previously called the “pleached”—with another pair of uncommon words. “Woodbine” refers to any crawling plant or vine, one which “binds” to “wood.” A coverture refers to any covering or canopy.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  7. Ursula employs a clever pun here. “The pleasant’st angling” takes on two meanings. On one level, “angling” refers to fishing, which Ursula expands on with the image of the fish “greedily devour[ing] the treacherous bait.” On another level, “to angle” means to place an object at a new angle or direction. It can be said that Hero, Ursula, and Margaret are “angling” Beatrice towards Benedick.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  8. A lapwing is a kind of bird, a variety of crested plover known for being particularly swift on foot. It is not clear whether this metaphor is intended to mock Beatrice, or simply to point out her rushed state.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  9. The events of Act 3, scene 1 closely mirror those of Act 2, scene 3. Just as Don Pedro planned for Benedick to overhear his false account of Beatrice’s love for him, Hero will spin the opposite story to a not-so-hidden Beatrice.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  10. The word “pleached” means “interlaced.” Given that a “bower” is an arbour, the setting is a shady tree-lined area covered by interlacing branches: an ideal place for eavesdropping.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Editor
  11. After learning that she has a reputation for being overly prideful and scornful, making her “unlovable” to Benedick, Beatrice expresses disbelief and shock. Suddenly, the character who defies societal expectations regarding women and marriage manages to abandon her contempt and “maiden pride.” She acknowledges that she has a “wild heart,” yet here she wants Benedick to “love on” as she will love him in return. However, it appears that Beatrice allows Benedict to pursue her more as a reaction against the reputation she has gained.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. Hero and her attendant Ursula have planned to have Beatrice overhear their staged conversation, which will trick her into believing that Benedict loves her (as he does in reality). Hero and Ursula’s plan represents a Cupid’s trap. Moreover, the execution of this plan indirectly shows how Beatrice and Benedick are both stubborn and in self-denial regarding love and matrimony.

    — Jane, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. A play on words—Beatrice refers to both the marriage ceremony and the ring that symbolizes marriage.

    — Stephen Holliday
  14. That is, a person who is prideful and contemptuous will be condemned behind his or her back.

    — Stephen Holliday
  15. This is Shakespeare's literary illustration of the adage that one's ears burn when one is being spoken about.

    — Stephen Holliday
  16. In other words, Benedick's virtues deserved a good reputation long before anyone recognized his virtues.

    — Stephen Holliday
  17. This is, of course, meant to be a funny image, but it is based on the Elizabethan judicial act of "pressing" suspected criminals (who haven't plead guilty or innocent) by piling stones on their chest until they either plead guilty or innocent or die from the weight.

    — Stephen Holliday
  18. That is, and so different from what is accepted as proper behavior.  In Shakespeare's time, behavior and health were believed to be governed by *humours, *all of which needed to be in balance for a person to function properly.  Beatrice would be viewed as out-of-balance.

    — Stephen Holliday
  19. That is, a weather vane that simply rotates as the wind blows, with no direction or purpose.

    — Stephen Holliday
  20. That is, Beatrice is so self-absorbed that she cannot even recognize value a lover.

    — Stephen Holliday
  21. That is, Beatrice undervalues or underestimates the value of what she sees.  Her "disdain" makes her blind to love.

    — Stephen Holliday
  22. In other words, Hero suggests that Benedick loves in silence.  The implication is that Beatrice, because of her proud nature, will reject Benedick's love, so it would be better if Benedick just keeps his love secret.

    — Stephen Holliday
  23. Hero refers to hawks (haggards) that, like Beatrice, are almost impossible to domesticate.

    — Stephen Holliday
  24. A veiled comment on Prince John,  who rebelled against his brother.  In a larger sense, Shakespeare is making a political statement that applies to disloyalty and rebellion in general, not an uncommon problem in Elizabethan times when the Queen dealt with numerous plots against her right to rule.

    — Stephen Holliday
  25. This is likely the same arbor that Benedick hid in.  An arbor and bower are both an enclosed space in a garden with a roof of vines intertwined to enclose the space.

    — Stephen Holliday
  26. They are, of course, deceived by the Prince's plan to bring Beatrice and Benedick together.

    — Stephen Holliday
  27. By the Renaissance and Elizabethan periods, Cupid, the god of love, is described as an infant-angel, no longer the crafty god of the Greeks and Romans.

    — Stephen Holliday
  28. Considering Beatrice's quick wits, this likely means that she is arguing with the Prince and Claudio.

    — Stephen Holliday