Act III - Scene II

[A Room in Leonato's House]

Enter Prince [Don Pedro], Claudio, Benedick, and Leonato.

DON PEDRO:
I do but stay till your marriage be consummate,
and then go I toward Aragon.
CLAUDIO:
I'll bring you thither, my lord, if you'll vouchsafe
me.
DON PEDRO:
Nay, that would be as great a soil in the new gloss(5)
of your marriage as to show a child his new coat and forbid
him to wear it. I will only be bold with Benedick for
his company; for, from the crown of his head to the sole
of his foot, he is all mirth. He hath twice or thrice cut
Cupid's bowstring, and the little hangman dare not shoot(10)
at him. He hath a heart as sound as a bell; and his tongue
is the clapper, for what his heart thinks, his tongue
speaks.
BENEDICK:
Gallants, I am not as I have been.
LEONATO:
So say I. Methinks you are sadder.(15)
CLAUDIO:
I hope he be in love.
DON PEDRO:
Hang him, truant! There's no true drop of blood
in him to be truly touched with love. If he be sad, he
wants money.
BENEDICK:
I have the toothache.(20)
DON PEDRO:
Draw it.
BENEDICK:
Hang it!
CLAUDIO:
You must hang it first and draw it afterwards.
DON PEDRO:
What? sigh for the toothache?
LEONATO:
Where is but a humour or a worm.(25)
BENEDICK:
Well, every one can master a grief, but he that has it.
CLAUDIO:
Yet say I, he is in love.
DON PEDRO:
There is no appearance of fancy in him, unless it be
a fancy that he hath to strange disguises; as to be a
Dutchman to-day, a Frenchman to-morrow; or in the shape(30)
of two countries at once, as a German from the waist downward,
all slops, and a Spaniard from the hip upward, no
doublet. Unless he have a fancy to this foolery, as it appears
he hath, he is no fool for fancy, as you would have it appear
he is.(35)
CLAUDIO:
If he be not in love with some woman, there is no
believing old signs. A' brushes his hat o' mornings. What
should that bode?
DON PEDRO:
Hath any man seen him at the barber's?
CLAUDIO:
No, but the barber's man hath been seen with him, and(40)
the old ornament of his cheek hath already stuffed tennis
balls.
LEONATO:
Indeed he looks younger than he did, by the loss of a
beard.
DON PEDRO:
Nay, a' rubs himself with civet. Can you smell him(45)
out by that?
CLAUDIO:
That's as much as to say, the sweet youth's in love.
DON PEDRO:
The greatest note of it is his melancholy.
CLAUDIO:
And when was he wont to wash his face?
DON PEDRO:
Yea, or to paint himself? for the which I hear what(50)
they say of him.
CLAUDIO:
Nay, but his jesting spirit, which is new-crept into a
lutestring, and now govern'd by stops.
DON PEDRO:
Indeed that tells a heavy tale for him. Conclude,
conclude, he is in love.
CLAUDIO:
Nay, but I know who loves him.
DON PEDRO:
That would I know too. I warrant, one that knows(55)
him not.
CLAUDIO:
Yes, and his ill conditions; and in despite of all, dies for
him.
DON PEDRO:
She shall be buried with her face upwards.
BENEDICK:
Yet is this no charm for the toothache. Old signior,(60)
walk aside with me. I have studied eight or nine wise words
to speak to you, which these hobby-horses must not hear.

[Exeunt Benedick and Leonato.]

DON PEDRO:
For my life, to break with him about Beatrice!
CLAUDIO:
'Tis even so. Hero and Margaret have by this played
their parts with Beatrice, and then the two bears will not bite(65)
one another when they meet.

Enter [Don] John the Bastard.

DON JOHN:
My lord and brother, God save you.
DON PEDRO:
Good den, brother.
DON JOHN:
If your leisure served, I would speak with you.
DON PEDRO:
In private?(70)
DON JOHN:
If it please you. Yet Count Claudio may hear, for
what I would speak of concerns him.
DON PEDRO:
What's the matter?
DON JOHN:
[To Claudio] Means your lordship to be married
tomorrow?(75)
DON PEDRO:
You know he does.
DON JOHN:
I know not that, when he knows what I know.
CLAUDIO:
If there be any impediment, I pray you discover it.
DON JOHN:
You may think I love you not. Let that appear
hereafter, and aim better at me by that I now will manifest.(80)
For my brother, I think he holds you well and in dearness
of heart hath holp to effect your ensuing marriage—
surely suit ill spent and labour ill bestowed!
DON PEDRO:
Why, what's the matter?
DON JOHN:
I came hither to tell you; and, circumstances shortened,(85)
for she has been too long atalking of, the lady is
disloyal.
CLAUDIO:
Who? Hero?
DON JOHN:
Even she—Leonato's Hero, your Hero, every man's
Hero.(90)
CLAUDIO:
Disloyal?
DON JOHN:
The word is too good to paint out her wickedness.
I could say she were worse; think you of a worse title, and
I will fit her to it. Wonder not till further warrant. Go but
with me to-night, you shall see her chamber window(95)
ent'red, even the night before her wedding day. If you
love her then, to-morrow wed her. But it would better fit
your honour to change your mind.
CLAUDIO:
May this be so?
DON PEDRO:
I will not think it.(100)
DON JOHN:
If you dare not trust that you see, confess not that
you know. If you will follow me, I will show you enough;
and when you have seen more and heard more, proceed
accordingly.
CLAUDIO:
If I see anything to-night why I should not marry(105)
her
tomorrow, in the congregation where I should wed, there
will I shame her.
DON PEDRO:
And, as I wooed for thee to obtain her, I will join
with thee to disgrace her.(110)
DON JOHN:
I will disparage her no farther till you are my witnesses.
Bear it coldly but till midnight, and let the issue
show itself.
DON PEDRO:
O day untowardly turned!
CLAUDIO:
O mischief strangely thwarting!(115)
DON JOHN:
O plague right well prevented! So will you say when
you have seen the sequel.

[Exeunt.]

CLAUDIO:
Nay, but his jesting spirit, which is new-crept into a
lutestring, and now govern'd by stops.

Footnotes

  1. Note that Don Pedro and Claudio, though still unconvinced, immediately decide that they will shame Hero if they find Don John’s account to be true. This again illustrates the heightened male anxiety surrounding a woman’s possible infidelity or “impurity.” Women were expected to be chaste and virginal at the time of marriage. Claudio and Don Pedro are preparing Hero’s public humiliation at the mere thought of her not being either.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. While the other characters have thus far staged fake conversations for their schemes, Don John stages visual deception, relying on the eyes instead of the ears, which would seem even more reliable.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Recall that Beatrice prefers men without beards. Considering the theme of love as a loss of freedom, Benedick’s shaving of his beard here becomes a symbol of his domestication by love. When Claudio compares Benedick to a lute (a musical instrument used in serenades,) he draws on the motif of love and music and implies that Benedick is merely an instrument that has been played by love.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Benedick points out that it is easy for someone to give advice on overcoming anguish when they are not the person affected by it. This line underscores the way in which the characters are entangled in each other’s affairs: Claudio has Don Pedro court Hero for him and the entire group is plotting for Benedick and Beatrice’s engagement. It is easy for everyone to meddle in the romantic lives of others, but the characters’ often have trouble navigating their own affairs.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. During Shakespeare’s time, illnesses were thought to be caused by fluids or parasites. According to Humorism, a system of medicine considered to have been developed by the ancient Greeks, there were four different “humour[s]” (bodily fluids) that determined a person’s temperament and physical health: blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm. It was believed that an imbalance of these humours would result in illness. Being in love (especially unrequited love) was thought to produce an overabundance of black bile, which was associated with melancholy.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. Tennis balls were previously stuffed with all kinds of different things, one of which was human hair. Claudio is joking about Benedick’s new clean-shaven appearance.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. A “clapper” is the tongue of a bell, which strikes it and causes it to sound. Claudio says that Benedick’s heart is the bell and his tongue is the clapper, suggesting he speaks everything that his heart thinks.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. “Civet” is a strong, musky perfume. Benedick’s appearance and attitude have changed drastically now that he has fallen for Beatrice. Don Pedro and Claudio are teasing Benedick for falling in love here, something that Benedick has mocked them for ceaselessly. Note that Benedick’s transformation also underscores the theme of love as masquerade. Whether intentionally or not, love causes the lover to wear a different mask.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Don John is most likely referring to the prevention of a sexually transmitted disease (the plague) from the promiscuous Hero to the chaste Claudio if the marriage is not consummated.

    — Stephen Holliday
  10. That is, if you cannot believe your own eyes, acknowledge that you do understand anything.

    — Stephen Holliday
  11. Don John implies here that Hero, being "every man's Hero," is promiscuous.

    — Stephen Holliday
  12. In other words, this effort (to bring about the marriage of Claudio and Hero) has been a waste of your time.

    — Stephen Holliday
  13. No one is quite sure that, even with all this preparation, Benedick and Beatrice will meet on friendly terms.

    — Stephen Holliday
  14. That is, Benedick intends to speak to Leonato, Beatrice's uncle and guardian,  privately about marrying Beatrice.

    — Stephen Holliday
  15. People who are buried with the face upwards have died an acceptable Christian death, as distinguished from suicides, who are buried with the faces downwards.

    — Stephen Holliday
  16. Don Pedro and Claudio are speculating that Beatrice will "die" for Benedick, which has a literal and a figurative meaning in Elizabethan language.  Die can be literal, that is, to cease to exist, and it can be figurative, referring to the act of love making.

    — Stephen Holliday
  17. Don Pedro's list of nationalities centers on England's most powerful enemies during the Elizabethan period.  The image is grotesque and politically correct at the same time.

    — Stephen Holliday
  18. Claudio is making a joke with a horrible reality--people who were executed for treason were first hanged and then drawn and quartered--cut up into four pieces.

    — Stephen Holliday
  19. In Shakespeare's time, lovers with unrequited love were said to be troubled with toothache.

    — Stephen Holliday