Act IV - Scene I

[A Church]

Enter Prince [Don Pedro], Bastard [Don John], Leonato, Friar [Francis], Claudio, Benedick, Hero, Beatrice, [and Attendants.]

Come, Friar Francis, be brief. Only to the plain form
of marriage, and you shall recount their particular duties
You come hither, my lord, to marry this lady?
To be married to her. Friar, you come to marry her.
Lady, you come hither to be married to this count?
I do.
If either of you know any inward impediment why you
should not be conjoined, I charge you on your souls to utter(10)
Know you any, Hero?
None, my lord.
Know you any, count?
I dare make his answer—none.(15)
O, what men dare do! what men may do! what men
daily do, not knowing what they do!
How now? interjections? Why then, some be of
laughing, as, ah, ha, he!
Stand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave:(20)
Will you with free and unconstrained soul
Give me this maid your daughter?
As freely, son, as God did give her me.
And what have I to give you back whose worth
May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?(25)
Nothing, unless you render her again.
Sweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
There, Leonato, take her back again.
Give not this rotten orange to your friend.
She's but the sign and semblance of her honour.(30)
Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
O, what authority and show of truth
Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
Comes not that blood as modest evidence
To witness simple virtue. Would you not swear,(35)
All you that see her, that she were a maid
By these exterior shows? But she is none:
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty.
What do you mean, my lord?(40)
Not to be married,
Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.
Dear my lord, if you, in your own proof,
Have vanquished the resistance of her youth
And made defeat of her virginity—(45)
I know what you would say. If I have known her,
You will say she did embrace me as a husband,
And so extenuate the forehand sin. No, Leonato,
I never tempted her with word too large,
But, as a brother to his sister, showed(50)
Bashful sincerity and comely love.
And seemed I ever otherwise to you?
Out on the seeming! I will write against it.
You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;(55)
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pamp'red animals
That rage in savage sensuality.
Is my lord well that he doth speak so wide?
Sweet prince, why speak not you?(60)
What should I speak?
I stand dishonoured that have gone about
To link my dear friend to a common stale.
Are these things spoken, or do I but dream?
My lord, they are spoken, and these things are(65)
This looks not like a nuptial.
True! O God!
Leonato, stand I here?
Is this the prince?(70)
Is this the prince's brother?
Is this face Hero's?
Are our eyes our own?
All this is so; but what of this, my lord?
Let me but move one question to your daughter,(75)
And by that fatherly and kindly power
That you have in her, bid her answer truly.
I charge thee do so, as thou art my child.
O, God defend me! How am I beset!
What kind of catechising call you this?(80)
To make you answer truly to your name.
Is it not Hero? Who can blot that name
With any just reproach?
Marry, that can Hero!
Hero itself can blot out Hero's virtue.(85)
What man was he talked with you yesternight,
Out at your window betwixt twelve and one?
Now, if you are a maid, answer to this.
I talked with no man at that hour, my lord.
Why, then are you no maiden. Leonato,(90)
I am sorry you must hear. Upon my honour,
Myself, my brother, and this grieved count
Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night
Talk with a ruffian at her chamber window,
Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,(95)
Confessed the vile encounters they have had
A thousand times in secret.
Fie, fie! they are not to be named, my lord—
Not to be spoke of;
There is not chastity, enough in language(100)
Without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,
I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.
O Hero! what a Hero hadst thou been
If half thy outward graces had been placed
About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!(105)
But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! Farewell,
Thou pure impiety and impious purity!
For thee I'll lock up all the gates of love,
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,(110)
And never shall it more be gracious.
Hath no man's dagger here a point for me?

[Hero swoons.]

Why, how now, cousin? Wherefore sink you down?
Come let us go. These things, come thus to light,
Smother her spirits up.(115)

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

How doth the lady?
Dead, I think. Help, uncle!
Hero! why, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick! Friar!
O Fate, take not away thy heavy hand!
Death is the fairest cover for her shame(120)
That may be wished for.
How now, cousin Hero?
Have comfort, lady.
Dost thou look up?
Yea, wherefore should she not?(125)
Wherefore? Why, doth not every earthly thing
Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny
The story that is printed in her blood?
Do not live, Hero; do not ope thine eyes;
For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,(130)
Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
Myself would on the rearward of reproaches
Strike at thy life. Grieved I, I had but one?
Chid I for that at frugal nature's frame?
O, one too much by thee! Why had I one?(135)
Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes?
Why had I not with charitable hand
Took up a beggar's issue at my gates,
Who smirched thus and mired with infamy,
I might have said, 'No part of it is mine;(140)
This shame derives itself from unknown loins?
But mine, and mine I loved, and mine I praised,
And mine that I was proud on—mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her—why, she, O, she is fallen(145)
Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again,
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul tainted flesh!
My lord, my lord, be patient.(150)
For my part, I am so attired in wonder,
I know not what to say.
O, on my soul, my cousin is belied!
Lady, were you her bedfellow last night?
No, truly, not; although, until last night, I have this(155)
twelvemonth been her bedfellow.
Confirmed, confirmed! O, that is stronger made
Which was before barred up with ribs of iron!
Would the two princes lie? and Claudio lie,
Who loved her so that, speaking of her foulness,(160)
Washed it with tears? Hence from her! let her die.
Hear me a little;
For I have only been silent so long,
And given way unto this course of fortune,
By noting of the lady. I have marked(165)
A thousand blushing apparitions
To start into her face, a thousand innocent shames
In angel whiteness beat away those blushes,
And in her eye there hath appeared a fire
To burn the errors that these princes hold(170)
Against her maiden truth. Call me a fool;
Trust not my reading nor my observation,
Which with experimental seal doth warrant
The tenour of my book; trust not my age,
My reverence, calling, nor divinity,(175)
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
Under some biting error.
Friar, it cannot be.
Thou seest that all the grace that she hath left
Is that she will not add to her damnation(180)
A sin of perjury: she not denies it.
Why seek'st thou then to cover with excuse
That which appears in proper nakedness?
Lady, what man is he you are accused of?
They know that do accuse me; I know none.(185)
If I know more of any man alive
Than that which maiden modesty doth warrant,
Let all my sins lack mercy! O my father,
Prove you that any man with me conversed
At hours unmeet, or that I yesternight(190)
Maintained the change of words with any creature,
Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death!
There is some strange misprision in the princes.
Two of them have the very bent of honour;
And if their wisdoms be misled in this,(195)
The practice of it lives in Don John the bastard,
Whose spirits toil in frame of villainies.
I know not. If they speak but truth of her,
These hands shall tear her. If they wrong her honour,
The proudest of them shall well hear of it.(200)
Time hath not yet so dried this blood of mine,
Nor age so eat up my invention,
Nor fortune made such havoc of my means,
Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends,
But they shall find awaked in such a kind(205)
Both strength of limb and policy of mind,
Ability in means, and choice of friends,
To quit me of them thoroughly.
Pause awhile
And let my counsel sway you in this case.(210)
Your daughter here the princes left for dead,
Let her awhile be secretly kept in,
And publish it that she is dead indeed;
Maintain a mourning ostentation,
And on your family's old monument(215)
Hang mournful epitaphs, and do all rites
That appertain unto a burial.
What shall become of this? What will this do?
Marry, this well carried shall on her behalf
Change slander to remorse. That is some good.(220)
But not for that dream I on this strange course,
But on this travail look for greater birth.
She dying, as it must be so maintained,
Upon the instant that she was accused,
Shall be lamented, pitied, and excused(225)
Of every hearer; for it so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lacked and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us(230)
Whiles it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio.
When he shall hear she died upon his words,
The idea of her life shall sweetly creep
Into his study of imagination,
And every lovely organ of her life(235)
Shall come apparelled in more precious habit,
More moving, delicate, and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of his soul
Than when she lived indeed. Then shall he mourn
If ever love had interest in his liver(240)
And wish he had not so accused her
No, though he thought his accusation true.
Let this be so, and doubt not but success
Will fashion the event in better shape
Than I can lay it down in likelihood.(245)
But if all aim but this be levelled false,
The supposition of the lady's death
Will quench the wonder of her infamy.
And if it sort not well, you may conceal her,
As best befits her wounded reputation,(250)
In some reclusive and religious life,
Out of all eyes, tongues, minds, and injuries.
Signior Leonato, let the friar advise you;
And though you know my inwardness and love
Is very much unto the prince and Claudio,(255)
Yet, by mine honour, I will deal in this
As secretly and justly as your soul
Should with your body.
Being that I flow in grief,
The smallest twine may lead me.(260)
'Tis well consented. Presently away;
For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure.
Come, lady, die to live. This wedding day
Perhaps is but prolonged.
Have patience and endure.(265)

[Exeunt all but Benedick and Beatrice.]

Lady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?
Yea, and I will weep a while longer.
I will not desire that.
You have no reason. I do it freely.
Surely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged.(270)
Ah, how much might the man deserve of me that
would right her!
Is there any way to show such friendship?
A very even way, but no such friend.
May a man do it?(275)
It is a man's office, but not yours.
I do love nothing in the world so well as you. Is not
that strange?
As strange as the thing I know not. It were as possible
for me to say I loved nothing so well as you. But(280)
believe me not; and yet I lie not. I confess nothing, nor I
deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.
By my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.
Do not swear, and eat it.
I will swear by it that you love me, and I will make(285)
him eat it that says I love not you.
Will you not eat your word?
With no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest I
love thee.
Why then, God forgive me!(290)
What offence, sweet Beatrice?
You have stayed me in a happy hour. I was about to
protest I loved you.
And do it with all thy heart.
I love you with so much of my heart that none is(295)
left to protest.
Come, bid me do anything for thee.
Kill Claudio.
Ha! not for the wide world!
You kill me to deny it. Farewell.(300)
Tarry, sweet Beatrice.
I am gone, though I am here. There is no love in
you. Nay, I pray you let me go.
In faith, I will go.(305)
We'll be friends first.
You dare easier be friends with me than fight with
mine enemy.
Is Claudio thine enemy?
Is he not approved in the height a villain, that hath(310)
slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O that
I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they come to
take hands, and then with public accusation, uncovered
slander, unmitigated rancour—O God, that I were a man!
I would eat his heart in the market place.(315)
Hear me, Beatrice!
Talk with a man out at a window! — A proper
Nay, but Beatrice—
Sweet Hero! She is wronged, she is sland'red, she is(320)
Princes and counties! Surely a princely testimony, a
goodly count, Count Comfect, a sweet gallant surely! O
that I were a man for his sake! or that I had any friend would(325)
be a man for my sake! But manhood is melted into courtesies,
valour into compliment, and men are only turned into
tongue, and trim ones too. He is now as valiant as Hercules
that only tells a lie, and swears it. I cannot be a man with
wishing; therefore I will die a woman with grieving.(330)
Tarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee.
Use it for my love some other way than swearing by it.
Think you in your soul the Count Claudio hath
wronged Hero?
Yea, as sure is I have a thought or a soul.(335)
Enough, I am engaged, I will challenge him. I will kiss
your hand, and so I leave you. By this hand, Claudio shall
render me a dear account. As you hear of me, so think of me.
Go comfort your cousin. I must say she is dead—and so



  1. When Benedick refuses to kill Claudio for her, Beatrice wishes that she were a man so that she could do it herself or that Benedick were “man enough” to do it. Beatrice’s lines here emphasize the motif of masculinity in the play. She says that “manliness” and valor have deteriorated into mere language rather than action. This underscores the theme of language and “nothingness,” talk with no action produces nothing.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. When Leonato says that Hero has “fallen into a pit of ink,” he means that she has been tainted, which is reminiscent of Dogberry’s line “they that touch pitch will be defiled.” Note again how swiftly men (even Hero’s own father) believe a woman to be adulterous. As we have seen with Claudio and Don Pedro, Shakespeare here underscores the extent to which men are mistrustful of women. The play illustrates that this mistrust often emanates from a fear of being made a cuckold and a sense that men have some kind of control over a woman’s sexuality.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. When Don Pedro starts to describe what he witnessed, Don John interrupts and says not to speak of it, since there "is not chastity enough in language.” Don John is essentially suggesting that Hero’s villainy is too terrible to be articulated, but this is actually a ploy to prevent Don Pedro from revealing details that would lead to Hero’s acquittal. Don John’s strategies once again involve performance and manipulation of language, underscoring the theme that language can determine one’s perception of reality.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. It is interesting that rather than immediately defending her innocence, Hero asks how she “seemed” to Claudio. Claudio’s argument here is based on the fact that Hero seemed to be different than she is. This emphasizes the theme of perception versus reality. Characters continue to take appearances and hearsay as reality and fact.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Virgins were thought to be very modest and easily embarrassed by even the mention of sex. Claudio indignantly says that Hero’s blushing indicates her “guiltiness,” not her virginity. Rather than simply cancelling the wedding in private for her supposed adultery, Claudio humiliates Hero in front of the entire wedding ceremony. Claudio’s extreme reaction and awful allegations here indicate his fear of being shamed and made a cuckold.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. The noun and adjective “wanton” has several different definitions, so understanding meaning is based on context. In this selection, a “wanton” means a sexually unchaste and promiscuous woman. Claudio believes Don John’s trick, and accuses Hero of infidelity.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. A friar is a member of any certain religious orders, especially the four mendicant orders: the Augustinians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and Carmelites.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. Once again, Claudio has been duped into believing that Hero is unfaithful. He picks up on Leonato's "I dare" from the previous line and begins (loudly) questioning the very nature of agency and mistakes—particularly the mistake he believes Hero has made.

    — Sarah, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. Benedick now asks if Beatrice really believes that Claudio has knowingly wronged Hero.

    — Stephen Holliday
  10. Beatrice is subtly telling Benedick to use his hand to kill Claudio rather than merely using it to swear by his love for Beatrice.

    — Stephen Holliday
  11. That is, a man now can be as brave as Hercules by bragging about his great deeds and then swearing an oath.

    — Stephen Holliday
  12. In other words, men are now concerned with politeness, and bravery is now turned into nothing but courtly behavior.

    — Stephen Holliday
  13. Beatrice is talking to herself here—she is no longer paying attention to Benedick.  Her mind has gone back to the accusation that Hero talked to someone from a window, something that a woman like Hero would not do.

    — Stephen Holliday
  14. Another paradox—Beatrice means that although she is physically present, she has mentally and spiritually left Benedick, implying that her love for him has also gone.

    — Stephen Holliday
  15. Benedick cannot bring himself to believe that Beatrice is serious, so he treats her comment as a joke.  He doesn't connect the discussion of his oath, sworn on his sword, with Beatrice's request that he kill his best friend, Claudio.

    — Stephen Holliday
  16. That is, there is nothing that can make me take back my oath.

    — Stephen Holliday
  17. Benedick, because he is a soldier first, swears on his most precious object, his sword.

    — Stephen Holliday
  18. Beatrice implies that Benedick cannot carry out the task she is thinking of either because he cannot physically perform the task or because he would refuse to perform the task.

    — Stephen Holliday
  19. Beatrice is saying that there is a very straightforward way for Benedick to prove his friendship but that he is not the friend to perform the deed.

    — Stephen Holliday
  20. An wonderful example of paradox, a statement that seems to lead to an illogical conclusion.  In literal terms, if Hero dies, she cannot live.  In metaphorical terms, she must die as a sinner in order to live as an honorable woman.  The Friar's plot, then, leads to Hero's resurrection, something the Friar would know a lot about.

    — Stephen Holliday
  21. That is, for unusual illnesses the physicians create unusual cures.

    — Stephen Holliday
  22. In other words, Benedick will keep the plan as much of a secret as Leonato would in his heart of hearts.

    — Stephen Holliday
  23. In the Middle Ages and up to the 19th century, it was very common for a woman of the upper classes who had some kind of embarrassing trouble to be sent to a convent or other religious retreat.  As far as the world is concerned, the woman just disappeared from worldly life.

    — Stephen Holliday
  24. That is, [even if Hero is guilty], the news of her death will overcome the memory of her moral weakness.

    — Stephen Holliday
  25. The Friar means "If I am correct [that Hero is innocent], this plan will turn out even better than I describe it."

    — Stephen Holliday
  26. That is, Hero will appear to be even more beautiful than she was while alive.

    — Stephen Holliday
  27. That is, as Claudio thinks about Hero, he will have a revery, that is, a dream-like experience of her life.

    — Stephen Holliday
  28. That is, to take revenge upon those who have falsely accused my daughter.

    — Stephen Holliday
  29. That is, Don John is responsible for this because he specializes in creating trouble.

    — Stephen Holliday
  30. Leonato mistakes Hero's silence for her shame at being guilty.

    — Stephen Holliday
  31. That is, if you believe in my priesthood and my holiness, believe that this lady has been unfairly charged.

    — Stephen Holliday
  32. That is, Hero is not blushing because she is guilty; she is blushing because she is angry at the unjust accusations of these princes against her innocence.

    — Stephen Holliday
  33. That is, I have been silent amongst all these accusations because I have been observing Hero.

    — Stephen Holliday
  34. That is, there is not enough salt, which is a seasoning, to make Hero palatable.

    — Stephen Holliday
  35. After the evidence of these crimes, I would kill you myself.

    — Stephen Holliday
  36. That is, are you looking to God for help [considering Hero has committed such a crime]?

    — Stephen Holliday
  37. In other words, if you had been as inwardly faithful as you seemed to be outlwardly.

    — Stephen Holliday
  38. This is an important statement by Don John because he states affirmatively that Hero is unfaithful when he knows that she is not.  Later, this statement will seal his fate.

    — Stephen Holliday
  39. Leonato, ever the loyal father, appeals to the prince to intervene because it was the prince who is responsible for arranging the marriage of Claudio and Hero.

    — Stephen Holliday
  40. Leonato does not suspect the import of Claudio's objections.  He believes that Claudio, as the prospective husband, has conquered Hero's modesty.  He cannot grasp the possibility that Hero might have been unfaithful to Claudio.

    — Stephen Holliday
  41. In other words, she is unfaithful.  The word luxury, in Shakespeare's language, had the connotation of sexual or lustful activity, so Claudio is accusing her of having an illicit affair before her marriage.

    — Stephen Holliday
  42. That is, Hero is only a shell of her honor (implying that her honor is gone).

    — Stephen Holliday
  43. This is a serious challenge by Claudio, who is literally telling the priest to stand aside while he questions Leonato, Hero's father, a very unorthodox move to make during a wedding ceremony.

    — Stephen Holliday
  44. Benedick is clearly trying to defuse the intent of Claudio's interjections, which are supposed to be of a positive nature.  Benedick recognizes very quickly that Claudio's cries are not just from the excitement of the occasion.

    — Stephen Holliday
  45. Leonato is instructing the friar to perform a basic and short wedding ceremony.

    — Stephen Holliday