Act V - Scene II

[Leonato's Garden]

[Enter Benedick and Margaret.]

BENEDICK:
Pray thee, sweet Mistress Margaret, deserve well at my
hands by helping me to the speech of Beatrice.
MARGARET:
Will you then write me a sonnet in praise of my
beauty?
BENEDICK:
In so high a style, Margaret, that no man living shall(5)
come over it; for in most comely truth thou deservest it.
MARGARET:
To have no man come over me? Why, shall I always
keep below stairs?
BENEDICK:
Thy wit is as quick as the greyhound's mouth—it
catches.(10)
MARGARET:
And yours as blunt as the fencer's foils, which hit but
hurt not.
BENEDICK:
A most manly wit, Margaret; it will not hurt a woman.
And so I pray thee call Beatrice. I give thee the bucklers.
MARGARET:
Give us the swords; we have bucklers of our own.(15)
BENEDICK:
If you use them, Margaret, you must put in the pikes
with a vice, and they are dangerous weapons for maids.
MARGARET:
Well, I will call Beatrice to you, who I think hath
legs.
BENEDICK:
And therefore will come.(20)

                                                [Exit Margaret.]

[Sings]
The god of love,
     That sits above
And knows me, and knows me,
     How pitiful I deserve—

I mean in singing; but in loving, Leander the good(25)
swimmer, Troilus the first employer of panders, and a
whole book full of these quondam carpet-mongers,
whose names yet run smoothly in the even road of a
blank verse—why, they were never so truly turned over
and over as my poor self in love. Marry, I cannot show it(30)
in rhyme. I have tried. I can find out no rhyme to ‘lady’
but ‘baby’—an innocent rhyme; for ‘scorn,’ ‘horn’—a hard
rhyme; for school', ‘fool’—a babbling rhyme: very ominous
endings! No, I was not born under a rhyming
planet, nor cannot woo in festival terms.(35)
Sweet Beatrice, wouldst thou come when I called thee?

[Enter Beatrice.]

BEATRICE:
Yea, signior, and depart when you bid me.
BENEDICK:
O, stay but till then!
BEATRICE:
‘Then’ is spoken. Fare you well now. And yet, ere I
go, let me go with that I came for, which is, with knowing(40)
what hath passed between you and Claudio.
BENEDICK:
Only foul words; and thereupon I will kiss thee.
BEATRICE:
Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but
foul breath, and foul breath is noisome. Therefore I will
depart unkissed.(45)
BENEDICK:
Thou hast frighted the word out of his right sense,
so forcible is thy wit. But I must tell thee plainly, Claudio
undergoes my challenge; and either I must shortly hear
from him or I will subscribe him a coward. And I pray
thee now tell me, for which of my bad parts didst thou(50)
first fall in love with me?
BEATRICE:
For them all together, which maintained so politic
a state of evil that they will not admit any good part to
intermingle with them. But for which of my good parts
did you first suffer love for me?(55)
BENEDICK:
Suffer love!—a good epithet. I do suffer love
indeed, for I love thee against my will.
BEATRICE:
In spite of your heart, I think. Alas, poor heart! If you
spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours, for I will never
love that which my friend hates.(60)
BENEDICK:
Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably.
BEATRICE:
It appears not in this confession. There's not one wise
man among twenty, that will praise himself.
BENEDICK:
An old, an old instance, Beatrice, that lived in the time
of good neighbours. If a man do not erect in this age his own(65)
tomb ere he dies, he shall live no longer in monument than
the bell rings and the widow weeps.
BEATRICE:
And how long is that, think you?
BENEDICK:
Question: why, an hour in clamour and a quarter in
rheum. Therefore is it most expedient for the wise, if Don(70)
Worm, his conscience, find no impediment to the contrary,
to be the trumpet of his own virtues, as I am to myself. So
much for praising myself, who, I myself will bear witness, is
praiseworthy. And now tell me, how doth your cousin?
BEATRICE:
Very ill.(75)
BENEDICK:
And how do you?
BEATRICE:
Very ill too.
BENEDICK:
Serve God, love me, and mend. There will I leave you
too, for here comes one in haste.

[Enter Ursula.]

URSULA:
Madam, you must come to your uncle. Yonder's old coil(80)
at home. It is proved my Lady Hero hath been falsely
accused the prince and Claudio mightily abused, and Don
John is the author of all, who is fled and gone. Will you
come presently?
BEATRICE:
Will you go hear this news, signior?(85)
BENEDICK:
I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in
thy eyes; and moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle's.

[Exeunt.]

Footnotes

  1. “Rheum” means tears and snot. Benedick claims that a widow will only mourn and produce rheum for an hour before she forgets about her diseased lover. He uses this hyperbole in order to justify his boastful nature.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. This line offers a reason why Benedick has a hard time writing trite love poetry about Beatrice. In conventional love poetry, the woman is an object of the male speaker’s gaze. She never speaks or offers her side of the story. Unlike the woman in a sonnet, Beatrice’s wit is a perfect match for Benedick: she is not an object but an empowered character within the play. Therefore, Benedick cannot write poetry that would make objectify her and rob her of her voice.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. “Noisome” means harmful or injurious. In this context she means that his breath is ill-smelling because of the words that he has spoken.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. Troilus is a warrior in the Trojan War depicted in Roman mythology. In medieval literature, Troilus was written into a tragic love story with a woman Cressida. The couple is separated shortly after they fall in love when Cressida is traded to the Greeks for a Trojan soldier and taken as a paramour by a Grecian officer.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  5. Leander is a character from Greek mythology who swims across a narrow channel to his lover Hero every night. One night, a terrible storm blows out the lantern Hero places in her tower window to guide Leander’s journey. Lost in the channel without this light, Leander drowns.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  6. It is slightly contradictory that Benedick would be such a witty speaker yet so bad at writing love poetry. This could suggest that Shakespeare is mocking the sonnet tradition and the tropes of love poetry. If the witty Benedick cannot stoop to the level of a poet it suggests that love poetry in general is actually trite and dim witted.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  7. Writing in “festival terms” means writing with elevated language suitable for festive occasions. Benedick states that he cannot use flowery language to describe his love though it is more real than the “great lovers” from literature and history.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  8. This is an example to trite rhyming and is most likely a reference to a common love song from Shakespeare’s time. Notice that Benedick focuses on common love poetry when he considers writing a sonnet rather than the lauded sonnet sequences of poets such as Sidney or Petrarch.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  9. This is a double entendre that picks up on Beatrice’s bawdy joke. The line literally means that a buckler is dangerous because it can be decorated with pikes. However, it also means that a woman’s sexuality is a dangerous weapon.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  10. A buckler was a small fencing shield that consisted of a round piece of wood with a small raised circle of iron. It was meant to catch the tip of one’s opponent’s sword. Beatrice uses this reference to make a bawdy joke that refers to female genitalia.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  11. This is a saying that comes from fencing, meaning “I give up” or “I yield.” Bucklers were small round shields used for protection against a fencing sword.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  12. The Elizabethan sonnet tradition evolved out of Petrarch's Italian sonnet. These were 14-line poems written in iambic pentameter in which a speaker would talk about her desire for an unattainable love object. Sonnet sequences, a collection of 150 sonnets that slowly told an unrequited love story, became popular in the 1580s with Philip Sidney’s Astrophil and Stella. However, because of this popularity, many imitation writers were drawn to the form. This changed the popular opinion of sonnets as a high form of literature to something more common and formulaic, much like some modern day pop songs.

    — Caitlin, Owl Eyes Staff
  13. This phrase has a sexual connotation--die, in Shakespeare's time, also meant to have an orgasm.  Considering the amount of verbal banter between Beatrice and Benedick, this *double-entendre *(double-meaning) is likely.

    — Stephen Holliday
  14. Shakespeare uses a common metaphor in his time based on a passage in the *Geneva Bible, *Isaiah 66:24 in which the conscience is compared to a gnawing worm.

    — Stephen Holliday
  15. That is, a man must sing his own praises while he lives because when he dies, his value will be remembered only as long as the ring of a bell or a widow weeps (implying that widows only weep a short time).

    — Stephen Holliday
  16. In this sense, wise means too aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses.

    — Stephen Holliday
  17. Benedick, by emphasizing the word suffer, implies that love is a painful thing.

    — Stephen Holliday
  18. This is a sarcastic reference to knights who, instead of fighting, spent their time with the ladies, presumably kneeling on carpets while they sang their ladies' praises.  The phrase is synonymous with "ladies man."

    — Stephen Holliday
  19. Although blank verse does not rhyme, it is written in iambic pentameter, the meter that linguists believe most closely resembles natural human speech.

    — Stephen Holliday
  20. When fencers practice, they use a foil with a blunt tip so as not to injure their opponents, so Margaret is telling Benedick that his wit is dull.

    — Stephen Holliday
  21. Benedick is punning on the word *style.  *A stile, a thing every Elizabethan would know well (because this was still a largely agricultural society), is a barricade to keep cattle and sheep from crossing from one pasture to another.  A "high style," then, means both elevated speech and a high barricade--the language is so exuberant that no man can better it, and the stile is so high that no man can climb over it.

     

    — Stephen Holliday