Much Ado About Nothing: Act I, Scene i

 

Much Ado About Nothing         Act 1, Scene 1.      Beatrice

(This text is featured in our interview with Marion Adler)

Click here for a First Folio version

BEATRICE
31. I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the
wars or no?

Messenger
32. I know none of that name, lady: there was none such
33. in the army of any sort.

LEONATO
34. What is he that you ask for, niece?

HERO
35. My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.

Messenger
36. O, he’s returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.

BEATRICE
37.  He set up his bills here in Messina and challenged
38.  Cupid at the flight; and my uncle’s fool, reading
39. the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged
40. him at the bird-bolt. I pray you, how many hath he
41. killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath
42. he killed? for indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.

LEONATO
43. Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much;
44. but he’ll be meet with you, I doubt it not.

Messenger
45. He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.

BEATRICE
46. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it:
47. he is a very valiant trencherman; he hath an
48. excellent stomach.

Messenger
49. And a good soldier too, lady.

BEATRICE
50. And a good soldier to a lady: but what is he to a lord?

Messenger
51. A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all
52. honourable virtues.

BEATRICE
53. It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man:
54. but for the stuffing,–well, we are all mortal.

LEONATO
55. You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a
56. kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her:
57. they never meet but there’s a skirmish of wit
58. between them.

BEATRICE
59. Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last
60. conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and
61. now is the whole man governed with one: so that if
62. he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him
63. bear it for a difference between himself and his
64. horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left,
65. to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his
66. companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.

Messenger
67. Is’t possible?

BEATRICE
68. Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as
69. the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the
70. next block.

Messenger
71. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.

BEATRICE
72. No; an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray
73. you, who is his companion? Is there no young
74. squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the devil?

Messenger
75. He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.

BEATRICE
76. O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease: he
77. is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker
78. runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! if
79. he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a
80. thousand pound ere a’ be cured.

Messenger
81. I will hold friends with you, lady.

BEATRICE
82. Do, good friend.

LEONATO
83. You will never run mad, niece.

BEATRICE
84. No, not till a hot January.

Messenger
85. Don Pedro is approached.

Enter DON PEDRO, DON JOHN, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, and BALTHASAR

DON PEDRO
86. Good Signior Leonato, you are come to meet your
87. trouble: the fashion of the world is to avoid
88. cost, and you encounter it.

LEONATO
89. Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of
90. your grace: for trouble being gone, comfort should
91. remain; but when you depart from me, sorrow abides
92. and happiness takes his leave.

DON PEDRO
93. You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this
94. is your daughter.

LEONATO
95. Her mother hath many times told me so.

BENEDICK
96. Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?

LEONATO
97. Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.

DON PEDRO
98. You have it full, Benedick: we may guess by this
99. what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady fathers
100. herself. Be happy, lady; for you are like an
101. honourable father.

BENEDICK
102. If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not
103. have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as
104. like him as she is.

BEATRICE
105. I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior
106. Benedick: nobody marks you.

BENEDICK
107. What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?

BEATRICE
108. Is it possible disdain should die while she hath
109. such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?
110. Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come
111. in her presence.

BENEDICK
112. Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I
113. am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I
114. would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard
115. heart; for, truly, I love none.

BEATRICE
116. A dear happiness to women: they would else have
117. been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God
118. and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I
119. had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man
120. swear he loves me.

BENEDICK
121. God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some
122. gentleman or other shall ‘scape a predestinate
123. scratched face.

BEATRICE
124. Scratching could not make it worse, an ’twere such
125. a face as yours were.

BENEDICK
126. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.

BEATRICE
127. A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.

BENEDICK
128. I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and
129. so good a continuer. But keep your way, i’ God’s
130. name; I have done.

BEATRICE
131. You always end with a jade’s trick: I know you of old.

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