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O Lord! He will hang upon him like a disease: he is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. Heaven help the noble Claudio!* If he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured.
Mess. I will hold friends with you, lady.
Leon. You'll ne'er run mad, niece.
At this point Don Pedro enters with
I wonder you will still be talking, Signor Benedick; nobody marks you.
Bene. What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?
Beat. Is it possible disdain should die, while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signor Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain if you come in her presence.
In the dialogue which ensues, Benedick falls at once into his old habit of boasting that women love him, but that he does not love them. In what he says, he is unmannerly rather than witty; and finding very soon that he has the worst of the encounter, he is glad to break off the in. terview, telling Beatrice: "I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a continuer. But keep your way, o' God's name; I have done." She is ready with her retort: "You always end with a jade's trick; I know you of old."
When Beatrice leaves the scene, and Benedick remains behind with Claudio, he can give full vent to his disparagement of all womankind with no fear of rebuke. In vain does Claudio try to extract from him some encouragement in his admiration of Leonato's daughter Hero. "In mine eye," says Claudio, "she is the sweetest lady ever I looked on." But Benedick can "see no such matter." Then it is he drops out the acknowledgment, that Beatrice excels her cousin in beauty as "the first of May doth the last of December," if only she were not "possessed with a fury" -a qualification made in very soreness at the triumph her superior skill, in the carte and tierce of badinage, has so recently given her over him. Claudio, who, on seeing Hero again, finds that the admiration he had felt for her before going to the war has deepened into an absorbing passion, writhes under the banter of his unsympathetic friend, and is very glad to have the support of Don Pedro, who now joins them. His coming is the signal for Benedick to start off afresh into protestations of his indifference to In some recent reproductions of Shakespeare's the whole female sex, and of his fixed plays, the frequent repetition of the name of the Deity determination to live a bachelor. When has struck most painfully upon my ear. I suppose, when Shakespeare wrote, the lax use of this sacred Don Pedro, who knows human nature a name, like many other things repugnant to modern great deal too well to take such protestataste, was thought nothing of. In this play the name tions for serious earnest, says, "I shall of "God" occurs continually, and upon the most trivial occasions. It so happens that it rises to Beatrice's lips see thee, ere I die, look pale with love," more often than to any other's. In the books from Benedick rejoins, "With anger, with sickwhich I studied, "Heaven was everywhere substi tuted for it; and I confess the word sounds pleasanter ness, or with hunger, my lord, but not and softer to my ear, besides being in the circumstances with love." Don Pedro adheres to his less irreverent. I cannot help the feeling, though it may be thought fastidious. It is a word that should never rise lightly to the lips, or be used upon slight There are, of course, occasions when, even upon the stage, it is the right word to use. But these
are rare, and only where the prevailing strain of thought
or emotion is high and solemn.
opinion, quoting the line, "In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke;" and this draws from Benedick the protest, on which so much of the humor of what hap pens afterwards depends.
Bene. I look for an earthquake too, then. Benedick gone, Claudio is free to open the state of his heart to his patron and friend, Don Pedro. He fears his liking may seem too sudden, and explains that it was of old standing. Before he had gone with the prince on the expedition just ended, he had looked on Hero
with a soldier's eye, That liked, but had a rougher task in hand Than to drive liking to the name of love. But now I am returned, and that war-thoughts Have left their places vacant, in their rooms Come thronging soft and delicate desires, All prompting me how fair young Hero is, Saying, I liked her ere I went to wars.
This being the state of his heart, why should he not have urged his suit in person? Instead of doing so, however, he at once adopts Don Pedro's suggestion, that she should be wooed by proxy:· I know we shall have revelling to-night; I will assume thy part in some disguise, And tell fair Hero I am Claudio; And in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart, And take her hearing prisoner with the force And strong encounter of my amorous tale.
Brides for princes have often been wooed by proxy, and with results not always satisfactory to the princes, but here the order of things is reversed. Surely the man who could leave another to plead for him in such a cause, can have no great strength of character; and that this is true of Claudio, seems to me to be very clearly shown by his subsequent conduct. Presently we see how easily he allows himself to be swayed, as weak men will, by what other people say, when Don Pedro's brother, Don John, to gratify the personal grudge he feels for having been supplanted by Claudio in his brother's regard, persuades him that Don Pedro is playing him false, and wooing Hero for himself. The discovery that this was merely a malicious fiction would have put most men upon their guard against believing any further innuendo from the same quarter. But Claudio is ready to give credence to Don John's subsequent accusation against Hero, and to jump to the conclusion that it is true, upon evidence VOL. XLIX. 2535
Beat. He were an excellent man that were made just in the midway between him and Benedick: the one is too like an image, and says nothing; and the other too like my lady's eldest son, evermore tattling.
Leon. Then half Signor Benedick's tongue in Count John's mouth, and half Count John's melancholy in Signor Benedick's face
Beat. With a good leg, and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in his purse, such a man could win any woman in the world, if he could get her good will.
Leon. By my troth, niece, thou wilt never get thee a husband, if thou be so shrewd of tongue.
Beat.... For the which blessing I am upon my knees every morning and evening. Lord! I could not endure a husband with a beard on his face.
Leon. You may light upon a husband that hath no beard.
Beat. What should I do with him? Dress him in my apparel, and make him my waiting gentlewoman? He that hath a beard is more than a youth; and he that hath no beard is less than a man; and he that is more than a youth is not for me, and he that is less than a
man, I am not for him.
Who does not see, what a pleasant per son Beatrice must have been in her uncle's home, with all this power of saying the quaint and unexpected things which bubble up from an uncontrollable spirit of enjoyment? Her frankness must indeed have been a pleasant foil to the somewhat characterless and over gentle Hero. See how fearlessly she presently tells Hero not to take a husband of her father's choosing, unless he pleases herself. She has just heard of the prince's intention to make suit to Hero at the coming masked ball, and when Antonio tells Hero that he trusts she will not follow Beatrice's creed, but "be ruled by her father," Beatrice rejoins:
Yes, faith; it is my cousin's duty to make curtsey, and say, "As it pleases you: "— but yet for all that, cousin, let him be a handsome
fellow, or else make another curtsey, and say,
Father, as it pleases me!"
Leonato loves Beatrice too well to be angry at this instigation to possible rebellion, and only answers her with the words, "Well, niece, I hope to see you one day fitted with a husband." Beatrice is by no
means at the end of her resources. She
is bent on making light of all matrimonial projects. In what she goes on to say we have the counterpart of what Benedick, in the previous scene, had said to Don Pedro and Claudio; and so the groundwork is laid for the coming contrast between their protestations of resolute celibacy and their subsequent engagement.
Beat. Not till Heaven make men of some other metal than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be overmastered with a piece of valiant dust? To make account of her life to a clod of wayward marl? No, uncle, I'll none. Adam's sons are my brethren; and truly I hold it a sin to match in my kindred.
Leon. Daughter, remember what I told you. If the Prince do solicit you in that kind, you know your answer.
Beat. The fault will be in the music, cousin, if you be not wooed in good time. If the Prince be too importunate, tell him there is measure in everything, and so dance out the For, hear me, Hero; wooing, wedding, and repenting, is as a Scotch jig, a measure, and a cinque-pace. The first suit is hot and hasty, like a Scotch jig, and full as fantastical; the wedding, mannerly modest, full of state and ancientry; and then comes repentance, and, with his bad legs, falls into the cinque-pace faster and faster, till he sink into his grave
Leon. Cousin, you apprehend passing shrewd. ly.
Beat. I have a good eye, uncle: I can see a church by daylight.
Well, this was Signor Benedick that said so.
Beat. I am sure you know him well enough.
Beat. Did he never make you laugh?
By this time Benedick has begun to
Beat. Why, he is the Prince's jester: a very dull fool; only his gift is in devising impossible slanders. None but libertines delight in him; and the commendation is not in his wit but in his villainy; for he both pleases men and angers them, and then they laugh at him and beat him. . . .
Benedick tries to break away from her, saying, "When I know the gentleman, I'll tell him what you say;" but be is not allowed to escape.
Do, do! [says Beatrice, mocking him]. He'll but break a comparison or two on me; which, peradventure, not marked, or not laughed at, strikes him into melancholy; and then there's a partridge wing saved, for the fool will will eat no supper that night.
With this Beatrice lets him go; but how deeply her barbed shafts have pierced him is seen anon, when he returns to the scene. He has been laughing at Claudio for, as he believes, letting Don Pedro win his mistress Hero for himself, but no sooner does Claudio leave him, than the jibes of Lady Beatrice recur to his memory:
Beatrice is now in the gayest spirits, and in the very mood to encounter her old enemy, Benedick. He appears forthwith at the revel at Leonato's house, masked like the other guests. Benedick has thrown himself in her way; he has danced with her; and thinking she does not penetrate the disguise of his domino and mask, has been telling her he had been informed that her wit was borrowed and her temper disdainful. She knows him That my lady Beatrice should know me, and at once, but affects not to do so; so that not know me! The Prince's fool! Ha! it in the dialogue between them the actress may be, that I go under that title, because I has the most delightful scope for bringing am merry. Yea, so; I am apt to do myself out the address, the graceful movement, wrong. I am not so reputed. It is nought the abounding joyousness which make but the bitter disposition of Beatrice, that puts Beatrice the paragon of her kind. With the world into her person, and so gives me out. Well, I'll be revenged as I may. a plaintive, ill-used air, she asks him —
"As he may!" There is an amusing despair in the confession. He feels that
nor merry, nor well; but civil, count, civil as an orange, and something of that jealous complexion." He is speedily disa bused of his suspicions, and made happy by Don Pedro's assurance that Hero has been won for him, and her father's "goodwill obtained."
Beatrice has fairly driven him off the field. | the case with her usual aptness and pleas This becomes more apparent when Don antry: "The count is neither sad, nor sick, Pedro breaks in upon his musing with these unwelcome words: "The lady Beatrice hath a quarrel to you; the gentleman that danced with her told her she is much wronged by you." Poor Benedick at once lets out the secret, which Beatrice had kept from the prince, that the gentleman in question was himself. Indignation makes him eloquent and witty even beyond his wont.
Qh, she misused me past the endurance of a block. An oak, but with one green leaf on it,
would have answered her. My very visor
began to assume life and scold with her She told me, not thinking I had been myself, [ah, where was then his vaunted shrewdness?] that I was the Prince's jester, and that I was duller than a great thaw, huddling jest upon jest, with such impossible conveyance upon me, that I stood like a man at a mark, with a whole army shooting at me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs.
I would not marry her, though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed.
Not marry her! Are we to read in this, that Benedick had at some time nourished dreams about her, not wholly consistent with his creed of celibacy? Not unlikely, if we couple this remark with what he had said to Claudio about her beauty as compared with Hero's. But, while they speak, Beatrice is seen approaching with her uncle, Claudio, and Hero, and, in the same spirit of exquisite exaggeration, Benedick, who in his present mood will not run the risk of a fresh encounter, asks Don Pedro if he will not "command him any service to the world's end;" offering to go anywhere, do anything, " rather than hold three words' conference with this harpy," and makes his escape, exclaiming as he goes, "O God, sir, here's a dish I love not; I cannot endure my Lady Tongue." All this time Benedick quite forgets that he has himself to blame if Beatrice has dealt sharply with him; for had he not given her the severest provo cation by attacking her under the shelter of his mask? If volubility of speech were her sin, how much greater is his? Rich as her invention is, and fertile her vocabulary, Benedick excels her in both. But what great talker ever knew his own weak ness?
Meanwhile Beatrice has been requested by Don Pedro to bring Count Claudio. She has evidently found out, by the way, the secret of his sullenness; and when Don Pedro inquires the cause, she puts
Despite of all that she has said against marriage for herself, Beatrice, who is in Hero's secret, is glad of a result which makes her cousin happy. Speak, count," she says to Claudio, who has scarcely recovered from his surprise; "'tis your cue." And when he does speak, and very well too, she turns with a similar adjuration to the blushing Hero.
his mouth with a kiss, and let him not speak Beat. Speak, cousin; or, if you cannot, stop
D. Pedro. Lady Beatrice, I will get you one. Beat. I would rather have one of your father's getting. Hath your grace ne'er a brother like you? Your father got excellent husbands, if a maid could come by them. D. Pedro. Will you have me, lady?
Beat. No, my lord, unless I might have another for working days. Your grace is too costly to wear every day.
Here, true lady as she is, it crosses her mind that her high spirits may have carried her too far, and may lead the prince to misunderstand her. With the bright and innocent frankness which obviously gives her a special charm in his eyes, she prays his forgiveness.
born to speak all mirth, and no matter.
D. Pedro. Your silence most offends me,
and to be merry best becomes you; for, out of question, you were born in a merry hour.
With just the slightest inflection of pathos in her voice, Beatrice replies:
No, sure, my lord, my mother cry'd; but then there was a star danced, and under that was I born. Cousins, Heaven give you joy !
Her uncle now asks her "to look to Benedick must have had a heart of stone, some things he had told her of." Be sure as well as superhuman acuteness, had he she was the presiding spirit in his house- not been moved by it. He does not easily hold. How sweetly and prettily does she fall into the snare. Don Pedro alone go upon his bidding! "I cry you mercy, could not have deceived him. But how uncle;" then curtseying to the Prince of can he refuse to believe Leonato, “the Aragon, "By your grace's leave!" to ex-white-bearded fellow," whom he knows to cuse herself for leaving thus abruptly. be devoted to Beatrice? Was it conceiv When she has gone, Don Pedro sums up able that he, her uncle and guardian, his impression of her in the words, By should be speaking pure fiction, when he my troth, a pleasant-spirited lady." In says that she loves Benedick with an answer to his remark that Beatrice "can enraged affection, it is past the infinite not endure to hear tell of a husband," of thought"? And why should Claudio, Leonato answers, "Oh, by no means: she his own familiar and trusted friend, be in mocks all her wooers out of suit!" Don the same tale, unless he had really learned Pedro has, however, seen enough of the from Hero, as he says he has, the true relations between her and Benedick to state of Beatrice's affection, and "that she conclude that a worse thing might befall will die ere she make her love known "? them, than that their witty warfare should be turned to wooing. He has obviously a strong regard for both, and he "would fain have it a match." She, he says, "were an excellent wife for Benedick;" and Benedick, a man "of noble strain, of approved valor, and confirmed honesty," as he knows him to be, is "not the unhopefullest husband that he knows." So, a lady." Benedick's first thought is not to beguile the week that is to elapse before Claudio's marriage, he undertakes "to bring them into a mountain of affection, the one with the other." Hero, acting upon the suggestions Don Pedro will give her, is so to "humor" her cousin, "that she shall fall in love with Benedick;" while he himself, along with Leonato and Claudio, are so to "practise on Benedick, that, in despite of his quick wit and his queasy stomach," he shall fall in love with Beatrice.
The conspirators have not spared Benedick, while extolling Beatrice, -dwelling much on his scornful and contemptuous spirit, and Don Pedro, at the same time that he protests he "loves him well," adding very craftily a wish, that Benedick "would modestly examine himself, to see how much he is unworthy to have so good
of his own shortcomings. In this, as we presently see, he is very different from Beatrice. He at once, with pardonable complacency, accepts the fact that Beatrice loves him: in that belief all his former invectives against her are forgotten, and he feels her love "must be requited." She is no longer "Lady Disdain," "the fury," "the harpy." On the contrary, she is "fair," "virtuous," "wise, but in loving him." In any case he "will be horribly in love with her; " and so possessed is he with the triumphant feeling that he stands high in her regard, that when she pres ently appears to tell him she is "sent against her will to bid him come in to dia
While they are perfecting their little well-meant plot, Don John and his retainer, Borachio, are hatching theirs for destroying Hero's reputation, and breaking off her marriage, by making Donner," he actually "spies some marks of Pedro and Count Claudio believe that, on the night before her wedding-day, they see Borachio leave her chamber by the window. The way in which the temporary success of this second plot is made to work most effectually for the permanent success of the first, is one of the many proofs of Shakespeare's transcendent skill in dramatic construction.
There is no need to speak at length of the admirable scene in which Don Pedro, Leonato, and Count Claudio persuade Benedick that Beatrice dotes upon him, while "she hath in all outward behaviors seemed ever to abhor him," and "will die ere she will make her love known." So cleverly is the dialogue managed, that
love in her," and finds a meaning flattering to the thought in the very phrases which she studiously uses to prove with what reluctance she had come upon the errand. He leaves the scene, protesting, "I will go get her picture!"
Now it is Beatrice's turn to fall into a
similar snare. It is laid for her by Hero and her gentlewoman Ursula; and in the very exuberance of a power that runs without effort into the channel of melodious verse, Shakespeare passes from the terse, vivid prose of the previous scene into rhythmical lines, steeped in music and illuminated by fancy. Margaret is despatched to tell Beatrice that her cousin and Ursula are talking about her, and to