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Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon.
wise of Don Pedro.
followers of Don John. Doyberry,
two foolish officers.
Hero, daughter to Leonato.
} gentlewomen attending on Hero.
Messengers, watch, and attendants.
SCENE I.-Before Leonato's house. Enter Leo
nato, Hero, Beatrice, and others, with a Megsenger.
Leonato. I LEARN in this letter, that Don Pedro of Arragon, comes this night to Messina.
Mess. He is very near by this; he was not three leagues off when I left him.
Leon. How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?
Mess. But few of any sort, and none of name.
Leon. A victory is twice itself, when the achiever brings home full numbers. I find here, that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine, called Claudio.
Mess. Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro: he hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age; doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion: he hath, indeed, better bettered expectation, than you must expect of me to tell you how.
Leon. He bath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him; even so much, that joy could not show itself modest enough, without a badge of bitterness.
Leon. Did he break out into tears?
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness : There are no faces truer than those that are so washed. How much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping? Beat. I
pray you, is signior Montanto returned from the wars, or no?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady; there was none such in the
army of Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece?
Hero. My cousin means signior Benedick of Padua.
Mess. O, he is returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.
Beat. He set up his bills here in Messina, and challenged Cupid at the flight:2 and my uncle's fool reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him at the bird-bolt.— I pray you, how many hath he killed and caten in these wars? But how many hath he killed ? for, indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing.
Leon. Faith, niece, you tax signior Benedick too much; but he'll be meet3 with you, I doubt it not.
Mess. He hath done goud service, lady, in these
Beat. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it: he is a very valiant trencher-man, he hath an excellent stomach.
Mess. And a good soldier too, lady.
Beat. And a good scdier to a lady ;-But what is he to a lord ?
Mess. A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all honourable virtues.
Beat. It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man :4 but for the stuffing-Well, we are all mortal. Leon. You must not, sir, mistake my niece : there (1) Abundance. (2) At long lengths. (3) Even.
(4) A cuckold
is a kind of merry war betwixt signior Benedick and her: they never meet, but there is a skirmish of wit between them.
Beat. Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict, four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one : so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse : for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature.--Who is his companion now? He bath every month a new sworn brother.
Mess. Is it possible?
Beat. Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next block.
Mess. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.
Beat. No: an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray you, who is his companion ? Is there no young squarera now, that will make a voyage with him to the devil ?
Mess. He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
Beat. O Lord! he will hang upon him like a disease: he is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! if he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound
ere he be cured.
Beat. Do, good friend.
Mess. Don Pedro is approached.
others, Don John, Claudio, and Benedick.