William Shakespeare: Much Ado about Nothing, Act III
Enter Hero, Margaret, and Ursula
Good Margaret, run thee to the parlor; There shalt thou find my cousin Beatrice Proposing with the prince and Claudio: Whisper her ear and tell her, I and Ursula Walk in the orchard and our whole discourse Is all of her; say that thou overheard'st us; And bid her steal into the pleached bower, Where honeysuckles, ripen'd by the sun, Forbid the sun to enter, like favourites, Made proud by princes, that advance their pride Against that power that bred it: there will she hide her, To listen our purpose. This is thy office; Bear thee well in it and leave us alone.
Now, Ursula, when Beatrice doth come, As we do trace this alley up and down, Our talk must only be of Benedick. When I do name him, let it be thy part To praise him more than ever man did merit: My talk to thee must be how Benedick Is sick in love with Beatrice. Of this matter Is little Cupid's crafty arrow made, That only wounds by hearsay.
Enter Beatrice, behind
Now begin; For look where Beatrice, like a lapwing, runs Close by the ground, to hear our conference.
The pleasant'st angling is to see the fish Cut with her golden oars the silver stream, And greedily devour the treacherous bait: So angle we for Beatrice; who even now Is couched in the woodbine coverture. Fear you not my part of the dialogue.
Then go we near her, that her ear lose nothing Of the false sweet bait that we lay for it.
Approaching the bower
No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful; I know her spirits are as coy and wild As haggerds of the rock.
They did entreat me to acquaint her of it; But I persuaded them, if they loved Benedick, To wish him wrestle with affection, And never to let Beatrice know of it.
Why did you so? Doth not the gentleman Deserve as full as fortunate a bed As ever Beatrice shall couch upon?
O god of love! I know he doth deserve As much as may be yielded to a man: But Nature never framed a woman's heart Of prouder stuff than that of Beatrice; Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes, Misprising what they look on, and her wit Values itself so highly that to her All matter else seems weak: she cannot love, Nor take no shape nor project of affection, She is so self-endeared.
Sure, I think so; And therefore certainly it were not good She knew his love, lest she make sport at it.
Why, you speak truth. I never yet saw man, How wise, how noble, young, how rarely featured, But she would spell him backward: if fair-faced, She would swear the gentleman should be her sister; If black, why, Nature, drawing of an antique, Made a foul blot; if tall, a lance ill-headed; If low, an agate very vilely cut; If speaking, why, a vane blown with all winds; If silent, why, a block moved with none. So turns she every man the wrong side out And never gives to truth and virtue that Which simpleness and merit purchaseth.
No, not to be so odd and from all fashions As Beatrice is, cannot be commendable: But who dare tell her so? If I should speak, She would mock me into air; O, she would laugh me Out of myself, press me to death with wit. Therefore let Benedick, like cover'd fire, Consume away in sighs, waste inwardly: It were a better death than die with mocks, Which is as bad as die with tickling.
No; rather I will go to Benedick And counsel him to fight against his passion. And, truly, I'll devise some honest slanders To stain my cousin with: one doth not know How much an ill word may empoison liking.
O, do not do your cousin such a wrong. She cannot be so much without true judgment— Having so swift and excellent a wit As she is prized to have—as to refuse So rare a gentleman as Signior Benedick.
I pray you, be not angry with me, madam, Speaking my fancy: Signior Benedick, For shape, for bearing, argument and valour, Goes foremost in report through Italy.
Why, every day, to-morrow. Come, go in: I'll show thee some attires, and have thy counsel Which is the best to furnish me to-morrow.
Exeunt Hero and Ursula
What fire is in mine ears? Can this be true? Stand I condemn'd for pride and scorn so much? Contempt, farewell! and maiden pride, adieu! No glory lives behind the back of such. And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee, Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand: If thou dost love, my kindness shall incite thee To bind our loves up in a holy band; For others say thou dost deserve, and I Believe it better than reportingly.