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is a kind of merry war betwixt seignior 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 witswent 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 hath 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 squarer3 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 pounds ere he be cured.
Mess. I will hold friends with you, lady.
i In Shakspeare's time, wil was the general term for intellectual power. The wits seem to have been reckoned fire, by analogy to the five senses.
2 This is an heraldic term. So, in Hamlet, Ophelia says, “ You may wear your rue with a difference."
Beat. A dear happiness to women; they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God, and my cold blood, I am of your humor for that ; I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.
Bene. God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were.
Bene. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Beat. A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
Bene. 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.
Beat. You always end with a jade's trick; I know you of old.
D. Pedro. This is the sum of all: Leonato,-seignior Claudio, and seignior Benedick,-my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him, we shall stay here at the least a month; and he heartily prays, some occasion may detain us longer: I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but prays from his heart.
Leon. If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.-Let me bid you welcome, my lord; being reconciled to the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.
D. John. I thank you : I am not of many words, but I thank you.
Leon. Please it your grace lead on?
D. Pedro. Your hand, Leonato; we will go together. [Exeunt all but BENEDICK and Claudio.
Claud. Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of seignior Leonato ?
Bene. I noted her not; but I looked on her.
Bene. Do you question me as an honest man should do, for my simple true judgment ? Or would you have me speak after my custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex?
Claud. No, I pray thee, speak in sober judgment.
Bene. Why, i'faith, methinks she is too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise: only this commendation I can afford her; that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome; and being no other but as she is, I do not like her.
Claud. Thou thinkest I am in sport; I pray thee, tell me truly how thou likest her.
Bene. Would you buy her, that you inquire after her? Claud. Can the world buy such a jewel ?
Bene. Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this with a sad brow? Or do you play the flouting Jack; to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare carpenter? Come, in what key shall a man take you to go in the song ?
Claud. In mine eye, she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on.
Bene. I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter: there's her cousin, an she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of May doth the last of December. But I hope you have no intent to turn husband; hare you?
Claud. I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the contrary, if Hero would be my wife.
Bene. Is it come to this, i’faith? Hath not the world one man, but he will wear his car with suspicion ?3 Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again? Go to, i'faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it, and sigh away Sundays. Look, don Pedro is returned to seek you.
Re-enter Don PEDRO. D. Pedro. What secret hath held you here, that you followed not to Leonato's ?
Bene. I would your grace would constrain me to tell.
1 Do you mean to amuse us with improbable stories?