Synopses & Reviews
The action is set in Sicily, where Don Pedro, Prince of Aragon, has recently defeated his half-brother, the bastard Don John, in a military engagement. Apparently reconciled, they return to the capital, Messina, as guests of the Governor, Leonato. There Count Claudio, a young nobleman serving in Don Pedro's army, falls in love with Hero, Leonato's daughter, whom Don Pedro woos on his behalf. The play's central plot shows how Don John maliciously deceives Claudio into believing that Hero has taken a lover on the eve of her marriage, causing Claudio to repudiate her publicly, at the altar.Count Claudio falls in love with Hero, the daughter of his host. Hero's cousin Beatrice (a confirmed spinster) and Benedict (an eternal bachelor) are each duped into believing the other is in love with them. Claudio is deceived by a malicious plot and denounces Hero as unchaste before they marry. She faints and is believed dead, but recovers to be proved innocent by a chance discovery. Benedict wins Beatrice's love defending her cousin's honour, and to his surprise, Claudio is reunited with Hero, who he believed dead.LEONATOI learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon comes this night to Messina.MessengerHe is very near by this: he was not three leagues off when I left him.LEONATOHow many gentlemen have you lost in this action?MessengerBut few of any sort, and none of name.LEONATOA victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers. I find here that Don Peter hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio.MessengerMuch 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.LEONATOHe hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.MessengerI 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.LEONATODid he break out into tears?MessengerIn great measure.LEONATOA 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 BEATRICEI pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the wars or no?MessengerI know none of that name, lady: there was none such in the army of any sort.LEONATOWhat is he that you ask for, niece?HEROMy cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.MessengerO, he's returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.BEATRICEHe set up his bills here in Messina and challenged Cupid at the flight; 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 eaten in these wars? But how many hath he killed? for indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.