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"If music and sweet poetry agrec,
As they must needs, the sister and the brother,
Because thou lov'st the one, and I the other.” The comic, and almost tragic, have been well blended by Shakspeare, in Much Ado About Nothing. The chief female characters, Hero and BEATRICE, are presented to us as girls full of lively and harmless mirth. At first, BEATRICE wears something of the appearance of the shrew; but, on closer acquaintance, her sprightly wit and cheerful manners, convince us that she ranks high amongst the Heroines of the great bard.
Hero is the daughter of LEONATO, the Governor of Messina, and BEATRICE is her cousin. CLAUDIO and BENEDICK, favourites of Don PEDRO, the Prince of Aragon, are returning from the wars, and, with him, visiting Messina, meet with Hero and BEATRICE at LEONATO's house. BEATRICE receives BENEDICK with a torrent of playful sarcasm, and, being in a similar mood, he returns it with interest. He rails at CLAUDIO (who falls in love with Hero), and boldly declares his determination never to marry. BEATRICE is equally firm in her resolution to remain a maid.
Don PEDRO, having exercised his good offices for CLAUDIO, persuades LEONATO to betroth Hero to him; and it is determined, by a ruse, to set BENEDICK and BEATRICE in love with each other. This is cleverly managed, by representing to each the other's love. Hero assists in this, and sends her waiting-maid, MARGARET, to BEATRICE, desiring her to conceal herself in the garden, so that she may overhear a conversation about herself and BENEDICK—a piece of mischief which MARGARET enters into with spirit and success.
Meanwhile, a marplot, in the shape of Don John, brother to Pedro, has resolved to revenge himself on CLAUDIO, and does so by a stratagem, in which MARGARET is made, unwittingly, an instrument, by her answering to the name of Hero; against whom he thus succeeds in raising a scandal. CLAUDIO is so poisoned in his mind against HERO, that, on the day of the marriage, he denounces her at the altar. HERO swoons away, and is removed apparently dead. Her father and BEATRICE feel that she has been deeply wronged, and the latter demands of BENEDICK, if he have any affection for her, to avenge her cousin's cause. Hero is, for the time, kept concealed, until the mystery is cleared up.
CONRADE and BORACHIO, who were employed by Don John, have been overheard detailing the villanous scheme in which they have been engaged, and, being taken before LEONATO, confess it. CLAUDIO, to compensate LEONATO for the supposed loss of his child, agrees, on hearing this, to marry any one LEONATO may choose. A day is fixed for the wedding, and Hero is brought in with BEATRICE, both being masked. On the marriage being completed, she removes her mask, and Claudio is delighted by finding that Hero has become his wife. BENEDICK calls for BEATRICE, who, dropping her mask, banters him for some time; but, at last, the confirmed bachelor and spinster exchange vows, which end their single state.
Claudio. Give me your hand before this holy friar; I am your husband if you like of me.
. Hero. And when I lived, I was your other wife:
[Unmasking. And when you loved, you were my other husband.
Claudio. Another Hero!
Don Pedro. The former Hero: Hero that is dead!
Friar. All this amazement can I qualify;
Benedick. Soft and fair, friar.—Which is Beatrice?
your will ?
Benedick. Do not you love me?
Why no, no more than reason.
did. Beatrice. Do not you love me? Benedick. Troth, no, no more than reason.
Beatrice. Why, then my cousin, Margaret, and Ursula, Are much deceiv'd; for they did swear you
Claudio. And I'll be sworn upon't, that he loves her;
And here's another,
Much ADO ABOUT NOTHING.-Act V. Scene IV.
Claudio. Quelle est celle de ces dames qui doit m'appartenir ?
Claudio. En ce cas, elle est à moi. Madame, permettez que je voie vos traits.
Léonato. Vous ne la verrez que lorsque vous aurez accepté sa main en présence de ce prêtre, et juré de la prendre pour femme.
Claudio. Donnez-moi votre main devant ce saint prêtre; je suis votre époux, si vous voulez m'accepter.
Héro. (Otant son masque.) Quand je vivais, j'étais votre épouse ; quand vous m'aimiez, vous étiez mon époux.
Claudio. (Etonné.) Une seconde Héro !
Héro. Rien n'est plus certain : une Héro est morte déshonorée; mais moi, je vis.
Don Pédro. L'ancienne Héro! celle qui est morte?
Léonato. Elle n'est restée morte, seigneur, qu’aussi longtemps qu'a vécu son déshonneur!
Francisco. Je vous expliquerai tout ce mystère. Quand la sainte cérémonie sera terminée, je vous raconterai en détail la mort de la belle Héro: en attendant, ne voyez rien que de naturel dans ce qui cause votre étonnement, et allons de ce pas à la chapelle.
BEAUCOUP DE BRUIT POUR RIEN.- Acta V. Scine IV.