Much Ado About Nothing Book Cover

 

Hamlet: A Verse Translation

ISBN: 978-0-9836379-2-9

190 pages

 

 

 

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Enjoy Shakespeare in beautiful verse translations

 

Enjoy Shakespeare with Sir Toby, Feste, and Sir Andrew

 

 

 

Much Ado About Nothing: A Verse Translation

Excerpt

 

This excerpt from Act One shows how carefully the ENJOY SHAKESPEARE translations recreate all of Shakespeare's effects.

 

Notice how this scene begins in prose but shifts to verse after the exit of Benedick (who rarely speaks in verse), exactly as in Shakespeare's original. We think of Shakespeare's plays as primarily blank verse (unrhymed iambic pentameter), but Much Ado About Nothing is less than 30% verse.

 


 

 

Act One, Scene One

 

Scene One. A Street in Messina

[Enter LEONATO, HERO, BEATRICE, and others, with a MESSENGER]

LEONATO (Governor of Messina)

This letter tells me that Don Pedro of Aragon is coming to Messina tonight.

Shakespeare used

prose to start

the play

MESSENGER (to Leonato)

He’ll be here very soon. He was less than ten miles away when I left him.

LEONATO

How many noblemen did you lose in this battle?

MESSENGER

Only a few of any rank and none with a name.

LEONATO

A victory is twice as good when the victor brings home full numbers. I see here that Don Pedro has bestowed many honors on a young Florentine named Claudio.

MESSENGER

Much deserved on his part, and suitably rewarded by Don Pedro. He has pushed himself way past what we demand for one his age, performing in the likeness of a lamb the feats of a lion. He has surely surpassed, indeed, more expectations than you’d expect me to list.

LEONATO

He has an uncle here in Messina who will be very glad to hear of this.

MESSENGER

I have already delivered letters to him, and he seems quite full of joy, so much so that his joy would seem stripped of all modesty were it not gowned in grief.

LEONATO

He started crying?

MESSENGER

In great profusion.

LEONATO

A tendency for overflowing tenderness. There are no faces more sincere than those washed in that way. Much better to weep in delight than to delight in weeping!

BEATRICE (Leonato's niece)

Tell me, has Signior Layemflatte returned from the wars, or no?

MESSENGER

I do not know him, lady. No one of any rank in the army has such a name.

LEONATO

Who are you asking about, niece?

HERO (Leonato's daughter)

My cousin’s referring to Signior Benedick of Padua.

MESSENGER

Oh, he has returned, and as entertaining as ever.

BEATRICE

He once put up posters here in Messina and claimed his bow could outshoot the God of Love himself, so my uncle’s jester, reading this challenge, stood in for Cupid and beat him with a peashooter. Tell me, how many has he killed and eaten in these wars? I’m sorry, just those he killed. I’m the one who promised to eat whatever he killed.

LEONATO

Really, niece, you pick on Signior Benedick too much, but he’ll make meat of you, no doubt.

MESSENGER

He has served nobly, lady, in this war.

BEATRICE

You were served up stale food, and he helped you eat it. He is valiant when finishing off a platter; he has an excellent stomach for that.

MESSENGER

And a good soldier too, my lady.

BEATRICE

A good soldier to every lady, but how does he treat a lord?

MESSENGER

A lord to a lord, a man to a man, stuffed full of honorable virtues.

BEATRICE

I’ll grant you that. He is no doubt a man stuffed full. As for the stuffing—well, we are all human.

LEONATO

You must not, sir, misunderstand my niece. There is a kind of merry war between Signior Benedick and her. They never meet without an exchange of verbal thrusts.

BEATRICE

The poor man. He gains nothing from it. In our last conflict, four-fifths of his brain went limping off, and now the whole man is governed by what’s left. If he has brains enough to keep himself warm, that lifts him one rank above his horse, for that’s the only wealth he has—to be recognized as a creature with some sense left. Who is his sidekick now? Every month he has a newly-sworn brother-in-arms.

MESSENGER

Is it possible?

BEATRICE

Certainly possible. His loyalty changes with the look of his hat, as fast as his tailor can fit one on his block.

MESSENGER

I see, lady, that the gentleman does not amount to much in your book.

BEATRICE

No. And if he did, I would burn my library. But tell me, who is his sidekick? Isn’t there some young roughneck willing to journey with him to the devil?

MESSENGER

He is most often in the company of the noble Claudio.

BEATRICE

O Lord! He will hang onto him like a disease. He is more contagious than a plague, and the victim instantly goes mad. God help noble Claudio! If he has caught the Benedick flu, it will cost him a thousand pounds before he is cured.

MESSENGER

I hope to remain on your good side, lady.

BEATRICE

Do, good friend.

LEONATO

You will never catch this madness, niece.

BEATRICE

Not until we have a hot January.

MESSENGER

Don Pedro is approaching.

[Enter DON PEDRO, with CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, DON JOHN, BALTHAZAR, and others]

DON PEDRO (Prince of Aragon)

Good Signior Leonato, are you here to greet those who trouble you? The current fashion is to avoid inconvenience, yet you embrace it.

LEONATO

Your Grace’s presence is never any trouble. When trouble goes, comfort should remain, yet when you depart from me, sorrow remains behind, and happiness takes leave.

DON PEDRO

You welcome your burden too willingly. And this, I believe, is your daughter.

LEONATO

Her mother has told me so—many times.

BENEDICK (a gentleman from Padua)

Were you so in doubt that you had to ask her?

LEONATO

No, Signior Benedick, for you were still a child then.

DON PEDRO

There you are, Benedick. We can guess from this what kind of man you are. Truly the lady takes after her father.—Be happy, lady, that you are like your honorable father.

[DON PEDRO and LEONATO step aside to talk]

BENEDICK

If Signior Leonato were her father, she would not want his head on her shoulders for all Messina to see, despite its likeness.

BEATRICE

I’m surprised you bother talking, Signior Benedick. No one pays attention.

BENEDICK

Ah, dear Lady Disdain! Are you still alive?

BEATRICE

Is it possible “Disdain” would die on such a hearty diet as Signior Benedick metes out? Miss Courtesy herself would convert to Disdain if you were in her presence.

BENEDICK

Then Miss Courtesy’s a turncoat. For it is certain I am loved by all the ladies, except for you, and I wish in my heart that I did not have a heart so closed, for the truth is I love none of them.

BEATRICE

A rare stroke of luck for women. Otherwise, they would be molested by a wicked suitor. I thank God, and my icy blood, that you and I are of one mind in that. I’d rather hear my dog bark at a crow than hear a man swear he loves me.

BENEDICK

May God forever keep your ladyship in that frame of mind and spare some poor gentleman, or whatever, the inevitable scratched face.

BEATRICE

Scratching couldn’t make it worse if it were anything like yours.

BENEDICK

You must be good at training parrots.

BEATRICE

A bird with my tongue is better than a beast with yours.

BENEDICK

I wish my horse had the speed of your tongue and such endurance. In God’s name, finish the race. I quit.

BEATRICE

You always end by throwing the rider. I’ve learned your tricks.

[DON PEDRO and others rejoin the conversation]

DON PEDRO

That sums it up, Leonato.—Signior Claudio and Signior Benedick—my dear friend Leonato has invited you all. I told him we will stay here at least a month, and he heartily prays that some matter will detain us longer. I can testify that these are not just empty words but come from his heart.

LEONATO

Your testimony, my lord, will not be proven false. [to Don John] Let me welcome you, my lord. Since you have made peace with your brother, the prince, I owe you my respect.

DON JOHN (Don Pedro's half-brother)

Thank you. I’m a man of few words, but I thank you.

LEONATO

Would your grace please lead us out?

DON PEDRO

Your hand, Leonato. We will go together.

[Exit ALL but BENEDICK and CLAUDIO]

CLAUDIO (a Lord from Florence)

Benedick, did you get a look at the daughter of Signior Leonato?

BENEDICK

Not a close look, but I did see her.

CLAUDIO

Doesn’t she seem a decent young lady?

BENEDICK

Do you want the simple, true opinion an honest man might give, or do you want me to speak in my usual way, as a professional tormentor of that gender?

CLAUDIO

No, please, give me your sober opinion.

BENEDICK

Indeed it seems to me she’s too short for high praise, too dim for glowing praise, and too little for great praise. Only one compliment will I allow her: if she were not who she is, she would be unattractive, and since she is nothing except what she is, I do not care for her.

CLAUDIO

You think I’m joking. Please tell me honestly what you like about her.

BENEDICK

Do you want to buy her? Is that why you’re asking?

CLAUDIO

Could the world buy such a jewel?

BENEDICK

Yes, and a case to put it in. Can you say this with a serious face? Or are you now a leg puller—telling us that blind men are good at spotting rabbits and blacksmiths work with wood? Come now. In what key must a man sing to join you in song?

CLAUDIO

In my eye, she is the sweetest lady that I have ever looked upon.

BENEDICK

I can still see without glasses, and I see no such thing. Her cousin, if she were not possessed by some snake-haired goddess, would surpass her as much in beauty as the first of May does the last of December. I hope you don’t intend to turn husband on us, do you?

CLAUDIO

I couldn’t trust myself not to, even if I had sworn the opposite, if Hero were my wife.

BENEDICK

Good lord, has it come to this? Doesn’t the world have one man who doesn’t hide horns of jealousy beneath his cap? Will I ever see a bachelor of sixty again? Go ahead, by God, if you want to stick your neck into a yoke, wear its imprint, and sigh away your Sundays. Look, Don Pedro has returned to get you.

[Enter DON PEDRO]

DON PEDRO

What private matter is keeping you from following us to Leonato’s?

BENEDICK

I wish your Grace would force me to tell.

DON PEDRO

I order you out of allegiance to your prince.

BENEDICK

You heard that, Count Claudio. I want you to know I can keep a secret as well as the deaf and dumb, but out of allegiance—remember this is out of allegiance—he is in love. With who, your grace will ask? Note how short his answer is: with Hero, Leonato’s short daughter.

CLAUDIO

If this were true, this is what you’d hear.

BENEDICK

As the murderer said to the witness: “it is not true, it was not true, but God help me if it is true.”

CLAUDIO

If my feelings don’t change soon, God help me if it’s otherwise.

DON PEDRO

So be it, if you love her. The lady is very worthy.

CLAUDIO

You’re saying this to make me look foolish, my lord.

DON PEDRO

Have faith in me, I simply shared my thoughts...

CLAUDIO

...and trust me, my lord, I shared mine…

BENEDICK

...and with my divided faith and trust, I shared mine...

CLAUDIO

…that I feel I love her...

DON PEDRO

…that I know she is worthy…

BENEDICK

…that I do not feel that she should be loved and do not know what makes her worthy—an opinion that fire cannot melt out of me. I will die for it at the stake.

DON PEDRO

You have always been an unyielding heretic in your contempt for beauty.

CLAUDIO

A stance he can never support except by firm resolve.

BENEDICK

A woman conceived me; I thank her for that. She brought me up; I likewise give her my most humble thanks. But to call in my hounds with a blast on the jealous horn of a cuckold or drag the thing on a leash where I can’t see it—from that, all women must pardon me. I do them no wrong by mistrusting them all and do myself right by not trusting any. And the point is, since my cap fits better with no points beneath it, I will remain a bachelor.

DON PEDRO

I will see you, before I die, looking pale with love.

BENEDICK

With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord—not with love. Prove that I will lose more color from love than I will get back by drinking, and I’ll poke out my eyes with a ballad-writer’s pen, put my face on a sign above a brothel door and take blind Cupid’s place.

DON PEDRO

Well, if you ever fall from this faith, you will be its most famous case.

BENEDICK

If I do, hang me in a cage like a cat and shoot at me, and whoever hits me, slap him on the shoulder and call him Robin Hood.

DON PEDRO

Well, time will tell. “In time the savage bull will feel the yoke.”

BENEDICK

The savage bull may, but if this sensible Benedick ever feels it, pluck off the bull’s horns, stick them in my forehead, and paint my portrait in hideous colors, and in the biggest letters there are, write “Here is a good horse for hire,” and inscribe under my picture, “Here you see Benedick, a married man.”

CLAUDIO

If this happened, you’d be mad to the tip of your horns.

DON PEDRO

Well, if Cupid did not empty his quiver in Venice, you will be quaking from this shortly.

BENEDICK

Then I’ll look out for an earthquake too.

DON PEDRO

Well, you will soften with each hour. In the meantime, good Signior Benedick, proceed to Leonato’s. Offer him my respects, and tell him I will be at supper, for he certainly has made great preparations.

BENEDICK

Let me see if I have enough sense left in me to carry out such a mission. “And so I commit you to…

CLAUDIO

“…the protection of God. My entire household (though I don’t have one) sends its love…

DON PEDRO

“…the sixth of July. Your loving friend, Benedick.”

BENEDICK

Now, no mocking, no mocking. The main fabric of your conversation is sometimes trimmed with scraps, and the trimmings only loosely stitched in any case. Before you ridicule old niceties any further, examine your conscience. And with that I leave you.

[Exit BENEDICK]

The scene shifts

from prose to

blank verse

CLAUDIO

My liege, your highness now can give me help.

DON PEDRO

My love is yours to teach. Teach it to help,

And you will see how quick it is to learn

Any hard lesson that’s of help to you.

CLAUDIO

Does Leonato have a son, my lord?

DON PEDRO

No child but Hero; she’s his only heir.

Are you attracted to her?

CLAUDIO

                                           Oh my lord,

When you pushed on in this campaign just ended,

I looked upon her with a soldier’s eye,

With fondness, but I faced a rougher task

Than driving fondness to the point of love.

But now that I’ve returned and thoughts of war

Have left their quarters vacant, in their place

Come throngs of soft and delicate desires,

Reminding me how fine young Hero is,

And how I felt before I went to war.

DON PEDRO

You’ll sound more like a lover soon enough,

And wear your listener down with reams of talk.

So if you love dear Hero, nurture it,

And I will raise it with her and her father,

And you will win her. Wasn’t this your aim

In spinning out so delicate a tale?

CLAUDIO

How pleasingly you serve the cause of love

And sense its grief by noting outward signs!

And yet my fondness for her may seem rash

Unless it’s softened with a longer story.

DON PEDRO

Why build a bridge far past the river’s edge?

The finest gift is one that meets a need.

Whatever works fits best. In short, you love her,

And I will fit you with a remedy.

Let’s see...we have a masquerade tonight.

So wearing some disguise, I’ll take your place,

And tell sweet Hero I am Claudio,

And secretly to her unclasp my heart,

And take this listening prisoner with the force

And strong assault of such an amorous tale.

Then, once her father’s given his consent,

The matter will be closed and she’ll be yours.

Let’s carry out this plan immediately.

[Exit ALL]

 

© 2008 by Kent Richmond

 

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