Act II, Scene iii to Act III, Scene i
‘Acting is half shame, half glory. Shame at exhibiting yourself, glory when you can forget yourself’ – John Gielgud
Sirius high-fived Remus as he came offstage, and everyone nearby sighed with relief; it had been bloody weird to have the two of them fighting.
Remus grabbed a deckchair and strode out onto the stage, which now resembled a garden full of flowers, hedges and a great fountain.
“Boy!” he shouted, and Dorothy, dressed as a boy, came hurrying out of the opposite hedge.
“Signior?” she asked.
“In my chamber window lies a book,” he said. “Bring it hither to me in the orchard.”
“I am here already, sir,” complained Dorothy.
“I know that, but I would have thee hence and here again!” he cried, and Dorothy stamped off back the way she had come, her face like thunder.
“I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much another man is a fool when he dedicates his behaviours to love, will, after he hath laughed at such shallow follies in others, become the argument of his own scorn by falling in love.” He pulled a face and sat on the edge of the fountain, abandoning his deckchair for the time being. “And such a man is Claudio. I have known when there was no music with him but the drum and the fife,” he said, punching the air, manfully; the audience chuckled. “And now had he rather hear the tabor and the pipe. I have known when he would have walked ten miles afoot to see a good armour; and now will he lie ten nights awake carving the fashion of a new doublet.” He stood and picked up a stone from the path, weighing it in his hand. “He was wont to speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man and a soldier; and now is he turned orthography; his words are a very fantastical banquet – just so many strange dishes.” He shook his head: “May I be so converted and see with these eyes? I cannot tell; I think not. I will not be sworn but love may transform me into an oyster,” he said, making another face to general amusement. “But I’ll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me he shall never make me such a fool.” He threw the stone, which skimmed over the surface of the pond before sinking with an audible ‘plop’. “One woman is fair, yet I am well; another virtuous, yet I am well. But till all graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in my grace.”
He sat back down on the fountain and gazed thoughtfully out into the audience.
“Rich, she shall be, that’s certain,” he said, and the audience laughed, appreciatively. “Wise, or I’ll none; virtuous, or I’ll never cheapen her; fair, or I’ll never look on her…” he closed his eyes in happy contemplation of his goddess. “Mild, or come not near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good discourse…” he opened his eyes again, and ticked the rest of his ‘graces’ off on his fingers, to a burble of amusement. “An excellent musician, and her hair…” he paused. “…shall be of what colour it please God.”
He watched Algernon, Frank, James and Ferdy enter from the opposite hedge, followed by a variety of others.
“Ha,” he said, unenthusiastically. “The Prince and Monsieur Love. I will hide me in the arbour.”
He seized his deckchair and hid behind one of the hedges, concealed from the players but not from the audience. Temporarily giving up on the chair, he leaned himself against the hedge to watch them.
“Come, shall we hear this music?” called out Algernon.
“Yea, my good lord,” smiled James. “How still the evening is, as hushed on purpose to grace harmony!”
“See you where Benedick hath hidden himself?” Algernon asked James, sitting on the edge of the fountain to enjoy the music.
“O, very well, my lord,” James grinned, impishly. “The music ended, we’ll fit the kid fox with a pennyworth.”
“Come, Balthasar, we’ll hear that song again,” said Algernon, beckoning to Ferdy.
“O, good my lord, tax not so bad a voice to slander music any more than once,” he said, half-heartedly.
“It is the witness still of excellency to put a strange face on his own perfection,” said Algernon. “I pray thee sing, and let me woo no more.”
“Because you talk of wooing, I will sing,” said Ferdy, smiling. “Since many a wooer doth commence his suit to her he thinks not worthy, yet he woos, yet he will swear he loves.”
“Nay, pray thee come,” said Algernon, genially. “Or if thou wilt hold longer argument, do it in notes.”
“Note this before my notes: there’s not a note of mine worth the noting!” grinned Ferdy, and he beckoned to some of the household to join him.
“Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks!” cried Algernon. “Note notes, forsooth and nothing!”
Kelly, Miriam and Ivy came forward, dressed in pleasant costumes, and settled themselves beside the fountain, instruments poised; Peter wandered over, amiable in his Franciscan robes. Somewhere in the audience, the Fat Friar cackled at the obvious caricature of himself.
Behind his hedge, Remus turned to the audience and rolled his eyes.
“Now divine air!” he cried. “Now is his soul ravished! Is it not strange that sheep’s guts should hale souls out of men’s bodies? Well a horn for my money, when all’s done.”
The audience sniggered, but then Ferdy and Peter began to sing, and the many-headed-beast sat back to enjoy the harmony.
“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea, and one on shore,
To one thing constant never.
“Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny.
“Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy.
“Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into hey nonny, nonny.”
Algernon waited for the well-deserved storm of applause to die down before continuing; neither Ferdy nor Peter could quite keep the grins off their faces.
“By my troth, a good song,” Algernon complimented.
“And an ill singer, my lord,” apologised Ferdy.
“Ha, no, no, faith!” cried Algernon. “Thou singest well enough for a shift.”
Remus turned to the audience once more, and set them cackling with his scorn.
“And had he been a dog that should have howled thus, they would have hanged him; and I pray his bad voice bode no mischief. I had as lief have heard the night raven, come what plague could have come after it.”
“Yea, marry. Dost thou hear, Balthasar?” asked Algernon. “I pray thee get us some excellent music; for tomorrow night we would have it at the Lady Hero’s chamber window.”
“The best I can, my lord,” said Ferdy, with a small bow.
“Do so, farewell,” nodded Algernon as Ferdy, Peter and the band ambled off merrily. He turned to Frank, who was fiddling with one of his roses, and James, who was wandering along the stone edge of the fountain. “Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me of today?”
Behind his hedge, Remus was doing a reasonable job of ignoring them and trying to put up his deckchair.
“That your niece Beatrice was in love with Signior Benedick?”
The deckchair collapsed under Remus as he sat on it, and he scrambled to his feet, astonished; the audience chortled.
“O, ay!” cried James, coming over to them; he added, in a lower voice, “Stalk on, stalk on, the fowl sits.” He winked at Algernon before continuing in a louder voice: “I never did think that lady would have loved any man.”
“No, nor I either,” said Frank; in the background, Remus had entirely forgotten the deckchair and was peering through the hedge in shock. “But most wonderful that she should so dote on Signior Benedick, whom she hath in all outward behaviours seemed ever to abhor.”
Remus turned to the audience, eyes wide in disbelief (and possibly terror).
“Is’t possible? Sits the wind in that corner?” he turned back to the others as the audience sniggered.
“By my troth, my lord,” insisted Frank. “I cannot tell what to think of it, but that she loves him with an enraged affection, it is past the infinite of thought.”
“May be she doth but counterfeit,” suggested Algernon.
“O God, counterfeit?” cried Frank, loudly. “There was never counterfeit of passion came so near the life of passion as she discovers it!”
“Why, what effects of passion shows she?” asked Algernon; Remus was watching with rapt attention.
“Bait the hook well,” hissed James. “This fish will bite!”
“What effects, my lord?” asked Frank, faltering a little. “She will sit you, you heard my daughter tell you how.”
“She did indeed,” confirmed James.
“How, how, I pray you?” insisted Algernon; Frank looked momentarily bewildered, but then he grinned and beckoned his companions closer. He whispered urgently to them for a few seconds.
“You amaze me!” cried Algernon, drawing back. “I would have thought her spirit had been invincible against all assaults of affection.”
“I would have sworn it had, my lord,” agreed Frank. “Especially against Benedick.”
Remus turned, once more, to the audience, and said, in a voice a little higher than normal:
“I should think this a trick but that the white-bearded fellow speaks it,” he paused, staring out in amazement. “Knavery cannot, sure, hide itself in such reverence.”
The audience (who all knew Professor Dumbledore, after all) howled with laughter at this.
“He hath ta’en th’infection,” hissed James, with a quick glance at his friend. “Hold it up.”
“Hath she made her affection known to Benedick?” Algernon enquired, returning to sit on the fountain’s edge.
“No, and she swears she never will,” sighed Leonato, joining his Prince. “That’s her torment.”
“‘Tis true indeed,” confirmed James. “So your daughter says. ‘Shall I,’ says she, ‘that have so oft encount’red him with scorn, write to him that I love him?’”
“This says she now when she is beginning to write to him,” nodded Frank, sagely. “For she’ll be up twenty times a night, and there will she sit in her smock till she hath writ a sheet of paper. My daughter tells us all.”
“Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a pretty jest your daughter told us of,” he said.
“O, when she had writ it, and was reading it over, she found ‘Benedick’ and ‘Beatrice’ between the sheet?” chuckled Frank; the audience sniggered.
“O, she tore the letter into a thousand half-pence, railed at herself that she should be so immodest to write to one that she knew would flout her,” Frank declared. “‘I measure him,’ says she, ‘by my own spirit; for I should flout him if he writ to me. Yea, though I love him, I should.’”
Frank nodded slightly to James that is was his turn; he took up the challenge with gusto.
“Then down upon her knees she falls, weeps, sobs, beats her heart, tears her hair, prays, curses – ‘O sweet Benedick! God give me patience!’”
“She doth indeed,” nodded Frank, emphatically. “My daughter says so; and the ecstasy hath so much overborne her that my daughter is sometime afeard she will do a desperate outrage to herself!”
Remus paused in his eavesdropping to share a look of utter disbelief with the audience; some of whom were now crying with laughter.
“It is very true,” Frank was saying.
“It were good that Benedick knew of it by some other, if she will not discover it,” said Algernon.
“To what end?” asked James, sitting beside his Prince. “He would make but a sport of it and torment the poor lady worse.”
“And he should, it were an alms to hang him!” cried Algernon, hotly. “She’s an excellent sweet lady, and, out of all suspicion, she is virtuous.”
“And she is exceeding wise,” added James.
“In everything but loving Benedick,” said Algernon, and everyone except Remus laughed.
“O, my lord, wisdom and blood combating in so tender a body, we have ten proofs to one that blood hath the victory,” Frank declared, shaking his head. “I am sorry for her, as I have just cause, being her uncle and her guardian.”
“I would she had bestowed this dotage on me,” remarked Algernon, truthfully, scratching his chin. “I would have daffed all other respects and made her half myself. I pray you, tell Benedick of it and hear what’a will say.
“Were it good, think you?” asked Frank, concerned.
“Hero thinks surely she will die,” said James, glumly. “For she says she will die if he love her not, and she will die ere she make her love known, and she will die, if he woo her, rather than she will bate one breath of her accustomed crossness.”
“She doth well,” Algernon conceded. “If she should make tender of her love, ‘tis very possible he’ll scorn it; for the man, as you know all, hath a contemptible spirit.”
Remus scoffed loudly at this, and was forced to press himself against the side of the hedge as they all looked around, surprised that he would reveal himself.
Frank shrugged and they continued.
“He is a very proper man,” said James, grudgingly.
“He hath indeed a good outward happiness,” admitted Algernon.
“Before God, and in my mind, very wise,” said James.
“He doth indeed show some sparks that are like wit,” Algernon conceded; Remus narrowed his eyes, to general amusement.
“And I take him to be valiant,” nodded James.
“As Hector, I assure you,” said Algernon, soberly; Remus preened. “And in the managing of quarrels you may say he is wise, for either he avoids them with great discretion, or undertakes them with a most Christianlike fear.”
“If he do fear God, ‘a must necessarily keep peace,” said Frank. “If he break the peace, he ought to enter into a quarrel with fear and trembling.”
“And so will he do,” said Algernon. “For the man doth fear God, howsoever it seems not in him by some large jests he will make. Well,” he sighed. “I am sorry for your niece. Shall we go seek Benedick and tell him of her love?”
“Never tell him my lord,” James advised. “Let her wear it out with good counsel.”
“Nay, that’s impossible,” insisted Frank. “She may wear her heart out first.”
“Well, we will hear further of it by your daughter,” said Algernon. “Let it cool the while. I love Benedick well, and I could wish he modestly examine himself to see how much he is unworthy so good a lady.”
There was a pause as they all nodded, allowing the audience to get back its breath.
“My lord, will you walk?” asked Frank. “Dinner is ready.”
The three of them walked away cheerily, as though the conversation had not taken place; the audience swiftly dissolved once more into giggles.
They paused beyond the far hedge and leant close together.
“If he do not dote on her upon this,” hissed James, excitedly. “I will never trust my expectation.”
“Let there be the same net spread for her, and that must your daughter and her gentlewomen carry,” said Algernon, in a stage whisper. “The sport will be, then they hold one an opinion of the other’s dotage, and no such matter. That’s the scene that I would see, which will be merely a dumb show.” He sniggered. “Let us send her to call him in to dinner!”
They hurried offstage, snickering.
Remus practically fell out of his hiding place, feet caught on the deckchair. Righting himself, he stumbled forward, staring in wonder.
“This can be no trick!” he cried, and the audience roared with laughter. “The conference was sadly borne. They have the truth of this from Hero!” He clapped a hand to his forehead, as if reeling. “They seem to pity the lady; it seems her affections have their full bent.” He looked out into the audience. “Love me?” He laughed. “Why, it must be requited!”
The audience were beside themselves; he controlled his happily astounded expression, allowing it to become serious.
“I hear how I am censured. They say I will bear myself proudly if I perceive the love come from her. They say too that she will rather die than give any sign of affection,” he paused, and continued in wonder: “I did never think… to marry…”
“I must not seem proud,” he said, sternly. “Happy are those that hear their detractions and can put them to mending.” He sat on the fountain edge, apparently thinking. “They say the lady is fair – ‘tis a truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous – ‘tis so, I cannot reprove it; and wise,” he chuckled. “But for loving me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor no great argument of her folly; for I will be horribly in love with her!”
He stood, excited, and the audience cried with mirth; for once, he seemed to hear them, and paused.
“I may chance have some odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me because I have railed so long against marriage; but doth not the appetite alter?” he asked the world at large, shrugging. “A man loves the meat in his youth that he cannot endure in his age. Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of the brain awe a man from the career of his humour? No!” he insisted. “The world must be peopled!”
The many-headed-beast of the audience snorted as he walked around the fountain; he paused again by the far hedge and turned back towards the audience.
“When I said I would die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I were married,” he said, as if trying to convince himself of this. He nodded, firmly, at his own logic and made to leave the stage.
He was gone for nearly a second before he came haring back in again.
“Ahh! Here comes Beatrice,” he said, looking around anxiously. “By this day, she’s a fair lady. I do spy some marks of love in her.”
The audience laughed even harder as Eleanor appeared behind one of the hedges, looking a good deal more like she wanted to stab something than as if she were in love. Remus arranged himself on the fountain in a way that he clearly thought was attractive (to more guffaws from the audience) as Eleanor came through the hedge.
She gave him a look that suggested she thought he was Up To Something as he smiled beatifically up at her.
“Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner,” she said, hands on hips; her tone suggested that whoever had taken the task of making her come out was going to find it very hard indeed. She made to stalk off, but Remus stopped her.
“Fair Beatrice,” he called. “I thank you for your pains.”
Eleanor stared at him, then looked around as if expecting James to jump out at her at any second.
“I took no more pains for those thanks than you take pains to thank me,” she said, hotly, bewildered. “If it had been painful, I would not have come.”
“You take pleasure then, in the message?” Remus asked, arching an eyebrow, playfully.
“Yea,” said she. “Just so much as you may take upon a knife’s point, and choke a daw withal.”
He gave a strange little laugh that did nothing but worry her.
“You have no stomach, signior?” she asked. “Fare you well.”
She stamped off, and he followed her to the edge of the hedges, watching her go and leaning forward to keep her in sight until he nearly fell over. He turned back to the audience with a wide grin plastered over his face.
“Ha!” he cried, happily. “‘Against my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.’” He beamed out into the helpless audience. “There’s a double meaning in that.”
With that, he leaped across the stage, collected his fallen deckchair, and vanished.
Eleanor legged it around the back of the stage, hearing the scenery change as she ran. She waited for Lily and Claire to take their places amongst the flower covered bowers; she caught her breath, inhaling the heavenly scent of summer that Esther and Olivia had somehow managed to provide. Assembling a properly angry expression, she marched out across the back of the stage…
Lily and Claire were sat in close conference amongst the flowers.
“Now begin,” hissed Lily. “For look where Beatrice like a lapwing runs close by the ground, to hear our conference.”
Eleanor stopped by a bower and frowned as though she’d heard them speaking her name; she hovered, uncertainly.
“The pleasant’st angling is to see the fish cut with her golden oars the silver stream and greedily devour the treacherous bait,” said Claire, in a stage whisper. “So angle we for Beatrice, who even now is couchèd in the woodbine coverture. Fear you not my part of the dialogue.”
“No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful,” said Lily loudly, and Eleanor pressed herself closer to the bower. “I know her spirits are a coy and wild as haggards of the rock.”
Eleanor looked cross, and as if she were about to jump out and demonstrate her coy and wild spirits, but she was stopped in her tracks by Claire’s next question.
“But are you sure that Benedick loves Beatrice so entirely?” she asked, and Eleanor’s eyes widened comically. She ducked behind the bower to peek out of the other side and achieve a better listening post – directly behind them.
“So says the Prince, and my new-trothèd lord,” said Lily.
“And did they bid you tell her of it, madam?”
“They did entreat me to acquaint her of it,” nodded Lily. “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?” asked Claire, sounding shocked; Eleanor stared at them in open astonishment. “Doth not the gentleman deserve as full a fortunate a bed as ever Beatrice shall couch upon?”
“O god of love!” cried Lily, to Eleanor’s surprise. “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.” Eleanor frowned. “Disdain and Scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,” continued Lily, loudly. “Misprizing what they look on; and her wit values itself so highly that to her all matter else seems weak.” Eleanor was beginning to look quite upset at her cousin’s description, but Lily ploughed on, mercilessly. “She cannot love, nor take no shape nor project of affection, she is so self-endeared.”
“Sure I think so,” said Claire, nodding; Eleanor bit her lip. “And therefore certainly it were not good she knew his love, lest she’ll make sport at it.”
“Why, you speak truth,” agreed Lily. “I never yet saw a 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 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.” Eleanor leaned against the bower and looked up at the sky sadly; how could she argue? It was true, after all. “And never gives to truth and virtue that which simpleness and merit purchaseth.”
“Sure, sure,” agreed Claire. “Such carping is not commendable.”
“No, not to be so odd, and from all fashions, as Beatrice is, cannot be commendable,” said Lily. “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 with!” Eleanor winced.
“Therefore let Benedick, like covered fire, consume away into sighs, waste inwardly,” said Lily, and Eleanor turned back to their conversation. “It were a better death than die with mocks, which is as bad as die with tickling.
“Yet tell her of it,” Claire urged, and here Eleanor nodded unconsciously. “Hear what she will say.”
“No,” said Lily, firmly. “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.”
Eleanor scoffed in outrage, slapping her hand across her mouth – stunned at her own reaction.
“O, do not do your cousin such a wrong!” cried Claire, and Eleanor brightened; the audience tittered. “She cannot be so much without true judgement (having so swift and excellent a wit as she is prized to have) as to refuse so rare a gentleman as Signior Benedick.”
Eleanor’s mouth fell open in shock as the audience sniggered.
“He is the only man of Italy,” said Lily, and Eleanor gaped at her. “Always excepted my dear Claudio.”
“I pray you not be angry with me, madam, speaking my fancy,” said Claire, candidly. “Signior Benedick, for shape, for bearing, argument, and valour, goes foremost in report through Italy.”
“Indeed, he hath an excellent good name,” agreed Lily, happily.
“His excellence did earn it ere he had it,” said Claire, wisely; she smiled. “When are you married, madam?”
“Why, everyday tomorrow!” Lily cried, blithely. “Come, go in. I’ll show thee some attires, and have thy counsel which is the best to furnish me tomorrow.”
They walked to the edge of the stage, a bower between them and Eleanor, who was still doing an admirable impression of a goldfish.
“She’s limed, I warrant you!” hissed Claire, excitedly. “We have caught her, madam.”
“If it prove so, then loving goes by haps; some Cupid kills with arrows, some with traps!”
They hurried offstage, giggling.
Eleanor came out of her hiding place and sat, weakly, on their vacated seat.
“What fire is in mine ears?” she asked, wonderingly. “Can this be true? Stand I condemned for pride and scorn so much?”
She shook herself, staring out into the audience.
“Contempt, farewell!” she cried, determinedly. “And maiden pride, adieu! No glory lives behind the back of such.” She wavered a little, smiling tenderly. “And, Benedick, love on; I will requite thee,” she said, breathlessly. “Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand. If thou dost love, my kindness will incite thee to bind our loves up in a holy band; for others say thou dost deserve, and I believe it better than reportingly!” she cried, laughing, and hurried off after her cousin and Claire.