Act V, Part the First
‘Cut quarrels out of literature, and you will have very little history or drama or fiction or epic poetry left’ – Robert Lynd
Severus followed Antonio onstage, trailing after his brother like some kind of overgrown mother hen; they were in the street where the watch had captured their ‘false knaves’.
“If you go on thus, you will kill yourself,” he said, urgently. “And ‘tis not wisdom thus to second grief against yourself.”
Frank tried to wave him off.
“I pray thee cease thy counsel, which falls into mine ears as profitless as water in a sieve,” said Frank. “Give me not counsel, nor let no comforter delight mine ear but such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine. Bring me a father that so loved his child, whose joy of her is overwhelmed like mine, and bid him speak of patience.”
He changed direction erratically, and Severus flapped on the spot for a moment, carried onward by his own momentum, before chasing after him.
“Measure his woe the length and breadth of mine, and let it answer every strain for strain, as thus for thus, and such a grief for such, in every lineament, branch, shape, and form,” Frank whirled to face his brother, who very nearly ran into him. “If such a one will smile and stroke his beard, and sorrow wag, cry ‘hem’ when he should groan; patch grief with proverbs, make misfortune drunk with candle-wasters; bring him yet to me, and I of him will gather patience.”
He changed direction again; this time Severus stayed where he was, and simply let Frank run himself out.
“But there is no such man,” Frank cried. “For, brother, men can counsel and speak comfort to that grief which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it, their counsel turns to passion, which before would give preceptial medicine to rage, fetter strong madness in a silken thread, charm ache with air and agony with words. No, no!” he cried. “‘Tis all men’s office to speak patience to those that wring under the load of sorrow, but no man’s virtue nor sufficiency to be so moral when he shall endure the like himself. Therefore give me no counsel; my griefs cry louder than advertisement.”
“Therein do men from children nothing differ,” remarked Severus.
“I pray thee peace,” Frank cried. “I will be flesh and blood; for there was never yet philosopher that could endure the toothache patiently, however they have writ the style of gods and made a push at chance and sufferance.”
“Yet bend not all the harm on yourself,” Severus reasoned. “Make those that do offend you suffer too.”
“There thou speak’st reason,” said Frank, coming to a halt. “Nay, I will do so. My soul doth tell me Hero is belied; and that shall Claudio know; so shall the Prince, and all of them that thus dishonour her.”
“Here comes the Prince and Claudio hastily,” Severus declared; James and Algernon strode onstage and straight past Frank and Severus.
“Good den, good den,” said Algernon.
“Good day to both of you,” nodded James, as he passed.
“Hear you, my lords –” cried Frank, following them.
“We have some haste, Leonato,” said Algernon, gently.
“Some haste, my lord!” Frank exclaimed, as he and Severus planted themselves firmly in their adversaries’ path. “Well, fare you well, my lord. Are you so hasty now? Well, all is one.”
“Nay, do not quarrel with us, good old man,” said Algernon, firmly.
“If he could right himself with quarrelling,” Severus growled. “Some of us would lie low.”
“Who wrongs him?” asked James, genuinely perplexed.
“Marry, thou dost wrong me, thou dissembler thou!” Frank growled with such ferocity that James actually stepped backwards, his hand unconsciously grazing the hilt of his sword. “Nay, never lay thy hand upon thy sword; I fear thee not.”
“Marry, beshrew my hand if it should give your age such cause of fear,” said James, startled. “In faith, my hand meant nothing to my sword.”
“Tush, tush, man!” Frank snarled. “Never fleer and jest at me. I speak not like a dotard nor a fool, as under privilege of age to brag what I have done being young, or what would do, were I not old. Know, Claudio, to thy head, thou hast so wronged mine innocent child and me that I am forced to lay my reverence by and, with grey hairs and bruise of many days, do challenge thee to trial of a man.” He gave James a vicious prod in the chest. “I say thou hast belied mine innocent child. Thy slander hath gone through and through her heart, and she lies buried with her ancestors; O, in a tomb where scandal never slept, save this of hers, framed by thy villainy!”
“My villainy?” asked James, taken aback.
“Thine, Claudio,” Frank insisted. “Thine, I say!”
“You say not right old man,” said Algernon, calmly enough; there was a note of warning to his voice now.
“My lord, my lord, I’ll prove it on his body if he dare,” Frank cried. “Despite his nice fence and his active practice, his May of youth and bloom of lustihood.”
“Away!” cried James, alarmed. “I will not have to do with you.”
“Canst thou so daff me?” Frank demanded, inches from James’s face. “Thou hast killed my child. If thou kill’st me, boy, thou shalt kill a man.”
“He shall kill two of us,” Severus growled, dangerously. “And men indeed. But that’s no matter; let him kill one first. Win me and wear me! Let him answer me!” He gave James a purposeful shove. “Come, follow me, boy; come, sir boy; come, follow me. Sir boy, I’ll whip you from your foining fence! Nay, as I am a gentleman I will!”
“Brother –” Frank began, perhaps realizing that he might have put his kinsman in danger.
“Content yourself,” said Severus, gently pushing his brother back. “God knows I loved my niece,” he cried, with a roar like a bear; both Algernon and James took involuntary steps backwards. “And she is dead, slandered to death by villains, that dare as well answer a man indeed as I dare take a serpent by the tongue. Boys, apes, braggarts, Jacks, milksops!”
“Brother Anthony –” Frank began, but Severus waved him off.
“Hold you content,” said he. “What man! I know them, yea, and what they weigh, even to the utmost scruple!” He loomed over James, which took some doing. “Scambling, outfacing, fashionmonging boys, that lie and cog and flout, deprave and slander, go anticly, and show outward hideousness,” he snarled. “And speak off half a dozen dang’rous words, how they might hurt their enemies, if they durst; and this is all!”
“But, brother Anthony –”
“Come, ‘tis no matter,” Severus continued. “Do not you meddle; let me deal in this.”
“Gentlemen both, we will not wake your patience,” said Algernon, in a tone like steel. “My heart is sorry for your daughter’s death. But, on my honour, she was charged with nothing but what was true, and very full of proof.”
“My lord, my lord!” Frank protested.
“I will not hear you,” said Algernon, in the same quiet, steely tone.
“No?” asked Frank, with a wild-eyed look. “Come, brother, away! I will be heard!”
“And shall,” Severus spat. “Or some of us will smart for it.”
They stormed offstage, very nearly ploughing into Remus, who had to jump out of their way; he approached his friends, looking grim.
“See, see!” said Algernon, with a smile. “Here comes the man we went to seek.”
“Now, signior, what news?” asked James, recovering himself.
“Welcome, signior,” said Algernon. “You are almost come to part almost a fray.”
“We had liked to have had our two noses snapped off with two old men without teeth,” added James, with a grin.
“Leonato and his brother,” said Algernon, with a faint frown. “What think’st thou?” he asked. “Had we fought, I doubt we should have been too young for them.”
“In a false quarrel there is no honour,” said Remus stiffly. “I came to seek you both.”
“We have been up and down to seek thee,” said James, laughing. “For we are high-proof melancholy, and would fain have it beaten away. Wilt thou use thy wit?”
“It is in my scabbard,” Remus responded, an unpleasant expression clouding his features. “Shall I draw it?”
“Dost thou wear thy wit by thy side?” Algernon asked, leaning against the wall of a house.
“Never did any so, though very many have been beside their wit,” laughed James. “I will bid thee draw, as we do the minstrels: draw to pleasure us.”
Remus glared at him, suddenly angry beyond belief at his friend’s flippant mood, so soon after ruining (and apparently killing) a young woman. He had thought him better than this.
“As I am an honest man,” Algernon exclaimed, straightening up. “He looks pale. Art thou sick, or angry?”
“What, courage, man!” grinned James. “What though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.”
“Sir, I shall meet your wit in the career and you charge it against me,” said Remus, fighting to keep the growl out of his voice. “I pray you, choose another subject.”
“Nay then, give him another staff,” James joked. “This last was broke cross.”
As oblivious as James was, Algernon was watching Remus closely.
“By this light, he changes more and more,” he murmured. “I think he be angry indeed.”
James paused to take him in; he frowned.
“If he be, he knows how to turn his girdle,” he said, warily.
“Shall I speak a word in your ear?” Remus asked, with a snarl.
“God bless me from a challenge!” James exclaimed; Remus took him by the throat and slammed him into the wall. It was suddenly painfully obvious which of them was the stronger and more experienced of the two; the audience took in a breath, involuntarily.
“You are a villain,” Remus growled. “I jest not; I will make it good how you dare, with what you dare, and when you dare.” He paused, only an inch from James’s nose. “Do me right, or I will protest your cowardice. You have killed a sweet lady, and her death shall fall heavy on you. Let me hear from you.”
He let him go, and James slumped against the wall; Remus surveyed him with open disgust.
“Fare you well, boy,” he said, curtly. “You know my mind. I will leave you now to your gossiplike humour; you break jests as braggards do their blades, which God be thanked hurt not.” He turned to Algernon, who was watching the exchange with an unreadable expression on his face.
“My lord, for your many courtesies I thank you,” said Remus, civilly. “I must discontinue your company. Your brother the bastard is fled from Messina. You have among you killed a sweet and innocent lady.” He paused, and sent another contemptuous look James’s way. “For my Lord Lackbeard there, he and I shall meet; and till then peace be with him,” he said, and with that he strode off.
“He is in earnest,” remarked Algernon, as James brushed himself down, flushed and startled.
“In most profound earnest,” said James, rubbing his throat. “And, I’ll warrant you, for the love of Beatrice.”
“And hath challenged thee?”
The two men exchanged a look that spoke volumes.
“What a pretty thing man is when he goes in his doublet and hose and leaves off his wit!” Algernon exclaimed.
“He is then a giant to an ape,” said James, with some venom. “But then is an ape a doctor to such a man.”
“Pluck up, my heart, and be sad,” Algernon remarked. “Did he not say my brother was fled?”
“Come you, sir,” cried Dane, from the wings. “If justice cannot tame you, she shall ne’er weigh more reasons in her balance.” He came into sight, the watch and Verges helping to chide, prod and poke Nathan and Thomas along; they were chained together. “Nay, and you be a cursing hypocrite once, you must be looked to.”
“How now?” Algernon asked, starting. “Two of my brother’s men bound? Borachio one…”
Thomas appeared to be making occasional attempts at escape, but Nathan stumbled on like a dead man.
“Hearken after their offence, my lord,” James suggested, with a frown.
“Officers, what offence have these men done?” called Algernon, coming forth.
“Marry sir,” said Dane, standing to attention so abruptly that it looked like he were mounted on a spring. He listed his own personal summary of their crimes, vibrating with perceived authority. “They have committed false report; moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily, they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have belied a lady.” The members of the watch were determinedly trying to look like they’d never met this odd little man before in their lives. “Thirdly they have verified unjust things; and to conclude, they are lying knaves,” he finished, sweating with the effort. Thomas gave Helbert a look that said ‘You work for him, you know,’ at which Helbert accidentally trod on his foot; the audience sniggered.
Algernon stared at him for a moment, until his brain had a chance to take an appropriately matched erratic course.
“First, I ask thee what they have done,” he said. “Thirdly, I ask thee what’s their offence; sixth and lastly,” the audience’s laughter increased in volume as they cottoned on, “why they are committed; and to conclude, what you lay to their charge.”
“Rightly reasoned, and in his own division,” James remarked to the giggling audience. “And, by my troth, there’s one meaning well suited.”
“Who have you offended, masters, that you are thus bound to your answer?” Algernon asked, giving up on Dane and instead addressing himself to Nathan and Thomas. “This learned constable is too cunning to be understood. What’s your offence?”
“Sweet Prince, let me go no farther to mine answer,” said Nathan, remorsefully. “Do you hear me, and let this count kill me.” Algernon and James exchanged a look of shock; Algernon motioned for Nathan to continue. “I have deceived even your very eyes. What your wisdoms could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light.” The watchmen rattled Nathan’s chains threateningly; plainly, shallow fools they were not. “Who in the night overheard me confessing to this man, how Don John your brother incensed me to slander the lady Hero,” he paused, and James’s face began to fall. “How you were brought into the orchard and saw me court Margaret.”
James blanched and gave a gasp of shock, bringing his hand to his mouth in extreme discomfort.
“How you disgraced her when you should marry her,” Nathan continued, wretchedly. “My villainy they have upon record, which I had rather seal with my death than repeat over to my shame. The lady is dead upon mine and my master’s false accusation,” he said, looking dolefully up at Algernon in genuine remorse. “And briefly, I desire nothing but the reward of a villain.”
There was silence for a moment, as the audience and cast waited for Algernon’s decision.
“Runs not this speech like iron through your blood?” he asked James, who was pale and shaking by his side.
“I have drunk poison whiles he uttered it,” said James, weakly.
“But did my brother set thee on to this?” Algernon asked Nathan, sternly.
“Yea,” Nathan nodded, miserably. “And paid me richly for the practice of it.”
“He is composed and framed of treachery,” said Algernon, angrily. “And fled he is upon this villainy.”
“Sweet Hero,” wailed James. “Now thy image doth appear in the rare semblance that I loved it first.”
“Come, bring away the plaintiffs,” said Dane. “By this time our sexton hath reformed Signior Leonato of the matter. And, masters,” he said, approaching the distraught prince and count. “Do not forget to specify, when time and place shall serve, that I am an ass.”
Algernon looked at him in a manner that suggested that he wouldn’t for one moment try to dissuade anyone from that particular proclamation; fortunately for Dane, Simon interrupted.
“Here, here comes Master Signior Leonato, and the sexton too,” he said, pointing offstage.
Frank and Severus followed Damocles onstage, the brothers much calmer now they had the truth of things.
“Which is the villain?” demanded Frank, quietly; it was exactly the way Dumbledore had sounded, months before: not angry, but severely disappointed. Which was much, much worse. “Let me see his eyes, that, when I note another man like him, I may avoid him. Which of these is him?”
“If you would know your wronger,” said Nathan, wretchedly. “Look on me.”
“Art thou the slave that with thy breath hast killed mine innocent child?”
“Yea, even I alone,” said Nathan, looking at Frank’s feet.
“No, not so, villain!” cried Frank. “Thou beliest thyself. Here stand a pair of honourable men,” he continued, gesturing towards the sombre-faced prince and his quaking count. “A third is fled, that had a hand in it. I thank you, princes, for my daughter’s death,” he said, voice flat with sarcasm. “Record it with your high and worthy deeds. ‘Twas bravely done, if you bethink you of it.”
“I know not how to pray your patience,” said James, in a trembling voice. “Yet I must speak. Choose your revenge yourself; impose me to what penance your invention can lay upon my sin,” he sank to his knees. “Yet I sinned not but in mistaking.”
“By my soul, nor I,” said Algernon, earnestly, joining James on the floor. “And yet, to satisfy this good old man, I would bend under any heavy weight that he’ll enjoin me to.”
Frank’s expression softened at their evident remorse and contrition.
“I cannot bid you bid my daughter live,” he said, gently. “That were impossible; but I pray you both, possess the people in Messina here how innocent she died; and if your love can labour aught in sad invention, hang her epitaph upon her tomb, and sing it to her bones, sing it tonight.” He paused, and glanced at Severus, who nodded for him to continue.
“Tomorrow morning come you to my house,” Frank went on. “And since you could not be my son-in-law, be yet my nephew. My brother hath a daughter, almost the copy of my child that’s dead, and she alone is heir to both of us. Give her the right you should have giv’n her cousin, and so dies my revenge.”
“O noble sir!” James cried, when he could find his voice. “Your overkindness doth wring tears from me. I do embrace your offer; and dispose for henceforth of poor Claudio.”
Algernon helped his companion to his feet and the two backed away slightly in respect.
“Tomorrow then I will expect your coming,” said Frank. “Tonight I take my leave. This naughty man shall face to face be brought with Margaret, who I believe was packed in all this wrong. Hired to it by your brother.”
“No,” cried Nathan. “By my soul, she was not; nor knew what she did when she spoke to me, but always hath been just and virtuous in anything that I do know by her.”
Frank gave him an appraising look as Dane approached him, bending almost double in simpering humility.
“Moreover, sir, which indeed is not under white and black,” he said, affecting what he clearly thought was a winning attitude. “This plaintiff here, the offender,” he continued, pointing at Thomas, who rolled his eyes. “Did call me ass. I beseech you let it be rememb’red in his punishment.” He made to turn away, but remembered something that he felt might be important. “And also the watch heard them talk of one Deformed; they say he wears a key in his ear, and a lock hanging by it, and borrows money in God’s name, the which he hath used so long and never paid that now men grow hard-hearted and will lend nothing for God’s sake. Pray you examine him upon that point.”
“I thank thee for thy care and honest pains,” said Frank, carefully treading the conversational minefield that the constable represented.
“Your worship speaks like a most thankful and reverent youth, and I praise God for you.”
“There’s for your pains,” said Frank, giving him a Galleon in an effort to be rid of him.
“God save the foundation,” cried Dane, wholly inaccurately.
“Go,” urged Frank. “I discharge thee of thy prisoner, and I thank thee.”
Dane paused for a moment, uncertainly.
“I leave an errant knave with your worship, which I beseech your worship to correct yourself, for the example of others,” he said. “God keep your worship! I wish your worship well. God restore you to health! I humbly give you leave to depart; and if a merry meeting may be wished, God prohibit it! Come neighbour!” he cried, grabbing Simon’s arm, and dragging him backwards offstage. After about a minute they returned and went in the other direction.
Everyone onstage watched them with the curious feeling that they had witnessed the mental process of a complete mad person.
Frank shook his head, as if trying to dislodge him.
“Until tomorrow morning, lords, farewell,” he said.
“Farewell my lords,” said Severus. “We look for you tomorrow.”
“We will not fail,” said Algernon, quietly.
“Tonight I’ll mourn with Hero,” said James, miserably, and he followed Algernon offstage.
Frank looked over at the members of the watch, who shuffled to attention.
“Bring you these fellows on,” he said. “We’ll talk with Margaret, how her acquaintance grew with this lewd fellow.”
The lights came back up on the honeysuckle bowers in Leonato’s garden; Remus was sat on one of the benches, poring over a piece of parchment. Alice walked past, frowning; Remus sprang to his feet.
“Pray thee, sweet Mistress Margaret,” he cried, smoothly taking her arm and using her momentum to sweep her back to the benches. “Deserve well at my hands by helping me to the speech of Beatrice.”
Momentarily bewildered, she laughed.
“Will you then write me a sonnet in praise of my beauty?” she asked, coquettishly.
“In so high a style, Margaret, that no man living shall come over it,” he grinned, and conceded, “for in most comely truth thou deservest it.”
“To have no man come over me!” Alice exclaimed, and Remus gave a dirty laugh. “Why, shall I always keep belowstairs?”
“Thy wit is as quick as a greyhounds mouth,” he laughed. “It catches.”
“And yours is as blunt as the fencer’s foils, which hit but hurt not,” she smiled, wryly.
“A most manly wit, Margaret,” he said, firmly. “It will not hurt woman. And so, I pray thee call Beatrice. I give thee the bucklers.”
It was Margaret’s turn to scoff.
“Give us the swords,” she said. “We have bucklers of our own.”
“If you use them, Margaret, you must put in the pikes with a vice,” he told her. “And they are dangerous weapons for maids.”
“Well,” she grinned. “I will call Beatrice to you, who I think hath legs.”
She left, and he went back to his parchment.
“And therefore will come…” he read it through several times, frowning, then tried it out loud:
“The god of love,
That sits above
And knows me, and knows me,
How pitiful I deserve…”
There were gales of laughter at his attempt at singing; he sighed, and stared out into the audience.
“I mean in singing,” he said, sighing. “But in loving, Leander the good swimmer, Troilus the first employer of panders, and a whole book full of these quondam carpet-mongers, whose names yet run smoothly in the even road of a blank verse – why, they were never so turned over and over as my poor self in love.” Quite a few people laughed. “Marry, I cannot show it in rhyme… I have tried,” he said, defensively. “I can find out no rhyme to ‘lady’ but ‘baby’…” The audience snorted. “An innocent rhyme; for ‘scorn,’ ‘horn,’ a hard rhyme; for ‘school,’ fool,’ a babbling rhyme…” He waited for the giggles to die down. “Very ominous endings,” he said, and stood, tucking the parchment into his uniform. “No, I was not born under a rhyming planet, nor I cannot woo in festival terms.”
His face lit up as Eleanor came onstage.
“Sweet Beatrice,” said Remus, smiling widely. “Wouldst thou come when I called thee?”
“Yea, signior,” she said, returning his smile. “And depart when you bid me.”
“O, stay but till then!” he cried.
“‘Then’ is spoke,” she said, turning to go. “Fare you well now…”
Remus laughed, along with the audience, and she turned back again with a light smile.
“And yet, ere I go…” she stepped closer to him. “Let me go with that I came, which is, with knowing what hath passed between you and Claudio.”
“Only foul words,” he said, closing the gap between them. “And thereupon I will kiss thee…” He leant in to do just that, but Eleanor put her fingers to his lips.
“Foul words is but foul wind, and foul wind is but foul breath, and foul breath is noisome,” she smiled, and he chuckled. “Therefore I will depart unkissed.”
“Thou hast frighted the word out of his right sense, so forcible is thy wit,” he laughed, then became more serious. “But I must tell thee plainly, Claudio undergoes my challenge,” he took her hands as she relaxed very slightly into a different kind of tension; they both knew that in a duel, Remus was the better man. “And either I must shortly hear from him or I will subscribe him a coward…”
He led her to a bench and sat her down beside him.
“And I pray thee now tell me,” he asked. “For which of my bad parts didst thou first fall in love with me?”
Eleanor laughed, and said:
“For all of them together.” Remus scoffed and the audience laughed. “Which maintained so politic a state of evil that they will not admit any good part to intermingle with them,” she continued, over his un-manly giggles. “But for which of my good parts –”
“- did you first suffer love for me?” A wave of mirth rolled over the audience.
“Suffer love!” he scoffed. “A good epithet. I do suffer love indeed, for I love thee against my will!”
Eleanor laughed along with the audience.
“In spite of your heart, I think,” she said. “Alas, poor heart! If you spite it for my sake, I will spite it for yours, for I will never love that which my friend hates.”
“Thou and I are too wise to woo peaceably,” Remus chuckled. “And now tell me, how doth your cousin?”
“Very ill,” said Eleanor.
“And how do you?” he asked, gently.
“Very ill too.”
He put an arm around her.
“Serve God, love me, and mend,” he said, and leaned in to kiss her; before he could, however, he caught sight of movement in the wings. “There will I leave you too, for here comes one in haste.”
Claire rushed onstage, grinning and clearly trying not to laugh at the way Remus had removed his arm from around her waist.
“Madam, you must come to your uncle,” she said, breathlessly. “Yonder’s old coil at home. It is proved my Lady Hero hath been falsely accused, the Prince and Claudio mightily abused, and Don John is the author of all, who is fled and gone. Will you come presently?” she asked, and dashed off, presumably to fetch someone else.
Eleanor and Remus beamed at one another.
“Will you go hear this news, signior?” she asked; he seized her again, about the waist.
“I will live in thy heart, die in thy lap, and be buried in thy eyes!” he cried, and she laughed. “And moreover, I will go with thee to thy uncle’s.”