Act II, Scene 2
Don John is quite dismayed that his plan didn’t work, but Borachio has a plan B. He can ruin the wedding, but it will involve a covert operation. You see, he and Hero’s gentlewoman, Margaret, have been getting intimate on a regular basis. Don John doesn’t really see what that has to do with him and his dastardly plans. Borachio explains that all Don John has to do is tell the prince that Hero is wholly unsuitable as a bride. Don John still doesn’t understand how this helps him. Borachio clarifies that Don John will convince the Prince and Claudio that Hero loves Borachio. Then, as proof, they will bring Don Pedro and Claudio to see Borachio kissing Margaret in Hero’s chamber window and call her Hero. This is how they will take down Hero and Claudio.
Act II, Scene 3
Benedick calls forth his young servant to fetch a book for him. The boy complains that he just got there, but Benedick doesn’t really care.
Once alone, Benedick wonders aloud how Claudio, who used to mock love in others, can now, himself, be in love. He laments how his friend has traded his soldier ways for the ways of a lover. Benedick questions whether or not he will ever fall victim to the same fate. He’s confident he never will fall in love. He quickly reviews all the different types of virtues women have and remarks how he still never fell in love. He insists that any woman he would love must have all of the virtues. He leaves the hair color up to God.
Benedick sees the Prince and Claudio approaching, so he hides himself. Leonato is with them and they, of course, know exactly where Benedick is hiding. Leonato convinces Balthazar to sing, even though Balthazar is not confident in his own voice. Even after his song, Balthazar finds many faults in his singing. The rest of the men think that’s silly and ask him to sing outside Hero’s bedchamber the next night.
With the music done, they get down to real business: tricking Benedick. Don Pedro asks Leonato if Beatrice really expressed her love for Benedick. Claudio is surprised to hear that, but Leonato assures them it’s true. Benedick wonders how it could be possible. After some prodding from the Prince and Claudio, Leonato explains that Hero will attest to the truth of Beatrice’s passion. Benedick can’t fathom how this wouldn’t be true since Leonato is the one discussing it. Don Pedro asks if Beatrice has told Benedick about her love for him. She hasn’t and swears that she never will. She can’t figure out how to tell him since she has been so openly hostile toward him, but that doesn’t stop her from staying up all night trying to write him a letter. (Keep in mind, this is all 100% made up.) Upon Hero discovering one such letter, Beatrice became hysterical, tore it up, and sobbed. Hero is quite concerned about her cousin’s well-being. Don Pedro thinks Benedick should know, but the others believe he would only use it to torment her and Beatrice would die of a broken heart and/or embarrassment. In the end, they decide not to tell Benedick.
Once the others leave, Benedick comes out from hiding. He recounts the conversation, agreeing the Beatrice is a very worthy lady, full of many virtues. Benedick hesitates at first because he has been so against marriage for so long, but in the end admits his love of Beatrice.
Beatrice comes to fetch him for dinner. He thanks her for her pains. She said it caused her no pain, because if it did, she would not have come. He assumes this means she took pleasure in the errand…she didn’t. She finds him silly and leaves. Benedick dissects her every word for a double meaning.
Act III, Scene 1
Hero tells Margaret to go and tell Beatrice that Hero and Ursula are in the garden talking about her. Hero is confident that Beatrice will come to listen in on their conversation. Before Beatrice approaches, Hero explains the plan to Ursula. She tells Ursula to give Benedick the highest praise possible and together they will plant the seed that he loves Beatrice. Beatrice hides herself exactly where Hero wanted her to, so the women prepare to trick her.
Hero explains that Beatrice is too disdainful and her demeanor too harsh. Ursula asks if Benedick truly loves her. Hero says Don Pedro and Claudio confirm it to be true. Ursula wonders if they will tell Beatrice. Hero insists that they don’t because Beatrice will be too cruel. Hero goes on about how awful Beatrice can be, but no one can tell her she’s awful because she would rip them to shreds. Ursula is certain that Beatrice would be lucky to have Benedick, but Hero knows that Beatrice will love no man. Beatrice tears apart pretty much every man she comes across. Hero is resolved to tell Benedick to abandon his love. She will do her best to make Beatrice less desirable. Ursula still thinks they are depriving Beatrice of the hottest catch in Italy.
They leave the orchard, commenting to themselves how awesome they are at tricking people into loving each other. Beatrice comes out and swears to stop being a terrible person, so Benedick can love her.
Act III, Scene 2
Don Pedro explains that he will move on to Arragon after Claudio’s wedding. Claudio offers to go with him, but Don Pedro insists that he will do just fine with Benedick for company. After all, Benedick will never be one to fall in love. Benedick says he’s not quite the same as he was before. Thus begins the chiding. Don Pedro and Claudio start commenting on how sad he seems, but it couldn’t possibly be because he’s in love. Benedick insists he has a toothache.
The other men, of course, aren’t buying that. They start commenting on how Benedick looks different, like maybe he got a shave. And…is that perfume? He is sure acting like a man in love for someone who will never be in love. Benedick doesn’t say anything, but finally asks Leonato if he could speak to him privately. Don Pedro and Claudio are certain it’s to talk about Beatrice
Don John approaches and asks to speak to the Prince in private. Don Pedro agrees and asks if Claudio should go. Don John says he can hear because it concerns him. He asks if Claudio still intends to marry Hero. When they wonder why he is asking, he explains that Hero has been seeing another man. They are shocked to learn this, but Don John explains he can show them that very night. Claudio and Don Pedro insist that they will publicly disgrace Hero, if what Don John says is true. Don John says he won’t say anything more against Hero until he provides undeniable evidence.
Act III, Scene 3
Quick Note regarding this scene: Dogberry quite often uses exactly the wrong word. For the sake of clarity in my summary, I will be providing the gist of what he intended to say. Please, go back and read/listen to/watch this scene to experience the full hilarity.
Dogberry looks over his men, asking if they are suitable for the night watch. His second in command, Verges, confirms that they are good men. He asks who should be their leader for the night. One of the watchmen suggests Hugh Otecake or George Seacole because they can read and write. Dogberry calls over Master Seacole, compliments his name, and confirms he can read. He can. Dogberry finds him to be the most suitable for the post of constable.
He tells them to tell any unsavory looking individuals to stop in the prince’s name. Seacole asks what he should do if they will not stand. Dogberry figures they should just let him on his way and be thankful to be rid of such a silly person. Verges points out that anyone who wouldn’t stop in the Prince’s name must not be one of his subjects. Dogberry agrees, tells them not to worry about anyone who is not a subject of the Prince, and warns them to be quiet. They would rather sleep anyway, which he is okay with.
Dogberry instructs them to get the drunks to bed at the end of the night. If they won’t go, the watch should leave them alone until they’re sober. If they meet a thief, they are to mess with them only as much as necessary. They can put their hands on him if they need to, but it will be best just to be rid of him. Verges explains that if they should hear a baby crying in the night, they should tell the nurse to quiet it down. If the nurse isn’t awake, they should just leave the baby to wake the nurse.
Dogberry explains their pay, reminds them not to offend anyone, and to fetch him if there’s trouble. He reminds them to keep a close watch at Leonato’s because the wedding is tomorrow and then he leaves.
Borachio calls over Conrade, so he can tell him his tale. They shrink into a corner and speak amongst themselves. At the end, he explains that he earned a thousand ducats. Borachio and Conrade quip back and forth about money, fashion, and crime. The watchmen mistake the words they use for the name of a thief. Borachio keeps going on about fashion until Conrade gets him back on track. This is when Borachio explains he wooed Margaret in Lady Hero’s window, so that Claudio and Don Pedro would think that Hero was unfaithful. They fell for it and now plan to publicly shame Hero.
The watchmen arrest them.
Act III, Scene 4
Hero sends Ursula to fetch Beatrice.
Margaret thinks that Hero should wear a different dress, but Hero insists on the one she wants. Margaret tells her about the dress the Duchess of Milan wore on her wedding day. It was apparently a little excessive. Then, Margaret makes a dirty joke. Hero lightly scolds her, but Margaret thinks it’s all fair game now that Hero is about to be married.
Beatrice comes in to wish her cousin well. Hero asks if Beatrice is feeling okay. She wonders if Beatrice is in love. Beatrice insists she is ill. They continue to tease her about wanting a husband. Hero asks her to smell her new gloves. Beatrice insists she is stuffed up. Margaret continues to tease her and Beatrice is surprised by her wit. Margaret suggests using the plant Carduus Benedictus to heal her cold. This hits a little too close to home for Beatrice and she asks Margaret what she’s getting at. Margaret panic rambles about meaning nothing.
Ursula returns to announce it is time for Hero to get ready.
Act III, Scene 5
Dogberry and Verges have come to tell Leonato about the plot they have uncovered. However, they start by explaining that Verges is a very honest old man. Leonato finds them tedious. This sends Dogberry on a tangent about tediousness. Leonato asks them to get to the point. Verges starts to explain that they have arrested two men, but Dogberry interrupts to talk at length about how long winded Verges can be. Leonato tries to leave and that is when Dogberry finally gets to the point. They arrested someone. Leonato is sure they can handle it and heads off to the wedding without hearing any more details.
Dogberry tells Verges to get a scribe to take an account of the interrogation and meet him at the jail.