Act IV, Scene 1
Leonato brings his daughter to meet Claudio at the altar. He asks the Friar to keep it brief and tell them what to expect in depth later. The Friar begins by asking if Claudio intends to marry Hero. He says no. Leonato laughs it off because Claudio will be married to Hero, the Friar will marry her (as in perform the marriage). The Friar continues on and asks if either of them know of any reason why they shouldn’t be married. Claudio asks Hero, but she has no reason. Leonato tries to answer for Claudio and this sets him off. He tosses Hero back at her Father.
Claudio informs Leonato that his daughter has known the company of another man. Leonato supposes that Claudio has been the one to deflower Hero because that would be okay. Claudio quickly dashes those dreams. He asserts that he has been nothing but appropriate with Hero. She asks if she has done anything inappropriate. Finally, everyone starts asking what they are talking about. After some insistence that all the men are speaking true, they finally reveal that they saw Hero speaking with another man at her bedroom window at a quite unsavory hour. She insists it isn’t true.
No one believes her and Claudio leaves with Don Pedro and Don John. As they leave she collapses and Beatrice assumes her to be dead. As she starts to wake up, Leonato begs her to stay dead. He is so ashamed that his daughter, the one he loved so dearly has proven to be…well…a slut. The Friar interjects at this point because he has been watching the whole scene unfold and he believes Hero is innocent. Leonato doesn’t believe her because why would Claudio lie. Benedick (who has been there the whole time) believes that if there was some sort of foul play happening, it was all Don John’s fault.
The Friar comes up with a plan. They will hide Hero away and make it seem as though she died. He believes that upon hearing of her death, they will regret all that was said and the truth will come out. Leonato reluctantly agrees to the plan and everyone but Benedick and Beatrice leave the scene.
Beatrice is crying. Benedick asks if there is anything that can be done. There is, but no one to do it for her. He wants to be that person because he loves her. Beatrice resists saying I love you in return because she is too sad. He knows she loves him and finally she admits that she does. In his joy, he tells her to ask anything of him and she shall have it. She bids him to kill Claudio. That he cannot do. She tries to leave. He wants to stay friends, but she won’t have a friend that won’t kill her enemy. He wonders if Claudio is her enemy. She passionately explains how this “gentleman” has lied and destroyed her good reputation, essentially killing her. This convinces Benedick to challenge his friend.
Act IV, Scene 2
The Sexton prepares to take down Dogberry’s interrogation. Borachio and Conrade identify themselves and Dogberry makes sure their names are written down. Dogberry asks them if they serve God. They say they hope so. He accuses them of being knaves, which they deny. The sexton reminds Dogberry that he needs to bring forward the watchmen that arrested them.
The watchmen reveal that the men accepted a thousand ducats from Don John to besmirch the Lady Hero’s name and convince Claudio to publicly shame Hero. The sexton stops the examination because exactly that happened earlier and Hero died. He goes to tell Leonato.
Conrade calls Dogberry an ass. Dogberry makes sure everyone remembers that even though it isn’t written down.
Act V, Scene 1
Antonio tries to comfort his brother, but Leonato is having none of it. He exclaims that men who are not full of grief and sorrow always preach patience. But, when anyone feels the depth of sorrow he is feeling, they only let their emotions guide them.
The two brothers come across Don Pedro and Claudio. Leonato confronts them even though they try to avoid him. He accuses them of slandering his daughter and causing her death. They calmly refute these accusations. Antonio loses it at this point and rails against them. He and Leonato challenge the two men to a duel. Antonio and Leonato depart, swearing to avenge Hero.
Benedick, the man Don Pedro and Claudio were looking for, comes up shortly afterwards. They tell him they almost got in a fight with the old men and they need his good humor to lift their spirits. Benedick is not in the mood for jokes. He subtly threatens to draw his sword. Claudio keeps joking around with him until Benedick pulls him aside and very seriously challenges him.
Don Pedro didn’t hear the challenge so he keeps trying to tease Benedick about Beatrice. Claudio quickly jumps back in and they hark back to Benedick’s earlier conversation where he told them to put bull horns on his head with a sign that says “here is Benedick the married man.” Benedick leaves after telling them that Don John has fled and their lies killed Hero.
Don Pedro is surprised to hear that his brother has fled. Just then, Dogberry walks by with Borachio and Conrade is shackles. The Prince asks what they did. Dogberry explains, in many words, that they are liars. Don Pedro asks Borachio for clarity and he explains the whole situation. Don Pedro and Claudio are dismayed to hear that they have wronged Hero to such a horrible degree.
Leonato comes back because he has heard the proof of his daughter’s innocence. He has come to confront the man that wronged him. Borachio takes the blame. Leonato, of course, lays some of the blame on Don Pedro and Claudio. Claudio begs for forgiveness and asks what he can do to make it up to Leonato. Since he cannot bring Hero back to life, Leonato insists that he spread the word in Messina of Hero’s innocence, hang an epitaph on Hero’s grave, and marry his niece, who conveniently looks exactly like Hero. Claudio agrees.
Leonato wants to question Margaret. Borachio insists she is innocent. Leonato wants to question her anyway.
Act V, Scene 2
Benedick asks Margaret to go a fetch Beatrice for him. She asks if he’ll write her a sonnet. He says he will. They quip back and forth about love and wit until Margaret, now slightly irritated, goes to get Beatrice.
Benedick is trying to write a love song for Beatrice. It’s not going well and he wonders how the poets do it. He can’t find any good rhymes. Beatrice comes to him, but won’t give him a kiss until he tells her he has challenged Claudio. They tease each other about their unlikely love and remark that their relationship couldn’t be any other way. He asks after Hero. Beatrice says she is not doing well.
Ursula comes in to deliver the good news that Hero was proven innocent, Don Pedro and Claudio shown to be tricked and all it by none other than Don John, who has fled.
Act V, Scene 3
Claudio hangs an epitaph on Hero’s grave explaining that she died after being slandered. A musician sings a sad song and Claudio promises to do this every year.
Act V, Scene 4
Leonato recounts to the Friar that Hero is proven innocent, as are the Prince and Claudio. He then tells Hero and the other ladies to conceal themselves in another room and when he calls them they should come out in masks. Benedick asks the Friar and Leonato to help him marry Beatrice that day. They agree.
Claudio arrives and the ladies come out. He asks to see his bride, but Leonato insists he marry her first. He does. That is when Hero reveals herself and the truth is revealed. She was actually alive and now all of the bad stuff is behind them.
Benedick asks which one is Beatrice. She steps forward and he asks if she loves him. She says no, not any more than normal. He thinks Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato must have been mistaken. She asks if she loves him. He says he doesn’t. She says that her cousin and Ursula must have been mistaken then. They go and back forth about how everyone said they were so in love with the other. Hero and Claudio eventually reveal the love poems they each wrote. Now they can’t deny their love.
Everyone is married and Dom John is captured.