The following is one-act "prequel" to Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. It recounts an imagined view of the first meeting between Beatrice and Benedick, providing insight into what may have sparked their "merry war of wit". This script was workshopped at Planet One Cafe in NYC's East Village.
on William Shakespeare's
NOTHING'S FIRST ADIEU
A One-Act Play/Prequel
Mildred C. Scott
All Rights Reserved
CAST OF CHARACTERS
DON PEDRO: 30ish,
handsome, regal but friendly,
a nobleman and companion of Don Pedro's,
Leonato's daughter, age 14, a very
orphaned niece of Leonato, independent
50's, an attendant to Hero and
A room in Leonato's Villa,
DON PEDRO and BENEDICK are talking with LEONATO.
How long may we expect to enjoy
your company, your grace?
I fear war may soon summon our
return. Our stay will be but brief.
Truly, I am sorry for that, your
grace. Yet, until then, may you
know only all the comfort that my household can afford.
And you as well, signor - no
friend of Don Pedro could prove otherwise to me.
I thank you most humbly, sir.
be not so modest.
you entertain a fine soldier and true gentleman - known by a wit sure to
entertain you ere we depart.
HERO enters anxiously, and
goes from the window to the
doorway and back again, scanning
Hero, sit you down!
Your cousin will come, surely, in due time.
Your pacing doth not hasten her arrival.
it may hasten departure of your shoes.
HERO reluctantly turns from the
Come, daughter, greet our guests.
This is Signor Benedick, an acquaintance of
the Prince. Don Pedro, of course,
you do well already know.
Welcome, once more, your grace - and you as well, signor.
Is it Beatrice, by chance, you so
It is, my lord.
My sister's recent passing hath
left her only child - an unmarried young woman - to now make our home hers as
well. Hero, of course, hath no
siblings and is eager for the company of kin of her kind.
By her kind, surely you mean a
woman - though as a woman 'tis unlikely she be kind.
You must forgive Benedick,
masquerades as the enemy of all women; yet I have no doubt 'twill take but one
to turn him friend.
I do not consider them my
enemy...I merely do not consider them.
Father, what is Beatrice like?
Like her parents, I assume - and
one would hope like her mother's husband...but like her mother to be sure.
You are bad, Benedick.
But, in truth, I do know the lady and she is much like her mother.
I have not seen her myself in
quite some time. Nonetheless, I
expect she has become a most genteel young lady - and should prove a rare
example for you, daughter.
Indeed she hath never given me
cause to repent my friendship with her.
Nor shall I repent - if I do not
become her friend.
Enter BEATRICE and URSULA. While
URSULA is composed and
appropriately reserved in manner,
BEATRICE is bedraggled and unkempt
and seems, overall, a bit untamed.
By the heavens!
misfortune on your journey, lady?
No more than a bit of foul
weather and an ill-tempered horse.
Your horse, then, is a mare?
Beatrice, please allow me to
introduce my friend, Benedick.
pause as he smiles knowingly)
I have long hoped he might meet
with a woman of your kind.
my kind, your grace? A poor
rider, do you mean?
kind woman of excellent wit.
And why is that?
Is Signor Benedick lacking in wit and in
need of a patient teacher?
I soon will need a surgeon should
she wield more of that sharp tongue!
Then you cannot put up your own
defense? So is your wit indeed
proved weak. How
good we all agree!
smiles and bows humbly to Benedick in a sudden
declaration of truce)
good to meet you, sir.
eyes hold for a moment before she turns to Hero)
Hero, come - let me get to know
my cousin while I make haste to repair the damage from my journey... Ursula,
you shall be refreshed as well.
BEATRICE, URSULA and HERO
start to leave the room.
around to address Leonato.
Uncle, thank you for your
kindness. I am sure I shall be
Don Pedro, with a mischievous smile)
Your grace, look to your friend.
Indeed, he doth seem pale - perhaps he is unwell...adieu!
BEATRICE, HERO and URSULA exit.
BENEDICK wathces them
stunned silence while DON PEDRO
chuckles in approving amusement
and LEONATO shakes his head in
Come - what say you, Benedick?
What is left to say? She
says it all! I've emerged from
sieges how much less the worse for wear! You're
certain war comes soon, my lord?
The lady is but merry - not unlike yourself.
Most unlike, my lord - though
indeed she doth seem "mare-ey"...as
ill-tempered as her horse!
high-spirited, perhaps but of a much more pleasant nature.
And hearing your protests, one might say that were she not, yet she
would be no less like you.
To turn companion in her
villainy, then, is how you treat your friend!
Nay, I do but revel in a contest
pitting two so evenly at odds.
the Prince is right. Take no
offense. Her mother, too, did
freely embrace challenge and was wont to speak her mind, but did in truth
possess a most generous spirit. Surely
Beatrice is her daughter...though 't may take some
time before her manner doth seem customary, I'll confess.
'Tis true, my friend, no doubt.
E'en so, Benedick,
fear not - she shall grow on you, I'll warrant.
Nay, my lord, please!
At least, I know I shall resist. Indeed,
from now on I shall stand armed 'gainst her next
Laughter, chatter is heard
offstage as HERO and BEATRICE
once more approach.
Be so, then, for here she comes.
Enter HERO and BEATRICE, who is
much more well-groomed.
Ah now, this looks more like the
niece I do recall.
Yea, uncle, fear not - or be
forewarned - I remain ever myself.
Dear lady, we would have you know
Save perhaps elsewhere.
Did you speak, sir?
Nay, indeed not!
I shall cross no more with you.
And why is that?
Hath you no weapon of equal mettle?
Surely none the heat of your fury
would not melt!
so the chill of your heart should soon repair it.
Thou may thinkest
my heart cold, yet to God be thanks I have one!
so, you hath no stomach - at least for your own dish. Indeed doth it not seem
your words drip vinegar in search of honey?
Keep to that course and you shall wear your present sour look forever.
'Tis strange you should speak of
honey - for though no sweetness come from you,
indeed, like a bee... you sting!
so, a bee left to itself will cause no harm - 'tis not a danger 'til annoyed.
And so I am to blame for your distemper?!?
If that is what you say, then we
do once more agree. So, fare you
well, signor, for I have done.
BEATRICE makes a brief curtsy as
DON PEDRO applauds. HERO,
wisely stayed clear of the fray
watches DON PEDRO and BEATRICE
Here, here, lady!
If the wars we fight were to be won with wit, I should take you with me
Nay, my lord!
No adversary is deserving of her
punishment. I should take death by
the sword over life with her - that I might sooner
rest in peace!
You may rest in peace e'en
now, Signor....stop talking.
BENEDICK splutters into silence,
LEONATO intervenes before he
can formulate an adequate reply.
Indeed, you are quick, niece.
Yet I beg more mercy from you than you've shown to our new friend.
As do I, Leonato,
though I'm sure our friend will live. Indeed,
Benedick, your challenge to women hath been well
answered, think you not?
That question, my lord, I think I
will not answer!
As BENEDICK continues attempting
to wrap the remains of his pride
about himself, he is unexpectedly
rescued by the sudden appearance
Your grace - a grave featured
messenger should like to speak with you.
Thank you, Ursula.
Tell him I come presently.
I do fear he speaks of the unrest
I mentioned earlier, Leonato.
Good friend, Benedick, come - let's three
hear this news together for indeed it affects us all.
briefly to Hero and Beatrice)
Ladies, please excuse us.
DON PEDRO, BENEDICK and LEONATO
exit, leaving HERO and BEATRICE
The two sit down to talk.
Would I had
your wit - for I marvel at your tongue!
not fit in your mouth, dear cousin. Your
sweetness would ne'er abide its tart replies.
Not so, coz, for 'tis clear 'tis
all in fun.
Surely Signor Benedick
That you do but jest.
Think you so?
I do fear at least a portion of his anger may have been in earnest.
Though for his part Don Pedro doth seem to enjoy watching the fray.
is why I should wish to be like you.
You have an eye upon the Prince?
Then indeed you have good taste. But
sure you need not me to tell you that.
'Tis unfit that I
should judge such matter.
'tis hoped that my father would agree.
And though I'll be too young for
quite some time -
One day should his approval match
I look to be the happiest of
And indeed you shall, my dear.
But what if he should not approve your choice?
Though should the Prince choose you, I have no doubt you need not fear.
But you are young and tastes do change. Would
you not attempt to change your father's mind should his choice seem instead to
you a frog?
I do not know what I should do,
Save believe he would mean it for
Indeed, I would be sad should he
The man who doth most truly move
Yet, his knowledge of the world
exceeds my own
And may discern bad character I'd
Thus, while I shall surely seek
To gain it not can't stop my own
heart's will -
But to receive it can only free
And assure me that my choice is
the right one.
Your father would be proud to
hear his daughter speak so.
Would you had
a father to protect you.
You think me then in danger from
my own judgment? Worry not, Hero,
for if I choose no husband, then indeed you need not fear.
But I should hate to see you all
Indeed, you are too alone
Not at all, dear cousin, for I
and always shall!
Ursula is calling me.
I must go.
HERO exits. BEATRICE
alone, her face quietly serious
as she ponders HERO's
regarding the possibilities of
a solitary life.
After a moment,
unnoticed at first by her,
BENEDICK enters, clearly armed for
the next battle in their now
his demeanor softens, and he
approaches almost humbly, sur-
prising even himself.
Wherefore art thou sorrowful good
lady? I did truly never think to
see you so, but in faith I do now swear that it doth not make me glad.
I cry you mercy, sir.
Who hath stolen Signor Benedick?
Indeed you are like him - but not at all.
you shall prefer me to him. And,
indeed, it well doth seem that we've only just now met for the first time.
And so it doth, Signor - but,
sure, I know not what to say at this.
To find you speechless, truly
then this is a day of wonders! Nay,
be not angry - to be sure,
I do but jest.
I am not angry.
But you are sad.
You miss your mother?
In a word, yes, but for the
chapter, I should say rather I miss a smaller world.
For it doth seem the present one hath become overlarge - or worse
indeed, perhaps, that I have shrunk.
Without the light of the
familiar, indeed the darkness of the strange doth seem to press much closer
in, and doth seem - worse indeed - just how much more fierce.
I should ne'er before have
thought you so reflective, but now your tongue makes plain my very thoughts.
confused and a little cautious)
Still, I do not know if I should
trust ought that feels as strange to me as this.
might say he would trust a mouse to the care of a cat with greater confidence
than he would trust any thought
of a woman. But, as his traitorous
twin, at this moment I do think he hath played me with false dice and nearly
lost me your good will. Though it pain me to admit,
I might...in fact, I should...well, I should
not, but yet I do - or think I can...
with firm resolve)
In short, I do trust you and
beseech you to as well.
So against your reason, you do
urge me to trust mine. I think I
may now yet again be sad, for it begins to seem dear Hero hath struck very
near the mark.
What mean you, lady?
It seems the fancy of my cousin
hath late bended toward the Prince.
Yea, is not that rare?
But to the main, she is wise beyond her years in knowing it is like
this will but pass. And already
she doth speak of accord between her heart and my uncle's will - which indeed
she trusts far beyond her heart..for
the which I'm sure the "other" Signor Benedick
Methinks he would applaud louder
should she choose to take the veil and "save" a bachelor.
To answer more soberly, however, though I should not speak for the
"other" Benedick, I myself believe for
her to protest thus would make her father very proud.
taken aback as he unknowingly echoes her own words)
But what sorrow doth this bring
upon you, my lady?
Or do you fancy Don Pedro as well?
I have no wish to soar so far
beyond myself, though the Prince's friendship is a blessing I do hold in high
esteem. The sorrow that I speak of
is a contagion caught from Hero - that I have no
protection 'gainst myself - and bestowing my good
will, like a pestilence, where e'er I please.
Surely you do not believe this?
I believe her thinking so may in
part have prompted fear. But if
so, I have forgotten, for at this moment I have none.
Nor do I...
mischievous smile creeps in)
that to have so little fear in your presence doth somehow in itself make me
very much afraid...
Bravo! Though I may not trust
myself, in speaking thus you do tempt me to trust you, for such a fear as that
doth bespeak a form of wisdom. E'en
so, my own wisdom doth entreat you not to share my confession of this trust
too soon - at least 'til it doth reach a fuller measure in myself.
And I do most eagerly entreat of
you the same - lest I should be killed by the Prince's laughter ere we come
within ten leagues of the enemy!
Indeed on that account you need
have no fear at all...but sir, doth this not mean we yet once more do agree?
Nay, rather it doth mean that we
do agree for once!
of the others approaching
BEATRICE and BENEDICK
hastily rise and move to separate
areas of the room.
HERO, LEONATO and URSULA enter.
Good lady, as I'll wager Benedick
hath informed you, he and I must leave at daybreak.
For tonight, however, we shall all dine together and be merry in each
most agreeable plan, my lord.
- why stay you apart. Are you yet
licking the wounds of our lady's tongue lashing?
What have you to say?
Only that I am at present
contented beyond words.
And so I am as well.
Leonato, by your leave, we shall have a bit
of dancing before supper.
it pleases you, your grace. My home
is yours tonight.
to the doorway; calls out)
Come - let us have music.
He returns to the others, and
they all pair off in couples.
PEDRO approaches HERO, who smiles
joyously at BEATRICE before taking
BEATRICE smiles back
fondly, then goes to ask LEONATO
to be her partner, and BENEDICK
approaches URSULA, gallantly
bowing to her.
She answers with a
deep curtsy and the dancing
commences. All the while, BENEDICK
and BEATRICE maneuver to maintain
contact without the others
finding them out.
After a few
moments, the dancing ends amidst
smiles and applause.
Faith, I am too old for this!
Nay, sir, bite your tongue!
For I am older than you; yet given opportunity I should gladly dance
all night. 'Tis not an age too round that weighs you down but that you are too
Marry, Ursula, you speak the
truth. And I intend to soon be
rounder, for now we shall go eat.
Lead on ladies... your grace...
LEONATO ushers the others out,
except BENEDICK, who lags behind.
Come, Signor, let us join the
Stay you but a minute, sir, for I
have a tale to share for your amusement ere we go.
A bit of mirth is always welcome.
Indeed I am all ears.
Did you note the rapturous
countenance of your daughter as she danced here with the Prince?
I have heard beyond a doubt she doth think herself in love!
Ah, it seems but yesternight
she had not yet learnt to walk, and today she is poised to try her wings and
soar upon her dreams. Did the
Prince break this with you?
Unnoticed by them, BEATRICE
appears in the doorway to inquire
as to the cause of LEONATO and
their next words, however, she
draws back to listen without
Nay, 'tis my understanding the
lady doth prefer this stay her secret.
Indeed, she would fear becoming
the object of much sport from this. I swear never to speak of it.
But to think she should so soon have her eyes set upon marriage!
'Tis hard to fathom just how swiftly things do
Indeed, 'twas a thought far from my mind when I did first look upon her.
It is I they speak of; I am
betrayed! Oh, how this report doth cleft my heart in two.
E'en so, but not one piece shall be given
to either Benedick - for indeed the two are
one and that one not to be trusted.
Thanks be to you sir, for sharing
this bit of news! For not only is
it merry but doth bespeak unexpectedly good judgment.
That the object of her affection should be one known to be so worthy!
'Twas surely an old fool who
taught us wisdom comes with age!
Indeed the future doth look very
bright indeed. I cannot enough
express the pride with which I call her my relation!
Though should you call her now,
by my troth, she will not answer.
BEATRICE retreats back into the
of the hallway as LEONATO
and BENEDICK conclude their con-
I did think you would see't
so, and I am glad the news hath, as intended, brought you joy...on which note
may we go and enjoy a joyous supper!
Well said, signor!
Indeed, let us be off!
LEONATO and BENEDICK exit. After
they are gone, BEATRICE emerges
from the shadows to digest what
she has just heard.
Oh, my dear Hero, indeed now I pity you. That you should trust your father's will to help you find a husband. Still, you are correct to think it hard to trust oneself... And so from this day forward I declare I shall trust none. For men are but a country of deceivers - and Signor Benedick their crown!
Sweet Beatrice, your chair at the
table is empty, and the table itself is empty without you in your chair.
I have been dispatched to discover your whereabouts that the table -
and its occupants - may at last be filled.
I am at present myself empty; yet
I have no desire to eat.
What hath happened, lady?
Are you ill?
To the contrary I believe I have
never been so well.
Nay, I do think not.
Will you not allow my help?
Truly I do think you have done
more than enough.
But I have done nothing.
Would that were the case.
For nothing need be done about nothing and nothing
else requires so little remedy.
You are angry with me.
Do you think that I should be?
what cause?!? Good lady, I
entreat you, please, to tell me what I've done!
- or so you say.
And so I do believe.
But as to you at this moment I do know not what to think.
Then think "nothing" of
I should do aught you ask of me -
As you wish, signor, but I should
think no more of you. So once
more, fare you well, for I have done.
I' faith, lady, have you gone
I was so for a while yet look not
to be again.
So that is all then?
I am banished without ceremony and with no hint of my offenses?
I shall give more than a hint,
for your offenses come to this - you are a man!
Though I did briefly claim a
twin, you ever knew me to be one. But
indeed your sides are many and I can decipher none!
Sounds of the others approaching
can be heard in the hall.
BEATRICE and BENEDICK are too
intent upon their argument,
however, to notice.
What can be the cause of their
I know not, but do fear that some
mishap hath occurred!
LEONATO, HERO, URSULA and DON
PEDRO appear, but still are not
noticed by BENEDICK and BEATRICE.
Nonetheless, it shall be from now
on as you would have it. Indeed
will I take care to leave this stinging bee alone!
I would have it no way else.
Would to God I were elsewhere!
As you can be e'en
now - walk away!
To what purpose - as it seems I
arrive ever again at the mercy of your tongue!
Are you in need of a new compass,
Nay, I shall merely trust my
instinct and change direction at the first sight of a woman!
For which you should be
Indeed it seems this war is yet
very far from done. Let us four go
have supper for it shall be more than cold ere they should join us.
though you like shall remain
hopeless, yet no woman shall lose her way.
Yea, but we shall save a plate
for each - surely after this they will need to stuff their weapons!
Marry, madam, well said!
If it please your grace lead on.
All four exit laughing and shaking
their heads as they glance back
the still feuding Benedick and
Beatrice before disappearing once
again into the hall.
Faith, not on my account, for I
shall die a bachelor!
and I a maid!
She turns her back on him and
crosses her arms, prompting him
to do the same.
A bit of glaring
back at each other and turning
away again, not wanting to give
either side advantage, continues
as the lights fade out.