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Summary Act V

ACT V

[Scene 1]

In front of Leonato’s house, Antonio tries to cheer up his brother, but Leonardo is too deeply distressed on account of his daughter. When Don Pedro and Claudio enter, the four greet one another cooly. Accusing Claudio of having wronged him and having killed his innocent child, Leonato challenges him to a duel. When Claudio tells him to leave him in peace, the two start to quarrel until Antonio thrusts himself between them and in a rage himself insults Claudio. Don Pedro expresses his regrets as to Hero’s death, but again affirms that the accusations against her were indeed true. Leonato and Antonio leave in anger.

Benedick enters and is asked by Don Pedro and Claudio to cheer them up, using his wit. However, Benedick does not respond to this, but instead calls Claudio “a villian” for having killed Hero and challenges him to a duel, which Claudio accepts. Assuming Benedick is jesting, Don Pedro and Claudio try to mock him alluding to Beatrice and their love. Yet Benedick resumes the serious topic, stating that he desires to leave Don Pedro’s company and is looking forward to the duel with Claudio.

Benedick having left, Dogberry and Verges enter and present their two prisoners to Don Pedro and Claudio. Borachio, repenting, readily confesses having been incited by Don John to meet Margarete at Hero’s window in order to stain the bride’s reputation. Claudio immediately regrets his vehement accusations, and, as Leonato and Antonio join them again, allows Leonato to impose any penance on him that the wronged father desires. Leonato, forgiving him, tells him to make Hero’s innocence know throughout Messina instead. Furthermore, he wishes Claudio to read an epitaph to her at her grave. In order to mark their reconciliation, Leonato offers Claudio to marry a daugher of Antonio instead of Hero. Touched by Leonato’s kindness, Claudio agrees to all the points. Leonato intends to question Margarete on the issue, but Borachio confirms that she had no evil intentions and knew nothing of the plan. The party disperses.

[Scene 2]

In the garden, Benedick asks Margarete to fetch Beatrice. Being alone, Benedick expresses his discontent at being unable to compose some lines of love to Beatrice. As she enters to meet him, he tells her of his upcoming duel with Claudio and goes on to talk about their love, concluding that the two of them are “too wise to woo peaceably”. Ursula enters and brings news of Borachio having confessed and Hero’s reputation thus being restored. The three leave for the house.

[Scene 3]

Don Pedro, Claudio and some musicians come together at Hero’s grave at night. Claudio reads out an epitaph and attaches it to the grave afterwards. Balthasar sings a mourning song while the others process around the grave. Claudio claims that he intends to repeat this rite every year in honour of Hero. As the gentlemen leave for the house again, Claudio prays that his upcoming marriage be more fortunate than his first.

[Scene 4]

In the hall of Leonato’s house, everyone is gathering for the wedding ceremony of Claudio with Antonio’s daughter. Leonato instructs Hero and the other women to hide themselves and come back masked when called. While waiting for Claudio, Benedick tells Leonato that he would like to marry Beatrice on this day, and Leonato gives his consent.

When Claudio and Don Pedro enter, Leonato asks the former whether he is still determined to marry Antonio’s daughter. Claudio answers in the affirmative and is lead towards the masked Hero. Before he is allowed to see her face, Leonato bids him to swear in front of the friar to marry her. As Claudio vows to be her husband, Hero unmasks and once more assures her astonished husband that she is innocent.

The friar offers to tell Claudio the whole story of Hero’s alleged death and wants to lead the party away, but Benedick stops them and asks for Beatrice. She unmasks and, being asked whether she loves Benedick, holds that she does so, but “no more than reason”. Benedick remarks that Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio must then have deceived him as to her affection. As he on the other hand claims that he does not love Beatrice “more than reason”, she observes that Hero and her attendants must have deluded her. The two of them denying their passion for each other, Claudio and Hero each hold up a letter with a love sonnet written by Benedick to Beatrice and vice versa. Seeing this proof of their affections for each other, Benedick finally agrees to marry Beatrice, but only “for pity”, whereas Beatrice will have him “upon great persuasion”.

Don Pedro reminds Benedick of his earlier promise to stay a bacholor, but Benedick bids him not to mock him for anything he has said before, since “man is a giddy thing”. As Claudio and Benedick have dismissed the idea of their outstanding duel, a messenger enters to bring news of Don John being seized and on his way back to Messina. Benedick calls for dancing music and the play ends with the celebration of a double marriage.

William Shakespeare