Much Ado About Nothing: A Verse Translation


My verse translation of Much Ado About Nothing matches Shakespeare's play line-by-line with the same syntactic complexity and vocabulary range as the original. All blank verse lines remain in verse with accurate and authentic iambic pentameter.


Play Statistics

  Unique words in original: 2,907

  Unique words in translation: 3,269



from Act Three


Although Shakespeare's play is about 70% prose, this scene is in verse. Beatrice, who speaks prose in most of the play, uses rhyming verse as the scene closes. Like Shakespeare's original, I maintain her ABAB rhyme pattern and close with a couplet.


Scene One. Leonato’s Garden



Good Margaret, run into the parlor.

There you will find my cousin Beatrice

Conversing with the Prince and Claudio.

Whisper and say to her that I and Ursula

Are in the orchard, and the whole exchange

Is talk of her. Say that you overheard us

And have her hide inside the densest bower,

Where honeysuckles, ripened by the sun,

Forbid the sun to enter—like favored ones

Raised high by princes, who in turn rise up

Against the power that bred them. Hide her there

To overhear our talk. That’s all we ask for.

Do your part well, and leave the rest to us.


I’ll make her come at once, I guarantee you.



Now, Ursula, when Beatrice arrives,

As we tread back and forth along this path,

Our talk must only be of Benedick.

And when I mention him, let your role be

To praise him more than any man could merit.

My words to you will say how Benedick

Is sick with love for Beatrice. From such substance

Is little Cupid’s crafty arrow made

And wounds by hearsay only.

[Enter BEATRICE on the opposite side of a bower]

                                                   Now get set.

She’s coming like some pheasant in the brush,

Close to the ground, to listen in on us.


[aside to Hero] The angler’s greatest thrill is when the fish

Cuts through the silver stream with golden oars

And greedily devours the treacherous bait.

So we will fish for Beatrice, who is now

Concealed behind this honeysuckle screen.

And do not worry—I know what to say.


[aside to Ursula] Then let’s move near her, so her ear gets all

The sweet, deceptive bait we lay for it.—

[HERO and URSULA move toward the bower]

[aloud] No, truly, Ursula, she is too disdainful.

I know her spirit’s scornful and as wild

As hawks snatched from a cliff.


                                                      But are you sure

That Benedick loves Beatrice so completely?


The Prince says so, and my fiancé too.


Did they ask you to tell her of it, madam?


They strongly asked that I inform her of it,

But I persuaded them, if they loved Benedick,

To tell him he must wrestle with these feelings

And never make them known to Beatrice.


But why do this? I’m sure the gentleman

Is quite deserving of as fine a bed

As Beatrice will ever lie upon.


O God of love! I know that he deserves

As much as can be yielded to a man,

But Nature never built a woman’s heart

Of prouder stuff than used on Beatrice.

Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,

And sell short all they see; her repartee

Regards itself so highly that to her

All other talk lacks worth. She cannot love

Or call up any thought or image of it—

She’s that self-centered.


                                         Surely that is so.

And thus, no doubt, not good for her to learn

About his love, for she’ll make fun of it.


You speak the truth. If I show her a man

Who’s wise, who’s noble, young and nicely formed,

She’d spell all these words backwards: if fair-skinned,

She’d swear the gentleman must be her sister;

If tan, then, Nature, drawing some freak creature,

Has smudged the ink; if tall, a lance too dull;

If short, a miniature too crudely carved;

If speaking, he’s a spinning weather vane;

If silent, he’s a block no wind can move.

Thus, for each man, she turns the wrong side out,

And always doubts as true and virtuous

What plain and simple honesty should buy.


Yes, yes, such carping is not admirable.


It’s not. To be so odd, so far from normal,

As Beatrice is, cannot be admirable.

But who would dare to tell her? If I spoke,

She’d mock me into dust. She’d wear me down

With ridicule and crush me with her wit.

Let Benedick, like fire deprived of air,

Consume himself with sighs, waste from within—

A better death than dying from her scorn,

Which is as bad as tickling him to death.


Still tell her of it. Hear what she will say.


No. I will go to Benedick instead,

And tell him he should fight against his passion.

And, trust me, I’ll devise some harmless slander

To stain my cousin with. One can’t conceive

How much an ill word does to poison fondness.


O, do not do your cousin such a wrong.

She cannot be so lacking in true judgment,

Considering the quick and excellent wit

For which she is so praised, as to refuse

So rare a gentleman as Signior Benedick.


He is the finest man in Italy,

With one exception, my dear Claudio.


O please, do not be angry with me, madam,

For favoring him: Signior Benedick,

In build, in manner, intellect, and valor,

Is rated highly throughout Italy.


Indeed, his reputation’s excellent.


Earned by his excellence, not simply had.

When is your marriage, madam?


After tomorrow, every day. Come in.

Look through my wardrobe and advise me on

What dress will look the best on me tomorrow.


[aside to Hero] Believe me, she is snared. We’ve caught her, madam.


If true, love drops by chance on any lap.

Some Cupid kills with arrows, some he’ll trap.

[Exit HERO and URSULA]
[BEATRICE comes out of hiding]


What fire burns in my ears? Can this be true?

Am I condemned this much for pride and scorn?

Contempt, farewell and girlish pride, adieu!

Behind a back like mine no glory’s born.

And, Benedick, love on; this heart I’ll tame

To trust your loving hand—that’s your reward.

If you love me, my kindness will inflame

Your love to bind us with a holy cord.

For others say much of your worth, and I

Can place more trust in what these words imply.


© 2008 by Kent Richmond