A/N: welcome Shakespeare fans and readers of my stories! This is definitely one of my favorite Shakespeare plays, and I couldn't shake wanting to do it my own way with my dream cast for it. so here it is!
Setting: Jane Austen era
Characters: Beatrice-Karen Gillan
Hero-Jenna Louise Coleman
Leonato's brother-Matthew McFadyn
Don Pedro-Toby Stephens
Don John-Damian Lewis
Signior Antonio-Mark Gatiss
George Seacoal-Martin Freeman
First Watchman-Chris O'Dowd
Second Watchman-Dylan Moran
Friar Francis-Arthur Darvill
Chapter 1: Return from the Wars
Hero glanced out the window from her spot on the window seat in the parlor, her sewing in her hands as she noticed a man in uniform on horseback heading down the dirt road toward the house. Beatrice noticed Hero's attention turn away from her sewing from where she sat on the sofa, reading and frowned in wonder before she set her book aside and stood to look out the window, seeing the man as well. They both looked to the hall when Leonato stepped into the room and he frowned in wonder at his daughter and niece before there was a knock on the door. Hero and Beatrice both stood tall next to each other when Leonato opened the door and entreated the man they'd seen inside, and the man handed Leonato a letter which he quickly opened to read it. The girls curtsied to him, and the messenger bowed in return as he entered.
"I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Aragon comes this night to Messina," Leonato reported, stepping toward the girls and silently entreated the messenger to sit as the girls sat on the window seat, Hero taking up her sewing again.
"He is very near by this," the messenger confirmed with a nod as he sat on the sofa and Leonato took up the armchair in the room. "He was not three leagues off when l left him."
"How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?" Leonato wondered with a concerned frown.
"But few of any sort, and none of name," the messenger assured him.
"A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers," Leonato replied, distractedly as he looked back to the letter to read it. "I find here that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honor on a young Florentine called Claudio."
Hero gasped when she pricked her finger with her needle, drawing everyone's attention to her as she glanced around, embarrassed. Beatrice smirked at her, knowingly before Hero waved their attentions off and the messenger continued.
"Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro," he confirmed, warily looking back at Leonato. "He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion. He hath indeed better bettered expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how."
"He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very glad of it," Leonato recalled as a maid came in with a tray of tea.
"I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him, even so much that joy could not show itself modest enough without a badge of bitterness," the messenger confirmed as the maid served the tea and biscuits to each of them.
"Did he break out into tears?" Leonato chuckled, taking a teacup from the maid.
"In great measure," the messenger smirked back, taking one as well when she offered it to him.
"A kind overflow of kindness," Leonato nodded with a smile as the maid handed cups each to the girls then took her leave. "There are no faces truer than those that are so washed. How much better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping."
"I pray you, is Sir Mountanto returned from the wars or no?" Beatrice questioned, taking the opportunity to interject before she took a sip of her tea.
Hero scoffed at her cousin before taking a sip as well and shook her head slightly as the men frowned at her in wonder, Leonato shifting in his seat to face them, the letter still in hand.
"I know none of that name, lady," the messenger admitted. "There was none such in the arm of any sort."
"What is he that you ask for, niece?" Leonato questioned with a suspicious gaze at the red-head.
"My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua," Hero clarified for them.
"Oh," the messenger nodded in understanding, then answered, "He's returned, and as pleasant as ever he was."
"He set up his bills here in Messina and challenged Cupid at the flight, and my uncle's Fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid and challenged him at the bird-bolt," Beatrice reported, making the other three laugh, knowingly before she asked, "I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars?"
They all frowned at her in wonder, but she only glanced between them before asking the messenger again, "But how many hath he killed? For, indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing."
"Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much," Leonato scolded, then warned with a wag of his finger, "But he'll meet with you, I doubt it not."
"He hath done good service, lady, in these wars," the messenger nodded as Beatrice rolled her eyes at her uncle, making Hero giggle at her.
"You had musty victual," Beatrice guessed, patting her stomach, and winked as she added, "And he hath holp to eat it. He is very valiant trencherman; he hath an excellent stomach."
"And a good soldier, lady," the messenger argued, gently.
"And a good soldier…to a lady," Beatrice smirked, lifting her cup again for a sip. "But what is he to a lord?"
"A lord to a lord," he still argued. "A man to a man, stuffed with honorable virtues."
"It is so indeed," Beatrice laughed. "He is no less than a stuffed man. But for the stuffing, well…" She shrugged, indifferently added, "…we are all mortal."
"You must not, sir, mistake my niece," Leonato pleaded with the messenger, shifting to speak to him again. "There is a king of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her. They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between them."
"Alas, he gets nothing by that," Beatrice smirked, triumphantly. "In our last conflict, four of his five wits went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one, so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse, for it is all the wealth that he hath left to be known a reasonable creature."
Hero giggled at the memory before Beatrice wondered, "Who is his companion now? He hath, every month, a new sworn brother."
"Is 't possible?" the messenger smirked.
"Very easily possible," she drawled, then gestured putting a hat on her head with one hand as she continued, "He wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat. It ever changes with the next block."
"I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books," the messenger nodded, knowingly.
"No, an he were, I would burn my study," Beatrice laughed with a shake of her head before leaning forward and asking, "But, I pray you, who is his companion? Is there no young squarer not that will make a voyage with him to the devil?"
"He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio," the messenger replied.
"O Lord," Beatrice sighed, setting an arm around Hero's shoulders and holding her close in sympathy as she reported. "He will hang upon him like a disease. He is sooner caught then the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad! God help the noble Claudio! If he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere a' be cured!"
The messenger laughed heartily as Hero couldn't help but giggle at her cousin's dramatics, and Leonarto only rolled his eyes and shook his head.
"I will hold friends with you, lady!" the messenger laughed, leaning forward to stand with an outstretched hand.
"Do," Beatrice nodded with a smile, shaking his hand and nodding, "Good friend."
"You will never run mad, niece," Leonarto chuckled as the messenger looked to the window behind the girls, something catching his attention.
"Not till a hot January," Beatrice retorted.
"Do Pedro is approached," the messenger announced, waving a hand toward the window to draw their attention outside to see a few carriages approaching.
Leonato stood and followed the messenger outside to greet the men coming toward the house, and Beatrice quickly helped Hero as she fussed over her appearance, knowing Claudio was among the group.
"Good Signior Leonato!" Don Pedro grinned, holding his arms out toward the man and shaking his hand once they met halfway down the path. His blue eyes alight under wisps of ginger hair that blew with the breeze. "You are come to meet your trouble. The fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it."
"Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace," Leonato replied, both still shaking hands as the messenger walked by them, and Beatrice and Hero stopped behind Leonato. More men came from another carriage, one looking similar to Don Pedro, but far more serious. "For trouble being gone, comfort should remain. But, when you depart from me, sorry abides and happiness takes his leave."
"You embrace your charge too willingly," Don Pedro smiled before glancing to the women behind him just as Claudio and Benedick climbed out of the carriage they had shared with Don Pedro. He eyed the shorter, brown-haired girl and nodded, "I think this is your daughter."
"Her mother hath many times told me so," Leonato nodded, gesturing toward Hero and she took her cue to step forward, though shyly.
"Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?" Benedick smirked, his blue eyes glowing mischievously under a mop of curly, unruly, raven locks.
"Signior Benedick," Leonato greeted with a handshake as well. "No…for then were you a child."
"You have it full, Benedick! We may guess by this what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady fathers herself," Don Pedro teased before taking Hero's hand, chastely to lead her toward the house with everyone else, telling her, "Be happy, lady, for you are like an honorable father."
"If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she is!" Benedick called after them.
"I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick. Nobody marks you."
He looked to Beatrice as she stood in the path, her arms crossed in front of her and a smirk of amusement over her lips at her taunt.
"What…" Benedick breathed in false disbelief as he stepped toward her, stopping in front of her and staring at her as though he couldn't believe his eyes. "My dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?!"
"Is it possible disdain should die while she hath such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?" Beatrice shot back with a smirk. "Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence."
"Then is courtesy a turncoat," he smirked back, making her roll her eyes and turn to step toward the house. He quickly stepped to catch up to her, strolling next to her. "But it is certain I am loved of all ladies – only you excepted – and I would could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart. For truly…I love none."
"A dear happiness to women," she sighed in relief, looking to the sky as she grasped her hands in front of her, tightly before dropping them down again. "They would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God and my cold blood I am of your humour for that. I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man swear he loves me."
"God keep your ladyship still in that mind," Benedick nodded with a small salute, then clawed at the air as he added, "So some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face."
"Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were," she shot back.
"Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher," he smirked as they came to the door, hearing everyone chatting inside, but they stopped at the threshold.
"A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours," she retorted, stepping over the threshold as he hissed in a breath as if burned and leaned on the frame with a forearm as she turned to him.
"I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a continuer," he smirked. "But keep your way, i' God's name, I have done."
"You always end with a jade's trick," she scoffed, folding her arms in front of her again and stepping back toward him to glare at him, her hazel eyes boring into his bright blues as she nearly ground out, "I know you of old."
She turned and made her way down the hall toward the drawing room, Benedick following her, forlornly. Her words had stung him, but he knew there was nothing he could do as they both stepped into the drawing room with the others.
"That is the sum of all, Leonato," Pedro announced, sitting in a cushioned chair, Leonato in a similar chair next to him. Benedick sat in a chair next to Claudio who sat on the other side of Pedro, the other three men standing as Beatrice took a seat on the sofa with Hero, Ursula and Margaret. Pedro turned to the two men and grinned, "Signior Claudio and Signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him we shall stay here at the least a month, and he heartily prays some occasion may detain us longer. I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but prays from his heart."
"If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn," Leonato assured before looking to the other red-haired man, Pedro's brother, Don John. "Let me bid you welcome, my lord, being reconciled to the prince, your brother, I owe you all duty."
"I thank you," Don John nodded, slightly and with hardly any expression. "I am not of many words…but I thank you."
Beatrice gave a small scoff, as Benedick gave a subtle smirk of amusement while Leonato gave a frown before standing, causing everyone else to stand as well.
"Please it your grace, lead on?" Leonato entreated Pedro toward the door leading to the gardens.
"Your hand, Leonato. We shall go together," Pedro grinned, gesturing toward the door as well.
With Leonato and Pedro leading the way, everyone else followed them to the gardens, Beatrice giving a glare to Benedick as she passed him and Hero glanced to Claudio, a blonde-haired, blue-eyed, handsome man, shyly as she passed him. Claudio gave a quiet groan and turned to Benedick, grabbing his arm and pulling him back, making the taller man frown at the blonde man in confusion.
"Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?" Claudio questioned his friends, making his frown deepen.
"I noted her not, but I looked on her," Benedick confessed.
"Is she not a modest young lady?" Claudio grinned, making his way toward the window facing the gardens to watch the group outside, looking for Hero.
"Do you question me, as an honest man should do, for my simple true judgment?" Benedick wondered as he followed his friend and stood next to the window as well, but did not look out. "Or would you have me speak after my custom, as being a professed tyrant of their sex?"
"No, I pray thee speak in sober judgment," Claudio pleaded, meeting Benedick's gaze for a moment before nodding that he look outside at Hero.
Benedick frowned and sighed in disappointment before looking to view of the gardens and seeing Hero and Beatrice speaking with Don Pedro. He took a moment to examine her as Claudio watched him and waited for his friend's response. Benedick took in a breath to speak, but stopped before glancing to Claudio who still stared at him, making the taller man straighten and look upon Hero again.
"Why—" he was cut off when Claudio grabbed onto his arm and shook him urgently. Benedick sucked his teeth and yanked his arm from his young friend, rubbing it as he resumed, "…i' faith, methinks she'd too low for a high praise, too brown for a fair praise and too little for a great praise. Only this commendation I can afford her: that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome, and bring no other but she is…I do not like her."
"Thou thinkest I am in sport!" Claudio balked, shoving Benedick away and making him laugh heartily, knowing he'd gotten a rise out of him. "I pray thee tell me truly how thou likest her."
"Would you buy her, that you inquire after her?" Benedick chuckled as he sat in one of the chairs.
"Can the world buy such a jewel?" Claudio retorted, pacing in front of Benedick.
"Yea," Benedick nodded, making Claudio stop and stare at him disbelief, but he only remained casual in his seat as he added, "and a case to put it into. But speak you this with a sad brow or do you play the flouting Jack, to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder and Vulcan a rare carpenter?! Come, in what key shall a man take you, to go in the song?"
"In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on!" Claudio replied, defensively.
"I can see yet without spectacles and I see no such matter," Benedick retorted. "There's her cousin, and she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of May doth the last of December. But I hope you have no intent to turn husband, have you?"
Claudio looked around at everything else in the room except Benedick, who only gave him a chiding glare, guessing his answer and waiting for his young friend to speak again. Willing him to speak.
"I…would…scarce trust myself," Claudio finally sputtered, making Benedick groan and lean his head into a hand. "Though I had sworn the contrary is Hero would be my wife."
"Is't come to this?" Benedick sighed, letting his hand fall again. "In faith, hath not the world one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again?! Go to, i' faith, an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it and sigh away Sundays!" He growled and looked to the window again, standing as he noted, "Look, Don Pedro is returned to seek you."
Claudio shot to his feet as well as Pedro sauntered in, smiling when he noticed the men and asked, "What secret hath held you here that you followed not to the garden?"
"I would your grace would constrain me to tell," Benedick muttered, standing near the window, making Pedro frown in wonder before glancing between the men, Claudio looking a bit uncomfortable.
"I charge thee on thy allegiance," Pedro smirked, crossing his arms and Benedick smirked in return, turning to Claudio who looked nearly terrified.
"You hear, Count Claudio," Benedick shrugged, making Claudio shake his head. "I can be secret as a dumb man – I would have you think so. But on my allegiance…mark you this…on my allegiance."
Claudio shook his head again, pleading that he say nothing, but he could already see that was ready to tell all.
"He is in love," Benedick blurted, making Claudio deflate and flop into one of the chairs as Pedro laughed, heartily. "'With who?' now that is your grace's part. Mark how short his answer is: With Hero, Leonato's short daughter."
"If this were so, so were it uttered," Claudio muttered.
"Like the old tale, my lord, 'it is not so, nor 'twas not so, but, indeed, God forbid it should be so'," Benedick retorted.
"If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it should be otherwise," Claudio replied, glaring at Benedick.
"Amen, if you love her, for the lady is very well worthy," Pedro grinned, stepping toward Claudio to slap a hand to his shoulder, making the young man look to him in wide-eyed surprise, then slumped again.
"You speak to fetch me in, my lord," he nearly pouted.
"By my troth, I speak my thought," Pedro insisted.
"And, in faith, my lord, I spoke mine," Claudio urged.
"And, by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I spoke mine!" Benedick threw in, but was ignored.
"That I love her, I feel!" Claudio confessed.
"That she is worthy, I know," Pedro assured him.
"That I neither feel how she should be loved nor know how she should be worthy, is the opinion that fire cannot melt out of me," Benedick objected, making Claudio roll his eyes as Pedro shook his head with an amused smirk. "I will die in it at the stake."
"Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the despite of beauty," Pedro chided.
"And never could maintain his part but in the force of his will," Claudio chimed in.
"That a woman conceived me, I thank her," Benedick began, making the other two men groan as Claudio slumped back in his seat and Pedro flopped into a chair of his own, both knowing he was about to start a lecture. "That she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks. But that I will have a recheat winded in my forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick, all women shall pardon me. Because I will not do them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the right to trust none, and the fine is, for the which I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor."
"I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love," Pedro insisted, leaning forward in his seat with a grin.
"With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord, not with love," Benedick argued, leaning back on the edge of the window seat. "Prove that ever I lose more blood with love than I will get again with drinking, pick out mine eyes with a ballad-maker's pan and hang me up at the door of a brothel-house for the sign of blind Cupid."
"Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou wilt prove a notable argument," Pedro scoffed, sitting back again.
"If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot at me," Benedick retorted, making the other men chuckle before he continued, "And he that hits me, let him be clapped on the shoulder, and called Adam."
"Well, as time shall try, 'In time the savage bull doth bear the yoke'," Pedro smirked.
"The savage bull may, but if ever the sensible Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull's horns and set them in my forehead and let me be vilely painted, and in such great letters as they write, 'Here is good horse to hire' let them signify under my sign 'Here you may see Benedick…the married man.'"
"If this should ever happen, thou wouldst be horn-mad," Claudio laughed, heartily.
"Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly," Pedro retorted.
"I look for an earthquake too, then," Benedick shot back.
"Well, you temporize with the hours," Pedro dismissed. "In the meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to Leonato. Commend me to him and tell him I will not fail him at supper, for indeed he hath made great preparation."
"I have almost matter enough in me for such an embassage," Benedick smirked, standing tall and straightening himself out before nodding, "And so I commit you—"
"To the tuition of God, from my house if I had it…" Claudio cut in, standing and imitating Benedick's stance.
"The sixth of July, your loving friend…Benedick," Pedro finished off, standing and also imitating both men.
Benedick glared between the two men before shaking his head and wagging his finger with a humorless smirk, retorting, "Nay, mock not, mock not. The body of your discourse is sometime guarded with fragments, and the guards are but slightly blasted on neither. Ere you flout old ends any further, examine our conscience."
Pedro and Claudio chuckled as he shook his head at them before waving as he made his way to the door, calling, "And so I leave you."
The two watched him head to the garden before Claudio looked to Pedro and urged, "My liege, our highness now may do me good."
"My love is thine to teach, tech it but how, and thou shalt see how apt it is to learn any hard lesson that may do thee good," Pedro smiled, clapping the young man on the shoulder.
"Hath Leonato any son, my lord?" Claudio wondered.
"No child but Hero," Pedro shook his head. "She's his only heir. Dost thou affect her, Claudio?"
"O, my lord," Claudio sighed with a dreamy smile. "When you went onward on this ended action, I look'd upon her with a soldier's eye, that liked, but had a rougher task in hand than to drive liking to the name of love. But now I am return'd and that war-thoughts have left their places vacant, in their rooms come thronging soft and delicate desires, all prompting me how fair young Hero is, saying, I liked her ere I went to wars."
"Thou wilt be like a lover presently and tire the hearer with a book of words!" Pedro laughed, placing his hands on the young man's shoulders. "If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it, and I will break with her and with her father, and thou shalt have her. Was't not to this end that thou began'st to twist so fine a story?"
"How sweetly you do minister to love, that know love's grief by his complexion!" Claudio grinned. "But lest my liking might too sudden seem, I would have salved it with a longer treatise."
"What need the bridge much broader than the flood?" Pedro chuckled, pulling Claudio under his arm to speak lowly. "The fairest grant is the necessity. Look, what will serve is fit, 'tis once, thou lovest, and I will fit thee with the remedy. I know we shall have reveling tonight. I will assume thy part in some disguise and tell fair Hero I am Claudio, and in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart and take her hearing prisoner with the force and strong encounter of my amorous tale. Then after to her father will I break, and the conclusion is…she shall be thine!"
Claudio grinned, giving Pedro a tight hug and both men clapped each other's arms before Pedro entreated Claudio out to the gardens.