Leo. Friar, it cannot be: Thou seest that all the Grace that she hath left, Is, that she wil not adde to her damnation, A sinne of periury, she not denies it: Why seek'st thou then to couer with excuse, That which appeares in proper nakednesse? Fri. Ladie, what man is he you are accus'd of? Hero. They know that do accuse me, I know none: If I know more of any man aliue Then that which maiden modestie doth warrant, Let all my sinnes lacke mercy. O my Father, Proue you that any man with me conuerst, At houres vnmeete, or that I yesternight Maintain'd the change of words with any creature, Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death

Fri. There is some strange misprision in the Princes

Ben. Two of them haue the verie bent of honor, And if their wisedomes be misled in this: The practise of it liues in Iohn the bastard, Whose spirits toile in frame of villanies

Leo. I know not: if they speake but truth of her, These hands shall teare her: If they wrong her honour, The proudest of them shall wel heare of it. Time hath not yet so dried this bloud of mine, Nor age so eate vp my inuention, Nor Fortune made such hauocke of my meanes, Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends, But they shall finde, awak'd in such a kinde, Both strength of limbe, and policie of minde, Ability in meanes, and choise of friends, To quit me of them throughly

Fri. Pause awhile: And let my counsell sway you in this case, Your daughter heere the Princesse (left for dead) Let her awhile be secretly kept in, And publish it, that she is dead indeed: Maintaine a mourning ostentation, And on your Families old monument, Hang mournfull Epitaphes, and do all rites, That appertaine vnto a buriall

Leon. What shall become of this? What wil this do? Fri. Marry this wel carried, shall on her behalfe, Change slander to remorse, that is some good, But not for that dreame I on this strange course, But on this trauaile looke for greater birth: She dying, as it must be so maintain'd, Vpon the instant that she was accus'd, Shal be lamented, pittied, and excus'd Of euery hearer: for it so fals out, That what we haue, we prize not to the worth, Whiles we enioy it; but being lack'd and lost, Why then we racke the value, then we finde The vertue that possession would not shew vs Whiles it was ours, so will it fare with Claudio: When he shal heare she dyed vpon his words, Th' Idea of her life shal sweetly creepe Into his study of imagination. And euery louely Organ of her life, Shall come apparel'd in more precious habite: More mouing delicate, and ful of life, Into the eye and prospect of his soule Then when she liu'd indeed: then shal he mourne, If euer Loue had interest in his Liuer, And wish he had not so accused her: No, though he thought his accusation true: Let this be so, and doubt not but successe Wil fashion the euent in better shape, Then I can lay it downe in likelihood. But if all ayme but this be leuelld false, The supposition of the Ladies death, Will quench the wonder of her infamie. And if it sort not well, you may conceale her As best befits her wounded reputation, In some reclusiue and religious life, Out of all eyes, tongues, mindes and iniuries

Bene. Signior Leonato, let the Frier aduise you, And though you know my inwardnesse and loue Is very much vnto the Prince and Claudio. Yet, by mine honor, I will deale in this, As secretly and iustlie, as your soule Should with your bodie

Leon. Being that I flow in greefe, The smallest twine may lead me

William Shakespeare
Classic Literature Library

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