For ages 12 and up
Do you want to put on a Shakespeare production, but absolutely cannot perform the entire play? This abridged version of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ was professionally edited by a former Oregon Shakespeare Festival actor. The one-hour script features original dialogue interspersed with narration. This maintains the integrity of the play while significantly shortening it-making it easier for groups to perform.
Similar versions of abridged Shakespeare plays sell for $15 to $100 or more (depending on performance royalties)! On Drama Notebook, it is part of your membership and there are no royalties if there is no admission for performance.
Excerpt from the play:
BALTHASAR, The Narrator and a worker on Leonato’s estate
LEONATO, Estate owner
BEATRICE, Leonato’s niece
HERO, Leonato’s daughter
ANTONIO, Leonato’s brother
DON PEDRO, General in the Italian army
BENEDICK, A senior officer in Don Pedro’s troupe
CLAUDIUS, A young officer in Don Pedro’s troupe
DON JOHN, Don Pedro’s brother and a soldier
CONRADE, A soldier and a follower of Don John
VERGES, Dogberry’s partner
SEXTON, A judge
Before Leonato’s house.
(Enter BALTHASAR, followed by LEONATO, BEATRICE, and HERO. BALTHASAR takes center stage, while the others stay off to one side.)
Welcome to Messina, in the picturesque, rolling hills of the Italian wine country!
Today is a very important day: in a mere moment, brave Italian soldiers will be returning from war, having lost zero men in battle! And here, on the beautiful estate of Senior Leonato…
(LEONATO steps forward and waves hello to audience.)
… Old flames will be sparked…
(BEATRICE “psha”s and rolls her eyes.)
… New flames will be ignited…
(HERO giggles and blushes.)
… And evill plots will be laid…
(As BALTHASAR exits, enter from another side of the stage: DON PEDRO, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, DON JOHN, and CONRADE)
Good Signior Leonato, 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.
(They shakes hands and embrace.)
You embrace your charge too willingly.
I think this is your daughter.
Her mother hath many times told me so.
(General laughter from the crowd.)
Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?
Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.
(All laugh again.)
Be happy, lady; for you are like an honourable 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.
I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick:
Nobody marks you.
What, 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? in her presence.
Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart; for, truly, I love none.
A dear happiness to women: 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!
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.
(DON PEDRO decides to break this game of wits ‘tween old flames up, before it gets too heated.)
That is the sum of all!
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!
LEONATO (To Don John)
Let me bid you welcome, my lord: being reconciled to the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.
I thank you: I am not of many words, but I thank you.
Please it your grace lead on?
Your hand, Leonato; we will go together.
(Exeunt all except BENEDICK and CLAUDIO.)
Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?
I noted her not; but I looked on her.
In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on.
I can see yet without spectacles and I see no such
matter. There’s her cousin*, an she were not
(*Her cousin is Beatrice.)
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?
… If Hero would be my wife.
Is’t come to this?!
Shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again? Ugh!
O look, Don Pedro is returned to seek you.
(Re-enter DON PEDRO)
What secret hath held you here, that you followed
not to Leonato’s?
I would your grace would constrain me to tell…
I charge thee on thy allegiance.
You hear, Count Claudio:
on my allegiance, mark you, on my allegiance!
Sir, he is in love. With who?
With Hero!… Leonato’s short daughter.
If this were so, so were it uttered.
Amen, if you love her; for the lady is very well worthy.
You speak this to fetch me in, my lord.
By my troth, I speak my thought.
And, in faith, my lord, I spoke mine.
And, by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I spoke mine.
That I love her, I feel.
That she is worthy, I know.
That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she brought me up, I likewise give her most humble thanks; but 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; I will live a bachelor!
I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.
With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord–
Not with Love.
Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.
I look for an earthquake too, then.
Well, you temporize with the hours.
In the meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to Leonato’s: 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: and so I leave you.
Dost thou affect Hero?
O, my lord… (He is lost for words.)
Ha! Thou wilt be like a lover presently
And tire the hearer with a book of words.
If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it;
And I will break with her and with her father,
And thou shalt have her!
I know we shall have revelling to-night:
I will assume thy part in some disguise
And tell fair Hero I am “Claudio,”
And in her bosom I’ll unclasp “my” heart.
Then after to her father will I break;
And the conclusion is: she shall be thine!
In practice let us put it presently.
Ah, Love… what a many-splendoredthing it is!
(Suddenly, sniffs the air and looks around suspiciously.)
Uh oh. Don’t breathe too deeply, folks. I smell villainy in the air.
(Enter DON JOHN, followed by CONRADE.)
What the good-year, my lord!
Why are you thus out of measure sad?
There is no measure in the occasion that breeds; therefore the sadness is without limit.
You should hear reason.
And when I have heard it, what blessing brings it?
If not a present remedy, at least a patient sufferance.
I cannot hide what I am!
I must be sad when I have cause and smile at no man’s jests, eat when I have stomach and wait for no man’s leisure, sleep when I am drowsy and tend on no man’s business, laugh when I am merry and claw no man in his humour.
Yea, but you must not make the full show of this till you may do it without controlment. You have of late stood out against your brother, and he hath ta’en you newly into his grace.
his grace,and it better fits my blood to be disdained of all than to fashion a carriage to rob love from any: in this, though I cannot be said to be a flattering honest man, it must not be denied but I am a plain-dealing villain. I am trusted with a muzzle and enfranchised with a clog; therefore I have decreed not to sing in my cage. If I had my mouth, I would bite; if I had my liberty, I would do my liking. In the meantime let me be that I am and seek not to alter me.
Can you make no use of your discontent?
I make all use of it, for I use it only.
Who comes here?
What news, Borachio?
I came yonder from a great supper: the prince your brother is royally entertained by Leonato: and I can give you intelligence of an intended marriage.