I sat in a chair, apprehensively facing an old friend. It had been such a tiresome and exasperating day, yet the only way I would receive counsel from him was to re-tell the occasion.
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I commenced my account. The day started off well; the sun was shining triumphantly over the towering church, and the breeze was so gentle that it could hardly be noticed. The landscape was immaculate – from the lush green gardens in the churchyard, to the bursting undergrowth in the remote wood, adjacent to the verdant fields on the horizon.
Everyone appeared to be in such high spirits – the atmosphere in the vestibule was wonderful to be apart of. However, I was so jumpy that I had to leave and be on my own before the service started. My walk in the churchyard was very thoughtful. My precious daughter, soon to be married to Claudio, a very handsome and brave man! I should have been so very happy, and I was. But at the same time I had doubts. I don’t know where they came from, but I just wanted it to be a happy wedding.
The church bells started ringing and I left my own little world as I made my way back along the path. I don’t know how long I was gone for, but it must have been a while seeing that the vicar himself was looking for me. “ Leonato! Goodness, I am so pleased I have found you! Do please, come with me.” Before I could respond, I was escorted into the Vestry, where my eyes fell upon the most beautiful sight. My daughter Hero was standing to one side of the room, with her veil down. Pride lurched up my spine. We were ready to proceed.
The organ sounded and the organist started to play a wedding march. At that time we began to make our way towards the Alter. I was shaking with anxiety and anticipation, whereas Hero was so delighted that she was half-skipping down the isle.
As we past the Nave I realised just how beautiful the church looked. The sun’s beams were filtering through the church’s apse, casting out scattered images across the floor. the architecture of the church was remarkable; I marvelled at the ingenuity of those of yesteryear. There appeared to be hundreds in the congregation. Claudio, I have to say, looked magnificent. He had five medals attached to his uniform, upon them a Victoria Cross.
When we arrived at the front, Reverend Francis began the service. “ We have come here today on this Glorious summer’s afternoon to behold the marriage of Hero and Claudio.” I did not hear the rest of his opening talk because my attention was fixed upon Claudio. Hero was smiling and seemed very happy to be there, whereas Claudio looked uncomfortable and fidgety. At that moment I did not think anything was wrong, and made an assumption that it was his nerves. However, when it came to the vows, it did not go according to plan.
“ If there is any reason in law,” announced the Reverend, “ on why these persons shall not marry each other, you are to declare it now.” The enquiry was addressed to the congregation, although I saw Claudio itching to speak out. I suspected that something was wrong with Claudio and whispered in the Vicar’s ear to hurry with the service.
“ Claudio, you come here today to marry this lady?” the reverend asked. There was a short pause before he answered the Vicar’s question.
“ No.” There was a wave of confusion that carried its way across the room, and I ended up breaking the silence by correcting the vicar.
“ To be married to her, reverend,” and then signalling him to carry on with the service, despite the puzzled expression on his face.
This time the Vicar addressed Hero, “ Hero, you come here today to marry this count?”
“ I do” answered Hero. Perhaps there was a slight sigh of relief when she replied, but by no means was it over yet.
“ If either of you know any reason on why you shall not marry each other, you are to declare it now.”
“ Know you any, Hero?” asked Claudio. I did not know it at the time, but obviously he wanted her to confess the offence she had supposedly committed. However, she said that she had none.
Reverend Francis then asked Claudio, “ Know you any, Count?”
“ Will you Leonato, give me this maid your daughter?”
What a silly question that is, I thought at the time, and said, “ As freely as God did give me.” I thought my answer would please him, however his anger was suddenly let riot.
“ Leonato, take this rotten orange back again, for she knows the heat of a luxurious bed!”
I didn’t really know what this meant, and asked him to clarify what he had said, “ What do you mean, my lord?”
“ She, that horrible beast of yours, is sexually unfaithful!” He was almost shouting now, and even slapped her in the mouth. Despite this, I didn’t go and comfort my daughter, nor did I believe Claudio.
“ Don Pedro,” I appealed, ” why are you silent?”
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To my surprise he replied, “ Why should I speak? Your daughter is nothing more than a common prostitute! She was with her lover between twelve and one last night – I, my brother, and Claudio saw her, heard her. One of the encounters they have had a thousand times in secret.” At that point I was totally convinced of her guilt for the Prince himself had confirmed it, and even understood that I myself wanted to die.
Their work done, Claudio, Don Pedro and Don John left. I was in a state of absolute despair; as much as I regret it now, I wished my only child, my only daughter, dead.
Reverend Francis, who had been silent all that time, believed Hero to be innocent, and came up with a plan to prove his opinion to make Hero and Claudio together again. I don’t know how he managed it, but somehow he changed my assumption to one that went along with his plan.
The plan involved pretending that Hero was dead when she had in fact fainted. Claudio would then feel sorry when he hears that she is dead and they will come together again. Alas, there is still a chance that she is guilty.
Beatrice and Benedick thought that they had been left alone when everyone else had left the church, but I was in there too, and wanted to reflect and spend some time alone. However, when I saw them together, I surreptitiously hid myself behind a pillar, wanting to see what happened. The next few minutes passed very swiftly. As well as Benedick, Beatrice was convinced of Hero’s innocence. However, Beatrice was very hating of Claudio for the manner in which he ‘ exposed’ her friend, whilst Benedick thought there had been a misunderstanding, and understood why Claudio felt aggrieved and why he humiliated Hero so publicly. Somehow, they ended up confessing their love for one another, and Beatrice asked Benedick to kill Claudio.