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Act II, Scene 1
This scene begins with a discussion between Beatrice and Hero, and Leonato and Antonio. Beatrice discusses the ideal suitor, claiming he should be somewhere between the two extremes of the melancholy Don John and the verbose Benedick. As if to reiterate her opposition to marriage, she states that heaven is a place where she will cavort with all the bachelors, and each of them will be "merry as the day is long."
Next, the scene shifts to the masquerade ball in the evening. In this part of the scene, the couples arrive on stage in succession and greet one another, exchanging conversation and trying to guess identities. First, Don Pedro walks with Hero and tenderly courts her on behalf of Claudio. They move along and Borachio, evil Don John's companion, enters with Margaret, Hero's attendant. They flirt lightly with one another and move out of sight. Another attendant, Ursula, enters with Leonato's brother Antonio, and claims to know it is he. Antonio denies it until she persuades him she already knows. The next couple is made up of Beatrice and Benedick. Beatrice asks Benedick to reveal his identity and he will not. Benedick (in disguise) tells Beatrice that someone has called her "disdainful" and she begs to know who the speaker was. In frustration, she guesses the offender to be Benedick, and tells her masked partner that Benedick is "a dull fool". They very nearly come to argument, but move along before a clash of wits might reveal their true identities to one another.
The events of this scene could have catastrophic implications, but for the saving announcement at the end of the night. Don Pedro announces that Leonato has consented to give his daughter in marriage to Claudio. Claudio (and Benedick) realize their suspicions were in error and are sorry to have doubted Don Pedro and Hero. Hero and Beatrice enter, and Benedick leaves, claiming he cannot bear the presence of Beatrice. The romantic union of Hero and Claudio is overpowering to Beatrice, who also leaves. Those left remark on the peculiar unwillingness of Beatrice and Benedick to marry. A plot is borne to bring the two cynics together. Don Pedro vows on behalf of them all to help Cupid in bringing the two together.