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Act IV, Scene 1
The scene is highly eventful. Don John convinces Claudio that Hero has enjoyed the pleasure of another man's company. With his own eyes, he has "noted" (observed without fully understanding) and therefore he believes. Claudio calls his once beloved Hero a "rotten orange", a "wanton" who should be returned to her father. Hero is too shocked to respond to the accusation and she faints. Don Pedro, Claudio, and Don John abandon her, presuming she is dead.
Hero regains consciousness and pleads her innocence. The Friar, in contrast to Claudio, believes Hero at once, and trusts her implicitly. He is the only one aside from Beatrice who trusts Hero's innocence. He is ingenious enough to publicize her burial at the family tomb. He suggests to Leonato and the others present that the world should continue to believe that Hero is dead. He is sure of the fact that Claudio will eventually trust his intuition and pine for his true love, Hero, forgiving her for the crime he believes she has committed.
The various rites appropriate to a burial are to be performed to confirm this 'belief' that Hero has died. At the end of the scene Benedick tells Beatrice that he loves her. She challenges Benedick to prove his love for her by murdering Claudio. In the meantime, Leonato expresses his lack of faith in Hero and curses himself and her as well.
The scene begins with the conventional preparations for the wedding. The Friar asks the guests and the couple themselves for their consent to the ritual. But Claudio's response is dramatic. He returns Hero to Leonato on his offer of giving away the bride. Thus it is ironic that the marriage that had been well planned and much anticipated does not take place. The occasion does, however result in the announcement by both Beatrice and Benedick that they love one another. But the occasion brings Beatrice and Benedick together.
The reader's admiration for Claudio gives way to aversion. Benedick's move is appreciable. At the same time, Leonato's response is disgraceful. Don Pedro's gallantry is no longer impressive. Benedick's ironic statement, "This looks not like a nuptial" is very realistic and sounds on the oft-repeated theme of "noting". Claudio's responses:
"Is this Hero's face? Are our eyes our own?"
"And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang."
are significant in that they are illusions which cloud his eyes and perception. Claudio and Leonato pressure Hero to speak the truth. When she does not confess to what is in reality a falsehood, it is strange that Claudio conceives the truth of her confession as false on his earlier prodding "Out on thee seeming!" Her appearance of innocence is misunderstood as deceit.
The audience is aware of Hero's innocence, but none of the characters have noted the telling events, save Dogberry and Verges, who are unable to elucidate them. Leonato is swayed by the charges. His curses against himself and his daughter are obnoxious. His character appears offensive at this point.