At Leonato’s house, Leonato, Benedick, Beatrice, Margaret, Ursula, Antonio, Friar Francis, and Hero are gathered and recounting all the recent developments. Everyone’s glad that Hero is innocent. Don Pedro and Claudio are innocent too, since they were only misled.
Further, Leonato says it came out in the court examination that that though Margaret played a role in the deception, she didn’t know it, and is innocent of the crime too.
Leonato’s glad things turned out so well, and Benedick is glad that he won’t have to kill or severely maim his friend Claudio after all.
It’s about time for Don Pedro and Claudio to arrive, and Leonato begins to instruct people on the roles they should play. The ladies should all go away and not come back until they’re called. When they arrive, they should all have their faces masked in some way.
Antonio will play his part by pretending the masked girl he’ll present to Claudio for marriage is his daughter, when actually it’s Hero!
With the ladies out of the room, Benedick speaks with Leonato and Friar Francis. Benedick points out that Beatrice likes him (and Leonato’s all, thanks to my girl Hero) and Benedick also points out that he loves Beatrice (which Leonato then credits to himself, Don Pedro, and Claudio). Benedick doesn’t quite piece Leonato’s cryptic speech together, but he does say he’d like to be married to Beatrice today if Leonato gives his blessing, and the Friar gives some service. Everyone agrees that blessing, service, and a bride will soon be handed over to Benedick.
Then Don Pedro, Claudio, and some others enter.
Leonato asks if Claudio is still ready to marry Antonio’s daughter, and Claudio graciously replies that he’ll marry her even if she’s an Ethiope (it was apparently OK to say racist comments in Shakespeare’s day.)
Leonato sends Antonio off to get "Antonio’s daughter."
Don Pedro and Claudio start heckling Benedick, who they think is looking out of sorts, likely over the marriage situation. Benedick doesn’t reveal to them his intention to marry Beatrice just yet, instead he compares Claudio’s mom to a cow. (This is a good read. You should definitely check out your book.)
Before Claudio can call Benedick’s mom a heifer, Antonio re-enters with all the masked ladies.
Claudio gets handed a lady by Antonio, and Claudio would like to see her face first, but Leonato’s like, "um, nope, first you marry her then you see her face, buddy."
Claudio takes the mystery girl’s hand and swears that he’s her husband, if she’ll have him.
Then the lady whips off her mask! It’s Zombie Hero! (Just kidding, remember she was never really dead.)
Then there’s some weird word play, and Claudio’s like, "Wow! Another Hero!" and basically Hero explains that one Hero was defiled (or slandered) and died, while this Hero in front of him lives in utter innocence.
Everyone’s kind of confused, but Leonato clarifies that Hero was dead only while her slander lived on.
"I promise I’ll explain everything in more clear detail later, without punning, and possibly with footnotes and PowerPoint, but for right now can we please get to the church and finally have this wedding?" isn't a direct quote from the Friar, but it's his essential point.
There’s another hold up on the way to the chapel, as Benedick stops the Friar and asks which masked lady is Beatrice.
Beatrice steps forth, and then she and Benedick engage in the most silly, passive aggressive (and, even we’ll admit it, kind of endearing) exchanges ever to happen between two lovesick people. Benedick publicly asks Beatrice if she loves him, and she denies it – kind of. So Benedick also kind of denies it when she throws the same question back at him.
Both seem a little taken aback, first by how publicly their word is being tested, but also by the fact that they each had "inside information" about the other’s secret crush. They’re about to shake hands and relegate each other to a life of being in simply the friend zone, but thankfully Hero and Claudio pipe up.
Claudio shows off a little note he’s stolen – it’s a really bad poem in Benedick’s handwriting, clearly meant for Beatrice.
Hero is also a thief, as she’s taken from her cousin Beatrice’s pocket a similar note, declaring Beatrice’s love for Benedick.
Benedick and Beatrice realize their hands have revealed their hearts.
Though they tease that they’re only marrying each other out of pity, they finally just start making out (at least it’s the first time in the stage directions).
Don Pedro again teases Benedick about getting married (in spite of how often he railed against it). Benedick says he’s willing to ignore whatever the world has to say against his marriage, and he’ll also ignore all the things he’s actually said against marriage.
He also jokes with Claudio, saying he intended to give him quite an butt-kicking, but now that they’ll be kinsmen, they should get along.
Claudio jests that he hoped Benedick wouldn’t marry Beatrice, as Claudio wanted to see Benedick become a married man and also a cheater. Still, Claudio teases that Benedick might end up being a cheater anyway, if Beatrice doesn’t keep a close eye on him.
Benedick calls for dancing, though Leonato thinks they really should have marriages before dancing. The old man is ignored, and Benedick calls for music.
Then Benedick teases Don Pedro about needing to get a wife.
Finally, randomly, a messenger comes in and announces that Don John was captured and brought back to Messina. Benedick counsels Don Pedro to not worry about this right now, and instead, to be merry.