Antonio confronts the grieving Leonato and pleads with him not to be so suicidal.
Leonato claims Antonio can say nothing to make him happy again—he can only be consoled by someone who's gone through exactly what he's going through right now.
He also says it's easy for people who have it good to give advice, which is more of him telling his brother, "You have no idea how I feel, so stop trying to tell me what to do."
Leonato's main point here is that he feels perfectly justified in crying. After all, even philosophers, for all their philosophizing, whine when they have a toothache.
Antonio points out that Leonato is justified in his suffering. Instead of internalizing all of the suffering, though, it’s only right he should spread his suffering around, especially with the people that are the source of his grieving. (Basically, go beat Hero's accusers to a pulp.)
Leonato says it’s time to let everybody know that Hero was innocent, especially Claudio, Don Pedro, and Don John.
Claudio and Don Pedro wander on to the scene.
Leonato tries to pick a fight with the younger men, but they claim to be in a hurry to go somewhere.
Leonato seems to think that Claudio put his hand on his sword, leading Leonato to announce that he doesn’t fear Claudio’s sword thrusting at all.
Claudio fairly politely explains that he’s not really interested in beating up senior citizens.
Leonato declares that he may be old, but he’s still a mean sword thruster.
Leonato says that Claudio has no choice but to lay aside the gentle reverence of elderly people. Leonato insists Claudio has wrongly framed his child, and sent her to the family tomb, borne by false scandal.
Claudio is surprised that he's being accused of doing anything wrong.
He swears didn’t lie about Hero, and only charged her with things he had proof of.
But Leonato and Antonio—especially Antonio—are really itching for a fight on behalf of Hero’s honor. (You know someone's pretty angry when they go all the way to "milksop.")
Antonio declares he knows these young boys, they’re the type who go around threatening others, and generally trying to seem really tough, but they’re just full of hot air.
Don Pedro attempts to diffuse the situation; he says he’s sorry for Hero’s death, but the men need to realize that the accusation against Hero was proven true. Don Pedro refuses to hear Leonato’s appeals.
Leonato and Antonio leave, spitting out a whirlwind of threats.
Don Pedro and Claudio seem unfazed by the encounter. They greet the approaching Benedick with the news that they narrowly avoided a fight with two old, toothless men. Don Pedro and Claudio say they came to find Benedick to lighten their spirits.
Benedick, however, is all business.
They tease that Benedick looks rather angry, but they don’t get just how angry until Benedick pulls Claudio aside and tells him what’s what in a rather threatening way.
Benedick calmly asserts that Claudio is a villain, and is responsible for the wrongful death of Hero. Benedick challenges Claudio to meet him—wherever, whenever—so they can settle this score. If Claudio should back down, Benedick will declare him a coward. Otherwise, we hope he’s feelin’ lucky, punk.
Claudio, however, doesn’t seem to take Benedick’s threat very seriously. Claudio makes light of the situation, vaguely saying to Don Pedro that Benedick has accused him of being all kinds of stupid.
Don Pedro and Claudio then launch into a series of silly taunts about Beatrice’s love for Benedick, which they claim they heard from Hero (who is to their knowledge, dead, so they’re being pretty insensitive).
Finally they ridicule Benedick, saying that when he marries Beatrice, he’ll be hung with cuckold’s horns, though he claimed to once be an untameable bull.
Benedick doesn’t think any of this is funny. He says the men may be full of jokes now, but they’re like braggarts who talk big, but don’t know how to use a sword.
Benedick goes on to thank Don Pedro for his many courtesies, but he says he’ll have to part ways with Don Pedro’s company from here on out.
Further, he informs Don Pedro that his brother Don John has fled from Messina, and all three of them are implicated in the wrongful death of Hero. He calls Claudio "Lord Lackbeard," playing on Claudio’s youthful lack of a beard, and promises Claudio will get what’s coming to him.
Don Pedro and Claudio are left alone to wonder at all this very serious business from Benedick. He seems to be earnest in his love for Beatrice, and earnest in his challenge on Claudio’s life, both of which are a bit more severe than they’re used to.
As Don Pedro wonders about why Don John suddenly skipped town, Dogberry enters to clear up the matter, followed by Verges and the watchmen, with Borachio and Conrade in tow.
Don Pedro recognizes Conrade and Borachio as the henchmen of his brother, Don John. Don Pedro wonders at what offense the men committed in order to be brought forth in chains.
Dogberry, as usual, muddles his explanation. After playing with Dogberry for a bit, Don Pedro finally asks Borachio what he’s done.
Borachio breaks the mood of merriment, and finally reveals all of the truth, even though he’s scared Claudio will kill him. Borachio says he could have tricked these fine men’s eyes, but he was caught by fools. The watchmen heard him brag to Conrade about the counterfeit scene where Borachio courted Margaret, who posed as Hero.
Borachio admits this very scene was at the root of many evils: Hero’s undoing, Claudio’s denouncement of Hero, and Hero’s subsequent death. Borachio is actually really sorry, and says he and Don John are to blame for the death of an innocent lady.
Don Pedro and Claudio are shocked, and Don Pedro asks again for confirmation that this was all Don John’s doing.
Borachio admits he was paid handsomely by Don John for his wrongdoing. Now Don Pedro understands why Don John was so quick to skip town.
Claudio also realizes that he is an ass, and Hero appears now in his mind’s eye just as sweet and innocent as when he first realized he loved her.
Dogberry breaks up the scene by ordering the accused away (though he wrongly calls them the plaintiffs). Dogberry informs us that the sexton has gone off to tell Leonato about all of the new discoveries. He also adds to the list of Borachio and Conrade’s crimes, informing the men that the prisoners called him an ass, which is really important compared to the national scandal and wrongful death issues.
Leonato enters with the sexton, and demands to know if Borachio is responsible for Hero’s death.
When Borachio claims the fault is his alone, Leonato jumps to his defense. Actually, he says, the blame belongs to Claudio, Don Pedro, and Don John, as well as Borachio. Leonato then thanks Don Pedro and Claudio for their roles in all this villainy, which probably makes them feel pretty bad.
Claudio and Don Pedro are brief with Leonato, but full of sorrow. Claudio says Leonato can have any revenge desired, though he’s quick to point out that his only actual sin was mistaking. Don Pedro jumps on the "I’m completely guilty, except…" bandwagon, though he says that whatever punishment Leonato wants to put him through, he’ll accept.
Leonato says he just wants his daughter be alive again, and that isn’t within either of the perpetrator’s power. Still, they can earn their forgiveness by explaining to the people of Messina that Hero was actually innocent.
Also, Don Pedro and Claudio should go to Hero’s tomb, hang an epitaph for her, and mourn over her.
Finally, Claudio will be accepted back into Leonato’s fold if he shows up at Leonato’s house tomorrow morning for another wedding; this time Claudio will marry Leonato’s niece (presumably not Beatrice), who is almost an exact copy of Hero. (Maybe this niece was being hidden in an attic the whole time, we’re not sure.)
Claudio agrees to marry this other random niece, and thanks Leonato copiously for his kindness.
Leonato will expect them all in the morning for Wedding 2.0. In the meantime, he’s off to question Hero’s maid, Margaret, who was likely involved in this whole conspiracy.
Borachio speaks up again, saying Margaret had no idea what she was doing, she wasn’t involved in the plot, and is a just and virtuous girl.
Again, Dogberry addresses everyone, and reminds them he’s been called an ass, which he’d like to have added to the list of Borachio and Conrade’s crimes.
There’s some blabbering here as Dogberry insists that Borachio also must be examined about his knowledge of a thief named Deformed. ("Deformed" was lifted out of the conversation Borachio and Conrade had earlier about fashion; the watch and Dogberry mistook Borachio and Conrade’s conversation to be about an actual villain).
Dogberry putzes around some more like a tiresome fool, and finally leaves Leonato alone to punish the prisoners as he sees fit.
Don Pedro and Claudio promise they’ll see Antonio and Leonato at the wedding tomorrow morning; tonight they’ll be busy mourning at Hero’s tomb.
In the meantime, Leonato will busy himself finding out the details of Margaret’s relationship with Borachio.