Much Ado About Nothing
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|ACT I SCENE I ||An orchard before Leonato's house.|| |
Enter LEONATO, HERO, and BEATRICE, with a
|LEONATO||I learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon|
|comes this night to Messina.|
|Messenger||He is very near by this: he was not three leagues off|
|when I left him.|
|LEONATO||How many gentlemen have you lost in this action?|
|Messenger||But few of any sort, and none of name.|
|LEONATO||A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings|
|home full numbers. I find here that Don Peter hath|
|bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio.||11|
|Messenger||Much deserved on his part and equally remembered by|
|Don Pedro: he hath borne himself beyond the|
|promise of his age, doing, in the figure of a lamb,|
|the feats of a lion: he hath indeed better|
|bettered expectation than you must expect of me to|
|tell you how.|
|LEONATO||He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much|
|glad of it.|
|Messenger||I have already delivered him letters, and there|
|appears much joy in him; even so much that joy could|
|not show itself modest enough without a badge of|
|LEONATO||Did he break out into tears?|
|Messenger||In great measure.|
|LEONATO||A kind overflow of kindness: there are no faces|
|truer than those that are so washed. How much|
|better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!|
|BEATRICE||I pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the|
|wars or no?|
|Messenger||I know none of that name, lady: there was none such|
|in the army of any sort.||31|
|LEONATO||What is he that you ask for, niece?|
|HERO||My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.|
|Messenger||O, he's returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.|
|BEATRICE||He set up his bills here in Messina and challenged|
|Cupid at the flight; and my uncle's fool, reading|
|the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged|
|him at the bird-bolt. I pray you, how many hath he|
|killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath|
|he killed? for indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.||41|
|LEONATO||Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much;|
|but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.|
|Messenger||He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.|
|BEATRICE||You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it:|
|he is a very valiant trencherman; he hath an|
|Messenger||And a good soldier too, lady.|
|BEATRICE||And a good soldier to a lady: but what is he to a lord?||50|
|Messenger||A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all|
|BEATRICE||It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man:|
|but for the stuffing,--well, we are all mortal.|
|LEONATO||You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a|
|kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her:|
|they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit|
|BEATRICE||Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last|
|conflict four of his five wits went halting off, and|
|now is the whole man governed with one: so that if|
|he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him|
|bear it for a difference between himself and his|
|horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left,|
|to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his|
|companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.||66|
|BEATRICE||Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as|
|the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the|
|Messenger||I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.|
|BEATRICE||No; an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray|
|you, who is his companion? Is there no young||70|
|squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the devil?|
|Messenger||He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.|
|BEATRICE||O Lord, he will hang upon him like a disease: he|
|is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker|
|runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! if|
|he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a|
|thousand pound ere he be cured.||80|
|Messenger||I will hold friends with you, lady.|
|BEATRICE||Do, good friend.|
|LEONATO||You will never run mad, niece.|
|BEATRICE||No, not till a hot January.|
|Messenger||Don Pedro is approached.|
Enter DON PEDRO, DON JOHN, CLAUDIO, BENEDICK,
|DON PEDRO||Good Signior Leonato, you are come to meet your|
|trouble: the fashion of the world is to avoid|
|cost, and you encounter it.||90|
|LEONATO||Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of|
|your grace: for trouble being gone, comfort should|
|remain; but when you depart from me, sorrow abides|
|and happiness takes his leave.|
|DON PEDRO||You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this|
|is your daughter.|
|LEONATO||Her mother hath many times told me so.|
|BENEDICK||Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?|
|LEONATO||Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.||100|
|DON PEDRO||You have it full, Benedick: we may guess by this|
|what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady fathers|
|herself. Be happy, lady; for you are like an|
|BENEDICK||If Signior Leonato be her father, she would not|
|have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as|
|like him as she is.|
|BEATRICE||I wonder that you will still be talking, Signior|
|Benedick: nobody marks you.|
|BENEDICK||What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?||111|
|BEATRICE||Is it possible disdain should die while she hath|
|such meet food to feed it as Signior Benedick?|
|Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come|
|in her presence.|
|BENEDICK||Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is certain I|
|am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I|
|would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard|
|heart; for, truly, I love none.|
|BEATRICE||A dear happiness to women: they would else have|
|been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God|
|and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I|
|had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a man|
|swear he loves me.||123|
|BENEDICK||God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some|
|gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate|
|BEATRICE||Scratching could not make it worse, an't were such|
|a face as yours were.|
|BENEDICK||Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.|
|BEATRICE||A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.||131|
|BENEDICK||I would my horse had the speed of your tongue, and|
|so good a continuer. But keep your way, i' God's|
|name; I have done.|
|BEATRICE||You always end with a jade's trick; I know you of old.|
|DON PEDRO||That is the sum of all, Leonato. Signior Claudio|
|and Signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath|
|invited you all. I tell him we shall stay here at|
|the least a month; and he heartily prays some|
|occasion may detain us longer. I dare swear he is no|
|hypocrite, but prays from his heart.||142|
|LEONATO||If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.||[To DON JOHN]
|Let me bid you welcome, my lord: being reconciled to|
|the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.|
|DON JOHN||I thank you: I am not of many words, but I thank|
|LEONATO||Please it your grace lead on?|
|DON PEDRO||Your hand, Leonato; we will go together.|
|[Exeunt all except BENEDICK and CLAUDIO]|
|CLAUDIO||Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?||151|
|BENEDICK||I noted her not; but I looked on her.|
|CLAUDIO||Is she not a modest young lady?|
|BENEDICK||Do you question me, as an honest man should do, for|
|my simple true judgment; or would you have me speak|
|after my custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex?|
|CLAUDIO||No; I pray thee speak in sober judgment.|
|BENEDICK||Why, i' faith, methinks she's too low for a high|
|praise, too brown for a fair praise and too little|
|for a great praise: only this commendation I can|
|afford her, that were she other than she is, she|
|were unhandsome; and being no other but as she is, I|
|do not like her.|
|CLAUDIO||Thou thinkest I am in sport: I pray thee tell me||164|
|truly how thou likest her.|
|BENEDICK||Would you buy her, that you inquire after her?|
|CLAUDIO||Can the world buy such a jewel?|
|BENEDICK||Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this|
|with a sad brow? or do you play the flouting Jack,|
|to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder and Vulcan a|
|rare carpenter? Come, in what key shall a man take|
|you, to go in the song?|
|CLAUDIO||In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I|
|BENEDICK||I can see yet without spectacles and I see no such|
|matter: there's her cousin, an she were not|
|possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty|
|as the first of May doth the last of December. But I|
|hope you have no intent to turn husband, have you?|
|CLAUDIO||I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the|
|contrary, if Hero would be my wife.|
|BENEDICK||Is't come to this i' faith? Hath not the world|
|one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion?|
|Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again?|
|Go to, i' faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck|
|into a yoke, wear the print of it and sigh away|
|Sundays. Look Don Pedro is returned to seek you.||187|
|[Re-enter DON PEDRO]|
|DON PEDRO||What secret hath held you here, that you followed|
|not to Leonato's?|
|BENEDICK||I would your grace would constrain me to tell.|
|DON PEDRO||I charge thee on thy allegiance.|
|BENEDICK||You hear, Count Claudio: I can be secret as a dumb|
|man; I would have you think so; but, on my|
|allegiance, mark you this, on my allegiance. He is|
|in love. With who? now that is your grace's part.|
|Mark how short his answer is;--With Hero, Leonato's|
|CLAUDIO||If this were so, so were it uttered.|
|BENEDICK||Like the old tale, my lord: 'it is not so, nor|
|'t was not so, but, indeed, God forbid it should be|
|CLAUDIO||If my passion change not shortly, God forbid it|
|should be otherwise.|
|DON PEDRO||Amen, if you love her; for the lady is very well worthy.|
|CLAUDIO||You speak this to fetch me in, my lord.|
|DON PEDRO||By my troth, I speak my thought.|
|CLAUDIO||And, in faith, my lord, I spoke mine.|
|BENEDICK||And, by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I spoke mine.|
|CLAUDIO||That I love her, I feel.||210|
|DON PEDRO||That she is worthy, I know.|
|BENEDICK||That I neither feel how she should be loved nor|
|know how she should be worthy, is the opinion that|
|fire cannot melt out of me: I will die in it at the stake.|
|DON PEDRO||Thou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the despite|
|CLAUDIO||And never could maintain his part but in the force|
|of his will.|
|BENEDICK||That a woman conceived me, I thank her; that she|
|brought me up, I likewise give her most humble|
|thanks: but that I will have a recheat winded in my|
|forehead, or hang my bugle in an invisible baldrick,|
|all women shall pardon me. Because I will not do|
|them the wrong to mistrust any, I will do myself the|
|right to trust none; and the fine is, for the which|
|I may go the finer, I will live a bachelor.||226|
|DON PEDRO||I shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.|
|BENEDICK||With anger, with sickness, or with hunger, my lord,|
|not with love: prove that ever I lose more blood|
|with love than I will get again with drinking, pick|
|out mine eyes with a ballad-maker's pen and hang me|
|up at the door of a brothel-house for the sign of|
|DON PEDRO||Well, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou|
|wilt prove a notable argument.|
|BENEDICK||If I do, hang me in a bottle like a cat and shoot|
|at me; and he that hits me, let him be clapped on|
|the shoulder, and called Adam.|
|DON PEDRO||Well, as time shall try: 'In time the savage bull|
|doth bear the yoke.'||240|
|BENEDICK||The savage bull may; but if ever the sensible|
|Benedick bear it, pluck off the bull's horns and set|
|them in my forehead: and let me be vilely painted,|
|and in such great letters as they write 'Here is|
|good horse to hire,' let them signify under my sign|
|'Here you may see Benedick the married man.'|
|CLAUDIO||If this should ever happen, thou wouldst be horn-mad.|
|DON PEDRO||Nay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in|
|Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.||250|
|BENEDICK||I look for an earthquake too, then.|
|DON PEDRO||Well, you temporize with the hours. In the|
|meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to|
|Leonato's: commend me to him and tell him I will|
|not fail him at supper; for indeed he hath made|
|BENEDICK||I have almost matter enough in me for such an|
|embassage; and so I commit you--|
|CLAUDIO||To the tuition of God: From my house, if I had it,--||260|
|DON PEDRO||The sixth of July: Your loving friend, Benedick.|
|BENEDICK||Nay, mock not, mock not. The body of your|
|discourse is sometime guarded with fragments, and|
|the guards are but slightly basted on neither: ere|
|you flout old ends any further, examine your|
|conscience: and so I leave you.|
|CLAUDIO||My liege, your highness now may do me good.|
|DON PEDRO||My love is thine to teach: teach it but how,|
|And thou shalt see how apt it is to learn||270|
|Any hard lesson that may do thee good.|
|CLAUDIO||Hath Leonato any son, my lord?|
|DON PEDRO||No child but Hero; she's his only heir.|
|Dost thou affect her, Claudio?|
|CLAUDIO||O, my lord,|
|When you went onward on this ended action,|
|I look'd upon her with a soldier's eye,|
|That liked, but had a rougher task in hand|
|Than to drive liking to the name of love:|
|But now I am return'd and that war-thoughts|
|Have left their places vacant, in their rooms||280|
|Come thronging soft and delicate desires,|
|All prompting me how fair young Hero is,|
|Saying, I liked her ere I went to wars--|
|DON PEDRO||Thou wilt be like a lover presently|
|And tire the hearer with a book of words.|
|If thou dost love fair Hero, cherish it,|
|And I will break with her and with her father,|
|And thou shalt have her. Was't not to this end|
|That thou began'st to twist so fine a story?|
|CLAUDIO||How sweetly you do minister to love,||290|
|That know love's grief by his complexion!|
|But lest my liking might too sudden seem,|
|I would have salved it with a longer treatise.|
|DON PEDRO||What need the bridge much broader than the flood?|
|The fairest grant is the necessity.|
|Look, what will serve is fit: 'tis once, thou lovest,|
|And I will fit thee with the remedy.|
|I know we shall have revelling to-night:|
|I will assume thy part in some disguise|
|And tell fair Hero I am Claudio,||300|
|And in her bosom I'll unclasp my heart|
|And take her hearing prisoner with the force|
|And strong encounter of my amorous tale:|
|Then after to her father will I break;|
|And the conclusion is, she shall be thine.|
|In practise let us put it presently.|
Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 1, Scene 2
Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 1
From Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons.
Dramatis Personae. — The stage-direction in the Quarto
and the Folios is as follows: "Enter Leonato govenor of
Messina, Innogen his wife, Hero his daughter, and Beatrice his niece, with a messenger." Here we have an allusion to a
character — Innogen — who never appears in the play at all. Probably Shakespeare intended to introduce her on the scene,
found that there was no place for her, and so dropped her out of the scheme of the piece; only, through some inadvertence,
the name was left in. We might have expected the Folio version to correct the error of the Quarto. Innogen may be a
corruption of Imogen, the name, one need scarcely add, of the
heroine in Cymbeline.
Title. — It may be worth while to note that the title of the
play passed into a proverb; or was already one. Thus Cotgrave
has, "Une levee de bouclier: Much ado about nothing; a great shew, or much doings to little purpose; mightie preparations
for a meane exploit."
7 Sort. 'Rank,' or 'reputation.' So, amongst other passages,
Henry V. iv. 7. 142, "His enemy is a gentleman of great sort."
Sort is derived, through the French, from Latin sortem.
21 Badge. 'Sign.' So in Sonnet 44 we have, "Heavy tears,
badges of either's woe."
25 Kind. 'Natural.' Shakespeare applies the epithet in
Lucrece, 1423, to a picture which is true to life —
"Much imaginary work was there;
Conceit deceitful, so compact, so kind."
28 I pray you. Note that Beatrice's first enquiry is about
Benedick, for whom, of course, she has an unacknowledged
liking. The sarcastic, ironical tone of her query sounds the
keynote of the word-and-wit encounters that subsequently take
place betwixt this "happy, happy pair."
Montanto. Implying that Benedick was a great fencer, since
Montanto was a fencing term, "an upright blow or thrust," as
Cotgrave defines it. The form montant occurs in the Merry
Wives, ii. 3. 27, in a list of similar technicalities. Montanto is,
no doubt, a quasi-Italian formation from this. Cf. coranto, from
34 Pleasant, 'Witty,' 'facetious.' A very common meaning.
Cf. the French plaisant, plaisanterie.
36 Set up his bills. When a fencing-master visited a town
he posted up bills setting forth his accomplishments, and the
reasons why the world should learn fencing from him alone.
Probably, too, these notices contained challenges to all who
might feel inclined to have a bout with him. Fencers, however,
were not the only people who employed this system of reclame.
Dr. Faustus asks himself —
"Are not thy bills hung up as monuments,
Whereby whole cities have escaped the plague?"
— Act i. scene i, lines 19-20;
where the bills, pretty certainly, are the advertisements with
which, as a travelling physician, he had had towns placarded...
37 At the flight. The flight, in archery, signified a special
and very difficult kind of shooting. Elsewhere it is called
"roving," and the point of the exercise appears to have been that
the archer aimed at objects only just within arrow-shot. Clearly, therefore, the skill consisted in accurately judging distances.
39 The bird-bolt. The bird-bolt was a short blunt arrow. These bolts were used by sportsmen in shooting small birds;
being flat at the end, they would just stun the bird without
damaging its plumage, or spoiling the flesh for eating purposes.
Allusions to them are frequent. Cf. Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 3. 23, "Sweet Cupid, thou hast thumped him with thy bird-bolt;" and (to go outside Shakespeare) Lyly's Sapho and Phao,
i. I, where the distinction between bolts and ordinary arrows
is emphasised: "Hee gives thee bolts, Cupid, in steed of
arrowes." From Fletcher's Faithful Shepherdess, ii. 3, it would seem that there were other baser uses to which they came —
"Gins to catch him birds, with bow and bolt
To shoot at nimble squirrels in the holt."
"The birdbolt" is the sign of an inn at Cambridge.
40 Killed, and eaten in these wars. A natural piece of exaggeration. Cf. Henry V. iii. 7. 99-100 —
"Ram. He longs to eat the English.
"Con. I think he will eat all he kills."
42 Tax. 'Censure.' Cf. As You Like It, i. 2. 91, "You'll
be whipped for taxation."
43 Meet with you. 'Even with you.' A provincialism.
51 Stuffed with. 'Full of.' Compare Romeo and Juliet,
iii. 5. 183, "Stuffed ... with honourable parts."
60 Five wits. "The wits," says Johnson, "seem to have been
reckoned five, by analogy to the five senses, or the inlets of ideas." As a matter of fact the "five wits" are often equivalent
to the five senses. This is clear from many passages; e.g. from a quotation which Hunter gives (Illustrations, vol. ii. p. 271)
from Henry the Eighth's Primer (1546), "My five wits have I fondly misused and spent, in hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting,
and also feeling." Shakespeare has the same reference in Twelfth Night, iv. 2. 92; Sonnet 141; and Lear, iii. 4. 269. Wit,
according to Malone, was in Shakespeare's time "the general term for the intellectual power." (Dyce's Glossary to Shakespeare, p. 57.
62 Wit enough to keep himself warm. A proverb. So the Taming of the Shrew, ii. i. 268-69 —
"Pet. Am I not wise?
"Kath. Yes; keep you warm."
63 Difference. 'To serve as a distinction.' A term from heraldry, too intricate to be explained here. Compare Hamlet,
iv. 5. 183, "Wear your rue with a difference."
66 A new sworn brother. That is, 'bosom friend.' Said in
allusion to the mediaeval expression, "Frates jurati," or "Fratres
conjurati." They were persons, says Hunter, "linked together in small fellowships, perhaps not more than two, who undertook
to defend and assist each other in a military expedition under the sanction of some stricter tie than that which binds the
individuals composing a whole army to each other. They are found in genuine history, as well as in the romances of chivalry."
(Illustrations of Shakespeare, vol. i. p. 244.) Shakespeare has the phrase several times; e.g. in Richard II. v. I. 20-21 —
"Sworn brother, sweet,
To grim necessity;"
and Winter's Tale, iv. 4. 607, "What a fool Honesty is! and
Trust, his sworn brother."
70 Block. That is, 'the wooden block on which hats are
made.' A term still in use. "This is a good block," says
Lear (iv. 6. 187), meaning 'shape.'
71 Not in your books, 'Not one whom you trust, and to whom you give credit.' We still say that a man is in a person's
"books," good or bad, and probably the phrase originated in some commercial practice. To be in a tradesman's "good
books " meant that he regarded you as a safe customer, whose debts would not, in technical language, prove "bad."
74 No young squarer. That is, 'quarreler.' The noun is not found elsewhere in Shakespeare; the verb he uses several times
in this sense, e.g, in Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. I. 28-30—
"And now they never meet in grove or green,
• • • • •
But they do square."
"To square up to" a person is still in use, the metaphor of course being from the position of a boxer.
89 To meet your trouble. Said, presumably, in allusion to the proverb, "Don't meet your trouble half way."
95 Charge. 'Burden;' i.e. of entertaining Don Pedro. Mr.
Marshall aptly remarks: "The royal progresses in which the Sovereign used to indulge in Shakespeare's time no doubt
conferred great honour upon the person her majesty visited; but they were also a source of considerable expense." A famous royal visit was that which Elizabeth made to the Earl of Leicester at Kenilworth.
101 Have it full. 'Now you know all about it;' or perhaps
the words imply that Benedick has had the worst of the wit-encounter.
103 Fathers herself. 'Shows by her face who her father was.'
105 If Signior Leonato, &c. Probably Benedick says this to Beatrice, Don Pedro and Leonato having moved away. As to
the sense of the sentence. Benedick seems to mean that Hero would not care to change heads with her father; but the
repartee leaves something to be desired.
113 Courtesy. We may remember Milton's derivation — correct enough — in Comus, 322-325 —
"Thy honest offer'd courtesy,
Which oft is sooner found in lowly sheds
With smoky rafters, than in tapstry halls
In courts of princes, where it first was nam'd."
So Spenser, Faerie Queene, vi. I. i; so, too, Skeat.
114 Must convert. 'Convert' = 'change,' used intransitively,
is not uncommon. Cf. Lucrece, 592, "Stones dissolv'd to
water do convert;" and "convert from" in Sonnet 49, "Love,
converted from the thing it was."
116 Only you excepted. When "excepted" and "except"
follow the noun they are probably to be regarded as passive
participles; when they precede, as prepositions. Contrast the
present instance with iii. I. 93, "Always excepted my dear
Claudio;" and see Abbot, Shakespearian Grammar, p. 81.
119 A dear happiness. 'What good luck for them.'
128 As yours were. It is tempting to leave out the "were."
129 A rare parrot-teacher. Implying that she has a fine
faculty for prattling.
130 Of my tongue. 'Which I have taught;' or, 'A bird
with such a tongue as mine.'
159 Too low. 'Too short.' Cf. Midsummer Night's Dream,
i. I. 136, "Too high to be enthrall'd to low."
160 Too brown for a fair praise. The quibble is obvious.
As to "brown" compare what Beatrice says of herself in act ii.
scene I, "I am sun-burned." Doubtless, there is an allusion
to the Elizabethan distaste for dark complexions. As we read in
Sonnet 127, "Black was not counted fair." So Lovers Labour's Lost, iv. 3. 247-270.
168 Case. 'Jewel-box.' Case sometimes meant 'a suit of clothes.' So "Cases of buckram" in 1 Henry IV. i. 2. 201.
169 with a sad brow, 'In sober earnest,' 'seriously.' Compare As You Like It, iii. 2. 156, "Sad brow and sober maid."
"Sad" = 'serious,' 'grave,' is very common in Shakespeare.
Play the flouting Jack. As a schoolboy phrases it, "Are you
trying to be funny?" So Tempest, iv. 198, "Done little
better than played the Jack with us;" i.e, 'made fools of us.'
A Jack was the typical saucy, pert fellow. Like the French Jacques, the word had a contemptuous sense, even as early as
Chaucer's time: "Go fro the window, Jacke fool, she said"
(Canterbury Tales, 3708, "The Miller's Tale.") It has enriched the language with a whole series of compounds, "Jack-an-apes,"
"Jack-ass," "boot-Jack." With regard to what follows — "Cupid is a good hare-finder," &c. — I suspect Benedick is
talking intentional nonsense.
172 To go in. 'Join in.'
176 There's her cousin. Evidently Benedick is not so indifferent about Beatrice as he would have his friends believe.
186 Sigh away Sundays, Why Sundays? Warburton thought that it was a proverbial expression; but it does not occur elsewhere. Perhaps Sunday was only taken as being the day of rest, and there may be a sneer at the Puritan do-nothing Sabbath.
194 He. Claudio.
195 Your grace's part; i.e. 'to ask with whom he is in love.'
198-99 So were it utter'd. Like the old tale. As to the "old tale." The reference is to a popular story of the time, the tale
of Mr. Fox, a grisly conte of the "Bluebeard" type, which reappears in different guises in different countries. Cf., for
instance, the tale of Jacke of Shrewsberrie in the Ingoldsby
Legends, ii. pp. 169-185. Even with the story to guide us the text is difficult, and one is inclined to think with Johnson
that something has dropped out of the dialogue. Johnson
himself proposed a very neat change: he suggested that Claudio's speech should break off before utter'd, and that
utter'd should be assigned to Benedick. The arrangement
would then be as follows:
"Claud. If this were so, so were it (implying that Benedick's
account is incorrect).
Taking the text as it stands, I think the words mean, 'Your
description would be quite correct — if only it were true,' ...
"Bene. Utter'd like the old tale, my lad" (criticising Claudio's
rather oracular remark).
205 Fetch me in. 'To trick me into an admission that I love her.'
221 Recheat. A hunting term. When the hounds were called
off a certain set of notes was sounded on the horn; this was
called a recheat; Old French requeste; Modern, requete. No one need be reminded that Shakespeare was familiar with the
terminology of all sorts and conditions of crafts and pursuits...
222 Baldrick. 'Belt.'
225 Fine. 'End,' 'conclusion.' "The fine is the crown"
(i.e. finis coronat opus) All's Well, iv. 4. 35. Much the same
word-quibble occurs in Hamlet, v. I. 115.
235 Argument. A signal proof of the futility of railing at
marriage. Argument often = 'theme,' 'subject.' Cf. argument = 'plot of a piece.'
236 Hang me in a bottle like a cat. The domestic cat, placed
in a small wooden barrel ("bottle"), or basket, served as an
target for the Elizabethan sportsman. To add to the
happiness of the animal a quantity of soot was sometimes
inserted in the barrel.
238 Call'd Adam. Theobald was certainly right in regarding this as a reference to the famous archer and outlaw whose praises
are sung in an old ballad included in Percy's Reliques...
240 In time the savage bull. A quotation, or rather mis-quotation, from Kyd's Spanish Tragedy, which dramatists of
the time were never tired of burlesquing and poking fun at.
There is a similar hit in the Induction to the Taming of the
Shrew, 9. 10.
244 As they write. On the outside of inns and stables.
250 In Venice. Which had a very evil name. Young Englishmen of fashion resorted [there], and returned with
252 Temporize with the hours. 'Change in course of time.'
259-62 To the tuition of God, &c. This is a hit at the conventional method of ending a letter, especially an epistle dedicatory. The editors quote a good parallel from Barnabv Googe,
who finishes the dedication to his Palingenius (1560) on this
wise: "And thus committyng your Ladiship with all yours to
the tuicion of the moste mercifull God, I ende. From Staple
Inne at London, the eighte and twenty of March." Shakespeare
sneers at "the dedicated words which writers use" in Sonnet 82,
and Timon of Athens, i. i. 19-20; while his own prefaces to
the poems are commendably brief.
264 Guarded, 'Ornamented,' 'trimmed.' Guards were strips
of velvet, cloth, or whatnot, placed along the edges of clothes
to prevent their getting frayed and worn. No doubt, too, they
were made to serve as decorations. Compare Merchant of
Venice, ii. 2. 163-64 (with Mr. Beeching's note) —
"Give him a livery
More guarded than his fellows'."
In Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 3. 59, when Longaville says that
he will abjure poetry, and "write in prose," Biron replies, " O,
rhymes are guards on wanton Cupid's hose;" and parallels
without number might be quoted, down to Scott's Lay of the
Last Minstrel — "A crimson hood,
With pearls embroidered and entwined,
Guarded with gold, with ermine lined."
— Canto vi. stanza 5.
265 Flout old ends. 'Mock at.' By old ends Benedick must mean the hackneyed conclusions of letters which they have just
274 Affect, 'Love.'
276 When you went onward, &c. 'When you left for the
war which has just finished.'
279 And that. 'Now that.' Sometimes now by itself is
equivalent to 'now that' or 'when;' e.g. in Midsummer Night's
Dream, iv. I. 67, "And now I have the boy, I will undo."
(Abbott, Grammar, p. 194.)
283 To wars. The omission of the article in such adverbial
phrases is common. Cf. "To cabin," Tempest, i. i. 17; "He
foamed at mouth," Julius Ccesar, i. 2. 256. Abbott gives a
number of parallels, p. 65. The Globe Edition puts a full-stop
after wars; but probably Claudio was interrupted in the middle
of his speech by Don Pedro, who dreads a "lover's tale."
285 Book of words. 'A long harangue.' Cf. v. 2. 32.
287 Break with her, 'Disclose the matter to her.' Cf.
ii. I. 272, "I have broke with her father."
291 Complexion, Scan as four syllables.
293 Salv'd, 'Palliated.' So Sonnet 35, "Salving thy amiss."
294-6 What need the bridge, &c. The sense is simple. 'We
should dispense with all that is superfluous: best come straight
to the point: what will serve is fit.' The difficulty lies in 1. 306,
where the meaning would be much clearer if we could read plea
with Hanmer, or ground with Collier's MS, Corrector, Taking
the verse as it stands, I would interpret, 'Admit that a thing is
necessary; that is the fairer, more excellent way;' i.e. grant = 'admission' (concedo).
294 What need. The syntax here is doubtful. What may be
the adverb, and need the verb; or the former an adjective, and the
latter a noun; i.e. 'What need is there that the bridge be broader?'
296 'Tis once, 'Once for all.' A curious phrase, which
Schmidt takes rather differently, "It is a fact past help." See Abbott, p. 47.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/much_1_1.html >.
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