From Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons.
3 Bring. 'Accompany.'
10 Cut Cupid's bow-string. A way of saying that Cupid had
been completely disabled. In Midsummer Night's Dream, i. 2.
114, the phrase has a different meaning.
11 Sound as a bell. Really an involuntary play upon the
double meaning of sound, 'healthy' and 'clear-sounding.'
"Sound as things that are hollow," Measure for Measure, i. 2.
56, when the quibble is intentional.
20 Tooth-ache. Considered an appropriate malady for the love-sick. The editors quote from one of Beaumont and
Fletcher's plays, The False One, ii. 3 —
"You had best be troubled with the tooth-ache too,
For lovers ever are."
23 Hang it first. Referring obviously to the capital punishment, to be hanged, drawn, and quartered.
25 Or a worm. A vulgar theory as to the cause of tooth-ache
that still survives.
26 Every one can master. The truism which Leonato
expands, (v. i. 5-19.)
29 Fancy. 'Love,' as often; e.g. "Maiden meditation, fancy-free," Midsummer Night's Dream, ii. i. 164. Used here with
an obvious quibble.
30 Strange disguises. In what follows, lines 33-37 (most of
which is omitted in the Folios), Shakespeare satirises the foibles
of contemporary fashion. Stubbes and Harrison and such like
censorious moralists perpetually denounce the extravagance and absurdities of the Englishman's dress at this time. The English,
they say, must always ape foreign ways. Travellers go to Italy
and return "Italianate" (their favourite word), to scoff at everything English. (Cf. As You Like It, iv. I. 34-41.) We may
remember, too, Portia's criticism on "Falconbridge, the young
baron of England," Merchant of Venice, i. 2. 79-81, "How
oddly he is suited!" I think he bought his doublet in Italy, his
round hose in France, his bonnet in Germany, and his behaviour
33 Slops. 'Very wide breeches.' Cf. 2 Henry IV. i. 2. 34,
"Satin for my short cloak and my slops."
34 No doublet. Because the Spanish cloak was so long and
ample as to hide the doublet.
38 Brushes his hat. Curiously enough we are told in As You Like It, iii. 2. 398, that the lover should be careful to have his
"bonnet unhanded;" and a resume of the appropriate love
symptoms is given in Heywood's Maid of the Exchange —
"Cross-arm myself; study ay-mes;
Defy my hat-band; tread beneath my feet
Shoe-strings and garters."
But Benedick was not the man to be conventional and woo with
the ordinary wiles of disconsolate lovers. Beatrice would have
ridiculed him to death.
43 Tennis balls. 'Stuffed with hair.'
46 Civet. Used as a perfume, though, as Touchstone told the shepherd in As You Like It, iii. 2. 66. it is "of a baser birth
than tar." Stubbes in the Anatomy of Abuses (New Shakespeare Society's Reprint, part i. p. 77) asks: "Is not this a
certen sweete Pride to have civet, muske, sweete powders?" &C. Lear wanted "an ounce of civet to sweeten (his) imagination." (iv. 6. 132-133.)
51 To wash his face. Meaning, perhaps, as Mr. Marshall
suggests, with some preparation or wash for the complexion;
an anticipation, that is, of the "paint himself" in the next line.
Otherwise Claudio's remark would be a curious commentary on
52 Paint himself. Ladies regularly used cosmetics, dyes, &c.; "Fairing the foul with art's false borrowed face," Sonnet 129...
67 hobby-horses. A term of contempt. [A reference to the silly costumes worn by morris-dancers.]
70 Two bears. That is, saevis inter se convenit ursis, Cf.
Troilus and Cressida, v. 7, "One bear will not bite another."
73 Good den. Short for the full phrase, "God give you good
evening." So Romeo and Juliet, ii. 4. 115; As You Like It,
V. I. 16.
86 Aim better at me. 'Make a better guess at my feelings
towards you from what I am about to say.'
91 Circumstances shorten'd. 'To be brief.' Circumstance
occasionally = 'elaborate detail,' as in Othello, iii. 2. 354, "Circumstance of war." Sometimes circumlocution is the nearest
equivalent; e.g. in Merchant of Venice, i. i. 154, and Hamlet, i. 5. 127.
101 Her chamber window entered. As a matter of fact what
Claudio does see is Borachio talking at the window with
Margaret. Cf. Claudio's question to Hero in act iv. i. 84, 85.
105 May this be so. Claudio takes the blow quite calmly;
indeed it is scarcely a blow for his feeble, shallow nature. At
best he expresses only a mild incredulity in his question. Don
Pedro, on the other hand, roundly refuses to believe the story.
The contrast is an effective piece of characterisation.
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_3_2.html >.