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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 Messenger ]
LEONATOI learn in this letter that Don Peter of Arragon
comes this night to Messina.
MessengerHe is very near by this: he was not three leagues off
when I left him.
LEONATOHow many gentlemen have you lost in this action?
MessengerBut few of any sort, and none of name.
LEONATOA 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
MessengerMuch 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.
LEONATOHe hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much
glad of it.
MessengerI 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
LEONATODid he break out into tears?
MessengerIn great measure.
LEONATOA 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!
BEATRICEI pray you, is Signior Mountanto returned from the
wars or no?
MessengerI know none of that name, lady: there was none such
in the army of any sort.31
LEONATOWhat is he that you ask for, niece?
HEROMy cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.
MessengerO, he's returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.
BEATRICEHe 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
LEONATOFaith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much;
but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.
MessengerHe hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
BEATRICEYou had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it:
he is a very valiant trencherman; he hath an
excellent stomach.
MessengerAnd a good soldier too, lady.
BEATRICEAnd a good soldier to a lady: but what is he to a lord?50
MessengerA lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all
honourable virtues.
BEATRICEIt is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man:
but for the stuffing,--well, we are all mortal.
LEONATOYou 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
between them.
BEATRICEAlas! 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
MessengerIs't possible?
BEATRICEVery easily possible: he wears his faith but as
the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the
next block.
MessengerI see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.
BEATRICENo; an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray
you, who is his companion? Is there no young70
squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the devil?
MessengerHe is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
BEATRICEO 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
MessengerI will hold friends with you, lady.
BEATRICEDo, good friend.
LEONATOYou will never run mad, niece.
BEATRICENo, not till a hot January.
MessengerDon Pedro is approached.
DON PEDROGood Signior Leonato, you are come to meet your
trouble: the fashion of the world is to avoid
cost, and you encounter it.90
LEONATONever 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 PEDROYou embrace your charge too willingly. I think this
is your daughter.
LEONATOHer mother hath many times told me so.
BENEDICKWere you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?
LEONATOSignior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.100
DON PEDROYou 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
honourable father.
BENEDICKIf Signior Leonato be her father, she would not
have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as
like him as she is.
BEATRICEI wonder that you will still be talking, Signior
Benedick: nobody marks you.
BENEDICKWhat, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet living?111
BEATRICEIs 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.
BENEDICKThen 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.
BEATRICEA 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
BENEDICKGod keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some
gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate
scratched face.
BEATRICEScratching could not make it worse, an't were such
a face as yours were.
BENEDICKWell, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
BEATRICEA bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.131
BENEDICKI 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.
BEATRICEYou always end with a jade's trick; I know you of old.
DON PEDROThat 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
LEONATOIf you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.
Let me bid you welcome, my lord: being reconciled to
the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.
DON JOHNI thank you: I am not of many words, but I thank
LEONATOPlease it your grace lead on?
DON PEDROYour hand, Leonato; we will go together.
[Exeunt all except BENEDICK and CLAUDIO]
CLAUDIOBenedick, didst thou note the daughter of Signior Leonato?151
BENEDICKI noted her not; but I looked on her.
CLAUDIOIs she not a modest young lady?
BENEDICKDo 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?
CLAUDIONo; I pray thee speak in sober judgment.
BENEDICKWhy, 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.
CLAUDIOThou thinkest I am in sport: I pray thee tell me164
truly how thou likest her.
BENEDICKWould you buy her, that you inquire after her?
CLAUDIOCan the world buy such a jewel?
BENEDICKYea, 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?
CLAUDIOIn mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I
looked on.174
BENEDICKI 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?
CLAUDIOI would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the
contrary, if Hero would be my wife.
BENEDICKIs'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 PEDROWhat secret hath held you here, that you followed
not to Leonato's?
BENEDICKI would your grace would constrain me to tell.
DON PEDROI charge thee on thy allegiance.
BENEDICKYou 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
short daughter.
CLAUDIOIf this were so, so were it uttered.
BENEDICKLike the old tale, my lord: 'it is not so, nor
't was not so, but, indeed, God forbid it should be
CLAUDIOIf my passion change not shortly, God forbid it
should be otherwise.
DON PEDROAmen, if you love her; for the lady is very well worthy.
CLAUDIOYou speak this to fetch me in, my lord.
DON PEDROBy my troth, I speak my thought.
CLAUDIOAnd, in faith, my lord, I spoke mine.
BENEDICKAnd, by my two faiths and troths, my lord, I spoke mine.
CLAUDIOThat I love her, I feel.210
DON PEDROThat she is worthy, I know.
BENEDICKThat 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 PEDROThou wast ever an obstinate heretic in the despite
of beauty.
CLAUDIOAnd never could maintain his part but in the force
of his will.
BENEDICKThat 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 PEDROI shall see thee, ere I die, look pale with love.
BENEDICKWith 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
blind Cupid.
DON PEDROWell, if ever thou dost fall from this faith, thou
wilt prove a notable argument.
BENEDICKIf 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 PEDROWell, as time shall try: 'In time the savage bull
doth bear the yoke.'240
BENEDICKThe 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.'
CLAUDIOIf this should ever happen, thou wouldst be horn-mad.
DON PEDRONay, if Cupid have not spent all his quiver in
Venice, thou wilt quake for this shortly.250
BENEDICKI look for an earthquake too, then.
DON PEDROWell, 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
great preparation.
BENEDICKI have almost matter enough in me for such an
embassage; and so I commit you--
CLAUDIOTo the tuition of God: From my house, if I had it,--260
DON PEDROThe sixth of July: Your loving friend, Benedick.
BENEDICKNay, 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.
CLAUDIOMy liege, your highness now may do me good.
DON PEDROMy love is thine to teach: teach it but how,
And thou shalt see how apt it is to learn270
Any hard lesson that may do thee good.
CLAUDIOHath Leonato any son, my lord?
DON PEDRONo child but Hero; she's his only heir.
Dost thou affect her, Claudio?
CLAUDIOO, 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 rooms280
Come thronging soft and delicate desires,
All prompting me how fair young Hero is,
Saying, I liked her ere I went to wars--
DON PEDROThou 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?
CLAUDIOHow 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 PEDROWhat 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 courant.

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).

"Bene. Utter'd like the old tale, my lad" (criticising Claudio's rather oracular remark).
Taking the text as it stands, I think the words mean, 'Your description would be quite correct — if only it were true,' ...

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 manners unimproved...

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 been ridiculing.

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." Treatise, 'Discourse.'

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) < >.


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