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Much Ado About Nothing

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ACT I SCENE II A room in LEONATO's house. 
 Enter LEONATO and ANTONIO, meeting. 
LEONATO How now, brother! Where is my cousin, your son? 
 hath he provided this music? 
ANTONIO He is very busy about it. But, brother, I can tell 
 you strange news that you yet dreamt not of.
LEONATO Are they good? 
ANTONIO As the event stamps them: but they have a good 
 cover; they show well outward. The prince and Count 
 Claudio, walking in a thick-pleached alley in mine 
 orchard, were thus much overheard by a man of mine: 10
 the prince discovered to Claudio that he loved my 
 niece your daughter and meant to acknowledge it 
 this night in a dance: and if he found her 
 accordant, he meant to take the present time by the 
 top and instantly break with you of it.
LEONATO Hath the fellow any wit that told you this? 
ANTONIO A good sharp fellow: I will send for him; and 
 question him yourself. 
LEONATO No, no; we will hold it as a dream till it appear 
 itself: but I will acquaint my daughter withal, 20
 that she may be the better prepared for an answer, 
 if peradventure this be true. Go you and tell her of it. 
 Enter Attendants. 
 Cousins, you know what you have to do. O, I cry you 
 mercy, friend; go you with me, and I will use your 
 skill. Good cousin, have a care this busy time.

Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 1, Scene 3


Explanatory Notes for Act 1, Scene 2

From Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons.

1 Cousin. Really 'nephew.' But these terms of relationship were used very loosely. So nephew is put for cousin in I Henry VI, ii. 5. 64; for grandchild in Othello, i. i. 112; and in Marlowe's Dido Queen of Carthage, ii. I. 335, Venus addresses Ascanius thus: "Sleep, my sweet nephew, in these cooling streams." Spenser, in the Faerie Queene, book iii. canto 3, stanza 13, has coosen = 'kindred;' and elsewhere he uses nephews exactly in the same sense as the Latin nepotes. Derivation, consobrinus, 'the child of a mother's sister.'

6 As the event, &c. 'That shall be as the issue shows.' Only the later Folios read event; first Folio and Quarto have events.

8 Thick-pleached. 'Closely interwoven.' Pleach is from the Old French plessier "to plash, plait young branches, one within another." (Cotgrave.) ... We have "hedges even-pleached" in Henry V. v. 2. 42; and "pleached arms" = 'folded arms' in Antony and Cleopatra, iv. 14. 73. Compare, too, the present play, iii. i. 7. In old-fashioned gardens one sometimes finds rows of yew-trees along a pathway trained to meet overhead, and so form a "thick-pleached alley."

9 Orchard. 'Garden.' Cf. Hamlet, i. 5. 35, "Sleeping in my orchard." Orchard only means 'herb-gard,' from A. S. wyrtgeard, and the literal use of the word is regular in Shakespeare and Elizabethan writers. So "Orchard of the Hesperides" frequently takes the place of the more usual "Garden of the Hesperides."

12 Accordant. 'Willing.'

13 To take the present time, &c. An exact parallel occurs in All's Well, V. 3. 39, "Let's take the instant by the forward top." Everyone will recollect the proverb, "Take time by the forelock," and some will remember Othello, iii. i. 52, 53 —
"To take the saf'st occasion by the front
To bring you in again."
18 Appear itself. Perhaps the verb is reflexive. Dyce would read approve.

21 Enter Attendants. So the Cambridge editors. The quarto and folios have no stage-direction, and the close of the scene is rather confusing. Probably Antonio leaves the stage after Leonato says, "Go you, and tell her of it." In the remaining lines Leonato must be speaking to the attendants, though it is strange that he should address them as cousins, even if we interpret cousins to mean kinsmen.

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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