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Much Ado About Nothing

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ACT III SCENE IV HERO's apartment. 
HERO Good Ursula, wake my cousin Beatrice, and desire 
 her to rise. 
URSULA I will, lady. 
HERO And bid her come hither.
MARGARET Troth, I think your other rabato were better. 
HERO No, pray thee, good Meg, I'll wear this. 
MARGARET By my troth, 's not so good; and I warrant your 
 cousin will say so.
HERO My cousin's a fool, and thou art another: I'll wear 
 none but this. 11 
MARGARET I like the new tire within excellently, if the hair 
 were a thought browner; and your gown's a most rare 
 fashion, i' faith. I saw the Duchess of Milan's
 gown that they praise so. 
HERO O, that exceeds, they say. 
MARGARET By my troth, 's but a night-gown in respect of 
 yours: cloth o' gold, and cuts, and laced with 
 silver, set with pearls, down sleeves, side sleeves,
 and skirts, round underborne with a bluish tinsel: 
 but for a fine, quaint, graceful and excellent 
 fashion, yours is worth ten on 't. 
HERO God give me joy to wear it! for my heart is 
 exceeding heavy. 23
MARGARET 'Twill be heavier soon by the weight of a man. 
HERO Fie upon thee! art not ashamed? 
MARGARET Of what, lady? of speaking honourably? Is not 
 marriage honourable in a beggar? Is not your lord 
 honourable without marriage? I think you would have
 me say, 'saving your reverence, a husband:' and bad 
 thinking do not wrest true speaking, I'll offend 
 nobody: is there any harm in 'the heavier for a 
 husband'? None, I think, and it be the right husband 
 and the right wife; otherwise 'tis light, and not 33
 heavy: ask my Lady Beatrice else; here she comes. 
HERO Good morrow, coz. 
BEATRICE Good morrow, sweet Hero. 
HERO Why how now? do you speak in the sick tune? 
BEATRICE I am out of all other tune, methinks.
MARGARET Clap's into 'Light o' love;' that goes without a 
 burden: do you sing it, and I'll dance it. 
BEATRICE Ye light o' love, with your heels! then, if your 
 husband have stables enough, you'll see he shall 
 lack no barns.
MARGARET O illegitimate construction! I scorn that with my heels. 45 
BEATRICE 'Tis almost five o'clock, cousin; tis time you were 
 ready. By my troth, I am exceeding ill: heigh-ho! 
MARGARET For a hawk, a horse, or a husband? 
BEATRICE For the letter that begins them all, H.
MARGARET Well, and you be not turned Turk, there's no more 
 sailing by the star. 
BEATRICE What means the fool, trow? 
MARGARET Nothing I; but God send every one their heart's desire! 
HERO These gloves the count sent me; they are an 55
 excellent perfume. 
BEATRICE I am stuffed, cousin; I cannot smell. 
MARGARET A maid, and stuffed! there's goodly catching of cold. 
BEATRICE O, God help me! God help me! how long have you 
 professed apprehension? 60
MARGARET Even since you left it. Doth not my wit become me rarely? 
BEATRICE It is not seen enough, you should wear it in your 
 cap. By my troth, I am sick. 
MARGARET Get you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus, 
 and lay it to your heart: it is the only thing for a qualm.
HERO There thou prickest her with a thistle. 
BEATRICE Benedictus! why Benedictus? you have some moral in 
 this Benedictus. 70 
MARGARET Moral! no, by my troth, I have no moral meaning; I 
 meant, plain holy-thistle. You may think perchance
 that I think you are in love: nay, by'r lady, I am 
 not such a fool to think what I list, nor I list 
 not to think what I can, nor indeed I cannot think, 
 if I would think my heart out of thinking, that you 
 are in love or that you will be in love or that you
 can be in love. Yet Benedick was such another, and 
 now is he become a man: he swore he would never 
 marry, and yet now, in despite of his heart, he eats 
 his meat without grudging: and how you may be 
 converted I know not, but methinks you look with
 your eyes as other women do. 82 
BEATRICE What pace is this that thy tongue keeps? 
MARGARET Not a false gallop. 
 Re-enter URSULA. 
URSULA Madam, withdraw: the prince, the count, Signior 
 Benedick, Don John, and all the gallants of the
 town, are come to fetch you to church. 
HERO Help to dress me, good coz, good Meg, good Ursula. 

Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3, Scene 5


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 4

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

6 Rabato. The rabato (or rebato, from Old French rebatre) was a kind of collar or ruff, such as we see in portraits of the period. It was kept in its place by means of stiff wires, and these wires were sometimes called rabatos, though Autolycus preferred the old-fashioned title, "poking-sticks of steel," Winter's Tale, iv. 4. 228.

12 Tire. 'Head-dress.' "Tire of Venetian admittance" (fashion), Merry Wives, iii. 3. 61.

16 That exceeds. 'Is fine beyond words.' Cf. use of "passing" to signify anything very remarkable.

17 Night-gown. 'Dressing-gown.'

18 Cuts. The edges of the dress shaped so as to fall gracefully.

19 Side sleeves. Worn over the ordinary sleeve, and made so long as to touch the ground. Even men affected them.

20 Underborne. 'Trimmed.' Only here in this sense; elsewhere, e.g. John, iii. i. 65, underbear = 'endure.'

Tinsel. 'Bright trimming with silver in it.' French, etincelle; Latin, scintilla. The word suggested anything that had a silvery, flashing surface. So Herrick speaks of a moonbeam "tinselling the streams;" and tinsel-slippered is Milton's epithet for Thetis, whom Homer had described as silver-footed. See Comus, 877.

Quaint. 'Dainty.' Really from cognitus, but confused with comptus. O.F. coint, "quaint, compt, neat, fine." (Cotgrave.)

29 "Saving your reverence, a husband." The Globe Edition, following Quarto and Folios, treats the whole passage as a quotation, and rightly. Hero (her maid implies) was so prudish, that the very mention of the word husband required an apology. In most editions only a husband is placed between marks of quotations.

30 Wrest. 'Misinterpret.' "This ill-wresting world," Sonnet 140.

39 Clap us into. 'Let us begin.' "Shall we clap into 't roundly?" As You Like It, v. 3. 11.

Light o' love. A favourite old song often referred to. Cf. the Two Gentlemen of Verona, i. 2. 83-85. The original words have been lost; the music is given in Chappell's Popular Music, p. 222.

40 Without a burden. This agrees with the above-noted passage in the Two Gentlemen, "The burden of a song, in the old acceptation of the word, was the base, foot or undersong. It was sung throughout, and not merely at the end of the verse," Popular Music of the Olden Time, p. 222. Chaucer uses the word in its strict sense —

"This Sompnour bar to him a stif burdoun,
Was never trompe of half so gret a soun."

From French bourdon, 'a drone-bee,' 'humming of bees,' 'drone of a bag-pipe;' probably of imitative origin. (Skeat.)

43 No barns. Meaning bairns ('children'). Perdita in the Winter's Tale, iii. 3. 70, is "a barne; a very pretty barne." The Middle English form of bairn was barn; hence the joke was more obvious then. Bairn = 'that which is born;' same root as fero.

44 Construction. 'Interpretation.'

45 With my heels. A way of showing contempt. Cf. Merchant of Venice, ii. 2. 33. Obviously Margaret refers to the first part of Beatrice's speech.

46 Five o'clock. As far as I know, this is quite the most matutinal marriage in Shakespeare.

49 For the letter. A quibble on H and ache, the latter having been pronounced aitch. For aches (the substantive) as a dissyllable cf. Tempest, i. 2. 370, "Fill all thy bones with aches, make thee roar;" and Timon of Athens, i. I. 257, "Aches contract and starve your supple joints." Curiously enough the verb was pronounced as now. Cf. Comedy of Errors iii. I. 58. One of Heywood's Epigrams says —

"H is worst among letters in the crossrow (alphabet),
For if thou find him either in thine elbow,
In thy arm, or leg, in any degree;
In thine head, or teeth, or toe, or knee;
Into what place soever H may pike him.
Wherever thou find ache thou shalt not like him."

50 Turned Turk. 'Changed utterly;' i.e. 'become a convert to love.' The phrase is not uncommon. Cf. Hamlet, iii. 2. 287, and Othello, ii. 2. 170, where the quibble is clear. I find it in one of Sedley's comedies, Bellamira, iv. 6, "I will turn Turk, but I will avoid wine hereafter." It always means 'to change completely.'

51 The star. The Polestar, beautifully described elsewhere as "The star to every wandering bark," Sonnet 116. So Fletcher, in the Faithful Shepherdess, i. 2, speaks of —

"That fair star
That guides the wandering seaman through the deep."

Compare Julius Caesar, iii. I. 60. By = 'according to.'

56 Perfume. Nares quotes several passages which show that it was a regular practice to scent gloves. Autolycus, in the Winter's Tale, iv. 4. 222, has "Gloves as sweet as damask roses."

60 Apprehension. 'Cleverness,' 'wit;' not 'fear,' as now. Compare ii. I. 84, "You apprehend shrewdly."

65 Carduus Benedictus. Thought at one time to be "a sovereign aid" in all sorts of ailments; especially potent "to expel any evil symptom from the heart;" hence appropriately mentioned here. According to Ellacombe, the blessed thistle was "supposed even to cure the plague, which was the highest praise that could be given to a medicine in those days."

70 Moral. 'Hidden meaning.' Moralise, the verb, often signifies 'to explain the meaning,' 'interpret.' Cf. As You Like It, ii. I. 44, "Did he not moralise this spectacle?" Of course, by "some moral" Beatrice meant an allusion to Benedick.

80 Eats his meat, &c. Referring, possibly, to some lost proverb. None of the notes are worth reproducing. In such passages of conventional and occasionally coarse sparring some allusions must escape us. We know Elizabethan life well, but not quite well enough to be able to explain every casual touch.

84 A false gallop. Evidently a proverbial phrase. Cf. As You Like It, iii. 2. 119, "This is the very false gallop." Nash has it in one of his pamphlets, Pierce Pennilesse (1593), "I would trot a false gallop through the rest of his ragged (i,e, 'rugged') verses." The idea is that of a horse thrown out of its paces and moving in a jerky fashion, or as Shakespeare says, a "forc'd gait," 1 Henry IV, iii. i. 135.


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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