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Much Ado About Nothing

Please see the bottom of this page for detailed explanatory notes and related resources.

ACT III SCENE V Another room in LEONATO'S house. 
LEONATO What would you with me, honest neighbour? 
DOGBERRY Marry, sir, I would have some confidence with you 
 that decerns you nearly. 
LEONATO Brief, I pray you; for you see it is a busy time with me.
DOGBERRY Marry, this it is, sir. 
VERGES Yes, in truth it is, sir. 
LEONATO What is it, my good friends? 8 
DOGBERRY Goodman Verges, sir, speaks a little off the 
 matter: an old man, sir, and his wits are not so
 blunt as, God help, I would desire they were; but, 
 in faith, honest as the skin between his brows. 
VERGES Yes, I thank God I am as honest as any man living 
 that is an old man and no honester than I. 
DOGBERRY Comparisons are odorous: palabras, neighbour Verges.
LEONATO Neighbours, you are tedious. 
DOGBERRY It pleases your worship to say so, but we are the 
 poor duke's officers; but truly, for mine own part, 
 if I were as tedious as a king, I could find it in 
 my heart to bestow it all of your worship. 21
LEONATO All thy tediousness on me, ah? 
DOGBERRY Yea, an 'twere a thousand pound more than 'tis; for 
 I hear as good exclamation on your worship as of any 
 man in the city; and though I be but a poor man, I 
 am glad to hear it.
VERGES And so am I. 
LEONATO I would fain know what you have to say. 
VERGES Marry, sir, our watch to-night, excepting your 
 worship's presence, ha' ta'en a couple of as arrant 
 knaves as any in Messina. 31
DOGBERRY A good old man, sir; he will be talking: as they 
 say, when the age is in, the wit is out: God help 
 us! it is a world to see. Well said, i' faith, 
 neighbour Verges: well, God's a good man; an two men 
 ride of a horse, one must ride behind. An honest
 soul, i' faith, sir; by my troth he is, as ever 
 broke bread; but God is to be worshipped; all men 
 are not alike; alas, good neighbour! 
LEONATO Indeed, neighbour, he comes too short of you. 
DOGBERRY Gifts that God gives. 41
LEONATO I must leave you. 
DOGBERRY One word, sir: our watch, sir, have indeed 
 comprehended two aspicious persons, and we would 
 have them this morning examined before your worship. 
LEONATO Take their examination yourself and bring it me: I
 am now in great haste, as it may appear unto you. 
DOGBERRY It shall be suffigance. 
LEONATO Drink some wine ere you go: fare you well. 
 Enter a Messenger. 
Messenger My lord, they stay for you to give your daughter to 
 her husband. 50
LEONATO I'll wait upon them: I am ready. 
 Exeunt LEONATO and Messenger. 
DOGBERRY Go, good partner, go, get you to Francis Seacole; 
 bid him bring his pen and inkhorn to the gaol: we 
 are now to examination these men. 
VERGES And we must do it wisely.
DOGBERRY We will spare for no wit, I warrant you; here's 
 that shall drive some of them to a non-come: only 
 get the learned writer to set down our 
 excommunication and meet me at the gaol. 

Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 5

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

12 Honest as the skin, &c. A proverbial expression. The editors quote from Gammer Gurton's Needle, v. 2, "I am as true ... as skin betwene thy brows."

15 Comparisons are odorous. "Every schoolboy" will remember Mrs. Maloprop's "Caparisons are odious."

Palabras. A corruption of the Spanish pocas palabras — 'few words,' an Elizabethan equivalent of "Shut up." No doubt sailors who went out with Drake and Raleigh and the sea-marauders of the time brought back these scraps of foreign slang. This particular phrase occurs very often; e.g. in the Induction to the Taming of the Shrew, line 5. From palabras comes palaver. Same root as parable, parole, &c.

18 It pleases, &c. Evidently Dogberry imagines that tediousness is a valuable possession; hence his flattering readiness to make Leonato a present of it.

19 The poor duke's officers. Meaning 'the duke's poor officers.' "The poor duke's constable," Measure for Measure, ii. I. 48.

29 To-night. Meaning 'last night.' Cf. Merchant of Venice, ii. 4. 17-18 —

"There is some ill a-brewing towards my rest,
For I did dream of money-bags to-night."
See Abbott, p. 126.

Excepting. Like "Saving your reverence" in the last scene, 33; a vulgarism that has survived.

33 When the age. An unauthorised version of the proverb, "When the ale is in the wit is out." The editors quote Heywood's Epigrams and Proverbs

"When ale is in, wit is out
When ale is out, wit is in.
The first thou showest out of doubt,
The last in thee hath not bin."

34 It is a world. Perhaps a proverbial saying. "It is a world to hear their presumption," Bernard's Translation of Terence, 1598; quoted in the New Shakspere Society's papers (1875-1876), p. 460. Compare Taming of the Shrew, ii. 313. Our phrase would be, "It is a treat."

57 Non-come. Dogberry is probably thinking of the legal phrase non compos mentis. He has heard it somewhere, and drags a fragment in, to the admiration, doubtless, of his brother-officials.

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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