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Much Ado About Nothing

DON PEDROI do but stay till your marriage be consummate, and
then go I toward Arragon.
CLAUDIOI’ll bring you thither, my lord, if you’ll
vouchsafe me.
DON PEDRONay, that would be as great a soil in the new gloss
of your marriage as to show a child his new coat
and forbid him to wear it. I will only be bold
with Benedick for his company; for, from the crown
of his head to the sole of his foot, he is all
mirth: he hath twice or thrice cut Cupid’s
bow-string and the little hangman dare not shoot at
him; he hath a heart as sound as a bell and his
tongue is the clapper, for what his heart thinks his
tongue speaks. 13
BENEDICKGallants, I am not as I have been.
LEONATOSo say I methinks you are sadder.
CLAUDIOI hope he be in love.
DON PEDROHang him, truant! there’s no true drop of blood in
him, to be truly touched with love: if he be sad,
he wants money.
BENEDICKI have the toothache. 20
CLAUDIOYou must hang it first, and draw it afterwards.
DON PEDROWhat! sigh for the toothache?
LEONATOWhere is but a humour or a worm.
BENEDICKWell, every one can master a grief but he that has
CLAUDIOYet say I, he is in love. 28
DON PEDROThere is no appearance of fancy in him, unless it be
a fancy that he hath to strange disguises; as, to be
a Dutchman today, a Frenchman to-morrow, or in the
shape of two countries at once, as, a German from
the waist downward, all slops, and a Spaniard from
the hip upward, no doublet. Unless he have a fancy
to this foolery, as it appears he hath, he is no
fool for fancy, as you would have it appear he is.
CLAUDIOIf he be not in love with some woman, there is no
believing old signs: a’ brushes his hat o’
mornings; what should that bode? 39
DON PEDROHath any man seen him at the barber’s?
CLAUDIONo, but the barber’s man hath been seen with him,
and the old ornament of his cheek hath already
stuffed tennis-balls.
LEONATOIndeed, he looks younger than he did, by the loss of a beard.
DON PEDRONay, a’ rubs himself with civet: can you smell him
out by that?
CLAUDIOThat’s as much as to say, the sweet youth’s in love.
DON PEDROThe greatest note of it is his melancholy. 50
CLAUDIOAnd when was he wont to wash his face?
DON PEDROYea, or to paint himself? for the which, I hear
what they say of him.
CLAUDIONay, but his jesting spirit; which is now crept into
a lute-string and now governed by stops.
DON PEDROIndeed, that tells a heavy tale for him: conclude,
conclude he is in love.
CLAUDIONay, but I know who loves him.
DON PEDROThat would I know too: I warrant, one that knows him not. 60
CLAUDIOYes, and his ill conditions; and, in despite of
all, dies for him.
DON PEDROShe shall be buried with her face upwards.
BENEDICKYet is this no charm for the toothache. Old
signior, walk aside with me: I have studied eight
or nine wise words to speak to you, which these
hobby-horses must not hear.
DON PEDROFor my life, to break with him about Beatrice.
CLAUDIO‘Tis even so. Hero and Margaret have by this
played their parts with Beatrice; and then the two
bears will not bite one another when they meet. 71
DON JOHNMy lord and brother, God save you!
DON PEDROGood den, brother.
DON JOHNIf your leisure served, I would speak with you.
DON PEDROIn private?
DON JOHNIf it please you: yet Count Claudio may hear; for
what I would speak of concerns him.
DON PEDROWhat’s the matter?
DON JOHNTo CLAUDIO Means your lordship
to be married to-morrow? 80
DON PEDROYou know he does.
DON JOHNI know not that, when he knows what I know.
CLAUDIOIf there be any impediment, I pray you discover it.
DON JOHNYou may think I love you not: let that appear
hereafter, and aim better at me by that I now will
manifest. For my brother, I think he holds you
well, and in dearness of heart hath holp to effect
your ensuing marriage;–surely suit ill spent and
labour ill bestowed.
DON PEDROWhy, what’s the matter? 90
DON JOHNI came hither to tell you; and, circumstances
shortened, for she has been too long a talking of,
the lady is disloyal.
DON PEDROEven she; Leonato’s Hero, your Hero, every man’s Hero:
DON JOHNThe word is too good to paint out her wickedness; I
could say she were worse: think you of a worse
title, and I will fit her to it. Wonder not till
further warrant: go but with me to-night, you shall
see her chamber-window entered, even the night
before her wedding-day: if you love her then,
to-morrow wed her; but it would better fit your honour
to change your mind. 104
CLAUDIOMay this be so?
DON PEDROI will not think it.
DON JOHNIf you dare not trust that you see, confess not
that you know: if you will follow me, I will show
you enough; and when you have seen more and heard
more, proceed accordingly.
CLAUDIOIf I see any thing to-night why I should not marry
her to-morrow in the congregation, where I should
wed, there will I shame her.
DON PEDROAnd, as I wooed for thee to obtain her, I will join
with thee to disgrace her.
DON JOHNI will disparage her no farther till you are my
witnesses: bear it coldly but till midnight, and
let the issue show itself.
DON PEDROO day untowardly turned!
CLAUDIOO mischief strangely thwarting! 120
DON JOHNO plague right well prevented! so will you say when
you have seen the sequel.

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


Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 2

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

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 everywhere.”

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 Elizabethan ways.

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.