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Much Ado About Nothing

HEROGood Ursula, wake my cousin Beatrice, and desire
her to rise.
URSULAI will, lady.
HEROAnd bid her come hither.
MARGARETTroth, I think your other rabato were better.
HERONo, pray thee, good Meg, I’ll wear this.
MARGARETBy my troth, ‘s not so good; and I warrant your
cousin will say so.
HEROMy cousin’s a fool, and thou art another: I’ll wear
none but this. 11
MARGARETI 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.
HEROO, that exceeds, they say.
MARGARETBy 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.
HEROGod give me joy to wear it! for my heart is
exceeding heavy. 23
MARGARET‘Twill be heavier soon by the weight of a man.
HEROFie upon thee! art not ashamed?
MARGARETOf 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.
HEROGood morrow, coz.
BEATRICEGood morrow, sweet Hero.
HEROWhy how now? do you speak in the sick tune?
BEATRICEI am out of all other tune, methinks.
MARGARETClap’s into ‘Light o’ love;’ that goes without a
burden: do you sing it, and I’ll dance it.
BEATRICEYe light o’ love, with your heels! then, if your
husband have stables enough, you’ll see he shall
lack no barns.
MARGARETO 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!
MARGARETFor a hawk, a horse, or a husband?
BEATRICEFor the letter that begins them all, H.
MARGARETWell, and you be not turned Turk, there’s no more
sailing by the star.
BEATRICEWhat means the fool, trow?
MARGARETNothing I; but God send every one their heart’s desire!
HEROThese gloves the count sent me; they are an 55
excellent perfume.
BEATRICEI am stuffed, cousin; I cannot smell.
MARGARETA maid, and stuffed! there’s goodly catching of cold.
BEATRICEO, God help me! God help me! how long have you
professed apprehension? 60
MARGARETEven since you left it. Doth not my wit become me rarely?
BEATRICEIt is not seen enough, you should wear it in your
cap. By my troth, I am sick.
MARGARETGet you some of this distilled Carduus Benedictus,
and lay it to your heart: it is the only thing for a qualm.
HEROThere thou prickest her with a thistle.
BEATRICEBenedictus! why Benedictus? you have some moral in
this Benedictus. 70
MARGARETMoral! 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
BEATRICEWhat pace is this that thy tongue keeps?
MARGARETNot a false gallop.
Re-enter URSULA.
URSULAMadam, withdraw: the prince, the count, Signior
Benedick, Don John, and all the gallants of the
town, are come to fetch you to church.
HEROHelp 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.

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 theFaithful 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.