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Much Ado About Nothing

ACT III SCENE VAnother room in LEONATO’S house.
LEONATOWhat would you with me, honest neighbour?
DOGBERRYMarry, sir, I would have some confidence with you
that decerns you nearly.
LEONATOBrief, I pray you; for you see it is a busy time with me.
DOGBERRYMarry, this it is, sir.
VERGESYes, in truth it is, sir.
LEONATOWhat is it, my good friends? 8
DOGBERRYGoodman 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.
VERGESYes, I thank God I am as honest as any man living
that is an old man and no honester than I.
DOGBERRYComparisons are odorous: palabras, neighbour Verges.
LEONATONeighbours, you are tedious.
DOGBERRYIt 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
LEONATOAll thy tediousness on me, ah?
DOGBERRYYea, 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.
VERGESAnd so am I.
LEONATOI would fain know what you have to say.
VERGESMarry, sir, our watch to-night, excepting your
worship’s presence, ha’ ta’en a couple of as arrant
knaves as any in Messina. 31
DOGBERRYA 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!
LEONATOIndeed, neighbour, he comes too short of you.
DOGBERRYGifts that God gives. 41
LEONATOI must leave you.
DOGBERRYOne word, sir: our watch, sir, have indeed
comprehended two aspicious persons, and we would
have them this morning examined before your worship.
LEONATOTake their examination yourself and bring it me: I
am now in great haste, as it may appear unto you.
DOGBERRYIt shall be suffigance.
LEONATODrink some wine ere you go: fare you well.
Enter a Messenger.
MessengerMy lord, they stay for you to give your daughter to
her husband. 50
LEONATOI’ll wait upon them: I am ready.
Exeunt LEONATO and Messenger.
DOGBERRYGo, 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.
VERGESAnd we must do it wisely.
DOGBERRYWe 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 parableparole, &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.