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Much Ado About Nothing

LEONATOCome, Friar Francis, be brief; only to the plain
form of marriage, and you shall recount their
particular duties afterwards.
FRIAR FRANCISYou come hither, my lord, to marry this lady.
LEONATOTo be married to her: friar, you come to marry her.
FRIAR FRANCISLady, you come hither to be married to this count.
HEROI do. 10
FRIAR FRANCISIf either of you know any inward impediment why you
should not be conjoined, charge you, on your souls,
to utter it.
CLAUDIOKnow you any, Hero?
HERONone, my lord.
FRIAR FRANCISKnow you any, count?
LEONATOI dare make his answer, none.
CLAUDIOO, what men dare do! what men may do! what men daily
do, not knowing what they do!
BENEDICKHow now! interjections? Why, then, some be of
laughing, as, ah, ha, he! 21
CLAUDIOStand thee by, friar. Father, by your leave:
Will you with free and unconstrained soul
Give me this maid, your daughter?
LEONATOAs freely, son, as God did give her me.
CLAUDIOAnd what have I to give you back, whose worth
May counterpoise this rich and precious gift?
DON PEDRONothing, unless you render her again.
CLAUDIOSweet prince, you learn me noble thankfulness.
There, Leonato, take her back again: 30
Give not this rotten orange to your friend;
She’s but the sign and semblance of her honour.
Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
O, what authority and show of truth
Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
Comes not that blood as modest evidence
To witness simple virtue? Would you not swear,
All you that see her, that she were a maid,
By these exterior shows? But she is none:
She knows the heat of a luxurious bed;
Her blush is guiltiness, not modesty. 40
LEONATOWhat do you mean, my lord?
CLAUDIONot to be married,
Not to knit my soul to an approved wanton.
LEONATODear my lord, if you, in your own proof,
Have vanquish’d the resistance of her youth,
And made defeat of her virginity,–
CLAUDIOI know what you would say: if I have known her,
You will say she did embrace me as a husband,
And so extenuate the ‘forehand sin:
No, Leonato,
I never tempted her with word too large;
But, as a brother to his sister, show’d
Bashful sincerity and comely love.
HEROAnd seem’d I ever otherwise to you? 50
CLAUDIOOut on thee! Seeming! I will write against it:
You seem to me as Dian in her orb,
As chaste as is the bud ere it be blown;
But you are more intemperate in your blood
Than Venus, or those pamper’d animals
That rage in savage sensuality.
HEROIs my lord well, that he doth speak so wide?
LEONATOSweet prince, why speak not you?
DON PEDROWhat should I speak?
I stand dishonour’d, that have gone about
To link my dear friend to a common stale.
LEONATOAre these things spoken, or do I but dream? 60
DON JOHNSir, they are spoken, and these things are true.
BENEDICKThis looks not like a nuptial.
HEROTrue! O God!
CLAUDIOLeonato, stand I here?
Is this the prince? is this the prince’s brother?
Is this face Hero’s? are our eyes our own?
LEONATOAll this is so: but what of this, my lord?
CLAUDIOLet me but move one question to your daughter;
And, by that fatherly and kindly power
That you have in her, bid her answer truly.
LEONATOI charge thee do so, as thou art my child. 70
HEROO, God defend me! how am I beset!
What kind of catechising call you this?
CLAUDIOTo make you answer truly to your name.
HEROIs it not Hero? Who can blot that name
With any just reproach?
CLAUDIOMarry, that can Hero;
Hero itself can blot out Hero’s virtue.
What man was he talk’d with you yesternight
Out at your window betwixt twelve and one?
Now, if you are a maid, answer to this. 79
HEROI talk’d with no man at that hour, my lord.
DON PEDROWhy, then are you no maiden. Leonato,
I am sorry you must hear: upon mine honour,
Myself, my brother and this grieved count
Did see her, hear her, at that hour last night
Talk with a ruffian at her chamber-window
Who hath indeed, most like a liberal villain,
Confess’d the vile encounters they have had
A thousand times in secret.
DON JOHNFie, fie! they are not to be named, my lord,
Not to be spoke of; 90
There is not chastity enough in language
Without offence to utter them. Thus, pretty lady,
I am sorry for thy much misgovernment.
CLAUDIOO Hero, what a Hero hadst thou been,
If half thy outward graces had been placed
About thy thoughts and counsels of thy heart!
But fare thee well, most foul, most fair! farewell,
Thou pure impiety and impious purity!
For thee I’ll lock up all the gates of love, 99
And on my eyelids shall conjecture hang,
To turn all beauty into thoughts of harm,
And never shall it more be gracious.
LEONATOHath no man’s dagger here a point for me?
HERO swoons.
BEATRICEWhy, how now, cousin! wherefore sink you down?
DON JOHNCome, let us go. These things, come thus to light,
Smother her spirits up.
BENEDICKHow doth the lady?
BEATRICEDead, I think. Help, uncle!
Hero! why, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick! Friar!
LEONATOO Fate! take not away thy heavy hand. 111
Death is the fairest cover for her shame
That may be wish’d for.
BEATRICEHow now, cousin Hero!
FRIAR FRANCISHave comfort, lady.
LEONATODost thou look up?
FRIAR FRANCISYea, wherefore should she not?
LEONATOWherefore! Why, doth not every earthly thing
Cry shame upon her? Could she here deny
The story that is printed in her blood?
Do not live, Hero; do not ope thine eyes: 120
For, did I think thou wouldst not quickly die,
Thought I thy spirits were stronger than thy shames,
Myself would, on the rearward of reproaches,
Strike at thy life. Grieved I, I had but one?
Chid I for that at frugal nature’s frame?
O, one too much by thee! Why had I one?
Why ever wast thou lovely in my eyes?
Why had I not with charitable hand
Took up a beggar’s issue at my gates,
Who smirch’d thus and mired with infamy, 130
I might have said ‘No part of it is mine;
This shame derives itself from unknown loins’?
But mine and mine I loved and mine I praised
And mine that I was proud on, mine so much
That I myself was to myself not mine,
Valuing of her,–why, she, O, she is fallen
Into a pit of ink, that the wide sea
Hath drops too few to wash her clean again
And salt too little which may season give
To her foul-tainted flesh!
BENEDICKSir, sir, be patient.
For my part, I am so attired in wonder, 140
I know not what to say.
BEATRICEO, on my soul, my cousin is belied!
BENEDICKLady, were you her bedfellow last night?
BEATRICENo, truly not; although, until last night,
I have this twelvemonth been her bedfellow.
LEONATOConfirm’d, confirm’d! O, that is stronger made
Which was before barr’d up with ribs of iron!
Would the two princes lie, and Claudio lie,
Who loved her so, that, speaking of her foulness,
Wash’d it with tears? Hence from her! let her die. 150
FRIAR FRANCISHear me a little; for I have only been
Silent so long and given way unto
This course of fortune
By noting of the lady: I have mark’d
A thousand blushing apparitions
To start into her face; a thousand innocent shames
In angel whiteness beat away those blushes;
And in her eye there hath appear’d a fire,
To burn the errors that these princes hold
Against her maiden truth. Call me a fool; 160
Trust not my reading nor my observations,
Which with experimental seal doth warrant
The tenor of my book; trust not my age,
My reverence, calling, nor divinity,
If this sweet lady lie not guiltless here
Under some biting error.
LEONATOFriar, it cannot be.
Thou seest that all the grace that she hath left
Is that she will not add to her damnation
A sin of perjury; she not denies it:
Why seek’st thou then to cover with excuse 170
That which appears in proper nakedness?
FRIAR FRANCISLady, what man is he you are accused of?
HEROThey know that do accuse me; I know none:
If I know more of any man alive
Than that which maiden modesty doth warrant,
Let all my sins lack mercy! O my father,
Prove you that any man with me conversed
At hours unmeet, or that I yesternight
Maintain’d the change of words with any creature,
Refuse me, hate me, torture me to death! 180
FRIAR FRANCISThere is some strange misprision in the princes.
BENEDICKTwo of them have the very bent of honour;
And if their wisdoms be misled in this,
The practise of it lives in John the bastard,
Whose spirits toil in frame of villanies.
LEONATOI know not. If they speak but truth of her,
These hands shall tear her; if they wrong her honour,
The proudest of them shall well hear of it.
Time hath not yet so dried this blood of mine,
Nor age so eat up my invention, 190
Nor fortune made such havoc of my means,
Nor my bad life reft me so much of friends,
But they shall find, awaked in such a kind,
Both strength of limb and policy of mind,
Ability in means and choice of friends,
To quit me of them throughly.
FRIAR FRANCISPause awhile,
And let my counsel sway you in this case.
Your daughter here the princes left for dead:
Let her awhile be secretly kept in,
And publish it that she is dead indeed; 200
Maintain a mourning ostentation
And on your family’s old monument
Hang mournful epitaphs and do all rites
That appertain unto a burial.
LEONATOWhat shall become of this? what will this do?
FRIAR FRANCISMarry, this well carried shall on her behalf
Change slander to remorse; that is some good:
But not for that dream I on this strange course,
But on this travail look for greater birth.
She dying, as it must so be maintain’d, 210
Upon the instant that she was accused,
Shall be lamented, pitied and excused
Of every hearer: for it so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack’d and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
Whiles it was ours. So will it fare with Claudio:
When he shall hear she died upon his words,
The idea of her life shall sweetly creep 220
Into his study of imagination,
And every lovely organ of her life
Shall come apparell’d in more precious habit,
More moving-delicate and full of life,
Into the eye and prospect of his soul,
Than when she lived indeed; then shall he mourn,
If ever love had interest in his liver,
And wish he had not so accused her,
No, though he thought his accusation true.
Let this be so, and doubt not but success 230
Will fashion the event in better shape
Than I can lay it down in likelihood.
But if all aim but this be levell’d false,
The supposition of the lady’s death
Will quench the wonder of her infamy:
And if it sort not well, you may conceal her,
As best befits her wounded reputation,
In some reclusive and religious life,
Out of all eyes, tongues, minds and injuries.
BENEDICKSignior Leonato, let the friar advise you: 240
And though you know my inwardness and love
Is very much unto the prince and Claudio,
Yet, by mine honour, I will deal in this
As secretly and justly as your soul
Should with your body.
LEONATOBeing that I flow in grief,
The smallest twine may lead me.
FRIAR FRANCIS‘Tis well consented: presently away;
For to strange sores strangely they strain the cure.
Come, lady, die to live: this wedding-day 249
Perhaps is but prolong’d: have patience and endure.
Exeunt all but BENEDICK and BEATRICE.
BENEDICKLady Beatrice, have you wept all this while?
BEATRICEYea, and I will weep a while longer.
BENEDICKI will not desire that.
BEATRICEYou have no reason; I do it freely.
BENEDICKSurely I do believe your fair cousin is wronged.
BEATRICEAh, how much might the man deserve of me that would right her!
BENEDICKIs there any way to show such friendship?
BEATRICEA very even way, but no such friend.
BENEDICKMay a man do it? 260
BEATRICEIt is a man’s office, but not yours.
BENEDICKI do love nothing in the world so well as you: is
not that strange?
BEATRICEAs strange as the thing I know not. It were as
possible for me to say I loved nothing so well as
you: but believe me not; and yet I lie not; I
confess nothing, nor I deny nothing. I am sorry for my cousin.
BENEDICKBy my sword, Beatrice, thou lovest me.
BEATRICEDo not swear, and eat it.
BENEDICKI will swear by it that you love me; and I will make
him eat it that says I love not you. 271
BEATRICEWill you not eat your word?
BENEDICKWith no sauce that can be devised to it. I protest
I love thee.
BEATRICEWhy, then, God forgive me!
BENEDICKWhat offence, sweet Beatrice?
BEATRICEYou have stayed me in a happy hour: I was about to
protest I loved you.
BENEDICKAnd do it with all thy heart.
BEATRICEI love you with so much of my heart that none is
left to protest. 281
BENEDICKCome, bid me do any thing for thee.
BEATRICEKill Claudio.
BENEDICKHa! not for the wide world.
BEATRICEYou kill me to deny it. Farewell.
BENEDICKTarry, sweet Beatrice. [Holding her.]
BEATRICEI am gone, though I am here: there is no love in
you: nay, I pray you, let me go.
BEATRICEIn faith, I will go. 290
BENEDICKWe’ll be friends first.
BEATRICEYou dare easier be friends with me than fight with mine enemy.
BENEDICKIs Claudio thine enemy?
BEATRICEIs he not approved in the height a villain, that
hath slandered, scorned, dishonoured my kinswoman? O
that I were a man! What, bear her in hand until they
come to take hands; and then, with public
accusation, uncovered slander, unmitigated rancour,
–O God, that I were a man! I would eat his heart
in the market-place.
BENEDICKHear me, Beatrice,– 301
BEATRICETalk with a man out at a window! A proper saying!
BENEDICKNay, but, Beatrice,–
BEATRICESweet Hero! She is wronged, she is slandered, she is undone.
BEATRICEPrinces and counties! Surely, a princely testimony,
a goodly count, Count Comfect; a sweet gallant,
surely! O that I were a man for his sake! or that I
had any friend would be a man for my sake! But
manhood is melted into courtesies, valour into
compliment, and men are only turned into tongue, and
trim ones too: he is now as valiant as Hercules
that only tells a lie and swears it. I cannot be a 315
man with wishing, therefore I will die a woman with grieving.
BENEDICKTarry, good Beatrice. By this hand, I love thee.
BEATRICEUse it for my love some other way than swearing by it.
BENEDICKThink you in your soul the Count Claudio hath wronged Hero?
BEATRICEYea, as sure as I have a thought or a soul.
BENEDICKEnough, I am engaged; I will challenge him. I will
kiss your hand, and so I leave you. By this hand,
Claudio shall render me a dear account. As you
hear of me, so think of me. Go, comfort your
cousin: I must say she is dead: and so, farewell.

Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 4, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 1

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

11 If either of you, &c. A partial quotation, obviously, from the Liturgy of the Church. Compare v. 4. 29, 30.

20 Interjections, &c. Quoting from some old grammar, perhaps the one used by Shakespeare himself at Stratford. It is like Sir Toby’s “diluculo surgere” in Twelfth Night, ii. 3. 3. The editors compare Lyly’s Endimion, iii. 3 — “T. Hey ho!
E. What’s that?
T. An interjection, whereof some are of mourning: as eho, vah.”
As I have already said (iii. 3, beginning), it is pretty clear (to me) that Shakespeare had read Lyly’s play.

36 That blood. Hero’s blush.

38 Were. The subjunctive is curious; an attraction, perhaps, to the mood of the preceding verb. So Love’s Labour’s Lost, iv. 3, 118 — “Thou for whom Jove would swear
Juno but an Ethiop were.” — Abbott, p. 267.
Or it may be a case of oratio obliqua after the verb of saying.

43 Dear. Dissyllable; a scansion very common with monosyllables ending in r or re, preceded by long vowel; e.g. wherefearneartear. For a good instance cf. Lear, i. 4. 297…

45 Defeat. For defeat = ‘destruction’ cf. Hamlet, ii. 2. 597-98 —

“Upon whose property and most dear life
A damn’d defeat was made.”

And for the verb cf. Sonnet 61, and Othello, iv. 2. 160. Derivation, French defaire = ‘to undo,’ ‘render null and void;’ so that in these passages the word bears its strict signification.

51 Seeming. As Iago says of Desdemona, “She that, so young, could give out such a seeming,” Othello, iii. 3. 209. Some editors read, “Out on thy seeming!” There is not much to choose here between Quarto and Folio.
Write against. ‘Declare against’ (Schmidt.) Cf. Cymbeline, iii. 5. 32, “I’ll write against them, detest them.” Not elsewhere.

52 Dian. The type of purity. “Queen of virgins,” All’s Well, i. 3. 120; “Fresh as Dian’s visage,” Othello, iii. 3. 387.

56 Wide; i.e. ‘of the mark.’ Cf. Lear, iv. 7. 50, “Still, far wide.”

57 Sweet prince. Some editors assign the speech to Claudio, against the authority of Quarto and Folios.

62 Nuptial. Shakespeare prefers the singular to the plural form. So funeral in many passages; very rarely funerals.

68 Kindly. ‘Natural.’ See note on kind, i. i. 25, and compare 2 Henry IV, iv. 5. 84, “Washing with kindly tears his gentle cheeks.” So in the Litany, “Kindly fruits of the earth;” Unkindly, in Paradise Lost, iii. 456, “Abortive, monstrous, or unkindly mixt;” and Hamlet’s “Kindless villain.” (ii. 2. 609.)

76 Itself. ‘Herself;’ but the pronoun is curious. The editors compare Cymbeline, iii. 4. 160, “Woman its pretty self.”

86 Liberal. ‘Licentious.’ To whom Borachio has made the confession, or when, does not appear.

87 Encounters. ‘Meetings.’

95 If half thy outward graces, &c. A favourite thought with Shakespeare, that beauty of the face should be answered by beauty of the soul. Cf. Twelfth Night, iii. 4. 399-404, and Sonnet 94.

99 I’ll lock up, &c. As a matter of fact Claudio does nothing of the sort. In act v he is quite ready to marry Hero’s substitute.

102 Gracious. ‘Attractive,’ ‘that finds favour.’

123 On the rearward. ‘After the reproaches heaped upon you.’ Rearward occurs in one other place, Sonnet 90. 6, “In the rearward of a conquered woe.”

125 Frame. ‘Disposition of things.’

126 One too much. Exactly what Capulet says of Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, iii. 5. 166-168.

135 Was to myself not mine. ‘Lost all sense of self in my love for her.’

153-156 I have adopted the arrangement proposed by the Cambridge editors. They think that something has dropped out of the text after course of fortune, leaving the Friar’s first sentence incomplete. As usually printed the passage stands —
“Hear me a little;
For I have only silent been so long,
And given way unto this course of fortune,
By noting of the lady: I have mark’d
A thousand …”
That is, by noting = ‘in consequence of my noting,’ gives the Friar’s reason for his silence: “I have been silent because I have been observing.” I much prefer the first way of taking the lines, which, by the way, are printed as prose in the Quarto and first Folio.

153 Course of fortune. ‘Course of events.’

162 Experimental seed. ‘The seal of experience;’ an instance of adjective and substantive = compound substantive. Schmidt gives a number of parallels; e.g. — to take a single example — “A partial slander” = ‘reproach of partiality,’ Richard II, ii. i. 3. 241. Compare, too, the present play, v. i. 24, “Preceptial medicine” = ‘the medicine of precepts.’
Doth. Singular, although the antecedent, observations, is plural; but the relative in Shakespeare is hopelessly irregular. Abbott has a long list of parallel passages — pp. 167, 168. Some editors, quite needlessly, emend to observation.

164 Reverence. ‘Dignity as an old man.’

177 Prove. Conditional. “If you can prove, then refuse me,” &c.

181 Misprision. ‘Mistake.’ Cf. meprendemeprise. Old French, mes, ‘badly,’ ‘ill;’ and Low Latin prensionem, Cf. Sonnet 87, 11. 12 —

“So thy great gift, upon misprision growing,
Comes home again.”

182 Bent. ‘Inclination.’ “Bent of love,” Romeo and Juliet, ii. 2. 143. See note on ii. 3. 207.

184 Practice. ‘Plot,’ ‘contrivance.’ So “unhatched practice” in Othello iii. 4. 141.
Lives. ‘Lies,’ which Sidney Walker would read. The change is not necessary. Shakespeare often uses to live as an equivalent of to be.

190 Eat. Using the past tense to avoid possible confusion with infinitive termination. Cf. 2 Henry IV, iv. 5. 165. So smit for smitten,strove for strivendrove for driven, &c. (Abbott, p. 244.)

191 Havoc. The same word, apparently, as A. S. hafoc, ‘a hawk.’ The hawk being a bird of prey, the connection is fairly obvious. “Cry havoc” is certainly a term from falconry. (Julius Caesar, iii. I. 273.

193 Kind. ‘Way.’ Cf. ii. I. 58. The rhyme is rather awkward. Capell proposed cause.

201 Ostentation. Five syllables. The termination -tion, especially if preceded by c, is very frequently treated as two syllables at the end of a verse; rarely so in the middle of a line. (Abbott, pp. 367, 368.)

203 Hang mournful epitaphs. Such an epitaph as Claudio affixes to the tomb in act v. sc. 3. Compare Henry V, i. 2, 233, “Worshipped with a waxen epitaph,” where “worshipped” = ‘honoured.’ Sometimes these laudatory lines were fastened to the hearse or coffin, an obsolete practice which Gifford explains at some length in his Ben Jonson, vol. ix. p. 58.

205 Become of this? ‘What will be the result of this?’

207 Remorse. ‘Pity.’

216 Rack. ‘Exaggerate.’ Some editors, rank.

224 Moving, delicate. Hyphened by most editors, unnecessarily. Moving, ‘appealing to the emotions.’

241 Inwardness. ‘Intimacy.’

245 Being that I flow. ‘Since I am lost in grief.’ The sentiment is that expressed in Milton’s The Passion, 54, “Grief is easily beguiled.” For being = ‘seeing that,’ ‘it being the case that,’ cf. 2 Henry IV, ii, i. 200.

251 The scene still continues — incongruously, rather, to our taste — in the church.

259 Even. ‘Plain.’

287 I am gone. A way of saying that she stays against her will. Benedick has refused her request: how can there be anything further between them?

295 In the height. ‘Completely,’ ‘an utter villain.’ So “Traitor to the height” in Henry VIII, i. 2. 214.

297 Bear her in hand. ‘Buoy with false hopes.’ So Macbeth, iii. I. 81.

308 Counties. ‘Counts.’ So “County Paris” in Romeo and Juliet, v. 3. 239, and “County Palatine” in Merchant of Venice, i. 2. 49. From Latin comes.

309 Count Comfect. ‘A sugar-plum count’ or, as Beatrice adds, ‘sweet gallant.’


How to cite the explanatory notes:

Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons, 1890.