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Much Ado About Nothing

ANTONIOIf you go on thus, you will kill yourself:
And ’tis not wisdom thus to second grief
Against yourself.
LEONATOI pray thee, cease thy counsel,
Which falls into mine ears as profitless
As water in a sieve: give not me counsel;
Nor let no comforter delight mine ear
But such a one whose wrongs do suit with mine.
Bring me a father that so loved his child,
Whose joy of her is overwhelm’d like mine,
And bid him speak of patience; 10
Measure his woe the length and breadth of mine
And let it answer every strain for strain,
As thus for thus and such a grief for such,
In every lineament, branch, shape, and form:
If such a one will smile and stroke his beard,
Bid sorrow wag, cry ‘hem!’ when he should groan,
Patch grief with proverbs, make misfortune drunk
With candle-wasters; bring him yet to me,
And I of him will gather patience.
But there is no such man: for, brother, men 20
Can counsel and speak comfort to that grief
Which they themselves not feel; but, tasting it,
Their counsel turns to passion, which before
Would give preceptial medicine to rage,
Fetter strong madness in a silken thread,
Charm ache with air and agony with words:
No, no; ’tis all men’s office to speak patience
To those that wring under the load of sorrow,
But no man’s virtue nor sufficiency
To be so moral when he shall endure 30
The like himself. Therefore give me no counsel:
My griefs cry louder than advertisement.
ANTONIOTherein do men from children nothing differ.
LEONATOI pray thee, peace. I will be flesh and blood;
For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods
And made a push at chance and sufferance.
ANTONIOYet bend not all the harm upon yourself;
Make those that do offend you suffer too. 40
LEONATOThere thou speak’st reason: nay, I will do so.
My soul doth tell me Hero is belied;
And that shall Claudio know; so shall the prince
And all of them that thus dishonour her.
ANTONIOHere comes the prince and Claudio hastily.
DON PEDROGood den, good den.
CLAUDIOGood day to both of you.
LEONATOHear you. my lords,–
DON PEDROWe have some haste, Leonato.
LEONATOSome haste, my lord! well, fare you well, my lord:
Are you so hasty now? well, all is one.
DON PEDRONay, do not quarrel with us, good old man.
ANTONIOIf he could right himself with quarreling, 51
Some of us would lie low.
CLAUDIOWho wrongs him?
LEONATOMarry, thou dost wrong me; thou dissembler, thou:–
Nay, never lay thy hand upon thy sword;
I fear thee not.
CLAUDIOMarry, beshrew my hand,
If it should give your age such cause of fear:
In faith, my hand meant nothing to my sword.
LEONATOTush, tush, man; never fleer and jest at me:
I speak not like a dotard nor a fool,
As under privilege of age to brag 60
What I have done being young, or what would do
Were I not old. Know, Claudio, to thy head,
Thou hast so wrong’d mine innocent child and me
That I am forced to lay my reverence by
And, with grey hairs and bruise of many days,
Do challenge thee to trial of a man.
I say thou hast belied mine innocent child;
Thy slander hath gone through and through her heart,
And she lies buried with her ancestors;
O, in a tomb where never scandal slept, 70
Save this of hers, framed by thy villany!
CLAUDIOMy villany?
LEONATOThine, Claudio; thine, I say.
DON PEDROYou say not right, old man.
LEONATOMy lord, my lord,
I’ll prove it on his body, if he dare,
Despite his nice fence and his active practise,
His May of youth and bloom of lustihood.
CLAUDIOAway! I will not have to do with you.
LEONATOCanst thou so daff me? Thou hast kill’d my child:
If thou kill’st me, boy, thou shalt kill a man. 80
ANTONIOHe shall kill two of us, and men indeed:
But that’s no matter; let him kill one first;
Win me and wear me; let him answer me.
Come, follow me, boy; come, sir boy, come, follow me:
Sir boy, I’ll whip you from your foining fence;
Nay, as I am a gentleman, I will.
ANTONIOContent yourself. God knows I loved my niece;
And she is dead, slander’d to death by villains,
That dare as well answer a man indeed
As I dare take a serpent by the tongue– 90
Boys, apes, braggarts, Jacks, milksops!
LEONATOBrother Antony,–
ANTONIOHold you content. What, man! I know them, yea,
And what they weigh, even to the utmost scruple,–
Scambling, out-facing, fashion-monging boys,
That lie and cog and flout, deprave and slander,
Go anticly, show outward hideousness,
And speak off half a dozen dangerous words,
How they might hurt their enemies, if they durst;
And this is all. 99
LEONATOBut, brother Antony,–
ANTONIOCome, ’tis no matter:
Do not you meddle; let me deal in this.
DON PEDROGentlemen both, we will not wake your patience.
My heart is sorry for your daughter’s death:
But, on my honour, she was charged with nothing
But what was true and very full of proof.
LEONATOMy lord, my lord,–
DON PEDROI will not hear you.
LEONATONo? Come, brother; away! I will be heard.
ANTONIOAnd shall, or some of us will smart for it. 109
DON PEDROSee, see; here comes the man we went to seek.
CLAUDIONow, signior, what news?
BENEDICKGood day, my lord.
DON PEDROWelcome, signior: you are almost come to part
almost a fray.
CLAUDIOWe had like to have had our two noses snapped off
with two old men without teeth.
DON PEDROLeonato and his brother. What thinkest thou? Had
we fought, I doubt we should have been too young for them.
BENEDICKIn a false quarrel there is no true valour. I came
to seek you both. 121
CLAUDIOWe have been up and down to seek thee; for we are
high-proof melancholy and would fain have it beaten
away. Wilt thou use thy wit?
BENEDICKIt is in my scabbard: shall I draw it?
DON PEDRODost thou wear thy wit by thy side?
CLAUDIONever any did so, though very many have been beside
their wit. I will bid thee draw, as we do the
minstrels; draw, to pleasure us.
DON PEDROAs I am an honest man, he looks pale. Art thou
sick, or angry? 131
CLAUDIOWhat, courage, man! What though care killed a cat,
thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.
BENEDICKSir, I shall meet your wit in the career, and you
charge it against me. I pray you choose another subject.
CLAUDIONay, then, give him another staff: this last was
broke cross.
DON PEDROBy this light, he changes more and more: I think
he be angry indeed.
CLAUDIOIf he be, he knows how to turn his girdle. 140
BENEDICKShall I speak a word in your ear?
CLAUDIOGod bless me from a challenge!
I will make it good how you dare, with what you
dare, and when you dare. Do me right, or I will
protest your cowardice. You have killed a sweet
lady, and her death shall fall heavy on you. Let me
hear from you.
CLAUDIOWell, I will meet you, so I may have good cheer.
DON PEDROWhat, a feast, a feast?
CLAUDIOI’ faith, I thank him; he hath bid me to a calf’s
head and a capon; the which if I do not carve most
curiously, say my knife’s naught. Shall I not find
a woodcock too? 153
BENEDICKSir, your wit ambles well; it goes easily.
DON PEDROI’ll tell thee how Beatrice praised thy wit the
other day. I said, thou hadst a fine wit: ‘True,’
said she, ‘a fine little one.’ ‘No,’ said I, ‘a
great wit:’ ‘Right,’ says she, ‘a great gross one.’
‘Nay,’ said I, ‘a good wit:’ ‘Just,’ said she, ‘it
hurts nobody.’ ‘Nay,’ said I, ‘the gentleman
is wise:’ ‘Certain,’ said she, ‘a wise gentleman.’
‘Nay,’ said I, ‘he hath the tongues:’ ‘That I
believe,’ said she, ‘for he swore a thing to me on
Monday night, which he forswore on Tuesday morning;
there’s a double tongue; there’s two tongues.’ Thus
did she, an hour together, transshape thy particular
virtues: yet at last she concluded with a sigh, thou
wast the properest man in Italy. 167
CLAUDIOFor the which she wept heartily and said she cared
DON PEDROYea, that she did: but yet, for all that, an if she
did not hate him deadly, she would love him dearly:
the old man’s daughter told us all.
CLAUDIOAll, all; and, moreover, God saw him when he was
hid in the garden.
DON PEDROBut when shall we set the savage bull’s horns on
the sensible Benedick’s head?
CLAUDIOYea, and text underneath, ‘Here dwells Benedick the
married man’? 178
BENEDICKFare you well, boy: you know my mind. I will leave
you now to your gossip-like humour: you break jests
as braggarts do their blades, which God be thanked,
hurt not. My lord, for your many courtesies I thank
you: I must discontinue your company: your brother
the bastard is fled from Messina: you have among
you killed a sweet and innocent lady. For my Lord
Lackbeard there, he and I shall meet: and, till
then, peace be with him.
DON PEDROHe is in earnest.
CLAUDIOIn most profound earnest; and, I’ll warrant you, for
the love of Beatrice. 190
DON PEDROAnd hath challenged thee.
CLAUDIOMost sincerely.
DON PEDROWhat a pretty thing man is when he goes in his
doublet and hose and leaves off his wit!
CLAUDIOHe is then a giant to an ape; but then is an ape a
doctor to such a man.
DON PEDROBut, soft you, let me be: pluck up, my heart, and
be sad. Did he not say, my brother was fled?
Enter DOGBERRY, VERGES, and the Watch, with CONRADE and BORACHIO.
DOGBERRYCome you, sir: if justice cannot tame you, she
shall ne’er weigh more reasons in her balance: nay,
an you be a cursing hypocrite, once you must be looked to.
DON PEDROHow now? two of my brother’s men bound! Borachio
one! 203
CLAUDIOHearken after their offence, my lord.
DON PEDROOfficers, what offence have these men done?
DOGBERRYMarry, sir, they have committed false report;
moreover, they have spoken untruths; secondarily,
they are slanders; sixth and lastly, they have
belied a lady; thirdly, they have verified unjust
things; and, to conclude, they are lying knaves. 210
DON PEDROFirst, I ask thee what they have done; thirdly, I
ask thee what’s their offence; sixth and lastly, why
they are committed; and, to conclude, what you lay
to their charge.
CLAUDIORightly reasoned, and in his own division: and, by
my troth, there’s one meaning well suited.
DON PEDROWho have you offended, masters, that you are thus
bound to your answer? this learned constable is
too cunning to be understood: what’s your offence?
BORACHIOSweet prince, let me go no farther to mine answer:
do you hear me, and let this count kill me. I have
deceived even your very eyes: what your wisdoms
could not discover, these shallow fools have brought
to light: who in the night overheard me confessing
to this man how Don John your brother incensed me
to slander the Lady Hero, how you were brought into
the orchard and saw me court Margaret in Hero’s
garments, how you disgraced her, when you should
marry her: my villany they have upon record; which
I had rather seal with my death than repeat over
to my shame. The lady is dead upon mine and my
master’s false accusation; and, briefly, I desire
nothing but the reward of a villain. 232
DON PEDRORuns not this speech like iron through your blood?
CLAUDIOI have drunk poison whiles he utter’d it.
DON PEDROBut did my brother set thee on to this?
BORACHIOYea, and paid me richly for the practise of it.
DON PEDROHe is composed and framed of treachery:
And fled he is upon this villany.
CLAUDIOSweet Hero! now thy image doth appear
In the rare semblance that I loved it first. 241
DOGBERRYCome, bring away the plaintiffs: by this time our
sexton hath reformed Signior Leonato of the matter:
and, masters, do not forget to specify, when time
and place shall serve, that I am an ass.
VERGESHere, here comes master Signior Leonato, and the
Sexton too.
Re-enter LEONATO and ANTONIO, with the Sexton.
LEONATOWhich is the villain? let me see his eyes,
That, when I note another man like him,
I may avoid him: which of these is he? 250
BORACHIOIf you would know your wronger, look on me.
LEONATOArt thou the slave that with thy breath hast kill’d
Mine innocent child?
BORACHIOYea, even I alone.
LEONATONo, not so, villain; thou beliest thyself:
Here stand a pair of honourable men;
A third is fled, that had a hand in it.
I thank you, princes, for my daughter’s death:
Record it with your high and worthy deeds:
‘Twas bravely done, if you bethink you of it.
CLAUDIOI know not how to pray your patience; 260
Yet I must speak. Choose your revenge yourself;
Impose me to what penance your invention
Can lay upon my sin: yet sinn’d I not
But in mistaking.
DON PEDROBy my soul, nor I:
And yet, to satisfy this good old man,
I would bend under any heavy weight
That he’ll enjoin me to.
LEONATOI cannot bid you bid my daughter live;
That were impossible: but, I pray you both,
Possess the people in Messina here 270
How innocent she died; and if your love
Can labour ought in sad invention,
Hang her an epitaph upon her tomb
And sing it to her bones, sing it to-night:
To-morrow morning come you to my house,
And since you could not be my son-in-law,
Be yet my nephew: my brother hath a daughter,
Almost the copy of my child that’s dead,
And she alone is heir to both of us:
Give her the right you should have given her cousin,
And so dies my revenge.
CLAUDIOO noble sir, 281
Your over-kindness doth wring tears from me!
I do embrace your offer; and dispose
For henceforth of poor Claudio.
LEONATOTo-morrow then I will expect your coming;
To-night I take my leave. This naughty man
Shall face to face be brought to Margaret,
Who I believe was pack’d in all this wrong,
Hired to it by your brother.
BORACHIONo, by my soul, she was not,
Nor knew not what she did when she spoke to me, 290
But always hath been just and virtuous
In any thing that I do know by her.
DOGBERRYMoreover, sir, which indeed is not under white and
black, this plaintiff here, the offender, did call
me ass: I beseech you, let it be remembered in his
punishment. And also, the watch heard them talk of
one Deformed: they say be wears a key in his ear and
a lock hanging by it, and borrows money in God’s
name, the which he hath used so long and never paid
that now men grow hard-hearted and will lend nothing
for God’s sake: pray you, examine him upon that point. 301
LEONATOI thank thee for thy care and honest pains.
DOGBERRYYour worship speaks like a most thankful and
reverend youth; and I praise God for you.
LEONATOThere’s for thy pains.
DOGBERRYGod save the foundation!
LEONATOGo, I discharge thee of thy prisoner, and I thank thee.
DOGBERRYI leave an arrant knave with your worship; which I
beseech your worship to correct yourself, for the
example of others. God keep your worship! I wish
your worship well; God restore you to health! I
humbly give you leave to depart; and if a merry
meeting may be wished, God prohibit it! Come, neighbour. 314
LEONATOUntil to-morrow morning, lords, farewell.
ANTONIOFarewell, my lords: we look for you to-morrow.
DON PEDROWe will not fail.
CLAUDIOTo-night I’ll mourn with Hero.
LEONATOTo the Watch
talk with Margaret,
How her acquaintance grew with this lewd fellow.
Exeunt, severally.

Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 5, Scene 2


Explanatory Notes for Act 5, Scene 1

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

7-20 The general drift of the passage is: “If you can show me a man who, suffering no less than I do, is calm, resigned, and comforted by moral advice, I will follow his example — ‘will gather patience’ of him: unfortunately no such man exists.”

10 Him. So emphatic as to compensate for the apparent lack of a foot.

12 Strain. A difficult word; perhaps ‘feeling’ (as Schmidt takes it) is the closest equivalent. Cf. “Strains of love” in Sonnet 99.

16 Bid sorrow wag. A passage of well-known difficulty; marked as corrupt in the Globe Edition. The first two Folios and Quarto agree in reading: “And sorrow, wagge, crie hem when he should groan.” Clearly this will never do. The text must be emended in some way. Myself I have taken Capells correction, bid, the sense being ‘command sorrow to go away.’ Wag = ‘move off,’ occurs several times in the Merry Wives: e.g. ii. i. 238, “Here, boys, here, here! Shall we wag?” The explanation fits in very well with the general purport of the lines; only and for bid is not a likely misprint. Johnson proposed to read Cry ‘sorrow wag!’ and hem; the sense being the same as in Capell’s arrangement. There is little, I think, to be said for Steeven’s suggestion: And, sorry wag, cry ‘hem.’ I doubt whether sorry could have got corrupted into sorrowe; at least no parallel is forthcoming. And wag (‘funny fellow’), though not uncommon in Shakespeare, seems to me a thought infelicitous here. The Globe editors — safest of guides — print Capell’s reading.

17-18 Make misfortune drunk.
With candle-wasters
. ‘Drown care,’ either with revelling or study, according to the sense we give to candle-wastersCandle-wastersrather suggests the midnight bowl; only that would be an odd resource for the sententious moralist, who is ready to solace his sorrow with “wise saws and modern instances.” Moreover, the meaning of the word is practically settled by a remark in Ben Jonson’s Cynthia’s Revels, iii. 2, “Spoiled by a bookworm, a candle-waster.” So that the general sense must be, ‘kill care by reading what learned folk have written on the beauties of resignation.’

22-23 Tasting it, their counsel turns. It is easy to supply from their in the second line a pronoun with tasting (used absolutely). See Abbott on “Participles with pronouns implied,” p. 278.

28 Wring. ‘Writhe.’ “He writhes at some distress,” Cymbeline, iii. 6. 79.

30 Moral. ‘Moralising.’ So Lear, iv. 2. 58, “A moral fool.” Cf. note on the substantive, iii. 4. 78.

32 Advertisement. ‘Admonition;’ the sense being, ‘my grief is too keen to tolerate advice; don’t preach patience to such sorrow as this.’Advertisement as in 1 Henry IV, iv. i. 36. In Shakespearean English advertise frequently meant ‘to send news or warning;’ i.e. Frenchavertir.

35-36 Never yet philosopher, &c. As Horace says, the wise man can do anything nisi cum pituita molesta est.

38 Made a push at. ‘Scoffed at.’ Push = ‘pish’ (which Pope read), as in Timon of Athens, iii. 6. 119.

53 Thou, dissembler thou. The pronoun repeated as a sign of contempt; so many passages, e.g. Comedy of Errors, iii. 1. 10, “Thou drunkard thou.”

65 Bruise of many days. Almost the same expression occurs in 2 Henry IV, iv. i. 100, “That feel the bruises of the days before.” So “all brush of time” in 2 Henry VI, v. 3. 3.

66 Trial. ‘Decisive combat.’ “Our trial day,” Richard III, i. I. 151.

75 Nice. Old French niais, from nescius. Often has the sense ‘finicking,’ ‘dainty;’ i.e. used, as here, contemptuously. So Troilus and Cressida, iv. 5. 250; As You Like It, iv. i. 14; and Cowper in The Task, ii. 256—-

“That no rude savour maritime invade
The nose of nice nobility.”

In Comus, 139 — “The nice Morn on th’ Indian steep” — the meaning must be ‘delicate’ or ‘dainty.’

76 May of youth. “May of life” in Macbeth, v. 3. 22, is the tempting emendation of the Folio reading, way.

82 Win me and wear me. Proverbial. “Let him laugh that wins.” Cf. Henry V, v. 2. 250.

84 Foining, ‘Thrusting.’ Strictly to foin = ‘to thrust with an eel-spear.’ (Old French, fouine). Cotgrave has, “Coup d’estoc: A thrust, foine, stab.” Compare Lear, iv. 6. 251; Merry Wives, ii. 3. 24, a fine passage for fencing-terms.

89 A man indeed. ‘One who is truly a man;’ the adverb coming after the substantive, as in Othello, ii. I. 146, “A deserving woman indeed.”

91 Braggarts, Jacks. Hanmer transposed these words to improve, as he thought, the rhythm; and Dyce accented braggarts on the second syllable, whereas the accentuation is invariably on the first. Cf. All’s Well, iv. 3. 372, “That every braggart shall be found an ass.”

94 Scambling. ‘Turbulent.’ The same word as scrambling. “The scambling and unquiet time,” Henry V, i, I. 4.

Fashion-monging. ‘Foppish.’ We have fashion-monger in Romeo and Juliet, ii. 4. 34. Monger in such compounds as ironmonger, fishmonger, is from the A.S. mangian = ‘to traffic,’ cognate with German mengen, mingle, &c. Later Folios fashion-mongering.

95 Cog. ‘Cheat.’ Celtic word, akin perhaps to coax.

97 Dangerous. ‘Threatening.’ Cf. what Sir Toby says in Twelfth Night, iii. 4. 198-200, as to the efficacy of “a terrible oath, with a swaggering accent sharply twang’d off.”

102 Wake your patienceWake looks curious; hence various suggestions, waste, rack, wrackWake = ‘put to action’ (Schmidt), and Don Pedro means that he will not by argument so inflame Leonato and Antonio as to change their feeling of passive acquiescence into active resistance. Schmidt compares Coriolanus, iii. i. 98, and Richard II, i. 3. 132, but the passages are not, to my mind, quite parallel.

120 In a false quarrel, &c. Mr. Marshall aptly compares 2 Henry VI, iii. 2. 233, “Thrice is he armed that hath his quarrel just.”

123 High-proof. ‘Very;’ literally, ‘so as to stand any test.’ (Schmidt.)

128 Minstrels. It is not quite clear what the minstrels are supposed to draw; perhaps their instruments from the case, or the bow along the strings of the violin.

132 Care killed. Of course a proverb. We are referred to Ben Jonson’s Every Man in His Humour, i. 3, “Hang sorrow! Care’ll kill a cat.”

134 In the career. See note on ii. 3. 223. Cotgrave illustrates the present passage rather neatly: “Donner carriere a son esprit: To recreate his spirit; or, to set his wits a running, his conceit a gadding, his thoughts on a gallop.”

136 Staff. ‘Lance.’ As to broke cross, “in tilting it was thought disgraceful to break the spear across the body of the adversary, instead of by the push of the point.” (Schmidt.)

140 To turn his girdle. The formal preliminary to an encounter. Hence recognised as a challenge, though why the girdle was turned, or which way, no one can tell us.

142 God bless me from. ‘Heaven preserve me from.’ Cf. Coriolanus, i. 3. 48, “Heaven bless my lord from fell Aufidius.”

151 Capon. Used as a term of reproach (cf. Cymbeline, ii. I, 25), with a quibbling reference, perhaps, to the fool’s coxcomb, as though Claudio meant ‘a calf’s head and a fool’s cap on it.’

153 Woodcock. The typically stupid bird, easily caught with “springes” as Polonius knew (Hamlet, i. 3. 115).

161 A wise gentleman. Used ironically. ‘A wiseacre,’ as we say.

164 Tongues. ‘Languages;’ i.e. ‘is a good linguist.’ Sir Andrew in Twelfth Night, i. 3. 97-98, regrets that he did not bestow more time on “the tongues.”

165 Trans-shape. As Hero said, in act iii. i. 61, “she would spell him backward.”

173-74 When he was hid. In act ii. scene 3. A reference, also, to the story of Adam and Eve.

175-76 The savage bull’s horns, &c. Benedick’s own words, i. I. 242-3.

180 Gossip-like. Properly gossip meant ‘a sponsor in baptism;’ literally ‘one related in God’ (God-sib), It is often used in this sense in the dramatists.

194 In his doublet and hose. That is, ready for a duel, since the first preliminary to a combat a outrance was to lay aside the cumbersome cloak.

196 A doctor to. ‘A learned man in comparison with.’ Doctor in this sense is common. Cf. Merry Wives, iv. 5. 71; Merchant of Venice, iii. 4. 50. So doctor-like. Sonnet 66, 10.

200 Reasons. A pun, perhaps, on reasons and raisins (pronounced almost alike), such as we have in 1 Henry IV, ii. 4. 264-66, andTroilus and Cressida, ii. 2. 33 — the latter instance, however, being doubtful.

201 Once. ‘Positively;’ and the comma should be placed after hypocrite. So Abbott, p. 47. Compare Timon of Athens, i. 2. 251.

208 Sixth and lastly. The adverbial termination being omitted with the first adverb, as often; e.g. in Comedy of Errors, iv. 2. 4, “Looked he sad or merrily?” Measure for Measure, v. 37, “Most strange, but yet most truly, will I speak.”

223-24 Have brought to light. What Borachio says is true. The clever people of the play have done nothing to unmask the scheme against Hero. Fate, in its irony, has willed that everything should depend on Dogberry and his muddle-headed mates.

225 Incensed. ‘Urged.’ So Merry Wives, i. 3. 109, “Incense Page to deal with poison.”

231 Mine and my master’sMine, hers, theirs are sometimes used in Shakespeare before their nouns. Cf. Hamlet, v. 2. 341, “Mine and my father’s death;” Tempest, iii. 3. 93, “His and mine loved darling.” (Abbott, pp. 160-61.)

239 Upon. ‘Because of.’ So iv. i. 219, “She died upon his words.”

241 That. ‘In which.’

262 Impose me to, &c.; i.e. ‘impose on me whatever penance your invention,’ &c.

272 Invention. Here, as elsewhere, invention implies ‘literary faculty of composition.’ Cf. Dedication of Venus and Adonis, “The first heir of my invention.”

279 Alone is heir. Although Leonato said to Antonio earlier in the play, “Where is my cousin (i.e. nephew), your son?” (i. 2. I.) In act i. 3. 57 Borachio refers to Hero as “the daughter and heir of Leonato.”

281-84 In four lines Shakespeare depicts the character of Claudio. He is fickleness personified; to change from the old love to the new is for him as simple a matter as changing his coat would be. We have much the same sort of careless pliancy in Orsino in Twelfth Night; the Duke fails to win Olivia, and is quite content with Viola.

288 Was packed in. ‘Had a hand in.’ “Packed with her,” Comedy of Errors, v. I. 219. In the same play, iv. 4. 105, pack = ‘band of conspirators;’ and in Taming of the Shrew, V. I. 121, packing = ‘plotting.’

292 Know by her. This phrase, to know by, = ‘know concerning or against,’ was once good English, and is still quite common in the Warwickshire dialect. Cf. All’s Well, v. 3. 237. Abbott brings together (p. 97) several parallel passages. We may remember St. Paul’s “I know nothing by myself.” (i Cor. iv. 4.)

297 Wears a key. Perhaps a piece of nonsense only introduced for the sake of the pun which follows. As to the lock, see note on iii. 3. 182.

298 In God’s name. Speaking as though he were a professional beggar.

306 God save, &c. The form of thanks usual among those who received alms at the door of a monastery or religious house.

320 Lewd. Properly ‘ignorant;’ then ‘base,’ ‘depraved.’ Chaucer uses lewd in either sense; in Shakespeare the latter is invariable. Milton, perhaps, had both meanings in his mind’s eye when he wrote, “So since into his Church lewd hirelings climb,” Paradise Lost, iv. 193.


How to cite the explanatory notes:

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