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Much Ado About Nothing

Enter Boy.
BENEDICKIn my chamber-window lies a book: bring it hither
to me in the orchard.
BoyI am here already, sir.
BENEDICKI know that; but I would have thee hence, and here again.
Exit Boy
I do much wonder that one man, seeing how much
another man is a fool when he dedicates his
behaviors to love, will, after he hath laughed at
such shallow follies in others, become the argument
of his own scorn by failing in love: and such a man
is Claudio. I have known when there was no music
with him but the drum and the fife; and now had he 13
rather hear the tabour and the pipe: I have known
when he would have walked ten mile a-foot to see a
good armour; and now will he lie ten nights awake,
carving the fashion of a new doublet. He was wont to
speak plain and to the purpose, like an honest man
and a soldier; and now is he turned orthography; his 19
words are a very fantastical banquet, just so many
strange dishes. May I be so converted and see with
these eyes? I cannot tell; I think not: I will not
be sworn, but love may transform me to an oyster; but
I’ll take my oath on it, till he have made an oyster
of me, he shall never make me such a fool. One woman
is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am
well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all
graces be in one woman, one woman shall not come in
my grace. Rich she shall be, that’s certain; wise,
or I’ll none; virtuous, or I’ll never cheapen her; 29
fair, or I’ll never look on her; mild, or come not
near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good
discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall
be of what colour it please God. Ha! the prince and
Monsieur Love! I will hide me in the arbour.
DON PEDROCome, shall we hear this music?
CLAUDIOYea, my good lord. How still the evening is,
As hush’d on purpose to grace harmony!
DON PEDROSee you where Benedick hath hid himself?
CLAUDIOO, very well, my lord: the music ended,
We’ll fit the kid-fox with a pennyworth. 40
Enter BALTHASAR with Music.
DON PEDROCome, Balthasar, we’ll hear that song again.
BALTHASARO, good my lord, tax not so bad a voice
To slander music any more than once.
DON PEDROIt is the witness still of excellency
To put a strange face on his own perfection.
I pray thee, sing, and let me woo no more.
BALTHASARBecause you talk of wooing, I will sing;
Since many a wooer doth commence his suit
To her he thinks not worthy, yet he wooes,
Yet will he swear he loves.
DON PEDRONow, pray thee, come; 50
Or, if thou wilt hold longer argument,
Do it in notes.
BALTHASARNote this before my notes;
There’s not a note of mine that’s worth the noting.
DON PEDROWhy, these are very crotchets that he speaks;
Note, notes, forsooth, and nothing.
[ Music ]
BENEDICKNow, divine air! now is his soul ravished! Is it
not strange that sheeps’ guts should hale souls out
of men’s bodies? Well, a horn for my money, when
all’s done.
The Song
BALTHASAR“Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever, 60
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never:
Then sigh not so, but let them go,
And be you blithe and bonny,
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.
Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
Of dumps so dull and heavy;
The fraud of men was ever so,
Since summer first was leavy: 70
Then sigh not so,
But let them go,
And you be blithe and bonny
Converting all your sounds of woe
Into Hey nonny, nonny.”
DON PEDROBy my troth, a good song.
BALTHASARAnd an ill singer, my lord.
DON PEDROHa, no, no, faith; thou singest well enough for a shift.
BENEDICK[ Aside.] An he had been a dog that should have howled thus,
they would have hanged him: and I pray God his bad
voice bode no mischief. I had as lief have heard the
night-raven, come what plague could have come after
it. 80
DON PEDROYea, marry, dost thou hear, Balthasar? I pray thee,
get us some excellent music; for to-morrow night we
would have it at the Lady Hero’s chamber-window.
BALTHASARThe best I can, my lord.
DON PEDRODo so: farewell.
Come hither, Leonato. What was it you told me of
to-day, that your niece Beatrice was in love with
Signior Benedick?
CLAUDIOO, ay: [ Aside to Don Pedro. ] Stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits. I did 90
never think that lady would have loved any man.
LEONATONo, nor I neither; but most wonderful that she
should so dote on Signior Benedick, whom she hath in
all outward behaviors seemed ever to abhor.
BENEDICK[Aside] Is’t possible? Sits the wind in that corner?
LEONATOBy my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think
of it but that she loves him with an enraged
affection: it is past the infinite of thought.
DON PEDROMay be she doth but counterfeit.
CLAUDIOFaith, like enough. 100
LEONATOO God, counterfeit! There was never counterfeit of
passion came so near the life of passion as she
discovers it.
DON PEDROWhy, what effects of passion shows she?
CLAUDIO[Aside] Bait the hook well; this fish will bite.
LEONATOWhat effects, my lord? She will sit you, [to Claudio] you heard
my daughter tell you how.
CLAUDIOShe did, indeed.
DON PEDROHow, how, pray you? You amaze me: I would have I
thought her spirit had been invincible against all
assaults of affection. 111
LEONATOI would have sworn it had, my lord; especially
against Benedick.
BENEDICK[Aside] I should think this a gull, but that the
white-bearded fellow speaks it: knavery cannot,
sure, hide himself in such reverence.
CLAUDIO[Aside] He hath ta’en the infection: hold it up.
DON PEDROHath she made her affection known to Benedick?
LEONATONo; and swears she never will: that’s her torment. 121
CLAUDIO‘Tis true, indeed; so your daughter says: ‘Shall
I,’ says she, ‘that have so oft encountered him
with scorn, write to him that I love him?’
LEONATOThis says she now when she is beginning to write to
him; for she’ll be up twenty times a night, and
there will she sit in her smock till she have writ a
sheet of paper: my daughter tells us all.
CLAUDIONow you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a 130
pretty jest your daughter told us of.
LEONATOO, when she had writ it and was reading it over, she
found Benedick and Beatrice between the sheet?
LEONATOO, she tore the letter into a thousand halfpence;
railed at herself, that she should be so immodest
to write to one that she knew would flout her; ‘I
measure him,’ says she, ‘by my own spirit; for I
should flout him, if he writ to me; yea, though I
love him, I should.’
CLAUDIOThen down upon her knees she falls, weeps, sobs,
beats her heart, tears her hair, prays, curses; ‘O
sweet Benedick! God give me patience!’ 139
LEONATOShe doth indeed; my daughter says so: and the
ecstasy hath so much overborne her that my daughter
is sometime afeared she will do a desperate outrage
to herself: it is very true.
DON PEDROIt were good that Benedick knew of it by some
other, if she will not discover it.
CLAUDIOTo what end? He would make but a sport of it and
torment the poor lady worse.
DON PEDROAn he should, it were an alms to hang him. She’s an
excellent sweet lady; and, out of all suspicion,
she is virtuous. 150
CLAUDIOAnd she is exceeding wise.
DON PEDROIn every thing but in loving Benedick.
LEONATOO, my lord, wisdom and blood combating in so tender
a body, we have ten proofs to one that blood hath
the victory. I am sorry for her, as I have just
cause, being her uncle and her guardian.
DON PEDROI would she had bestowed this dotage on me: I would
have daffed all other respects and made her half
myself. I pray you, tell Benedick of it, and hear 160
what a’ will say.
LEONATOWere it good, think you?
CLAUDIOHero thinks surely she will die; for she says she
will die, if he love her not, and she will die, ere
she make her love known, and she will die, if he woo
her, rather than she will bate one breath of her
accustomed crossness.
DON PEDROShe doth well: if she should make tender of her
love, ’tis very possible he’ll scorn it; for the
man, as you know all, hath a contemptible spirit.
CLAUDIOHe is a very proper man. 170
DON PEDROHe hath indeed a good outward happiness.
CLAUDIO‘Fore God! and, in my mind, very wise.
DON PEDROHe doth indeed show some sparks that are like wit.
CLAUDIOAnd I take him to be valiant.
DON PEDROAs Hector, I assure you: and in the managing of
quarrels you may say he is wise; for either he
avoids them with great discretion, or undertakes
them with a most Christian-like fear. 179
LEONATOIf he do fear God, a’ must necessarily keep peace:
if he break the peace, he ought to enter into a
quarrel with fear and trembling.
DON PEDROAnd so will he do; for the man doth fear God,
howsoever it seems not in him by some large jests
he will make. Well I am sorry for your niece. Shall
we go seek Benedick, and tell him of her love?
CLAUDIONever tell him, my lord: let her wear it out with
good counsel.
LEONATONay, that’s impossible: she may wear her heart out first. 190
DON PEDROWell, we will hear further of it by your daughter:
let it cool the while. I love Benedick well; and I
could wish he would modestly examine himself, to see
how much he is unworthy so good a lady.
LEONATOMy lord, will you walk? dinner is ready.
CLAUDIO[Aside] If he do not dote on her upon this, I will never
trust my expectation.
DON PEDRO[Aside] Let there be the same net spread for her; and that
must your daughter and her gentlewomen carry. The
sport will be, when they hold one an opinion of
another’s dotage, and no such matter: that’s the
scene that I would see, which will be merely a
dumb-show. Let us send her to call him in to dinner. 203
BENEDICKComing forward.
conference was sadly borne. They have the truth of
this from Hero. They seem to pity the lady: it
seems her affections have their full bent. Love me!
why, it must be requited. I hear how I am censured:
they say I will bear myself proudly, if I perceive
the love come from her; they say too that she will
rather die than give any sign of affection. I did
never think to marry: I must not seem proud: happy
are they that hear their detractions and can put
them to mending. They say the lady is fair; ’tis a
truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous; ’tis
so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving
me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor
no great argument of her folly, for I will be
horribly in love with her. I may chance have some 217
odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me,
because I have railed so long against marriage: but
doth not the appetite alter? a man loves the meat
in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.
Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of
the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?
No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would
die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I
were married. Here comes Beatrice. By this day!
she’s a fair lady: I do spy some marks of love in 227
BEATRICEAgainst my will I am sent to bid you come in to dinner.
BENEDICKFair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.
BEATRICEI took no more pains for those thanks than you take
pains to thank me: if it had been painful, I would
not have come.
BENEDICKYou take pleasure then in the message? 234
BEATRICEYea, just so much as you may take upon a knife’s
point and choke a daw withal. You have no stomach,
signior: fare you well.
BENEDICKHa! ‘Against my will I am sent to bid you come in
to dinner;’ there’s a double meaning in that ‘I took
no more pains for those thanks than you took pains
to thank me.’ that’s as much as to say, Any pains
that I take for you is as easy as thanks. If I do
not take pity of her, I am a villain; if I do not
love her, I am a Jew. I will go get her picture.

Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 2, Scene 3

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

13 The drum and the fife. When Othello bids farewell to his soldier life he does not forget “the spirit-stirring drum, the ear-piercing fife.” (iii. 3. 352.)

15 Armour; i.e. ‘suit of armour.’ So used by Cotgrave: “Enfondrer un hamois: to make a great dint in an armour.”

18 And a soldier. “I speak to thee plain soldier,” Henry V. V. 2. 156.

19 Orthography. Abstract for concrete. There is no need to change to orthographer, as do some editors.

20 Banquet. Properly ‘the dessert after a feast,’ not the feast itself. Used in its strict sense in As You Like It, ii. 5. 65.

29 Cheapen. ‘Make a bid for.’ So Pericles, iv. 6. 30, “Cheapen a kiss of her.”

30-31 Noble … angel. Quibbling on the names of the coins noble (worth 6s. 8d.) and angel (10s.). The puns were too obvious not to occur often. Cf. Merry Wives, i. 3. 60-61.

32 Of what colour it please God. Though the fashionable shade was golden, the Queen having light, rather reddish hair. Benedick means that the lady who “comes in his grace” need not trouble to dye her hair, a common practice at that time. False hair, too, was much worn, as we see from several passages; e.g. Timon of Athens, iv. 3. 144; Merchant of Venice, iii. 2. 92-96; and Love’s Labour’s Lost, iv. 3. 259. Cf. too Sonnet 68 —

“Before the golden tresses of the dead,
The right of sepulchres, were shorn away,
To live a second life on second head.”

Coryat, in his Crudities, tells us that the Venetian ladies used to wash their hair with certain drugs and oils, and then bleach it in the sun (vol. ii. pp. 37-38); and perhaps it was from Italy that the habit passed into England, Italian influence being dominant at the time, as French influence was later on in the century.

36-37 Compare Merchant of Venice, v. 56-57 —

“Soft stillness and the night
Become the touches of sweet harmony.”

40 We’ll fit the kid-fox. So Quarto and Folios, but the text is strange. Kid-fox = ‘a young fox’ (Schmidt) sounds desperately unsportsmanlike, and, as applied to the mature Benedick, is not very pointed. An obvious emendation is hid fox, an allusion to the game of “hide and seek,” mentioned in Hamlet, iv. 2. 32, “Hide fox, and all after,” and Love’s Labour’s Lost, iv. 3. 78. Obviously hid foxwould exactly fit in with Don Pedro’s question, “See you where Benedick hath hid himself?” I have not ventured, however, to adopt the correction.

45 Put a strange face on. ‘Appear to be unconscious of.’ To “look strange” at a person was to ‘cut him’ as we say. Cf. Comedy of Errors, ii. 2. 112; Sonnet 49. 5. Malvolio was “strange” = ‘distant,’ ‘reserved,’ Twelfth Night, ii. 5. 184.

46 Woo. ‘Entreat.’

53 Noting. A quibble, of course, on nothing, which seems to have been pronounced “noting.”

57 Hale souls. Compare Twelfth Night, ii. 3. 61, “A catch [song] that will draw three souls out of one weaver” — weavers, as we know from I Henry IV. ii. 4. 147, having been men of melody. For the most part they were Calvinist refugees from the Netherlands; hence their love of hymns, psalms, &c.

66 Hey nonny, nonny. A jingling refrain often found, with slight variations. There is a quaint old song in Bullen’s Elizabethan Lyrics (p. 118), of which one couplet runs —

“For where shall now the wedding be?
For and hey-nonny-no in an old ivy tree.”

Miles Coverdale, in the Preface to his Goastly Psalmes (1538), wishes that the countrywomen, as they sat at work, would sing serious tunes; “they should be better occupied than with ‘Hey, nonny, nonny,’ and suchlike fantasies.” (Chappell’s Popular Music, p. 54.) We may remember, of course, Ophelia’s song, Hamlet, iv. 5. 165; Edgar’s nonsense in Lear, iii. 4. 102; and the beautiful “It was a lover and his lass,” in As You Like It, V. 3. 17-30.

68 Dumps. ‘Dismal subjects;’ generally ‘low spirits’ (“In the dumps,” as we say).

79 The night raven. Alluding to the superstition that the raven would fly about any house where there was sickness. Compare Othello, iv. i. 21, “As doth the raven o’er the infectious house.” The croak of the bird was the worst of omens. Marlowe speaks of —

“The sad presaging raven, that tolls
The sick man’s passport in her hollow beak.”

So Peele — Jew of Malta, ii. i.

“Like as the fatal raven, that in his voice
Carries the dreadful summons of our death.”
— Dyce’s Greene and Peele, p. 469.

Other passages to the same effect might be given.

90 Stalk on. Referring to the stalking-horse (the painted figure of a real one) under cover of which sportsmen approached their game. Cf. As You Like It, v. 4. 111, “He uses his folly like a stalking-horse.” On Scotch moors, I believe, it is not unusual for keepers late in the season, when the grouse are very wild, to use a cart and pony for the same purpose.

95 Sits the wind? ‘Is that how matters lie? ‘ So 1 Henry IV, iii. 3. 102, “Is the wind in that door, i’ faith?”

98 Past the infinite of thought. ‘Beyond all conception.’

101 Never counterfeit, &c. ‘Her feeling (passion) is far too genuine to be simulated.’ Passion = ’emotion’ generally.

110 Would have thought. ‘Be ready to think;’ not, as one might think, instead of should, Abbott (p. 233) compares Antony and Cleopatra, ii. 2. 144.

114 Gull. ‘Trick.’ Usually = ‘a fool,’ ‘dupe.’

117 Hold it up. ‘Keep the joke going.’

127 Smock. Poor Desdemona was “pale as [her] smock,” Othello, V. 2. 273; but audiences at the beginning of this century were too nice and squeamish to tolerate smock so sometimes the actors toned the text down to “pale as thy sheets,” (Gomme’s Gentleman’s Magazine Library, Dialect Section, p. 5.)

132 Halfpence. ‘Small bits;’ i.e. ‘tiny as a halfpenny.’

148 An alms. ‘An act of charity.’

158 Daffed. ‘Put on one side.’ Same as doff = ‘do off.’ Cf. don = ‘do on.’ Compare act v. i. 78, where the sense is ‘put off.’ So Othello, iv. 2. 176, “Every day thou daffest me with some device, Iago.”

166 Crossness. ‘Perverseness,’ ‘habit of contradicting.’

169 Contemptible. ‘Scornful.’ See Abbott, p. 19.

171 A good outward happiness. ‘A pleasing appearance, exterior.’ An inversion almost of adjective and noun. So in Sonnet 51, “Swift extremity” = ‘extreme swiftness.’

172 ‘Fore God. A severe statute was passed in the reign of James I. “to restrain the abuses of players.” It began with the preambule, “For the preventing and avoiding of the great abuse of the holy name of God in stage-plays, enterludes,” &c.; and to comply with this enactment, “fore God” was generally altered to “fore me.” Compare All’s Well, ii. 3. 31, “Fore me, I speak in respect;” Othello, iv. I. 150 (“before me”); Romeo and Juliet, iii. 4. 34 (“afore me”). In some cases the text of the Quartos is softened down in the Folio; e.g. inMerchant of Venice, where “I pray God grant” becomes “I wish.” This, probably, was Shakespeare’s reason for using such absurd oaths as “by Janus,” Othello, i. 2. 33.

187 Wear it out. ‘Get over her love’ (to employ a somewhat slang word).

194 Unworthy. That is ‘to have,’ which words indeed the Folios insert; but the Quarto reading is satisfactory enough.

201 Another’s dotageAnother = ‘each other’; dotage = ‘fondness;’ Benedick believing Beatrice to be in love with him, and vice versa.

207 Have their full bent. ‘Are strained to the utmost.’ A metaphor from archery. “In the full bent,” Hamlet, ii. 2. 30.

208 Censured. ‘Judged.’

212 Detractions. That is, ‘the faults which their detractors find in them.’

215 And wise. Benedick’s description of Beatrice recalls Lorenzo’s comment on Jessica:

“For she is wise . . .
And fair she is . . .
And true she is . . .”

So Shakespeare, speaking of his friend, says (Sonnet 105), “‘Fair, kind and true’ is all my argument.”

Reprove. ‘Disprove.’ “Reprove my allegation, if you can,” 2 Henry VI, iii. i. 40.

218 Quirks. ‘Jests.’

222 Quips. ‘Smart sayings.’ “Quips and cranks, and wanton wiles,” L’Allegro 27. Pistol in the Merry Wives, ii. i. 43, makes an unkindly quip about Falstaff’s amplitude of person — a delicate point. Quip is cognate with Welsh chwip = ‘a quick turn.’ (Skeat.) Cf. quibble.

Sentences. ‘Maxims’ (sententiae), “Let me speak like yourself, and lay a sentence,” Othello, i. 3. 199.

223 From the career of his humour. ‘From following the bent of his inclination.’ Career, French carriere is a term borrowed from horsemanship. Cf. v. i, “Meet your wit in the career.” Shakespeare has the word several times; e.g. Henry V. ii. I. 133, a very difficult phrase, “passes careers;” and Merry Wives, i. I. 184.

244 I am a Jew. So 1 Henry IV, ii. 4. 198, “They were bound, every man of them; or I am a Jew else, an Ebrew Jew.”


How to cite the explanatory notes:

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