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Much Ado About Nothing

Enter DOGBERRY, VERGES, and Sexton, in gowns; and the Watch, with CONRADE and BORACHIO.
DOGBERRYIs our whole dissembly appeared?
VERGESO, a stool and a cushion for the sexton.
SextonWhich be the malefactors?
DOGBERRYMarry, that am I and my partner.
VERGESNay, that’s certain; we have the exhibition to examine.
SextonBut which are the offenders that are to be
examined? let them come before master constable.
DOGBERRYYea, marry, let them come before me. What is your
name, friend? 10
DOGBERRYPray, write down, Borachio. Yours, sirrah?
CONRADEI am a gentleman, sir, and my name is Conrade.
DOGBERRYWrite down, master gentleman Conrade. Masters, do
you serve God?
| Yea, sir, we hope.
DOGBERRYWrite down, that they hope they serve God: and
write God first; for God defend but God should go
before such villains! Masters, it is proved already
that you are little better than false knaves; and it
will go near to be thought so shortly. How answer
you for yourselves? 21
CONRADEMarry, sir, we say we are none.
DOGBERRYA marvellous witty fellow, I assure you: but I
will go about with him. Come you hither, sirrah; a
word in your ear: sir, I say to you, it is thought
you are false knaves.
BORACHIOSir, I say to you we are none.
DOGBERRYWell, stand aside. ‘Fore God, they are both in a
tale. Have you writ down, that they are none?
SextonMaster constable, you go not the way to examine:
you must call forth the watch that are their accusers. 31
DOGBERRYYea, marry, that’s the eftest way. Let the watch
come forth. Masters, I charge you, in the prince’s
name, accuse these men.
First WatchmanThis man said, sir, that Don John, the prince’s
brother, was a villain.
DOGBERRYWrite down Prince John a villain. Why, this is flat
perjury, to call a prince’s brother villain.
BORACHIOMaster constable,–
DOGBERRYPray thee, fellow, peace: I do not like thy look,
I promise thee. 41
SextonWhat heard you him say else?
Second WatchmanMarry, that he had received a thousand ducats of
Don John for accusing the Lady Hero wrongfully.
DOGBERRYFlat burglary as ever was committed.
VERGESYea, by mass, that it is.
SextonWhat else, fellow?
First WatchmanAnd that Count Claudio did mean, upon his words, to
disgrace Hero before the whole assembly. and not marry her. 51
DOGBERRYO villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting
redemption for this.
SextonWhat else?
WatchmanThis is all.
SextonAnd this is more, masters, than you can deny.
Prince John is this morning secretly stolen away;
Hero was in this manner accused, in this very manner
refused, and upon the grief of this suddenly died.
Master constable, let these men be bound, and
brought to Leonato’s: I will go before and show
him their examination.
DOGBERRYCome, let them be opinioned. 62
VERGESLet them be in the hands–
CONRADEOff, coxcomb!
DOGBERRYGod’s my life, where’s the sexton? let him write
down the prince’s officer coxcomb. Come, bind them.
Thou naughty varlet!
CONRADEAway! you are an ass, you are an ass.
DOGBERRYDost thou not suspect my place? dost thou not
suspect my years? O that he were here to write me
down an ass! But, masters, remember that I am an
ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not
that I am an ass. No, thou villain, thou art full of
piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness.
I am a wise fellow, and, which is more, an officer,
and, which is more, a householder, and, which is
more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in 76
Messina, and one that knows the law, go to; and a
rich fellow enough, go to; and a fellow that hath
had losses, and one that hath two gowns and every
thing handsome about him. Bring him away. O that
I had been writ down an ass!

Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 5, Scene 1


Explanatory Notes for Act 4, Scene 2

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

In this scene the names of the actors, not of the characters, are prefixed to the different speeches; while the assignment of the parts is arbitrary and incorrect. The first Folio does not correct the errors of the Quarto.

That am I. “Malefactors” had such a lordly ring, that Dewberry at once takes it in a complimentary sense. The longer the word, the more is he impressed; in act iii. 5. 23 “tediousness” touched him deeply. Cf. too the next note.

5-6 Exhibition to examine. A blunder, says Steevens, for examination to exhibit = ‘make an official report of our enquiry.’ Exhibit, in the legal sense, occurs several times; e.g. in Merry Wives, ii. I. 29. So exhibiter = ‘one who presents a bill in Parliament,’ Henry V. i. i. 74. The suggestion seems to me far-fetched. Much more probably Dogberry uses exhibition because it sounds well.

17-21 Omitted in the Folios, in obedience, no doubt, to the Act against profanity on the stage. See note on ii. 3. 172.

32 Eftest. ‘Most convenient.’ Eft = ‘quickly’ is not uncommon in Spenser; and eftsoons = ‘by-and-by’ comes in Pericles, v. I. 256.Deftest, easiest, are needless conjectures. Even if eftest were more curious than it is, the editors might remember that the speaker is Dogberry, for whom convention has no terrors.

63-64 Verg. Let them be in the hands —
Con. Off, coxcomb!

Printed as a single speech in the Quarto and first Folio. Marked as corrupt in Globe Edition. The most probable explanation of the passage is this: Verges was going to say, “Let them be in the hands of justice” (or “the law,” or some such word), and moved towards Conrade and Borachio; but before he could touch them, or finish his sentence, Conrade burst in with, “Off, coxcomb!” and the official command remained an abrupt anacoluthon. That Conrade, and not Borachio, interrupted is pretty clear firom what follows. Of course there is no lack of emendations.

76 As pretty a piece. Compare Twelfth Night, i 5. 30- 31, “As witty a piece of Eve’s flesh as any in Illyria.” Piece is often used in this way of persons; e.g. in Troilus and Cressida, iii. i. 62.


How to cite the explanatory notes:

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