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Much Ado About Nothing

Enter DOGBERRY, VERGES, and Sexton, in gowns; and the Watch, with CONRADE and BORACHIO.
DOGBERRY Is our whole dissembly appeared?
VERGES O, a stool and a cushion for the sexton.
Sexton Which be the malefactors?
DOGBERRY Marry, that am I and my partner.
VERGES Nay, that’s certain; we have the exhibition to examine.
Sexton But which are the offenders that are to be
examined? let them come before master constable.
DOGBERRY Yea, marry, let them come before me. What is your
name, friend?  10
BORACHIO Borachio.
DOGBERRY Pray, write down, Borachio. Yours, sirrah?
CONRADE I am a gentleman, sir, and my name is Conrade.
DOGBERRY Write down, master gentleman Conrade. Masters, do
you serve God?
| Yea, sir, we hope.
DOGBERRY Write 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
CONRADE Marry, sir, we say we are none.
DOGBERRY A 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.
BORACHIO Sir, I say to you we are none.
DOGBERRY Well, stand aside. ‘Fore God, they are both in a
tale. Have you writ down, that they are none?
Sexton Master constable, you go not the way to examine:
you must call forth the watch that are their accusers.  31
DOGBERRY Yea, marry, that’s the eftest way. Let the watch
come forth. Masters, I charge you, in the prince’s
name, accuse these men.
First Watchman This man said, sir, that Don John, the prince’s
brother, was a villain.
DOGBERRY Write down Prince John a villain. Why, this is flat
perjury, to call a prince’s brother villain.
BORACHIO Master constable,–
DOGBERRY Pray thee, fellow, peace: I do not like thy look,
I promise thee.  41
Sexton What heard you him say else?
Second Watchman Marry, that he had received a thousand ducats of
Don John for accusing the Lady Hero wrongfully.
DOGBERRY Flat burglary as ever was committed.
VERGES Yea, by mass, that it is.
Sexton What else, fellow?
First Watchman And that Count Claudio did mean, upon his words, to
disgrace Hero before the whole assembly. and not marry her.  51
DOGBERRY O villain! thou wilt be condemned into everlasting
redemption for this.
Sexton What else?
Watchman This is all.
Sexton And 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.
DOGBERRY Come, let them be opinioned.  62
VERGES Let them be in the hands–
CONRADE Off, coxcomb!
DOGBERRY God’s my life, where’s the sexton? let him write
down the prince’s officer coxcomb. Come, bind them.
Thou naughty varlet!
CONRADE Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.
DOGBERRY Dost 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.