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justice, truth, and nature attain their happy consummation. The theatrical effect of the fable, serious and comic, is complete and perfect.
* This play may be justly said to contain two of the most sprightly characters that Shakespeare ever drew. The wit, the humorist, the gentleman, and the soldier, are combined in Benedick. It is to be lamented, indeed, that the first and most splendid of these distinctions is disgraced by unnecessary profaneness ; for the goodness of his heart is hardly sufficient to atone for the licence of his tongue. The too sarcastic levity, which flashes out in the conversation of Beatrice, may be excused on account of the steadiness and friendship so apparent in her behaviour, when she urges her lover to risk his life by a challenge to Claudio. In the conduct of the fable, however, there is an imperfection similar to that which Dr Johnson has pointed out in The Merry Wives of Windsor--the second contrivance is less ingenious than the first-or, to speak more plainly, the same incident is become stale by repetition. I wish some other method had been found to entrap Beatrice, than that very one which before had been successfully practised on Benedick.' --STEEVENS.
DRAMATIS PERSON Æ.
DON PEDRO, prince of Arragon.
HERO, daughter to Leonato.
gentlewomen attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watch, and Attendants,
Beat. I wonder, that you will still be talking, Signior Benedick: nobody marks you,
SCENE I.-Before LEONATO's House.
Enter LEONATO, HERO, BEATRICE, and others, with a Messenger.? LEON. I learn in this letter, that Don Pedro of Arragon comes
this night to Messina. Mess. He is very near by this; he was not three leagues off when I left him.
Leon. How many gentlemen have you lost in this action ?
Leon. A victory is twice itself when the achiever brings home full numbers. I find here, that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine called Claudio.
Mess. Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro. He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age ; doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion : he hath, indeed, better bettered expectation than you must expect of me to tell you how.
Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him ; even so much, that joy could not shew itself modest enough without a badge of bitterness.
Leon. Did he break out into tears?
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness: there are no faces truer than those that are so washed. How much better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping !
Beat. I pray you, is Signior Montanto returned from the wars, or no ?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady ; there was none such in the army of any sort.
Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece ?
Beat. He set up his bills here in Messina, and challenged Cupid at the flight: and my uncle's fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him at the bird-bolt.2I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars ? But how many hath he killed ? for, indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing.
Leon. Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick too much; but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.
Mess. He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
Beat. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it: he is a very valiant trencher-man; he hath an excellent stomach.
Mess. And a good soldier too, lady.
Mess. A lord to a lord, a man to a man ; stuffed with all honourable virtues.