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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
SCENE I.–Street in Messina. 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?
Mess. But few of any sort,a and none of name.
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
Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
Mess. I have already deliv red him letters, and there appears much joy in him; even so much that joy could
à Any sort. The obvious meaning here is, of any condition ; for the messenger adds, "and none of name."
not show 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 b 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?
up his billsс 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. I 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 meet with you,d 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's a very valiant trencherman, he hath an excellent stomach.
Mess. And a good soldier too, lady.
Beat. And a good soldier to a lady :-But what is he to a lord ?
Mess. A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed e with all honourable virtues.
a In great measure-abundantly.
b Montanto. Beatrice thus nicknames Benedick, after a term of the fenciny-school.
• Set up his bills-stuck up a notice-a placard as we now call it.
d He'll be meet with you-he'll be even with you. e Stuffed stored, furnished.
Beat. It is so, indeed: he is no less than a stuffed man: but for the stuffing, -Well, we are all mortal.
Leon. You must not, sir, mistake my niece: there is a kind of merry war betwixt signior Benedick and her : they never meet but there is a skirmish of wit between them.
Beat. Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict, four of his five wits“ went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one: so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference b between himself and his horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.
Mess. Is 't possible?
Beat. Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the next block.
Mess. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.d
Beat. No: an he were, I would burn my studya But, I pray you, who is his companion ? Is there no young squarere now, that will make a voyage with him to the devil?
a Five wits. Shakspere here uses the term wits in the sense of intellectual powers. Johnson says, "The wits seem to have been reckoned five, by analogy to the five senses, or the five inlets of ideas."
b Bear it for a difference-for a distinction-as in heraldry. • His faith-his belief generally; here, his confidence in a friend. d In your
books. He who is in your books-or, as we some.
in your good books—is he whom you think well of whom you trust. It appears tolerably obvious, then, that the phrase has a commercial origin; and that, as he who has obtained credit, buys upon trust, is in his creditor's books, so he who has obtained in any way the confidence of another is said to be in his books.
• Squarer-quarreller. To square is to dispute-to confront hostilely.
Mess. He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
Beat. O Lord! he will hang upon him like a disease: he is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio ! if he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured.
Mess. I will hold friends with you, lady.
approached. Enter Don Pedro, attended by BALTHAZAR and
others, Don John, Claudio, and BENEDICK. D. Pedro. Good signior Leonato, you are come to meet your trouble: the fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it.
Leon. Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace; for trouble being gone, comfort should remain; but when you depart from me sorrow abides, and happiness takes his leave.
D. Pedro. You embrace your charge too willingly. I think this is your daughter.
Leon. Her mother hath many times told me so.
Leon. Signior Benedick, no; for then were you a child.
D. Pedro. You have it full, Benedick: we may guess by this what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady fathers herself :-Be happy, lady! for you are like an honourable father.
Bene. If signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she is.
Beat. I wonder that you will still be talking, signior Benedick; nobody marks you.
Bene. What, my dear lady Disdain! are you yet living ?
Beat. Is it possible Disdain should die, while she hath such meet food to feed it as signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain if you come in her presence.
Bene. Then is courtesy a turncoat :-But it is certain I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted : and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart: for, truly, I love none.
Beat. A dear happiness to women; they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God, and my cold blood, I am of your humour for
I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.
Bene. God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse, an 't were such a face as yours were.
Bene. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Beat. A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of yours.
Bene. I would my horse had the speed of your tongue; and so good a continuer : But keep your way o' God's name; I have done.
Beat. You always end with a jade's trick; I know
D. Pedro. This is the sum of all: Leonato,-signior Claudio, and signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him we shall stay here at the least a month; and he heartily prays some occasion may detain us longer: I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but prays from his heart.
Leon. If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forswom.--Let me bid you welcome, my lord : being reconciled to the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.
you of old.