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Much ADO ABOUT NOTHING.] The fiory is taken from Ariosto, Orl. Fur. B. V. Pope.
It is true, as Mr. Pope has observed, that somewhat resembling the ftory of this play is to be found in the fifth book of the Orlando Furioso. In Spencer's Faery Queen, B. II. c. iv, as remote an original may be Sraced. A novel, however, of. Belleforest, copied from another of Bandello, seems to have furnished Shakspeare with his fable, as it approaches nearer in all its particulars to the play before us, than any other performance known to be extant. I have seen so many versions from this once popular collection, that I entertain no doubt but that a great majority of the tales it comprehends, have made their appearance in an English dress. Of that particular story which I have just mentioned. viz. the 18th history in the third volume, no translation has hitherto been met with. This play was entered at Stationers' Hall, Aug. 23, 1600.
STEEVENS. Ariosto is continually.quoted for the fable of Much ado about Nothing ; but I suspect out poet to have been satisfied with the Geneura of Turberville. ". The tale (says Harrington) is a pretie comical matter, and hath bin written in English verse some few years past, learnedly and with good grace, by M. George Turbervil.” Ariosto, fol. 1591, p. 39. FARMER.
I suppose this comedy to have been written in 1600, in which year it was printed. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Sbakspeare's Plays, Vol. I. MALONE,
Before LEONATO's House. Enter LEONATU, Hero, BEATRICE, and Oiker, frils
a Messenger. Leon, I learn in this letter, that Don Pedro of Aragon comes this night to Messina.
Nil. He is very near by this; he was not thrce league's off when I left him.
Learl. How many gentlemen have you loit in this action? Mej. But few of any fort, and none of name.
Leon. A ricory is twice itself, when the atchiever brings home full numbers. I find here, that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine, called Claulio.
M. Much deserved on his part, and equally remember it by Don Pedro: He hath borne himself beyond the pro nito of his age : doing, in the figure of a la nb, the feats of a lion : he hath, indeed, better better'd 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.
Mel: I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him; even so much, that joy could not show itself modeft enough, without a badge of bitterness.3
2 Sort is rank, diftinction. I incline, however, to Mr. M. Mason's easier explanation. Of any fort, says he, means of any kind whatsoever.
STEEVENS. 3 This is judiciousy expressed. Of all the transports of joy, that which is attended with tears is least offensive; because, carrying with it this mark of pain, it allays the envy that usually attends another's happiness. This he finely calls a modest joy, such a one as did not insult the observer by an indication of happiness unmixed with pain.
WARBURTON.. A badge being the distinguishing mark worn in our author's time by the servants of noblemen, &c. on the of their liveries, with his usual licence he employs the words to sgnify a mark or token in general.
Leon. Did he break out into tears?
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness : There are no faces truer 5 than those that are fo washed. How much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping ?
Beat. I pray you, is fignior Montanto returned" from the wars, or no ?
Mej. I know none of that name, lady ; there was none such in the ariny
Bear. He fet up his bills here in Messina, and challenged Cupid at the flight : 9 and my uncle's fool, cading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him at the birdbol.2.- I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in
these 4 i. e. in abundance. ŠTEEVENS. 5 That is, none benefiir, none more fincere. JOHNSON,
-iis fignior Montanto returnedo) Mintante, in Spanish, is a buge two-karded sword, (a title] given, with much humour, to one (whom] the speaker would represent as a bofter or bravado. WARBURTON, Monsanto was one of the ancient terms of the fencing-school.
STEEVENS. ? Not meaning there was none such of any order or degree whatever, but that there was none fuch of any quality above the common.
WARBUITON. 8 Beatrice means, that Benedick published a general challenge, like a prize-fighter. STEEVENS.
9 Flight (as Mr. Douce observes to me) does not here mean an arrow, but a sort of shooting called roving, or shooting at long lengths. The ar. Tows used at this sport are called fight arrows, as were those used in battle for great distances.
STEEVENS. 2 The bird-bolt is a short thick arrow without a point, and spreading at the extremity so much, as to leave a Hat surface, about the breadth of a shilling. Such are to this day in use to kill rooks with, and are shot from a cross bow. STEEVENS.
The meaning of the whole is-Benedick, from a vain conceit of his influence over women, challenged Cupid at roving (a particular kind of archery, in which flight-arrows are used.) In other words, he challenged him to shoot at bearts. The foo!, to ridicule this piece of vanity, in his turn challenged Benedick to shoot at crows with the cross-bow and birdbolt; an inferior kind of archery used by fools, who, for obvious rea. foss, were not permitted to shoot with pointed arrows: Whence the proverb-"* A fool's bolt is foon fhot,” DOUCE..
these wars? But how many hath he killed ? for, indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing.
Leon. Faith, niece, you tax fignior Benedick too much ; but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.
Mel. He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
Beat. You had mufty victual, and he hath holp to at it :he is a very valiant trencher-man, he hath an excellent ko. mach,
Mef. And a good soldier too, lady,
Beat. And a good soldier to a lady' ;-But what is he to a lord ?
M.J. A lord to a lord, a man to a man ; stuffed with all honourable virtues,+
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, fir, mistake my niece: there is ? kind of merry war betwixt fignior Benedick and her: they never meet, but there is a skirmish of wit betwcen 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 liave wit enough to keep himself warm, let himn bear it for a difference between himself and his horse ;) for it is all the wealth he hath left, to be known a reasonable creature. Who is his companiva now ? He hath every month a new fivorn brother.3 B 4
MU 3 This is a very common expression in the midland counties, and signifies be'll be your match, he'll be even with you. STEEVENS.
4 Stuffed, in this first instance, has no ridiculous meaning, Un homme bien etoffé, signifies, in French, a man in good circumstances.
STEEVENS, 5 Beatrice starts an idea at the words ftufrid man; and prudently checks herself in the pursuit of it. A fluff'd man was one of the many cant phrafes for a cuckold. FARMER.
6 In our author's time wit was the general term for intelectual powers.
The wits seem to have been reckoned five, by analogy to the five senses, or the five inlets of ideas. JOHNSON.
7 Sucb a one has wit enough to keep bimself warm, is a proverbial expreflion. To bear any thing for a difference, is a term in heraldry. So, in Hamlet, Ophelia says:
-you may wear your rue with a difference." STEEVENS. Sworn brother.] .i. é. one with whom he hath sworn (as was
Mel: Is it poflille?
Beat. Very easily possible: he wears his faith? but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next block.8 Meff. I fee, lady, the gentleman is not in your
books. Beat. No: an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray you, who is his companion? Is there no young squarer ? now, that will make a voyage with him to the devil?
Mel. He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
Beat. O Lord! he will hang upon him like a disease: he is fooner caught than the peftilence, and the taker runs prefently mad. God help the noble Claudio!if he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured.
Mell. I will hold friends with you, lady,
Mel. Don Pedro is approach'd.
Don JOHN, CLAUDIO, and BENEDICK. D. Pedro. Good fignior Leonato, you are come to meet
your anciently the custom among adventurers) to fare fortunes.
STELVENS. 7 Not religious profession, but profession of friendship ; for the speaker gives it as the reason of her asking, who was now bis companion ? that be bad every month a new sworn brorber. WARBURTON.
8 A block is the mould on which a hat is formed.
STLEVENS. 9 This is a phrase used, I believe, by more than understand it. To be in one's books is to be in one's codicils or will, to be among friends fet down for legacies. JOHNSON.
I rather think that the buoks alluded to, are memorandum-books, like the visiting books of the present age. STEEVENS.
This phrase has not been exactly interpreted. To be in a man's books, originally meant to be in the list of his retainers. Sir John Mandeville
"alle the mynstrelles that comen before the great Chan ben witholden with him, as of his houshold, and entred in his bookes, as for his own men.” FARMER.
A servant and a lover were in Cupid's Vocabulary, synonymous. Hence perhaps the phrase-to be in a perfon's books-was applied equally to the lover and the menial attendant. MALONE.
2 Asparer I take to be a cholerick, quarrelsome fellow, for in this fense Shakspeare uses the word to Square. So the sense may be, Is there