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Don PEDRO, Prince of Arragon.
of Don Pedro.
Followers of Don John,
HERO, Daughter to Leonato.
Gentlewomen attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watch, and Attendants,
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
SCENE I. Before Leonato's House. Enter LEONATO, HERO, BEATRICE, and others,
with a Messenger.
Leonato. I LEARN in this letter, that Don Pedrol 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, 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 bimself 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
how. Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it. Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and
1 The old copies read Don Peter,
there appears much joy in him; even so much, that joy could 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 it is to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping!
Beat. I pray you, is signior Montanto 4 returned from the wars, or no?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady; there was none such in the
sort 5. Leon. What is he that you
ask for, niece? Hero. My cousin means signior Benedick of Padua. Mess. O, he is returned; and as pleasant as ever
Beat. He set up his bills 6 here in Messina, and
2 Of all the transports of joy, that which is attended by tears is least offensive; because, carrying with it this mark of pain, it allays the envy that usually attends another's happiness. This is finely called a modest joy, such a one as did not insult the observer by an indication of happiness unmixed with pain. In Chapman's version of the 10th Odyssey, a somewhat similar expression occurs :
our eyes wore
The same wet badge of weak humanity.' This is an idea which Shakspeare seems have delighted to introduce. It occurs again in Macbeth :
my plenteous joys,
In drops of sorrow.'
4 Montanto was one of the ancient terms of the fencing school; a title humorously given to one whom she would represent as a bravado.
6 This phrase was in common use for affixing a printed notice in some public place, long before Shakspeare's time, and long after. It is amply illustrated by Mr. Douce, in his ‘Illustrations of Shakspeare.'
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 be meet 8 with you, I doubt it not.
Mess. He hath done good service, lady, in these
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.
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 9 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, sir, mistake my
niece: there 7 Flights, were long and light feathered arrows, that went directly to the mark; bird-bolts, short thick arrows without a point, and spreading at the extremity into a blunt nobbed head. See Vol. I. p. 312, note 6. The meaning of the whole is :Benedick, from a vain conceit of his influence over women, challenged Cupid at the flight (i. e. to shoot at hearts). The fool, to ridicule this piece of vanity, in his turn challenged Benedick at the bird-bolt, an inferior kind of archery used by fools, who, for obvious reasons, were not permitted to shoot with pointed arrows: whence the proverb—A fool's bolt is soon shot.'
9 Stuffed, in this first instance, has no ridiculous meaning. Mede, in his discourses on Scripture, quoted by Edwards, speaking of Adam, says, 'he whom God had stuffed with so many excellent qualities. And in the Winter's Tale :
"Of stuf'd sufficiency.' Beatrice starts an idea at the words stuffed man, and prudently checks herself in the pursuit of it. A stuffed man appears to have been one of the many cant phrases for a cuckold.
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 10 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 11 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 it possible?
Beat. Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next block 12.
Mess. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books 13.
Beat. No: an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray you, who is his companion ? Is there no young squarer 14 now, that will make a voyage with him to the devil ?
10 In Shakspeare's time wit was the general term for intellectual power. The wits seem to have been reckoned five by analogy to the five senses. So in Lear, Act iii. Sc. 4: ‘Bless thy five wits.
il This is an heraldic term. So, in Hamlet, Ophelia says, • You may wear your rue with a difference.'
12 The mould on which a hat is formed. It is here used for shape or fashion. See note on Lear, Act iv. Sc. 6.
13 The origin of this phrase, which is still in common use, has not been clearly explained, though the sense of it is pretty generally understood. The most probable account derives it from the circumstance of servants and retainers being entered in the books of those to whom they were attached. To be in one's books was to be in favour. That this was the ancient sense of the phrase, and its origin, appears from Florio, in V.- Casso. Cashier'd, crossed, cancelled, or put out of booke and checke roule.”