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Leon. Come, cousin, I am sure you love the gentleman. Claud. And I'll be sworn upon 't, that he loves her; For here's a paper, written in his hand,
A halting sonnet of his own pure brain,
Fashion'd to Beatrice.
And here's another,
Writ in my cousin's hand, stolen from her pocket,
Bene. A miracle! here's our own hands against our hearts! Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take thee for pity.
Beat. I would not deny you;-but, by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion;7 and, partly, to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption. Bene. Peace, I will stop your mouth. 8- [Kissing her. D. Pedro. How dost thou, Benedick the married man? Bene. I'll tell thee what, prince; a college of witcrackers cannot flout me out of my humour: Dost thou think, I care for a satire, or an epigram? No: if a man will be beaten with brains, he shall wear nothing hand
7 I would not deny you; &c.] Mr. Theobald says, is not this mock-reasoning? She would not deny him, but that she yields upon great persuasion. In changing the negative, I make no doubt but I have retrieved the poet's humour: and so changes not into yet. But is not this a mock-critic? who could not see that the plain obvious sense of the common reading was this, I cannot find in my heart to deny you, but for all that I yield, after having stood out great persuasions to submission. He had said-I take thee for pity, she replies-I would not deny thee, i. e. I take thee for pity too: but as I live, I am won to this compliance by importunity of friends. Mr. Theobald, by altering not to yet, makes it supposed that he had been importunate, and that she had often denied, which was not the case. Warburton.
Bene. Peace, I will stop your mouth. [Kissing her.] In former copies :
Leon. Peace, I will stop your mouth.
What can Leonato mean by this? "Nay, pray, peace, niece! don't keep up this obstinacy of professions, for I have proofs to stop your mouth." The ingenious Dr. Thirlby agreed with me, that this ought to be given to Benedick, who, upon saying it, kisses Beatrice; and this being done before the whole company, how natural is the reply which the prince makes upon it?
How dost thou, Benedick the married man? Besides, this mode of speech, preparatory to a salute, is familiar to our poet in common with other stage-writers. Theobald.
some about him: In brief, since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it; and therefore never flout at me for what I have said against it; for man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.-For thy part, Claudio, I did think to have beaten thee; but in that thou art like to be my kinsman, live unbruis'd, and love my cousin.
Claud. I had well hoped, thou wouldst have denied Beatrice, that I might have cudgell'd thee out of thy single life, to make thee a double dealer; which, out of question, thou wilt be, if my cousin do not look exceeding narrowly to thee.
Bene. Come, come, we are friends:-let's have a dance ere we are married, that we may lighten our own hearts, and our wives' heels.
Leon. We'll have dancing afterwards.
Bene. First, o' my word; therefore, play, musick.Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife: there is no staff more reverend than one tipp'd with horn.1
in that] i. e. because. So, Hooker: "Things are preached not in that they are taught, but in that they are published." Steevens.
1 -no staff more reverend than one tipp'd with horn.] This passage may admit of some explanation that I am unable to furnish. By accident I lost several instances I had collected for the purpose of throwing light on it. The following, however, may assist the future commentator.
MS. Sloan, 1691.
"THAT A FELLON MAY WAGE BATTAILE, WITH THE ORDER
by order of the lawe both the parties must at their owne charge be armed withoute any yron or long armoure, and theire heades bare, and bare-handed and bare-footed, every one of them having a baston horned at ech ende, of one length," &c. Again, in Stowe's Chronicle, edit. 1615, p. 669: “— his baston a staffe of an elle long, made taper-wise, tipt with horne, &c. was borne after him." Steevens.
Again, Britton, Pleas of the Crown, c. xxvii, s. 18: "Next let them go to combat armed without iron and without linnen armour, their heads uncovered and their hands naked, and on foot, with two bastons tipped with horn of equal length, and each of them a target of four corners, without any other armour, whereby any of them may annoy the other; and if either of them have any other weapon concealed about him, and therewith annoy his adversary, let it be done as shall be mentioned amongst combats in a plea of land." Reed.
Enter a Messenger.
Mess. My lord, your brother John is ta'en in flight,
Mr. Steevens's explanation is undoubtedly the true one. The allusion is certainly to the ancient trial by wager of battel, in suits both criminal and civil. The quotation above given recites the form in the former case,-viz. an appeal of felony. The prac tice was nearly similar in civil cases, upon issue joined in a writ of right. Of the last trial of this kind in England, (which was in the thirteenth year of Queen Elizabeth) our author might have read a particular account in Stowe's Annales. Henry Nailor, master of defence, was champion for the demandants, Simon Low and John Kyme; and George Thorne for the tenant, (or defendant) Thomas Paramoure. The combat was appointed to be fought in Tuthill-fields, and the Judges of the Common Pleas and Serjeants at law attended. But a compromise was entered into between the parties, the evening before the appointed day, and they only went through the forms, for the greater security of the tenant. Among other ceremonies Stowe mentions, that "the gauntlet that was cast down by George Thorne was borne before the sayd Nailor, in his passage through London, upon a sword's point, and his baston (a staff of an ell long, made taper-wise, tipt with horn) with his shield of hard leather, was borne after him," &c. See also Minsheu's Dict. 1617, in v. Combat from which it appears that Naylor on this occasion was introduced to the Judges, with "three solemn congees," by a very Elizabeth into Russia, who carried a red baston of an ell long, person, "Sir Jerome Bowes, ambassador from Queen tipped with horn."-In a very ancient law-book entitled Britton, the manner in which the combatants are to be armed is particu
translation from thence. By a ridiculous mistake the words, sauns lōge arme," are rendered in the modern translation of that book, printed a few years ago, "without linnen armour and << a mains nues and pies" [bare-handed and bare-footed] is "and their hands naked, and on foot." Malone.
This play may be justly said to contain two of the most sprightly characters that Shakspeare ever drew. The wit, the humourIt is to be lamented, indeed, that the first and most splendid of ist, the gentleman, and the soldier, are combined in Benedick. these distinctions, is disgraced by unnecessary profaneness; for in the conversation of Beatrice, may be excused on account of cense of his tongue. The too sarcastic levity, which flashes out the steadiness and friendship so apparent in her behaviour, when In the conduct of the fable, however, there is an imperfection she urges her lover to risque his life by a challenge to Claudio.
to that which Dr. Johnson has pointed out in The Merry
Wives of Windsor :-the second contrivance is less ingenious than
And brought with armed men back to Messina.
Bene. Think not on him till to-morrow; I'll devise thee brave punishments for him.-Strike up, pipers. [Dance.Exeunt.
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.
Much ado about Nothing, (as I understand from one of Mr. Vertue's MSS.) formerly passed under the title of Benedick and Beatrix. Heming the player received, on the 20th of May, 1613, the sum of forty pounds, and twenty pounds more as his Majesty's gratuity, for exhibiting six plays at Hampton-Court, among which was this comedy. Steevens.