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ACT I. 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.
Mel. 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? Mef. But few of any sort”, and none of name. 1 The story is from Ariosto, Orl. Fur. B.v. Pope.
It is true, as Ms. Pope has observed, that somewhat resembling the ftory of this play is to be found in the fifth book of the Orlando Furiofo. In Spenser's Faery Queen, B. ii. c. 4. as remote an original may be traced. A novel, however, of Belleforest, copied from another of Bandello, seems to have furnished Shakspeare with his table, 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. STEEV.
Ariofto is continually quoted for the fable of Mueb Ado about Nothing i but I suspect our poet to have been satisfied with the Geneura of Turbera ville. "The tale (says Harington) is a pretie comical matter, and hath bin written in English verse fome few years past, learnedly and with good grace, by M. George Turbervil.” Ariola, 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 Skanpoare's playsa Vol. 1. MALONE.
2 - of any sort,] i. e. of any kind. Sort, in our author's age, was often used for bigbrank, (see p. 208.) but it seems from the context to bare here the same fignification as at present. MALONE.
Léon. A victory is twice itself, when the atchiever brings home full numbers. I find here, that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine, callid Claudio.
Mel: Much deserved on his part, and equally remember'd 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 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.
Mej. I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him ; even so much, that joy could not sew itself modelt enough, without a badge of bitterness 3.
Leon. Did he break out into tears ?
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness: There are no faces truer 4 than those that are so wash'd. How much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping?
Beat. I pray you, is fignior Montanto return'ds from the wars, or no?
Mes. I know none of that name, lady; there was none such in the army of any sort o.
Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece ?
jcy could not new itself modest enough, without a badge of bitsernefs.] This is an idea which Shakspeare seems to have been delighted to introduce. It occurs again in Macberb:
-my plenteous joy's
“ In drops of sorrow." STEEVENS. A badge being the distinguishing mark worn in our author's time by the servants of noblemen, &c. on the sleeve of their liveries, with his usual licence he employs the word to signify a mark or token in general. So, in Macbeth :
“ Their hands and faces were all badg'd with blood." MALONE. -no faces truer] That is, none bonefter, none more fincere.
JOHNSON. 5 - is fignior Montanto return'd-] So, in the Merry Wives of Windsor : thy reverse, thy distance, thy montant." STEEVENS. -of any fort.] i, e. of any quality above obe common. WARBURT.
Mel. O, he's return'd; and as pleasant as ever he was.
Beat. He set up his bills? here in Messina, and challenged Cupid at the fight 8: and my uncle's fool, read. ing the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him at the bird-bolt"-I pray you, how many hath he kill'd and eaten in these wars? But how many hath he kill'd? 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.
Mef. 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 trencher-man, he hath an excellent Lomach.
Mes. And a good soldier too, lady.
Beat. And a good soldier to a lady ;-But what is he to a lord ?
Mel. A lord to a lord, a man to a man ; stuff'd with all honourable virtues ?.
Beas. 7 He for up bis bills &c.] Beatrice means, that Benedick publikhed a general challenge, like a prize-fighter. So, in Nashe's Have witb you to Saffron Walden &c. 1596; " --setting up bills like a bearward or fencer, what fights we lhall have, and what weapons she will meet me at."
STILVINI. --ballenged Cupid at rbe Aight :] To challenge at the fligbt, was a challenge to thoot with an arrow. Fligbt means an arrow. STIIV.
The figbt, which in the Latin of the middle ages was called flesta, was a feet arrow with narrow feathers, usually not at rovers. See Blouat's Ancient Tenures, p. 64, edit. 1679. MALONE.
9 – 4 tbe bird-bolt.) A bolt seems to have been a general, though Lot an universal, term for an arrow. See Mintheu's Dia, in v. The word is ftill used in the common proverb, “ A fool's bolt is roon shot." That particular species of arrow which was employed in killing birds, was called a bird-bolt. MALONE.
The bird-belt is a short thick arrow without point, and spreading at the extremity so much, as to leave a flat surface, about the breadth of a hilling. Such are to this day in use to kill rooks with, and are shot from a cross-bow. STELVENS.
!-be'll be meet wirb you,] This is a very common expression in the midland couaties, and signifies be'll be your marcb, be'll be even wito Jä. STEEVENS.
. - stuff'd with all bonourable virtues.) Stuff'd, in this first infance, has no ridiculous meaning. Mr. Edwards obferves, that Mede, in hio Discourses on Scripture, speaking of Adam, says, “ he whom God Yoz. 11.
Beat. It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuff'd man: but for the stuffing,--well, we are all mortal 3.
Leon. You mult not, fir, mistake my niece : there is a kind of merry war betwixt fignior Benedick and her: they never meet, but there's a skirmish of wit between them.
Beat. Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last confic, four of his five wits 4 went halting off, and now is the whole man govern'd with one : so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a differences 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.
Mej. Is it possible?
Beat. Very easily pollible: he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next block?. Miff. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books'.
Beat. had Auffed with so many excellent qualities.” Edwards's Ms. Again, in the Winter's Tale :
-whom you know “ Of Buff'd sufficiency." STEEVENS. 3.- he is no less than a stutt'd man: but for the stuffing, well, cus are all mortal.] Beatrice starts an idea at the words ftuf d man; and prudently.checks herself in the pursuit of it. A fuf'd man was one of the many cant phrases for a cuckold. FARMER.'
4.- four of bis five wits-) In our author's time wit was the general term for intellectual powers. The wirs seem to have been res koned five, by analogy to the five senses, or the five inlets of ideas.
JOHNSON. 5-if be bave wit enougb to keep bimself warm, let bim bear it for a difference &c.] Such a one bas wit enougb to keep bimself waru, is a proverbial expression. To bear any thing for a difference, is a term in heraldry. So, in Hamlet, Ophelia says: “-you may wear yours with a difference. STEEVENS.
- he wears bis faith—] Not religious profession, but profeffion of friendship. WARBURTON.
7 with eke next block.) A block is the mould on which a hat is formed. The old writers Tometimes use the word block, for the hat Itself. STEEVENS.
8-the gentleman is not in your books.] This is a phrase used, ! 1. believe, by more than understand it. To be in one's books is to be is one's codicils or will, co be among friends fet down for legacies. Johnson,
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 ?
Mell. 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 peftilence, 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.
Mel. I will hold friends with you, lady.
I rather think that the books alluded to, are memorandum-books, like the visiting-books of the present age. It appears to have been anciently the custom to chronicle the small beer of every occurrence, whether literary or domestic, in Table-books.
It should feem from the following passage in the Taming of the Sbrew, that this phrase might have originated from the Herald's Office :
“ A herald, Kate ! oh, put me in thy books !” After all, the following note in one of the Harleian MSS. No. 847, may be the best illustration : • W.c. to Henry Fradiham, Gent. the owener of this book :
“ Some write their fantasies in verse
« The great good will that they do owe, &c.” STEEVENS. To be in a man's books originally meant, to be in the list of his reSainers. Sir John Mandevile tells us, “ 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, in Cupid's Vocabulary, were synonymous. Hence perhaps the phrase-to be in a person's books
was applied equally to the lover and the menial attendant. MALONE.
9 - young Squarer-) A squarer I take to be a cholerick, quarrel. some fellow, for in this sense Shakspeare uses the word to Square. So, in the Midsummer Night's Dream, it is said of Oberon and Titania, that they never meet but they square. So the sense may be, Is ibere no hotblooded yourb ibar will keep bim company ebrougball bis mad pranks?