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IN FIVE ACTS;
By WILLIAM SHAKSPEARE.
AS PERFORMED AT THE THEATRES ROYAL,
DRURY LANE AND COVENT GARDEN.
PRINTED UNDER THE AUTHORITY OF THE MANAGERS
FROM THE PROMPT BOOK.
BY MRS. INCHBALD.
PRINTED FOR LONGMAN, HURST, REES, AND ORME,
The story of this comedy is supposed, by Pope, to have been taken froin the fifth book of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso.
Steevens says, there is as remote an original to be traced in Spenser's “ Fairy Queen."
“ Much ado about Nothing” has more charms in its dialogue, than in its fable, or events. The first plot appears a trivial one, because all the incidents of note, which arise from it, are connected with persons of so little consequence in the piece, that their vicissitudes of fortune excite not that hope, fear, nor curiosity in the audience, which more important characters would inspire.
Claudio and Hero are said to be in love, but they say so litile about it themselves, that no strong sympathy is created, either by their joys, or their sorrows, their expectations or disappointments; though, such is the reverence for justice implanted in humankind, that every spectator feels a degree of delight in the final vindication of her innocence, and the confusion of her guilty accusers. Those persons, for whom the hearts of the audience are most engaged, have, on the contrary, scarce one event to aid their personal interest: every occurrence, which befalls them, depends solely on the pitiful act of private listening. If Benedick or Beatrice bad possessed perfect good manners, or just notions of honour and delicacy, so as to have refused to have become eves-droppers, the action of the play must have stood still, or sone better method have been contrived--a worse hardly could-lo have imposed on their mutual credulity.
But this willingness to overhear conversations, the reader will find to be the reigning fashion with the dra. matis personæ of this play; for there are nearly as many unwarrantable listeners, as there are characters in it.
But, in whatever failings the ill-bred custom of Messina may have involved the said Benedick and Beatrice, they are both highly entertaining, and most respectable personages. They are so witty, so jocund, so free from care, and yet so sensible of care in others, that the best possible reward is conferred on their merit-marriage with each other.
What Dr. Johnson has said in respect to authors writing characters for provincial, or foreign pronunciation, may be applied to those, who produce such parts as Dogberry, that please merely by misapplication of words—“ This mode of forming ridiculous characters, can conter praise only on him who originally discovered it, for it requires not much either of wit, or judgment. Its success must be derived almost wholly from the player ; but its power in a skil. ful mouth, even he who despises it, is unable to resist.”