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The sparkling comedy of “Much ADO ABOUT NOTHING” is like one of those feminine fascinators, who, in real life — despite of some irregularity of feature and some trifling incongruities of conduct - charm all beholders, and convert the sternest would-be critics into delighted admirers. The comic and serious portions of the dialogue relieve each other admirably. There is rather too much salt, perhaps, and that not invariably attic, in the verbal encounters of Benedick and Beatrice; but the combatants are, at any rate, always alive, and never fail, either in reading or on the stage, to infuse a portion of their superabundant vitality into the most lethargic spectator or reader. The better natures, too, of this cantankerous pair, “ too wise to woo peaceably,” are finely drawn forth by the wrongs of the amiable Hero. The tender friendship, and instinctive glowing scorn of meanness, falsehood, and cruelty, evinced by Beatrice on this trying occasion, however vehemently expressed, are to us proof potential that she is no less capable of ardent, genuine love: of “taming her wild heart to the loving hand” of any gallant possessing
sufficient sense and sympathy to feel and appreciate its innner and less obvious qualities. The meridian sunbeams do not the less warm and invigorate the earth, because they flicker in our eyes, and will not indulge them in a long and placid gaze. Marriage, to such natures as those of Benedick and Beatrice, comes like evening, with its illumined clouds, its softened lights, and balmier odors. We cannot allow ourselves to doubt for a moment, even with Mr. Campbell, that these brilliant lovers, when they thoroughly understood each other, led very harmonious and contented lives. Of the depth of Benedick's sentiment, “ the wise may make some scruple of a doubt,” although the tendency of evidence is, upon the whole, decidedly in his favor; but Beatrice, our life upon it, subsided into a charming, reasonable wife, and a most affectionate, devoted mother.
Of the serious characters, the Friar is the only one to whom we can thoroughly accord our personal liking. Goodness and wisdom seem to stand on either side of him, as visible supporters. His speeches, in what may be termed the accusation scene, are perhaps the finest things in the play. Don Pedro, however, and his bastard Brother, Leonato, Antonio, and Claudio, are all exhibited with Shakspeare's usual nicety of discrimination, and enlivened with numerous masterly touches of poetic truth.
Merely to name that marvelous "pretty piece of flesh,” Dogberry, is to give signal for “the lungs to crow like chanticleer.” Blessings on his good-nature and his bad grammar! We respect the one, while laughing at the other. “Truly, he would not hang a dog with his good will; much more a man who hath any honesty in him.', When the heart speaks, there is no fear of a blunder. In this feeling, honest Dogberry, thou wert the right master constable,” after all. — Affectionately we commit thee to thy pleasant destiny. Happy, and making happy, long mayst thou bestride thine innocent hobby, charging watchmen and detecting plots, till thou and the world grow tired of each other. Methinks we see thee at this moment, cantering off, Goodman Verges scated humbly behind thee (“if two men ride of a horse, one must ride behind”), yet turning round benignantly to vent the pregnant admonition to thine admiring satellites, “An there be any matter of weight chances, call up ME!” And so they will, of course. Depend upon it, your worship will not easily be forgotten by those who have once had the advantage of hearing thine erudite exposition of the statutes," and sitting with the docility of little children at the foot of the learned tribunal over which in the richest of thy two justly-vaunted gowns) thou presidest with a dignity so amusing and so self-complacent.
“Much ADO ABOUT Nothing" was originally published in quarto, and entered at Stationers' Hall, August 23, 1600. The serious incidents of the plot, in their main features, appear to have been derived from one of the “CENT HISTOIRES TRAGIQUES ” of Belleforest, who in his turn copied from the Italian novelist, Bandello.
Fuch Ado About Jothing.
SCENE I. — Before LEONATO's House. much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at
weeping! Enter LEONATO, HERO, BEATRICE, and others,
Beat. I pray you, is Signior Montanto returned with a Messenger.
from the wars, or no ?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady; there Leon. I learn in this letter, that Don Pedro of was none such in the army of any sort. Arragon comes this night to Messina.
Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece ? Mess. He is very near by this; he was not three Hero. My cousin means Signior Benedick, of leagues off when I left him.
Padua. Leon. How many gentlemen have you lost in Mess. O, he is returned; and as pleasant as ever this action?
he was. Mess. But few of any sort, and none of name. Beat. He set up his bills here in Messina, and
Leon. A victory is twice itself when the achiever challenged Cupid at the flight: and my uncle's brings home full numbers. I find here, that Don fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, Pedro hath bestowed much honor on a young Flor- and challenged him at the bird-bolt.— I pray you, entine, called Claudio.
how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars ? Mess. Much deserved on his part, and equally But how many hath he killed ? for indeed, I proinremembered by Don Pedro : he hath borne him- ised to eat all of his killing. self beyond the promise of his age; doing, in the Leon. Faith, niece, you tax Signior Benedick figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion : he hath, in- too much; but he 'll be meet with you, I doubt it deed, better bettered expectation, than you must not. expect of me to tell you how.
Mess. He hath done good service, lady, in these Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will wars. be very much glad of it.
Beat. You had musty victual, and he hath holp Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and to eat it: he is a very valiant trencher-man, he there appears much joy in him; even so much, hath an excellent stomach. that joy could not shew itself modest enough with | Mess. And a good soldier too, lady. out a badge of bitterness.
Beat. And a good soldier to a lady; but what Leon. Did he break out into tears ?
is he to a lord ? Mess. In great measure.
Mess. A lord to a lord, a man to a man: stuffed Leon. A kind overflow of kindness. There are with all honorable virtues. no faces truer than those that are so washed. How Beat. It is so, indeed; he is no less than a
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
stuffed man: but for the stuffing — well, we are 1 D. Pedro. You embrace your charge too wilall mortal.
lingly.— I think this is your daughter. Leon. You must not, sir, mistake my niece: Leon. Her mother hath many times told me so. there is a kind of merry war betwixt Signior Bene- Bene. Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked dick and her: they never meet but there is a skirm- her? ish of wit between them.
Leon. Signior Benedick, no; for then were you Beat. Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our a child. last conflict, four of his five wits went halting off, D. Pedro. You have it full, Benedick: we may and now is the whole man governed with one : so guess by this what you are, being a man. Truly that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, the lady fathers herself.— Be happy, lady! for you let him bear it for a difference between himself and are like an honorable father. his horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left, Bene. If Signior Leonato be her father, she to be known a reasonable creature. — Who is his would not have his head on her shoulders for all companion now? He hath every month a new Messina, as like him as she is. sworn brother.
Beat. I wonder that you will still be talking, Mess. Is it possible ?
Signior Benedick; nobody marks you. Beat. Very easily possible: he wears his faith Bene. What, my dear lady Disdain ! are you yet but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with living ? the next block.
Beat. Is it possible disdain should die, while she Mess. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your hath such meet food to feed it, as Signior Benebooks.
dick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if Beat. No: an he were, I would burn my study. you come in her presence. But, I pray you, who is his companion ? Is there Bene. Then is courtesy a turncoat. But it is no young squarer now, that will make a voyage certain, I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted : with him to the devil ?
and I would I could find in my heart that I had Mess. He is most in the company of the right not a hard heart; for truly I love none. noble Claudio.
Beat. A dear happiness to women; they would Beat. O Lord! he will hang upon him like a else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. disease : he is sooner caught than the pestilence, I thank God, and my cold blood, I am of your huand the taker runs presently mad. God help the mor for that; I had rather hear my dog bark at a noble Claudio ! if he have caught the Benedick, it crow, than a man swear he loves me. will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured. Bene. God keep your ladyship still in that mind !
Mess. I will hold friends with you, lady. so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestiBeat. Do, good friend.
nate scratched face. Leon. You will never run mad, niece.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse, an Beat. No, not till a hot January.
't were such a face as yours were. Mess. Don Pedro is approached.
Bene. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Beat. A bird of my tongue is better than a beast Enter Don PEDRO, attended by BALTHAZAR and of yours. others; Don John, CLAUDIO, and BENEDICK. I Bene. I would my horse had the speed of your
tongue; and so good a continuer. But keep your D. Pedro. Good Signior Leonato, you are come way o' God's name; I have done. to meet your trouble: the fashion of the world is Beat. You always end with a jade's trick; I to avoid cost, and you encounter it.
know you of old. Leon. Never came trouble to my house in the D. Pedro. This is the sum of all : Leonato — likeness of your grace; for trouble being gone, Signior Claudio and Signior Benedick — my dear comfort should remain; but when you depart from friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him we me, sorrow abides, and happiness takes his leave. shall stay here at the least a month; and he heartily