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ON THE Fable AND Composition of MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
I T is true, as Mr. Pope has observed, that somewhat resembling the story of this play, is to be found in the fifth book of the Orlando Furioso. In Spenser's Fairy 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 Shakspere with his fable, 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 the 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 eighteenth history in the third volume, no translation has hitherto been met with.
This play may be justly said to contain two of the most sprightly characters that Shakspere ever drew, The wit, the, humourist, the gentleman, and the soldier, are combined in Benedick. It is to be lamented, indeed, that the first and most splendid of these distinctions, is disgraced by unnecessary profaneness ; for the goodness of his heart is hardly sufficient to atone for the licence of his tongue. 'The too sarcastic levity, which flashes out in the conversation of Beatrice, may be excused on account of the steadiness and friendship so apparent in her behaviour, when she urges her lover to risque his life by a challenge to Claudio. In the conduct of the fable, however, there is an inperfection similar to that which
Dr. Johnson has pointed out in the Merry Wives of Windsor.The second contrivance is less ingenious than 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 fix plays at Hampton-Court, among which was this comedy.
MEN. Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon, LEONATO, Governor of Messina. Don John, Bastard Brother to Don Pedro. CLAUDIO, a young Lord of Florence, Favourite to Don
two foolish Officers.
two Gentlewomen attending on Hery. A Friar, Messenger, Watch, Town-Clerk, Sexton, and
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
ACT I. SCENE 1.
Before LEONATO's House. Enter LeonATO, HERO,
and BEATRICE, with a Messenger.
I learn in this letter that Don Pedro 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 atchiever þrings home full numbers, I find here, that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine, callid Claudio. A iij
Mess. Much deserv'd-on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro : He háth borne himself beyond the promise of his age; doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a fion : " he hắth, indeed, “ better better'd expectation, than you must expect «6 of me to tell
how." Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
19 • Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and there
appears much joy in him ; even so much, that joy could not shew itself modest enough without a badge of bitterness.
Leon. Did he break out into tears ? Mess. In great measure. Leon. A kind overflow of kindness : There are no faces truer than those that are so wash'd. “ How “ much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at “ weeping !"
29 Beat. I pray you, is signior Montanto return'd from the wars,
or no''? Mess. I know none of that name, lady; there was rione such in the army
sort. Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece ? llero. My cousin means signior Benedick of Padua. Mess. O, he's return'd; and as pleasant as ever he
37 Beat.' He set up his bills here in Messina, and di challenged Cupid at the flight; and my uncle's "foot, reading the challenge, subscrib'd for Cupid, es and challenged him at the bird-bolt."--I pray