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Much Ado About Nothing

I.i.27 (226,3) [no faces truer] That is, none honester, none more sincere.

I.i.40 (227,7) [challenged Cupid at the flight] The disuse of the bow makes this passage obscure. Benedick is represented as challenging Cupid at archery. To challenge at the flight is, I believe, to wager who shall shoot the arrow furthest without any particular mark. To challenge at the bird-bolt, seems to mean the same as to challenge at children's archery, with snail arrows such as are discharged at birds. In Twelfth Night Lady Olivia opposes a bird-bolt to a cannon-bullet, the lightest to the heaviest of missive weapons.

I.i.66 (228,9) [four of his five wits] In our author's time wit was the general term for intellectual powers. So Davies on the Soul.

Wit, seeking truth from cause to cause ascends. And never rests till it the first attain; Will, seeking good, finds many middle ends, But never stays till it the last do gain.

And in another part,

But if a phrenzy do possess the brain, It so disturbs and blots the form of things, As fantasy proves altogether vain, And to the wit, no true relation brings. Then doth the wit, admitting all for true, Build fond conclusions on those idle grounds;--

The wits seem to have reckoned five, by analogy to the five senses, or the five inlets of ideas.

I.i.79 (229,4) [the gentleman is not in your books] This is a phrase used, I believe, by more than understand it. To be in one's books is to be in one's codicils or will, to be among friends set down for legacies.

I.i.82 (230,5) [young squarer] A squarer I take to be a cholerick, quarrelsome fellow, for in this sense Shakespeare uses the word to square. So in Midsummer Night's Dream it is said of Oberon and Titalia, that they never meet but they square. So the sense may be, Is there no hot-blooded youth that will keep him company through all his mad pranks?

I.i.103 (231,6) [You embrace your charge] That is your burthen, your incumbrunce.

I.i.185 (233,7) [to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder] I know not whether I conceive the jest here intended. Claudio hints his love of Hero. Benedick asks whether he is serious, or whether he only means to jest, and tell them that Cupid is a good hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare carpenter. A man praising a pretty lady in jest, may shew the quick sight of Cupid, but what has it to do with the carpentry of Vulcan? Perhaps the thought lies no deeper than this, Do you mean to tell us as new what we all know already?

I.i.200 (234,8) [wear his cap with suspicion?] That is, subject his head to the disquiet of jealousy.

I.i.217 (235,1) [Claud. If this were so, so were it uttered] This and the three next speeches I do not well understand; there seems something omitted relating to Hero's consent, or to Claudio's marriage, else I know not what Claudio can wish not to be otherwise. The copies all read alike. Perhaps it may be better thus,

Claud. If this were so, so were it. Bene. Uttered like the old tale, &c.

Claudio gives a sullen answer, if it is so, so it is. Still there seems something omitted which Claudio and Pedro concur in wishing.

I.i.243 (236,3) [but that I will have a recheate winded in my forehead] That is, I will wear a horn on my forehead which the huntsman may blow. A recheate is the sound by which dogs are called back. Shakespeare had no mercy upon the poor cuckold, his horn is an inexhaustible subject of merriment.

1.1.258 (236,4) [notable argument] An eminent subject for satire.

1.1.259 (237,5) [Adam] Adam Bell was a companion of Robin Hood, as may be seen in Robin Hood's Garland; in which, if I do not mistake, are these lines,

For he brought Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, And William of Cloudeslea, To shoot with this forester for forty marks, And the forester beat them all three.

(see 1765, III,182,2)

I.i.290 (238,4) [ere you flout old ends any further, examine your conscience] Before you endeavour to distinguish yourself any more by antiquated allusions, examine whether you can fairly claim them for your own. This, I think is the meaning; or it may be understood in another sense, examine, if your sarcasms do not touch yourself.

I.iii.14 (241,6) [I cannot hide what I am] This is one of our authour's natural touches. An envious and unsocial mind, too proud to give pleasure, and too sullen to receive it, always endeavours to hide its malignity from the world and from itself, under the plainness of simple honesty, or the dignity of haughty independence.

I.iii.19 (241,7) [claw no man in his humour] To claw is to flatter. So the pope's claw-backs, in bishop Jewel, are the pope's flatterers. The sense is the same in the proverb, Mulus mulum scabit.

I.iii.28 (242,8) [I had rather be a canker in a hedge, than a rose in his grace] A canker is the canker rose, dog-rose, cynosbatus, or hip. The sense is, I would rather live in obscurity the wild life of nature, than owe dignity or estimation to my brother. He still continues his wish of gloomy independence. But what is the meaning of the expression, a rose in his grace? if he was a rose of himself, his brother's grace or favour could not degrade him. I once read thus, I had rather be a canker in a hedge, than a rose in his garden; that is, I had rather be what nature makes me, however mean, than owe any exaltation or improvement to my brother's kindness or cultivation. But a less change will be sufficient: I think it should be read, I had rather be a canker in a hedge, than a rose by his grace.

II.i.3 (244,1) [I never can see him, but I am heart-burn'd an hour after] The pain commonly called the heart-burn, proceeds from an acid humour in the stomach, and is therefore properly enough imputed to tart looks.

II.i.53 (245,3) [Well then, go you into hell] Of the two next speeches Mr. Warburton says, All this impious nonsense thrown to the bottom is the players, and foisted in without rhyme or reason. He therefore puts them in the margin. They do not deserve indeed so honourable a place, yet I am afraid they are too much in the manner of our authour, who is sometimes trying to purchase merriment at too dear a rate. (see 1765, III,190,9)

II.i.73 (246,4) [if the prince be too important] Important here, and in many other places, is importunate.

II.i.99 (247,6) [My visor is Philemon's roof; within the house is Jove] [T: house is love] This amendation, thus impressed with all the power of his eloquence and reason, Theobald found in the quarto edition of 1600, which he professes to have seen; and in the first folio, the l and the I are so much alike, that the printers, perhaps, used the same type for either letter. (1773)

II.i.143 (249,2) [his gift is in devising impossible slanders] [W: impassible] Impossible slanders are, I suppose, such slanders as, from their absurdity and impossibility, bring their own confutation with them.

II.i.195 (251,4) [usurer's chain] I know not whether the chain was, in our authour's time, the common ornament of wealthy citizens, or whether he satirically uses usurer and alderman as synonymous terms.

II.i.214 (252,5) [It is the base, the bitter disposition of Beatrice, that puts the world into her person] That is, It is the disposition of Beatrice, who takes upon her to personate the world, and therefore represents the world as saying what she only says herself.

Base, tho bitter. I do not understand how base and bitter are inconsistent, or why what is bitter should not be base. I believe, we may safely read, It is the base, the bitter disposition.

II.i.253 (253,8) [such impossible conveyance] [W: impassible] I know not what to propose. Impossible seems to have no meaning here, and for impassible I have not found any authority. Spenser uses the word importable in a sense very congruous to this passage, for insupportable, or not to be sustained.

Both him charge on either side, With hideous strokes and importable power, Which forced him his ground to traverse wide.

It may be easily imagined, that the transcribers would change a word so unusual, into that word most like it, which they could readily find. It must be however confessed, that importable appears harsh to our ears, and I wish a happier critick may find a better word.

Sir Tho. Hammer reads impetuous, which will serve the purpose well enough, but is not likely to have been changed to impossible.

Importable was a word not peculiar to Spenser, but used by the last translators of the Apocrypha, and therefore such a word as Shakespeare may be supposed to have written. (1773) II.i.330 (256,2) [Thus goes every one to the world but I, and I am sun-burn'd] What is it, to go the world? perhaps, to enter by marriage into a settled state: but why is the unmarry'd lady sun-burnt? I believe we should read, Thus goes every one to the wood but I, and I am sun-burnt. Thus does every one but I find a shelter, and I am left exposed to wind and sun. The nearest way to the wood, is a phrase for the readiest means to any end. It is said of a woman, who accepts a worse match than those which she had refused, that she has passed through the wood, and at last taken a crooked stick. But conjectural criticism has always something to abate its confidence. Shakespeare, in All's well that Ends well, uses the phrase, to go to the world, for marriage. So that my emendation depends only on the opposition of wood to sun-burnt.

II.i.380 (258,4) [to bring signior Benedick, and the lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection, the one with another] A mountain of affection with one another is a strange expression, yet I know not well how to change it. Perhaps it was originally written, to bring Benedick into a mooting of affection; to bring them not to any more mootings of contention, but to a mooting or conversation of love. This reading is confirmed by the preposition with; a mountain with each other, or affection with each other, cannot be used, but a mooting with each other is proper and regular.

II.iii.104 (265,7) [but, that she loves him, with an enraged affection, it is past the infinite of thought] [W: the definite of] Here are difficulties raised only to shew how easily they can be removed. The plain sense is, I know not what to think otherwise, but that she loves him with an enraged affection: It (this affection) [is past the infinite of thought. Here are no abrupt stops, or imperfect sentences. Infinite may well enough stand; it is used by more careful writers for indefinite; and the speaker only means, that thought, though in itself unbounded, cannot reach or estimate the degree of her passion.

II.iii.146 (267,8) [O, she tore the letter into a thousand half-pence] [i.e. into a thousand pieces of the same bigness.] This is farther explained by a passage in As you Like it.

--There were none principal; they were all like one

another as half-pence are. [Theobald.] How the quotation explains the passage, to which it is applied, I cannot discover.

II.iii.188 (268,9) [contemptible spirit] That is, a temper inclined to scorn and contempt. It has been before remarked, that our authour uses his verbal adjectives with great licence. There is therefore no need of changing the word with sir T. Hammer to contemptuous.

III.i.52 (273,3) [Misprising] Despising, contemning.

III.i.96 (275,8) [argument] This word seems here to signify discourse, or, the powers of reasoning. III.i.104 (275,7) [She's lim'd] She is ensnared and entangled as a sparrow with birdlime.

III.i.107 (275,9) [Taming my wild heart to thy loving hand] This image is taken from falconry. She had been charged with being as wild as haggards of the rock; she therefore says, that wild as her heart is, she will tame it to the hand.

III.ii.31 (277,2) [There is no appearance of fancy in him, unless it be a fancy that he hath to strange disguises] Here is a play upon the word fancy, which Shakespeare uses for love as well as for humour, caprice, or affectation.

III.ii.71 (278,3) [She shall be buried with her face upwards] [T: heels upwards] This emendation, which appears to me very specious, is rejected by Dr. Warburton. The meaning seems to be, that she who acted upon principles contrary to others, should be buried with the same contrariety.

III.iii.43 (282,5) [only have a care that your bills be not stolen] A bill is still carried by the watchmen at Litchfield. It was the old weapon of the English infantry, which, says Temple, gave the most ghastly and deplorable wounds. It may be called securis falcata.

III.iv.44 (289,3) [Light o' love] A tune so called, which has been already mentioned by our authour.

III.iv.49 (290,4) [you'll look he shall lack no burns] A quibble between barns, repositories of corn, and bairns, the old word for children.

III.iv.56 (290,5) [For the letter that begins them all, H] This is a poor jest, somewhat obscured, and not worth the trouble of elucidation.

Margaret asks Beatrice for what she cries, hey ho; Beatrice answers, for an H, that is, for an ache or pain.

III.iv.57 (290,6) [turn'd Turk] [i.e. taken captive by love, and turned a renegade to his religion. Warburton.] This interpretation is somewhat far-fetched, yet, perhaps, it is right.

III.iv.78 (291,7) [some morel] That is, some secret meaning, like the moral of a fable.

III.iv.89 (291,8) [he eats his meat without grudging] I do not see how this is a proof of Benedick's change of mind. It would afford more proof of amourosness to say, he eats not his meat without grudging; but it is impossible to fix the meaning of proverbial expressions: perhaps, to eat meat without grudging, was the same as, to do as others do, and the meaning is, he is content to live by eating like other mortals and will be content, notwithstanding his boasts, like other mortals, to have a wife.

III.v.15 (293,9) [I am as honest as any man living, that is an old man, and no honester than I] [There is much humour, and extreme good sense under the covering of this blundering expression. It is a sly insinuation that length of years, and the being much hacknied in the ways of men, as Shakespeare expresses it, take off the gloss of virtue, and bring much defilement on the manners. Warburton.] Much of this is true, but I believe Shakespeare did not intend to bestow all this reflection on the speaker.

III.v.40 (294,1) [an two men ride of a horse, one must ride behind] This is not out of place, or without meaning. Dogberry, in his vanity of superiour parts, apologizing for his neighbour, observes, that of two men on an horse, one must ride behind. The first place of rank or understanding can belong but to one, and that happy one ought not to despise his inferiour.

IV.i.22 (296,2) [Interjections? Why, then some be of laughing] This is a quotation from the Accidence.

IV.i.42 (296,3) [luxurious bed] That is, lascivious. Luxury is the confessor's term for unlawful pleasures of the sex.

IV.i.53 (297,5) [word too large] So he uses large jests in this play, for licentious, not restrained within due bounds.

IV.i.57 (297,6) [I will write against it] [W: rate against] As to subscribe to any thing is to allow it, so to write against is to disallow or deny.

IV.i.59 (297,7) [chaste as is the bud] Before the air has tasted its sweetness.

IV.i.75 (298,8) [kindly power] That is, natural power. Kind is nature.

IV.i.93 (298,9) [liberal villain] Liberal here, as in many places of these plays, means, frank beyond honesty or decency. Free of tongue. Dr. Warburton unnecessarily reads, illiberal.

IV.i. 101 (299,1) [O Hero! What a Hero hadst thou been] I am afraid here is intended a poor conceit upon the word Hero.

IV.i.123 (300,2) [The story that is printed in her blood?] That is, the story which her blushes discover to be true.

IV.i.128 (300,3) [Griev'd I, I had but one? Chid I for that at frugal nature's frame?] [W: nature's 'fraine] Though frame be not the word which appears to a reader of the present time most proper to exhibit the poet's sentiment, yet it may as well be used to shew that he had one child, and no more, as that he had a girl, not a boy, and as it may easily signify the system of things, or universal scheme, the whole order of beings is comprehended, there arises no difficulty from it which requires to be removed by so violent an effort as the introduction of a new word offensively mutilated.

IV.i.137 (301,4) [But mine, and mine I lov'd, and mine I prais'd, And mine that I was proud on] [W: "as mine" in three places] Even of this small alteration there is no need. The speaker utters his emotion abruptly, But mine, and mine that I loved, &c. by an ellipsis frequent, perhaps too frequent, both in verse and prose.

IV.i.187 (303,6) [bent of honour] Bent is used by our authour for the utmost degree of any passion, or mental quality. In this play before Benedick says of Beatrice, her affection has its full bent. The expression is derived from archery; the bow has its bent, when it is drawn as far as it can be.

IV.i.206 (304,8) [ostentation] Show; appearance.

IV.i.251 (305,1) [The smallest twine nay lead me] This is one of our author's observations upon life. Men overpowered with distress, eagerly listen to the first offers of relief, close with every scheme, and believe every promise. He that has no longer any confidence in himself, is glad to repose his trust in any other that will undertake to guide him.

IV.ii.70 (311,6) [Sexton. Let them be in hand] There is nothing in the old quarto different in this scene from the common copies, except that the names of two actors, Kempe and Cowley, are placed at the beginning of the speeches, instead of the proper words, (see 1765, III,249,7)

V.i.15 (313,7)

[If such a one will smile and stroke his beard; And, sorrow wag! cry; hem, when he should groan]

Sir Thomas Hammer, and after him Dr. Warburton, for wag read waive, which is, I suppose, the same as, put aside or shift off. None of these conjectures satisfy me, nor perhaps any other reader. I cannot but think the true meaning nearer than it is imagined. I point thus,

If such an one will smile, and stroke his beard, And, sorrow wag! cry; hem, when he should groan;

That is, If he will smile, and cry sorrow be gone, and hem instead of groaning. The order in which and and cry are placed is harsh, and this harshness made the sense mistaken. Range the words in the common order, and my reading will be free from all difficulty.

If such an one will smile, and stroke his beard, Cry, sorrow, wag! and hem when he should groan.

V.i.32 (314,8) [My griefs cry louder than advertisement] That is, than admonition, than moral instruction.

V.i.102 (318,4) [we will not wake your patience] [W: wrack] This emendation is very specious, and perhaps is right; yet the present reading may admit a congruous meaning with less difficulty than many other of Shakespeare's expressions.

The old men have been both very angry and outrageous; the prince tells them that he and Claudio will not wake their patience; will not any longer force them to endure the presence of those whom, though they look on them as enemies, they cannot resist.

V.i.138 (319,6) [to turn his girdle] We have a proverbial speech, If he be angry, let him turn the buckle of his girdle. But I do not know its original or meaning.

V.i.166 (320,7) [a wise gentleman] This jest depending on the colloquial use of words is now obscure; perhaps we should read, a wise gentle man, or a man wise enough to be a coward. Perhaps wise gentleman was in that age used ironically, and always stood for silly fellow.

V.i.231 (322,9) [one meaning well suited] That is, one meaning is put into many different dresses; the prince having asked the same question in four modes of speech.

V.ii.9 (326,3) [To have no man come over me? why, shall I always keep below stairs?] [T: above] I suppose every reader will find the meaning of the old copies.

V.ii.l7 (327,4) [I give thee the bucklers] I suppose that to give the bucklers is, to yield, or to lay by all thoughts of defence, so clipeum abjicere. The rest deserves no comment.

V.iii.13 (330,7) [Those that slew thy virgin knight] Knight, in its original signification, means follower or pupil, and in this sense may be feminine. Helena, in All's well that Ends well, uses knight in the same signification.

Samuel Johnson