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Act 3, Scene III

SCENE III. A street.

Enter DOGBERRY and VERGES with the Watch
DOGBERRY
Are you good men and true?

VERGES
Yea, or else it were pity but they should suffer
salvation, body and soul.

DOGBERRY
Nay, that were a punishment too good for them, if
they should have any allegiance in them, being
chosen for the prince's watch.

VERGES
Well, give them their charge, neighbour Dogberry.

DOGBERRY
First, who think you the most desertless man to be
constable?

First Watchman
Hugh Otecake, sir, or George Seacole; for they can
write and read.

DOGBERRY
Come hither, neighbour Seacole. God hath blessed
you with a good name: to be a well-favoured man is
the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes by nature.

Second Watchman
Both which, master constable,--

DOGBERRY
You have: I knew it would be your answer. Well,
for your favour, sir, why, give God thanks, and make
no boast of it; and for your writing and reading,
let that appear when there is no need of such
vanity. You are thought here to be the most
senseless and fit man for the constable of the
watch; therefore bear you the lantern. This is your
charge: you shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are
to bid any man stand, in the prince's name.

Second Watchman
How if a' will not stand?

DOGBERRY
Why, then, take no note of him, but let him go; and
presently call the rest of the watch together and
thank God you are rid of a knave.

VERGES
If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none
of the prince's subjects.

DOGBERRY
True, and they are to meddle with none but the
prince's subjects. You shall also make no noise in
the streets; for, for the watch to babble and to
talk is most tolerable and not to be endured.

Watchman
We will rather sleep than talk: we know what
belongs to a watch.

DOGBERRY
Why, you speak like an ancient and most quiet
watchman; for I cannot see how sleeping should
offend: only, have a care that your bills be not
stolen. Well, you are to call at all the
ale-houses, and bid those that are drunk get them to bed.

Watchman
How if they will not?

DOGBERRY
Why, then, let them alone till they are sober: if
they make you not then the better answer, you may
say they are not the men you took them for.

Watchman
Well, sir.

DOGBERRY
If you meet a thief, you may suspect him, by virtue
of your office, to be no true man; and, for such
kind of men, the less you meddle or make with them,
why the more is for your honesty.

Watchman
If we know him to be a thief, shall we not lay
hands on him?

DOGBERRY
Truly, by your office, you may; but I think they
that touch pitch will be defiled: the most peaceable
way for you, if you do take a thief, is to let him
show himself what he is and steal out of your company.

VERGES
You have been always called a merciful man, partner.

DOGBERRY
Truly, I would not hang a dog by my will, much more
a man who hath any honesty in him.

VERGES
If you hear a child cry in the night, you must call
to the nurse and bid her still it.

Watchman
How if the nurse be asleep and will not hear us?

DOGBERRY
Why, then, depart in peace, and let the child wake
her with crying; for the ewe that will not hear her
lamb when it baes will never answer a calf when he bleats.

VERGES
'Tis very true.

DOGBERRY
This is the end of the charge:--you, constable, are
to present the prince's own person: if you meet the
prince in the night, you may stay him.

VERGES
Nay, by'r our lady, that I think a' cannot.

DOGBERRY
Five shillings to one on't, with any man that knows
the statutes, he may stay him: marry, not without
the prince be willing; for, indeed, the watch ought
to offend no man; and it is an offence to stay a
man against his will.

VERGES
By'r lady, I think it be so.

DOGBERRY
Ha, ha, ha! Well, masters, good night: an there be
any matter of weight chances, call up me: keep your
fellows' counsels and your own; and good night.
Come, neighbour.

Watchman
Well, masters, we hear our charge: let us go sit here
upon the church-bench till two, and then all to bed.

DOGBERRY
One word more, honest neighbours. I pray you watch
about Signior Leonato's door; for the wedding being
there to-morrow, there is a great coil to-night.
Adieu: be vigitant, I beseech you.

Exeunt DOGBERRY and VERGES

Enter BORACHIO and CONRADE

BORACHIO
What Conrade!

Watchman
[Aside] Peace! stir not.

BORACHIO
Conrade, I say!

CONRADE
Here, man; I am at thy elbow.

BORACHIO
Mass, and my elbow itched; I thought there would a
scab follow.

CONRADE
I will owe thee an answer for that: and now forward
with thy tale.

BORACHIO
Stand thee close, then, under this pent-house, for
it drizzles rain; and I will, like a true drunkard,
utter all to thee.

Watchman
[Aside] Some treason, masters: yet stand close.

BORACHIO
Therefore know I have earned of Don John a thousand ducats.

CONRADE
Is it possible that any villany should be so dear?

BORACHIO
Thou shouldst rather ask if it were possible any
villany should be so rich; for when rich villains
have need of poor ones, poor ones may make what
price they will.

CONRADE
I wonder at it.

BORACHIO
That shows thou art unconfirmed. Thou knowest that
the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak, is
nothing to a man.

CONRADE
Yes, it is apparel.

BORACHIO
I mean, the fashion.

CONRADE
Yes, the fashion is the fashion.

BORACHIO
Tush! I may as well say the fool's the fool. But
seest thou not what a deformed thief this fashion
is?

Watchman
[Aside] I know that Deformed; a' has been a vile
thief this seven year; a' goes up and down like a
gentleman: I remember his name.

BORACHIO
Didst thou not hear somebody?

CONRADE
No; 'twas the vane on the house.

BORACHIO
Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this
fashion is? how giddily a' turns about all the hot
bloods between fourteen and five-and-thirty?
sometimes fashioning them like Pharaoh's soldiers
in the reeky painting, sometime like god Bel's
priests in the old church-window, sometime like the
shaven Hercules in the smirched worm-eaten tapestry,
where his codpiece seems as massy as his club?

CONRADE
All this I see; and I see that the fashion wears
out more apparel than the man. But art not thou
thyself giddy with the fashion too, that thou hast
shifted out of thy tale into telling me of the fashion?

BORACHIO
Not so, neither: but know that I have to-night
wooed Margaret, the Lady Hero's gentlewoman, by the
name of Hero: she leans me out at her mistress'
chamber-window, bids me a thousand times good
night,--I tell this tale vilely:--I should first
tell thee how the prince, Claudio and my master,
planted and placed and possessed by my master Don
John, saw afar off in the orchard this amiable encounter.

CONRADE
And thought they Margaret was Hero?

BORACHIO
Two of them did, the prince and Claudio; but the
devil my master knew she was Margaret; and partly
by his oaths, which first possessed them, partly by
the dark night, which did deceive them, but chiefly
by my villany, which did confirm any slander that
Don John had made, away went Claudio enraged; swore
he would meet her, as he was appointed, next morning
at the temple, and there, before the whole
congregation, shame her with what he saw o'er night
and send her home again without a husband.

First Watchman
We charge you, in the prince's name, stand!

Second Watchman
Call up the right master constable. We have here
recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that
ever was known in the commonwealth.

First Watchman
And one Deformed is one of them: I know him; a'
wears a lock.

CONRADE
Masters, masters,--

Second Watchman
You'll be made bring Deformed forth, I warrant you.

CONRADE
Masters,--

First Watchman
Never speak: we charge you let us obey you to go with us.

BORACHIO
We are like to prove a goodly commodity, being taken
up of these men's bills.

CONRADE
A commodity in question, I warrant you. Come, we'll obey you.

Exeunt

William Shakespeare