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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
ACT I. SCENE I.
Before Leonato's House.
Enter LEONATO, HERO,' BEATRICE, and others, with a Messenger.
LEON. 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?
Innogen, (the mother of Hero,) in the old quarto that I have seen of this play, printed in 1000, is mentioned to enter in two several scenes. The succeeding editions have all continued her name in the Dramatis Persona. But I have ventured to expunge it; there being no mention of her through the play, no one speech addressed to her, nor one syllable spoken by her. Neither is there any one passage, from which we have any reason to determine that Hero's mother was living. It seems as if the poet had in his first plan designed such a character: which, on a survey of it, he found would be superfluous; and therefore he left it out. THEOBALD.
The name of Hero's mother occurs also in the first folio: "Enter Leonato governor of Messina, Innogen his wife," &c.
MESS. But few of any sort," and none of name. LEON. A victory is twice itself, when the achiever brings home full numbers. I find here, that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young Florentine, called Claudio.
MESS. Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro: He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age; doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion: he hath, indeed, better bettered expectation, than you must expect of me to tell you how.
LEON. He hath an uncle here in Messina will very much glad of it.
MESS. I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him; even so much, that joy could not show itself modest enough, without a badge of bitterness.3
of any sort,] Sort is rank, distinction. So, in Chapman's version of the 16th Book of Homer's Odyssey: "A ship, and in her many a man of sort.'
I incline, however, to Mr. M. Mason's easier explanation. Of any sort, says he, means of any kind whatsoever. There were but few killed of any kind, and none of rank. STEEVENS.
joy could not show itself modest enough, without a badge of bitterness.] This is judiciously expressed. Of all the transports of joy, that which is attended with tears is least offensive; because, carrying with it this mark of pain, it allays the envy that usually attends another's happiness. This he finely calls a modest joy, such a one as did not insult the observer by an indication of happiness unmixed with pain. WARBURTON.
A somewhat similar expression occurs in Chapman's version of the 10th Book of the Odyssey:
our eyes wore
"The same wet badge of weak humanity."
This is an idea which Shakspeare seems to have been delighted to introduce. It occurs again in Macbeth:
my plenteous joys,
"Wanton in fullness, seek to hide themselves
LEON. Did he break out into tears?
MESS. In great measure.1
LEON. A kind overflow of kindness: There are no faces truer than those that are so washed. How much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping?
BEAT. I pray you, is signior Montanto returned from the wars, or no?
MESS. I know none of that name, lady; there was none such in the army of any sort."
LEON. What is he that you ask for, niece? HERO. My cousin means signior Benedick of Padua.
MESS. O, he is returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.
A badge being the distinguishing mark worn in our author's time by the servants of noblemen, &c. on the sleeve of their liveries, with his usual licence he employs the word to signify a mark or token in general. So, in Macbeth:
"Their hands and faces were all badg'd with blood." MALONE.
* In great measure.] i. e. in abundance. STEEVens.
-no faces truer -] That is, none honester, none more sincere. JOHNSON.
is signior Montanto returned-] Montante, in Spanish, is a huge two-handed sword, [a title] given, with much humour, to one [whom] the speaker would represent as a boaster or bravado. WARBurton.
Montanto was one of the ancient terms of the fencing-school. So, in Every Man in his Humour: “ — your punto, your reverso, your stoccata, your imbrocata, your passada, your montanto," &c. Again, in The Merry Wives of Windsor:
"thy reverse, thy distance, thy montánt."
there was none such in the army of any sort.] Not meaning there was none such of any order or degree whatever, but that there was none such of any quality above the common.
BEAT. He set up his bills here in Messina, and challenged Cupid at the flight: and my uncle's
He set up his bills &c.] So, in Ben Jonson's Every Man out of his Humour, Shift says:
"This is rare, I have set up my bills without discovery." Again, in Swetnam Arraign'd, 1620:
"I have bought foils already, set up bills,
Again, in Nash's Have with you to Saffron Walden, &c. 1596: setting up bills, like a bearward or fencer, what fights we shall have, and what weapons she will meet me at."
The following account of one of these challenges, taken from an ancient MS. of which further mention is made in a note on The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act I. sc. i. may not be unacceptable to the inquisitive reader. "Item a challenge playde before the King's majestie (Edward VI.) at Westminster, by three maisters, Willyam Pascall, Robert Greene, and W. Browne, at seven kynde of weapons. That is to say, the axe, the pike, the rapier and target, the rapier and cloke, and with two swords, agaynst all alyens and strangers being borne without the King's dominions, of what countrie so ever he or they were, geving them warninge by theyr bills set up by the three maisters, the space of eight weeks before the sayd challenge was playde; and it was holden four severall Sundayes one after another." It appears from the same work, that all challenges "to any maister within the realme of Englande being an Englishe man," were against the statutes of the "Noble Science of Defence."
Beatrice means, that Benedick published a general challenge, like a prize-fighter. STEEVENS.
challenged Cupid at the flight:] Flight (as Mr. Douce observes to me) does not here mean an arrow, but a sort of shooting called roving, or shooting at long lengths. The arrows used at this sport are called flight-arrows; as were those used in battle for great distances. So, in Beaumont and Fletcher's
not the quick rack swifter;
"Not half so fearful: not a flight drawn home,
Again, in A Woman kill'd with Kindness, 1617:
"We have tied our geldings to a tree, two flight-shot off.” Again, in Middleton's Game of Chess:
"Who, as they say, discharg'd it like a flight.”
fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him at the bird-bolt.'-I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars?
Again, in The Entertainment at Causome House, &c. 1613: "it being from the park about two flight-shots in length."
Again, in The Civil Wars of Daniel, B. VIII. st. 15: and assign'd
"The archers their flight-shafts to shoot away;
"Answer with their sheaf-arrows, that came short
Holinshed makes the same distinction in his account of the same occurrence, and adds, that these flights were provided on purpose. Again, in Holinshed, p. 649: " He caused the soldiers to shoot their flights towards the lord Audlies company."
Mr. Tollet observes, that the length of a flight-shot seems ascertained by a passage in Leland's Itinerary, 1769, Vol. IV. p. 44: "The passage into it at ful se is a flite-shot over, as much as the Tamise is above the bridge." It were easy to know the length of London-bridge, and Stowe's Survey may inform the curious reader whether the river has been narrowed by embanking since the days of Leland.
Mr. Douce, however, observes, that as the length of the shot depended on the strength and skill of the archer, nothing can with certainty be determined by the passage quoted from Leland. STEEVENS.
The flight was an arrow of a particular kind: In the Harleian Catalogue of MSS. Vol. I. n. 69, is " a challenge of the lady Maiee's servants to all comers, to be performed at Greenwiche to shoot standart arrow, or flight." I find the title-page of an old pamphlet still more explicit-" A new post-a marke exceeding necessary for all men's arrows: whether the great man's flight, the gallant's rover, the wise man's pricke-shaft, the poor man's but-shaft, or the fool's bird-bolt." FARMER.
at the bird-bolt.] The bird-bolt is a short thick arrow without a point, and spreading at the extremity so much, as to leave a flat surface, about the breadth of a shilling. Such are to this day in use to kill rooks with, and are shot from a crossbow. So, in Marston's What you will, 1607:
66 ignorance should shoot
"His gross-knobb'd bird bolt-."