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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 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. WARBURTON.
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,
Hung up my two-hand sword," &c.
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 Bonduca:
not the quick rack swifter;
"The virgin from the hated ravisher
"Not half so fearful: not a flight drawn home,
"A round stone from a sling,-.
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, 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:
"The archers their flight-shafts to shoot away;
"Which th' adverse side (with sleet and dimness blind,
"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 Greenwicheto 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:
ignorance should shoot
But how many hath he killed? for, indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing.2
LEON. Faith, niece, you tax signior Benedick too much; but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it
MESS. He hath done good service, lady, in these
BEAT. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it he is a very valiant trencher-man, he hath an excellent stomach.
MESS. And a good soldier too, lady.
BEAT. And a good soldier to a lady;-But what is he to a lord?
Speak to thy boy to fetch his arrow back,
The meaning of the whole is-Benedick, from a vain conceit of his influence over women, challenged Cupid at roving (a particular kind of archery, in which flight-arrows are used). In other words, he challenged him to shoot at hearts. The fool, to ridicule this piece of vanity, in his turn challenged Benedick to shoot at crows with the cross-bow and bird-bolt; an inferior kind of archery used by fools, who, for obvious reasons, were not permitted to shoot with pointed arrows: Whence the proverb" A fool's bolt is soon shot." DOUCE. • I promised to eat all of his killing.] So in King Henry V: "Ram. He longs to eat the English.
"Con. I think, he will eat all he kills." STEEVENS.
he'll be meet with you,] This is a very common expression in the midland counties, and signifies, he'll be your match, he'll be even with you.
So, in TEXNOTAMIA, by B. Holiday, 1618:
"Go meet her, or else she'll be meet with me." Chapman has nearly the same phrase in his version of the 22d Iliad:
"Paris and Phoebus meet with thee" STEEVENS.
MESS. A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all honourable virtues.*
BEAT. It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man: but for the stuffing,-Well, we are all mortal.5
LEON. You must not, sir, mistake my niece: there is a kind of merry war betwixt signior Benedick and her they never meet, but there is a skirmish of wit between them.
BEAT. Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict, four of his five wits went halting off,
stuffed with all honourable virtues.] Stuffed, in this first instance, has no ridiculous meaning. Mr. Edwards observes, that Mede, in his Discourses on Scripture, speaking of Adam, says, 66 he whom God had stuffed with so many excellent qualities." Edwards's MS.
Again, in The Winter's Tale:
"Of stuff'd sufficiency."
Un homme bien etoffé, signifies, in French, a man in good circumstances." STEEVENS.
he is no less than a stuffed man: but for the stuffing,Well, we are all mortal.] Mr. Theobald plumed himself much on the pointing of this passage; which, by the way, he might learn from D'Avenant: but he says not a word, nor any one else that I know of, about the reason of this abruption. The truth is, Beatrice starts an idea at the words stuffed man; and prudently checks herself in the pursuit of it. A stuffed man was one of the many cant phrases for a cuckold. In Lyly's Midas, we have an inventory of Motto's moveables: "Item, says Petulus, one paire of hornes in the bride-chamber on the bed's head. The beast's head, observes Licio; for Motto is stuff'd in the head, and these are among unmoveable goods.".
-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,