From Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons.
3 Proposing. 'Talking.' See line 12.
4 Whisper her ear. Whisper, says Abbott, p. 134, is frequently used without a preposition before a personal object;
e.g. Henry VIII. i. I. 179, "He came to whisper Wolsey;" rarely, as here, before an impersonal noun.
9-10 Favourites ... Made proud by princes. Compare Sonnet
25. 4, "Great princes' favourites their fair leaves spread."
10 Advance. Used technically of hoisting a standard. Cf. for a beautiful instance Romeo and Juliet, v. 3. 96, and, outside
Shakespeare — "Unfurl'd
Th' imperial ensign, which full high advanc't
Shon like a meteor." — Paradise Lost, i. 536.
12 Listen. Later Folios listen to; but cf. Lear, v. 3. 181, "List a brief tale." Listen to makes the scansion clearer. With the folio reading the first two words (I think) form one
foot. Abbott, however, takes differently, (p. 372.)
Purpose. So the Folios; the Quarto has propose = 'conversation,' the French propos. Whichever we read, the sense is
the same, since purposes = 'talk' is quite common. Cf. Paradise
Lost, iv. 337, "No gentle purpose, nor endearing smiles;" and "gentle purpose" in the Faerie Queene, iii. 8, 14.
16 Trace. 'Walk.'
24 Like a lapwing. So Comedy of Errors, iv. 2. 27, "Far
from her nest the lapwing cries away." When this bird (better
known as the peewit) is disturbed in its nest, it runs along the
ground for some distance before it rises, to prevent, of course,
the nest being found. In Sir Gyles Goosecappe a character is
described as being "fearfull as a Haire, and will lye like a
Lapwing." (Bullen's Old Plays, vol. iii. p. 9.) Obviously,
therefore, it symbolised cunning.
30 Woodbine. Woodbine seems to have been another name
for honeysuckle. Cf., at any rate, line 8, and Midsummer
Night's Dream, iv. i. 47.
35 Coy. 'Shy.' Often the word signifies 'contemptuous.'
So Cotgrave has "Mespriseresse: A coy, a squeamish, or
scornful dame." This (almost) is its meaning in Comus, 737,
"List, lady; be not coy." From quietus, through French coi.
36 Haggards of the rock. The meaning of haggard in Shakespeare is not quite certain. Probably it signifies any untamed,
untrained hawk, without reference to the species. Cf. Othello,
iii. 3. 260-63, and Twelfth Night, iii. I. 72. So Hortensia calls
Bianca a "proud disdainful haggard," Taming of the Shrew,
iv. 2. 39. As to derivation, Skeat says, "O.F. hagard, wild;
esp. used of a wild falcon, lit. hedge-falcon;" the first part of
the word, hag, being akin to hedge, haw (as in haw-thorn =
'hedge-thorn'). The editors show that more than one kind of
hawk builds in rocks; so that the descriptive touch, "of the
rock," is not very close.
42 Wish him wrestle. The to omitted, as not infrequently.
Cf. I Henry IV, i. 3. 159; Measure for Measure, iv. 3. 138.
45 Full, 'Fully.' Used adverbially. See Abbott, p. 17.
56 Self-endeared. 'In love with herself.' A curious idea that
meets us in several places; e.g. in Venus and Adonis, 157, and
the Sonnets (3 and 62).
60 How. 'However.'
Featur'd. So Sonnet 29, "Featured like him."
61 Spell him backward. Not so much 'misconstrue him,' as
'make out everything in him to be bad;' i.e. by exaggerating some peculiarities, and misrepresenting others. The editors see
here (aut vidisse putant) an allusion to the idea that witches say
their prayers backwards; the theory is rather far-fetched.
63 Black. 'Dark-complexioned.'
Antic. 'Buffoon.' Falstaff jeered at "old father antic the
law," 1 Henry IV, i. 2. 57. The New English Dictionary derives from Italian antico, 'a cavern containing quaint devices,
figures, &c., on the walls;' whence anything fantastic was called antic. Compare the parallel word grotesque, from grotta, 'a grotto.' Skeat, however, identifies with antique.
65 Low. 'Short,' as in i. i. 159, "Too low for a high
72 From. 'Apart from;' i.e. unconventional. Abbott (p. 105)
quotes many similar passages; e.g. Julius Caesar, i. 3. 35,
"Clean from the purpose."
76 Press me to death. Referring to the punishment or torture
known as the peine forte et dure, by which accused persons who
refused to plead were pressed down under heavy weights until
they either complied with what was required of them, or died
altogether. Cf. Milton's lines On the University Carrier, the
second epitaph, 25-26.
77 Like cover'd fire. Not unlike Titus Andronicus, ii. 4.
"Sorrow concealed, like an oven stopp'd,
Doth burn the heart to cinders where it is."
So Venus and Adonis, 331.
79 Than die. The first Folio has to die; but the omission of
to with the infinitive after the phrases "It were best," "It were
better," is common (see Abbott, p. 253), and the present case is
an extension of the idiom. Usually such expressions as, "Best
draw my sword" (Cymbeline, iii. 6. 25), "Better be with the
dead" (Macbeth, iii. 2. 20), represent "an unconscious blending
of two constructions, the infinitive and imperative."
80 Tickling. Trisyllable, as though it were "tickeling," this
extra vowel-sound being common before liquids in dissyllables.
Compare the frequent scansion of England as three syllables;
e.g. Richard II. iv. I. 17; Richard III. iv. 4. 263. (Abbott,
86 Empoison. Coriolanus, v. 6. 11, "As with a man by his
own alms empoison'd."
102 Every day. Said to have been a colloquial phrase
= 'forthwith,' which gives excellent sense; but a little more
evidence in support of this view would have been welcome.
104 Limed. Like a bird caught with birdlime.
105 Loving goes by haps. The proverb said that "marrying
and hanging go by destiny;" and Shakespeare knew the proverb
(Merchant of Venice, ii. 9. 82-83).
107 What fire, &c. Alluding to the old superstition that a person's ears burn when he is being spoken of. Steevens quotes
a quaint piece of jingle —
"I doe credite giue
Vnto the saying old,
Which is, whenas the eares doe burne,
Some thing on thee is told."
110 No glory lives, &c. Meaning apparently (but the line is curious) that contemptuous, scornful people are not praised
behind their backs. Beatrice has been listening, and, with the
proverbial fortune of listeners, has heard no good of herself.
112 Taming. As though she were a hawk.
116 We may just note that Beatrice's soliloquy is written in
rhyme, indeed in alternate rhyme. Shakespeare often employs
it in passages of sententious moralising. For instance, in
Othello, i. 3. 202-209, when the Duke gives judicious advice to
Brabantio, he puts his platitudes into rhymed couplets. Also,
rhyme is appropriate at the close of a scene, rounding off the
work pleasantly, and leaving a genial flavour behind it.
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons, 1890. Shakespeare Online. 20 Feb. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/much_3_1.html >.