Much Ado About Nothing
Please see the bottom of this page for detailed explanatory notes and related resources.
|ACT 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|
|First Watchman||Hugh Otecake, sir, or George Seacole; for they can|
|write and read.||11|
|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.||25|
|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||35|
|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.||42|
|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.|
|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.||51|
|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.||61|
|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.||72|
|DOGBERRY||Five shillings to one on't, with any man that knows|
|the statues, 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.|
|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]|
|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|
|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.||100|
|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.||111|
|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|
|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?||120|
|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?||132|
|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.||140|
|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.||151|
|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.|
|Second Watchman||You'll be made bring Deformed forth, I warrant you.|
|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||165|
|up of these men's bills.|
|CONRADE||A commodity in question, I warrant you. Come, we'll obey you.|
Next: Much Ado About Nothing, Act 3, Scene 4
Explanatory Notes for Act 3, Scene 3
From Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons.
I feel sure that in writing these Dogberry and Verges scenes Shakespeare had in his mind's eye one of Lyly's comedies; viz., Endimion. (iv. 2.) Lyly's work is crude and incomplete; but I believe that he furnished the prototypes of the immortal constables. It would be easy to show from other places how familiar Shakespeare was with the works of his contemporary. For a single example take the beautiful "Hark, hark! the lark at heaven's gate sings." (Cymbeline, ii. 3. 21; and Sonnet 29); it was "conveyed" from Campaspe, v. i. I have not thought it necessary to note the magnificent Malapropisms scattered up and down the scene. Who runs may read.
Dogberry and Verges. "Dogberry occurs as a surname in a charter of the time of Richard II, and Verges as that of a usurer in MS. Ashmol, 38, where this epitaph is given: 'Here lyes father Verges, who died to save charges.'" (Halliwell, quoted by Mr. Marshall.) Verges is a vulgarism for verjuice. Dogberry appears to be the name of a shrub. The order of seniority is — Dogberry, Verges (Headborough, to give him his official title), and Seacole, appointed (pro hac vice) "constable of the watch" for the night. The stage-directions in the scenes where they appear are rather confused, an unimportant matter for us.
10 George Seacole. Halliwell thinks that we should read Francis, identifying the watchman here with the Seacole in scene 5, who was to bring "his pen and inkhorn to the gaol." Perhaps, however, the Seacole family was numerous and fertile of dignified and accomplished officials.
13 Well-favour'd. 'Good-looking.'
40 Bills. "A kind of pike or halbert ... the usual weapon of watchmen." (Nares.)
50 Meddle or make. So Troilus and Cressida, i. I. 14, "I'll not meddle nor make."
55 They that touch. An old saying, found in Ecclesiasticus xiii. I, "He that toucheth pitch, shall be defiled with it." Shakespeare refers to the proverb in i Henry IV, ii. 4. 455, and Love's Labour's Lost, iv. 3. 3.
74 Statues. An intentional blunder, which the later Folios needlessly correct to statutes.
84 Till two. When they would go off duty.
88 Coil. 'Fuss,' 'bother.' A Celtic word.
98 Pent-house. 'A shed, sloping out from the main building.'
99 Like a true drunkard. A quibble on his own name, which seems to have meant 'drunkard.'
104 Any villany. Some editors change to villain; needlessly, I think.
109 Unconfirm'd. 'Inexperienced.'
112 Apparel. Which "oft proclaims the man," Hamlet, i. 3. 72.
121 Vane. Rain has been suggested, quite needlessly.
125 Pharaoh's soldiers. As they crossed the Red Sea. Reechy. 'Smoke-stained,' 'grimy.' So Coriolanus, ii. I. 225.
Scotchmen speak of Edinburgh as "Auld Reekie."
126 God Bel. Alluding to the story of Bel and the Dragon. Mr. Marshall quotes the Scornful Lady, iv. I, "You look like one of Ball's priests in a hanging."
127 Shaven Hercules. Why shaven? The editors have no explanation. Generally the subjects depicted in these tapestry hangings (or "painted cloths," as they are often called; e.g. in As You Like It, iii. 2. 290; Troilus and Cressida, v. 10. 47; Lucrece, 245, &c.) were Biblical. Thus the story of the prodigal was a great favourite (2 Henry IV, ii. i. 156, and Merry Wives, iv. 5. 9), and Lazarus was not forgotten. (1 Henry IV, iv. 2. 24.)
144 Possess'd. 'Influenced.'
158 A' wears a lock. It was considered modish to wear a long lock of hair, tied with ribbons, and fastened in some mysterious manner under the left ear. Allusions to these "love-locks" are frequent.
163 Never speak. Assigned to Conrade in the Quarto and Folios; wrongly, as Theobald first pointed out.
165 A goodly commodity. 'A valuable bargain.' Commodity, "that smooth-faced gentleman," is a vague word, equivalent, perhaps, to 'interest, 'profit,' as in King John, ii. i. 573-87. In the Merchant of Venice, iii. 3. 27, the sense seems to be 'traffic.'
166 Being taken up, &c. To take up, besides its obvious meaning, 'to arrest,' also signified 'to get goods on credit,' and bills in commerce were bonds for payment; so that the speech is all a piece of word-quibbling. For "take up" cf. 2 Henry VI, iv. 7. 135; and for much the same sort of pun on "bills" see As You Like It, i. 2. 131.
167 In question. 'Under judicial enquiry.' So 2 Henry IV, i. 2. 68-69, "He that was in question for the robbery." Conrade means, that having been arrested they will have to stand their trial.
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_3.html >.
Types of Shakespearean Comedy
Exploring the Nature of Shakespearean Comedy
Much Ado About Nothing: Plot Summary
How to Study Shakespeare: Five steps to success
reading a Shakespeare play
Going to a Play in Elizabethan London
Entertainment in Elizabethan England
The King's Men
Shakespeare's Blank Verse
Shakespeare Characters A to Z
Top 10 Shakespeare Plays
Shakespeare's Metaphors and Similes
How many plays did Shakespeare write?
Words Shakespeare Invented
What Inspired Shakespeare?
Quotations About William Shakespeare