From Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons.
6 Rabato. The rabato (or rebato, from Old French rebatre) was a kind of collar or ruff, such as we see in portraits of the period. It was kept in its place by means of stiff wires, and these wires were sometimes called rabatos, though Autolycus
preferred the old-fashioned title, "poking-sticks of steel," Winter's Tale, iv. 4. 228.
12 Tire. 'Head-dress.' "Tire of Venetian admittance"
(fashion), Merry Wives, iii. 3. 61.
16 That exceeds. 'Is fine beyond words.' Cf. use of
"passing" to signify anything very remarkable.
17 Night-gown. 'Dressing-gown.'
18 Cuts. The edges of the dress shaped so as to fall
19 Side sleeves. Worn over the ordinary sleeve, and made so
long as to touch the ground. Even men affected them.
20 Underborne. 'Trimmed.' Only here in this sense; elsewhere, e.g. John, iii. i. 65, underbear = 'endure.'
Tinsel. 'Bright trimming with silver in it.' French, etincelle;
Latin, scintilla. The word suggested anything that had a
silvery, flashing surface. So Herrick speaks of a moonbeam
"tinselling the streams;" and tinsel-slippered is Milton's epithet
for Thetis, whom Homer had described as silver-footed. See
Quaint. 'Dainty.' Really from cognitus, but confused with
comptus. O.F. coint, "quaint, compt, neat, fine." (Cotgrave.)
29 "Saving your reverence, a husband." The Globe Edition,
following Quarto and Folios, treats the whole passage as a
quotation, and rightly. Hero (her maid implies) was so prudish,
that the very mention of the word husband required an apology.
In most editions only a husband is placed between marks of
39 Clap us into. 'Let us begin.' "Shall we clap into 't roundly?" As You Like It, v. 3. 11.
Light o' love. A favourite old song often referred to. Cf.
the Two Gentlemen of Verona, i. 2. 83-85. The original words
have been lost; the music is given in Chappell's Popular Music, p. 222.
40 Without a burden. This agrees with the above-noted
passage in the Two Gentlemen, "The burden of a song, in the
old acceptation of the word, was the base, foot or undersong.
It was sung throughout, and not merely at the end of the verse,"
Popular Music of the Olden Time, p. 222. Chaucer uses the
word in its strict sense —
"This Sompnour bar to him a stif burdoun,
Was never trompe of half so gret a soun."
From French bourdon, 'a drone-bee,' 'humming of bees,' 'drone
of a bag-pipe;' probably of imitative origin. (Skeat.)
43 No barns. Meaning bairns ('children'). Perdita in the
Winter's Tale, iii. 3. 70, is "a barne; a very pretty barne." The
Middle English form of bairn was barn; hence the joke was
more obvious then. Bairn = 'that which is born;' same root
44 Construction. 'Interpretation.'
45 With my heels. A way of showing contempt. Cf.
Merchant of Venice, ii. 2. 33. Obviously Margaret refers to
the first part of Beatrice's speech.
46 Five o'clock. As far as I know, this is quite the most
matutinal marriage in Shakespeare.
49 For the letter. A quibble on H and ache, the latter having
been pronounced aitch. For aches (the substantive) as a dissyllable cf. Tempest, i. 2. 370, "Fill all thy bones with aches,
make thee roar;" and Timon of Athens, i. I. 257, "Aches
contract and starve your supple joints." Curiously enough the
verb was pronounced as now. Cf. Comedy of Errors iii. I. 58.
One of Heywood's Epigrams says —
"H is worst among letters in the crossrow (alphabet),
For if thou find him either in thine elbow,
In thy arm, or leg, in any degree;
In thine head, or teeth, or toe, or knee;
Into what place soever H may pike him.
Wherever thou find ache thou shalt not like him."
50 Turned Turk. 'Changed utterly;' i.e. 'become a convert
to love.' The phrase is not uncommon. Cf. Hamlet, iii. 2. 287,
and Othello, ii. 2. 170, where the quibble is clear. I find it in
one of Sedley's comedies, Bellamira, iv. 6, "I will turn Turk,
but I will avoid wine hereafter." It always means 'to change
51 The star. The Polestar, beautifully described elsewhere
as "The star to every wandering bark," Sonnet 116. So Fletcher, in the Faithful Shepherdess, i. 2, speaks of —
"That fair star
That guides the wandering seaman through the deep."
Compare Julius Caesar, iii. I. 60. By = 'according to.'
56 Perfume. Nares quotes several passages which show that
it was a regular practice to scent gloves. Autolycus, in the
Winter's Tale, iv. 4. 222, has "Gloves as sweet as damask
60 Apprehension. 'Cleverness,' 'wit;' not 'fear,' as now.
Compare ii. I. 84, "You apprehend shrewdly."
65 Carduus Benedictus. Thought at one time to be "a
sovereign aid" in all sorts of ailments; especially potent "to expel any evil symptom from the heart;" hence appropriately
mentioned here. According to Ellacombe, the blessed thistle
was "supposed even to cure the plague, which was the highest
praise that could be given to a medicine in those days."
70 Moral. 'Hidden meaning.' Moralise, the verb, often
signifies 'to explain the meaning,' 'interpret.' Cf. As You Like
It, ii. I. 44, "Did he not moralise this spectacle?" Of course,
by "some moral" Beatrice meant an allusion to Benedick.
80 Eats his meat, &c. Referring, possibly, to some lost
proverb. None of the notes are worth reproducing. In such
passages of conventional and occasionally coarse sparring some
allusions must escape us. We know Elizabethan life well, but
not quite well enough to be able to explain every casual touch.
84 A false gallop. Evidently a proverbial phrase. Cf. As
You Like It, iii. 2. 119, "This is the very false gallop." Nash
has it in one of his pamphlets, Pierce Pennilesse (1593), "I
would trot a false gallop through the rest of his ragged (i,e,
'rugged') verses." The idea is that of a horse thrown out of
its paces and moving in a jerky fashion, or as Shakespeare says,
a "forc'd gait," 1 Henry IV, iii. i. 135.
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_4.html >.