From Much Ado About Nothing. Ed. A. Wilson Verity. London: Rivingtons.
7-20 The general drift of the passage is: "If you can show
me a man who, suffering no less than I do, is calm, resigned,
and comforted by moral advice, I will follow his example — 'will
gather patience' of him: unfortunately no such man exists."
10 Him. So emphatic as to compensate for the apparent
lack of a foot.
12 Strain. A difficult word; perhaps 'feeling' (as Schmidt
takes it) is the closest equivalent. Cf. "Strains of love" in
16 Bid sorrow wag. A passage of well-known difficulty;
marked as corrupt in the Globe Edition. The first two Folios
and Quarto agree in reading: "And sorrow, wagge, crie hem
when he should groan." Clearly this will never do. The
text must be emended in some way. Myself I have taken
Capells correction, bid, the sense being 'command sorrow to go
away.' Wag = 'move off,' occurs several times in the Merry
Wives: e.g. ii. i. 238, "Here, boys, here, here! Shall we
wag?" The explanation fits in very well with the general
purport of the lines; only and for bid is not a likely misprint.
Johnson proposed to read Cry 'sorrow wag!' and hem; the
sense being the same as in Capell's arrangement. There is little,
I think, to be said for Steeven's suggestion: And, sorry wag,
cry 'hem.' I doubt whether sorry could have got corrupted
into sorrowe; at least no parallel is forthcoming. And wag
('funny fellow'), though not uncommon in Shakespeare, seems
to me a thought infelicitous here. The Globe editors — safest of
guides — print Capell's reading.
17-18 Make misfortune drunk.
With candle-wasters. 'Drown care,' either with revelling
or study, according to the sense we give to candle-wasters.
Candle-wasters rather suggests the midnight bowl; only that
would be an odd resource for the sententious moralist, who is
ready to solace his sorrow with "wise saws and modern
instances." Moreover, the meaning of the word is practically
settled by a remark in Ben Jonson's Cynthia's Revels, iii. 2,
"Spoiled by a bookworm, a candle-waster." So that the
general sense must be, 'kill care by reading what learned folk
have written on the beauties of resignation.'
22-23 Tasting it, their counsel turns. It is easy to supply
from their in the second line a pronoun with tasting (used
absolutely). See Abbott on "Participles with pronouns
implied," p. 278.
28 Wring. 'Writhe.' "He writhes at some distress,"
Cymbeline, iii. 6. 79.
30 Moral. 'Moralising.' So Lear, iv. 2. 58, "A moral
fool." Cf. note on the substantive, iii. 4. 78.
32 Advertisement. 'Admonition;' the sense being, 'my grief is too keen to tolerate advice; don't preach patience to
such sorrow as this.' Advertisement as in 1 Henry IV, iv. i. 36.
In Shakespearean English advertise frequently meant 'to send
news or warning;' i.e. French avertir.
35-36 Never yet philosopher, &c. As Horace says, the wise man can do anything nisi cum pituita molesta est.
38 Made a push at. 'Scoffed at.' Push = 'pish' (which
Pope read), as in Timon of Athens, iii. 6. 119.
53 Thou, dissembler thou. The pronoun repeated as a sign
of contempt; so many passages, e.g. Comedy of Errors, iii. 1.
10, "Thou drunkard thou."
65 Bruise of many days. Almost the same expression
occurs in 2 Henry IV, iv. i. 100, "That feel the bruises of the
days before." So "all brush of time" in 2 Henry VI, v. 3. 3.
66 Trial. 'Decisive combat.' "Our trial day," Richard III,
i. I. 151.
75 Nice. Old French niais, from nescius. Often has the
sense 'finicking,' 'dainty;' i.e. used, as here, contemptuously.
So Troilus and Cressida, iv. 5. 250; As You Like It, iv. i. 14;
and Cowper in The Task, ii. 256—-
"That no rude savour maritime invade
The nose of nice nobility."
In Comus, 139 — "The nice Morn on th' Indian steep" — the
meaning must be 'delicate' or 'dainty.'
76 May of youth. "May of life" in Macbeth, v. 3. 22, is
the tempting emendation of the Folio reading, way.
82 Win me and wear me. Proverbial. "Let him laugh that
wins." Cf. Henry V, v. 2. 250.
84 Foining, 'Thrusting.' Strictly to foin = 'to thrust with
an eel-spear.' (Old French, fouine). Cotgrave has, "Coup
d'estoc: A thrust, foine, stab." Compare Lear, iv. 6. 251;
Merry Wives, ii. 3. 24, a fine passage for fencing-terms.
89 A man indeed. 'One who is truly a man;' the adverb coming after the substantive, as in Othello, ii. I. 146, "A
deserving woman indeed."
91 Braggarts, Jacks. Hanmer transposed these words to improve, as he thought, the rhythm; and Dyce accented
braggarts on the second syllable, whereas the accentuation is
invariably on the first. Cf. All's Well, iv. 3. 372, "That every
braggart shall be found an ass."
94 Scambling. 'Turbulent.' The same word as scrambling. "The scambling and unquiet time," Henry V, i, I. 4.
Fashion-monging. 'Foppish.' We have fashion-monger in
Romeo and Juliet, ii. 4. 34. Monger in such compounds as
ironmonger, fishmonger, is from the A.S. mangian = 'to traffic,'
cognate with German mengen, mingle, &c. Later Folios fashion-mongering.
95 Cog. 'Cheat.' Celtic word, akin perhaps to coax.
97 Dangerous. 'Threatening.' Cf. what Sir Toby says in
Twelfth Night, iii. 4. 198-200, as to the efficacy of "a terrible
oath, with a swaggering accent sharply twang'd off."
102 Wake your patience. Wake looks curious; hence various
suggestions, waste, rack, wrack. Wake = 'put to action'
(Schmidt), and Don Pedro means that he will not by argument
so inflame Leonato and Antonio as to change their feeling of
passive acquiescence into active resistance. Schmidt compares
Coriolanus, iii. i. 98, and Richard II, i. 3. 132, but the passages
are not, to my mind, quite parallel.
120 In a false quarrel, &c. Mr. Marshall aptly compares
2 Henry VI, iii. 2. 233, "Thrice is he armed that hath his
123 High-proof. 'Very;' literally, 'so as to stand any test.'
128 Minstrels. It is not quite clear what the minstrels are
supposed to draw; perhaps their instruments from the case, or
the bow along the strings of the violin.
132 Care killed. Of course a proverb. We are referred to
Ben Jonson's Every Man in His Humour, i. 3, "Hang sorrow!
Care'll kill a cat."
134 In the career. See note on ii. 3. 223. Cotgrave illustrates the present passage rather neatly: "Donner carriere a
son esprit: To recreate his spirit; or, to set his wits a running,
his conceit a gadding, his thoughts on a gallop."
136 Staff. 'Lance.' As to broke cross, "in tilting it was
thought disgraceful to break the spear across the body of the
adversary, instead of by the push of the point." (Schmidt.)
140 To turn his girdle. The formal preliminary to an encounter. Hence recognised as a challenge, though why the
girdle was turned, or which way, no one can tell us.
142 God bless me from. 'Heaven preserve me from.' Cf.
Coriolanus, i. 3. 48, "Heaven bless my lord from fell Aufidius."
151 Capon. Used as a term of reproach (cf. Cymbeline,
ii. I, 25), with a quibbling reference, perhaps, to the fool's
coxcomb, as though Claudio meant 'a calf's head and a fool's
cap on it.'
153 Woodcock. The typically stupid bird, easily caught with
"springes" as Polonius knew (Hamlet, i. 3. 115).
161 A wise gentleman. Used ironically. 'A wiseacre,' as
164 Tongues. 'Languages;' i.e. 'is a good linguist.' Sir
Andrew in Twelfth Night, i. 3. 97-98, regrets that he did not
bestow more time on "the tongues."
165 Trans-shape. As Hero said, in act iii. i. 61, "she would
spell him backward."
173-74 When he was hid. In act ii. scene 3. A reference,
also, to the story of Adam and Eve.
175-76 The savage bull's horns, &c. Benedick's own words,
i. I. 242-3.
180 Gossip-like. Properly gossip meant 'a sponsor in baptism;' literally 'one related in God' (God-sib), It is often used
in this sense in the dramatists.
194 In his doublet and hose. That is, ready for a duel, since
the first preliminary to a combat a outrance was to lay aside the
196 A doctor to. 'A learned man in comparison with.' Doctor in this sense is common. Cf. Merry Wives, iv. 5. 71; Merchant
of Venice, iii. 4. 50. So doctor-like. Sonnet 66, 10.
200 Reasons. A pun, perhaps, on reasons and raisins (pronounced almost alike), such as we have in 1 Henry IV, ii. 4.
264-66, and Troilus and Cressida, ii. 2. 33 — the latter instance,
however, being doubtful.
201 Once. 'Positively;' and the comma should be placed
after hypocrite. So Abbott, p. 47. Compare Timon of Athens,
i. 2. 251.
208 Sixth and lastly. The adverbial termination being omitted
with the first adverb, as often; e.g. in Comedy of Errors, iv. 2. 4,
"Looked he sad or merrily?" Measure for Measure, v. 37,
"Most strange, but yet most truly, will I speak."
223-24 Have brought to light. What Borachio says is true.
The clever people of the play have done nothing to unmask the
scheme against Hero. Fate, in its irony, has willed that everything should depend on Dogberry and his muddle-headed mates.
225 Incensed. 'Urged.' So Merry Wives, i. 3. 109, "Incense
Page to deal with poison."
231 Mine and my master's. Mine, hers, theirs are sometimes
used in Shakespeare before their nouns. Cf. Hamlet, v. 2. 341,
"Mine and my father's death;" Tempest, iii. 3. 93, "His and
mine loved darling." (Abbott, pp. 160-61.)
239 Upon. 'Because of.' So iv. i. 219, "She died upon
241 That. 'In which.'
262 Impose me to, &c.; i.e. 'impose on me whatever penance
your invention,' &c.
272 Invention. Here, as elsewhere, invention implies 'literary
faculty of composition.' Cf. Dedication of Venus and Adonis,
"The first heir of my invention."
279 Alone is heir. Although Leonato said to Antonio earlier
in the play, "Where is my cousin (i.e. nephew), your son?"
(i. 2. I.) In act i. 3. 57 Borachio refers to Hero as "the
daughter and heir of Leonato."
281-84 In four lines Shakespeare depicts the character of Claudio. He is fickleness personified; to change from the old
love to the new is for him as simple a matter as changing his coat would be. We have much the same sort of careless pliancy
in Orsino in Twelfth Night; the Duke fails to win Olivia, and is quite content with Viola.
288 Was packed in. 'Had a hand in.' "Packed with her,"
Comedy of Errors, v. I. 219. In the same play, iv. 4. 105,
pack = 'band of conspirators;' and in Taming of the Shrew,
V. I. 121, packing = 'plotting.'
292 Know by her. This phrase, to know by, = 'know concerning or against,' was once good English, and is still quite
common in the Warwickshire dialect. Cf. All's Well, v. 3. 237.
Abbott brings together (p. 97) several parallel passages. We
may remember St. Paul's "I know nothing by myself." (i Cor. iv. 4.)
297 Wears a key. Perhaps a piece of nonsense only introduced for the sake of the pun which follows. As to the lock,
see note on iii. 3. 182.
298 In God's name. Speaking as though he were a professional beggar.
306 God save, &c. The form of thanks usual among those
who received alms at the door of a monastery or religious house.
320 Lewd. Properly 'ignorant;' then 'base,' 'depraved.' Chaucer uses lewd in either sense; in Shakespeare the latter is
invariable. Milton, perhaps, had both meanings in his mind's
eye when he wrote, "So since into his Church lewd hirelings
climb," Paradise Lost, iv. 193.
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_5_1.html >.