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charming a critic should think so, but suppose there is no help for it. In support of his opinion he quotes Hero's speech, — “ Disdain and scorn ride sparkling in her eyes,” &c.; but he seems to forget that these words are spoken with the intent that Beatrice shall hear them, and at the same time think she overhears them ; that is, not as being true, but as being suited to a certain end, and as having just enough of truth to be effective for that end. So that, viewed in reference to the speaker's purpose, perhaps nothing could be better; viewed as describing the character of Beatrice, scarce any thing were worse; and the effect the speech has on her proves it is not true. To the same end, the Prince, Leo. nato, and Claudio speak as much the other way, where they know Benedick is overhearing them; and what is there said in her favor is just a fair offset of what was before said against her. But in deed it is clear enough that a speech thus made really for the ear of the subject, yet seemingly in confidence to another person, cannot be received in evidence against her.
Fortunately, however, for Beatrice, the critic's unfavorable opinion is accounted for hy what himself has unfortunately witnessed.
-" I once knew such a pair ; the lady was a perfect Beatrice; she railed hypocritically at wedlock before her marriage, and with bitter sincerity after it. She and her Benedick now live apart, but with entire reciprocity of sentiments; each devoutly wishing that the other may soon pass into a better world.” So that the writer's strong dislike of Beatrice is one of the finest testimonies we have seen to the Poet's wonderful truth of delineation; inasmuch as it shows how our views of his characters, as of those in real life, depend less perhaps on what they are in themselves, than on our own peculiar associations. Nature's and Shakespeare's men and women seem very differently to different persons, and even to the same persons at different times. Need it be said that this is because the characters are individuals, not abstractions ? — Viewed therefore in this light, the tribute is so exquisite that we half suspect the author meant it as such. In itself, however, we much prefer the ground taken by other critics : That in the unamiable part of their deportment Benedick and Beatrice are but playing; that their playing is with a view to conceal, not express, their real feelings; that it is the very strength of their feelings that puts and keeps them upon this mode of concealment; and that the exclusive pointing of their raillery against each other is itself proof of a deep and growing attachment: though it must be confessed, that the ability to play so well is a great temptation to carry it to excess, or where it will be apt to cause something else than mirth. This it is that justifies the repetition of the stratagem, the same process being necessary in both cases “ to get rid of their reciprocal disguises, and make them straightforward and in earnest.” And the effect of the stratagem is to begin the unmasking which is so thoroughly completed by the wrongs and sufferings of Hero : they are thus disciplined, for a time at least, out of their playing, and made to show themselves as they are : before we saw but their art, now we see their virtue; and this, though not a little clouded with faults, strikes us as something rather noble.
"The wit of these persons, though seeming at first view much the same, is very nicely discriminated, discovering in her more sprightliness, in him more strength, of mind. Beatrice, intelligent but thoughtless, has little of reflection in her wit; but throws it off in rapid flashes whenever any object ministers a spark to her fancy. Though of the most piercing keenness and the most exquisite aptness, there is no ill-nature about it; it stings indeed, but does not poison. The offspring merely of the moment and the occasion, it strikes the fancy, but leaves no trace on the memory; but we feel that she forgets it as soon as we do. Its agility is infinite : wherever it may be, the instant one goes to put his hand upon it, he is sure to find or feel it somewhere else. — The wit of Benedick, on the other hand, springs more from reflection, and grows with the growth of thought. With all the pungency and nearly all the pleasantry, it lacks the free, spontaneous volubility, of hers. Hence in their skirmishes she always gets the better of him. But he makes ample amends when out of her presence, trundling of jests in whole paragraphs. In short, if his wit be slower, it is also stronger than hers : not so agile in manner, more weighty in matter, it shines less, but burns more ; and as it springs much less out of the occasion, so it will bear repeating much better. — The effect of the serious events in bringing these persons into an armistice of wit is indeed a rare stroke of art; and perhaps some such thing was necessary, to prevent the impression of their being jesters by trade. It proves at least that Beatrice is a witty woman, and not a mere female wit.
The general view of life, as opened out in this play, is pretty clearly indicated by the title. The characters do indeed make or have much ado; but all the while to us who are in the secret, and ultimately to the persons themselves, all this much ado proves to be about nothing. Which is but a common difference in the aspect of things, as they appear to the spectators and to the partakers ; it needs but an average experience to discover that real life is full of just such passages : what troubled and worried us yesterday, made others laugh then, and makes us laugh to-day : what we fret or grieve at in the progress, we still smile and make merry over in the result. This, we believe, is the simple upshot of what Ulrici, writing in a style that few know or care io understand, has discoursed upon with much ado, though we cannot quite add, about nothing. VOL. II. 13
Don PEDRO, Prince of Arragon.
Followers of John.
HERO, Daughter to Leonato.
Gentlewomen attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watchmen, and Attendants.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
Before LEONATO's House.
Enter LEONATO, HERO, BEATRICE, and others,
with a Messenger.
Leon. I LEARN in this letter, that Don Pedro of Arragon comes this night to Messina.
Mess. He is very near by this: he was not three leagues off when I left him.
Leon. How many gentlemen have you lost in this action ?
Mess. But few of any sort, and none of name.
Leon. A victory is twice itself, when the achiever brings home full numbers. I find here, that Don Pedro hath bestowed much honour on
a young Florentine, called Claudio.
Mess. Much deserv'd on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro : He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age, doing in the figure of a lamb the feats of a lion : he hath, indeed, better better'd expectation, than you must expect of me to tell
how. Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and there appears much joy in him ; even so much, that
joy could not show itself modest enough, without a
Leon. Did he break out into tears ?
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness : There are no faces truer than those th are so wash’d. How much better it is to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping !
Beat. I pray you, is signior Montanto ? return'd from the wars, or no ?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady: there was none such in the
any Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece ?
Hero. My cousin means signior Benedick of Padua.
Mess. O! he is return’d; and as pleasant as ever
Beat. He set up his bills “ here in Messina, and challeng'd Cupid at the flight;' and my uncle's fool, reading the challenge, subscrib’d for Cupid,
i In Chapman's version of the 10th Odyssey, a somewhat similar expression occurs : « Our eyes wore the same wet badge of weak humanity.” This is an idea which Shakespeare apparently delighted to introduce. It occurs again in Macbeth : " My plenteous joys, wanton in fulness, seek to hide themselves in drops of sorrow."
2 Montanto is an old term of the fencing-school, humorously or sarcastically applied here in the sense of a bravado. See The Merry Wives of Windsor, Act. ii. sc. 3, note 2.
3 Sort is here used in the sense of rank. So, in A MidsummerNight's Dream, Act iii. sc. 2 : “ None of nobler sort would so offend a virgin ;” and in Measure for Measure, Act iv. sc. 4: “ Give notice to such men of sort and suit, as are to meet him.”
4 This phrase was in common use for affixing a printed notice in some public place, long before Shakespeare's time, and long after.
5 That is, dared him to a match with the flight. The flight was a long, slender, sharp arrow, such as Cupid shot with ; so called because used for flying long distances, and to distinguish it from the bird-bolt, a short, thick, blunt arrow, used in a lower kind of