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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 badge of bitterness.
Leon. Did he break out into tears ?
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness. There are no faces truer than those that are so washed : how much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping.
Beat. I pray you, is signior Montanto returned from the wars, or no?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady': there was none such in the army of any sort.
Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece ?
Beat. He set up his bills here in Messina ‘, and challenged Cupid at the flight'; and my uncle's fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him at the birdbolt. I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath he killed ? for, indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing.
Leon. Faith, niece, you tax signior Benedick too much ; but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.
Mess. He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
Beat. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it: he is a very valiant trencher-man; he hath an excellent stomach.
Mess. And a good soldier too, lady.
Beat. And a good soldier to a lady; but what is he to a lord ?
3 I know none of that name, lady :] Beatrice asks after Benedick by a term of the fencing-school, “ Montanto," the humour of which the messenger does not appear to understand. Possibly, there is some allusion in Montanto that is now unintelligible to us.
+ He set up his bills here in Messina,] “To set up bills ” was to give public notice of a challenge, by posting placards.
s – challenged Cupid at the Flight;] The “flight" was a species of arrow, apparently so called from the circumstance that it was used for flying long distances. Daniel, in a passage quoted by Steevens, distinguishes between “ flight-shafts” and “ sheaf-arrows." Civil Wars, b. viii, st. 15. The flight was contra-distinguished from the bird-bolt, mentioned just afterwards, which, instead of being long and slender, was short and thick, with a blunt end, and calculated only to strike near objects.
Mess. A lord to a lord, a man to a man ; stuffed with all honourable virtues .
Beat. It is so, indeed : he is no less than a stuffed man; but for the stuffing,–Well, we are all mortal.
Leon. You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a kind of merry war betwixt signior Benedick and her: they never meet, but there's a skirmish of wit between them.
Beat. Alas! he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict four of his five wits? went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one; so that, if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse; for it is all the wealth that he hath left to be known a reasonable creature.—Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.
Mess. Is't possible ?
Beat. Very easily possible: he wears his faith but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next block .
Mess. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books'.
Beat. No; an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray you, who is his companion ? Is there no young squarer now', that will make a voyage with him to the devil ?
Mess. He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
Beat. O Lord! he will hang upon him like a disease: he is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio ! if he have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured.
Mess. I will hold friends with you, lady.
6 - STUFFED with all honourable virtues.] i.e. furnished. In her reply Beatrice plays upon the double meaning of the word.
7 - four of his five wits went halting off,] The five senses, long before the time of Shakespeare, were called the five wits; and hence the intellectual powers, intended by Beatrice, were also supposed to be five in number. Of this, many proofs might be adduced if necessary. Edgar, in King Lear, A. iii. sc. 4, exclaims, “ Bless thy five wits ;” and Malone remarks, that Shakespeare in one of his Sonnets (141) distinguishes “the five wits " from the five senses :
“But my five wits, nor my five senses, can
Dissuade one foolish heart from loving thee." 8 — with the next block.] i.e. The mould on which a hat is formed.
9 – the gentleman is not in your books.] Meaning “he is not in credit with you :" to be in a tradesman's books was to be in credit with, and trusted by him. Such seems to have been the origin of the phrase.
1- Is there no young SQUARER now,) i.e. No young quarreller : to “square," is now to take the first position for boxing.
Beat. Do, good friend.
Enter Don PEDRO, JOHN', CLAUDIO, BENEDICK, BALTHAZAR,
and others. D. Pedro. Good signior Leonato, are you comes to meet your trouble? The fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it.
Leon. Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace; for trouble being gone, comfort should remain, but when you depart from me, sorrow abides, and happiness takes his leave.
D. Pedro. You embrace your charge too willingly. I think, this is your daughter.
Leon. Her mother hath many times told me so.
D. Pedro. You have it full, Benedick: we may guess by this what you are, being a man.—Truly, the lady fathers herself.—Be happy, lady, for you are like an honourable father.
Bene. If signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as like him as she is.
Beat. I wonder that you will still be talking, signior Benedick: nobody marks you.
Bene. What, my dear lady Disdain ! are you yet living?
Beat. Is it possible disdain should die, while she hath such meet food to feed it, as signior Benedick? Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence.
Bene. Then is courtesy a turn-coat. But it is certain, I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted ; and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart, for, truly, I love none.
Beat. A dear happiness to women: they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God, and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that: I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.
2 John,] Modern editors call him “ Don John," but in the old copies he is called “ John," “ John the bastard,” and “ Sir John,” in the stage-directions, or in the prefixes to the speeches assigned to him.
3 — ARE YOU come] The folios read “ you are come.”
Bene. God keep your ladyship still in that mind; so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were ‘.
Bene. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Bene. I would, my horse had the speed of your tongue, and so good a continuer. But keep your way o'God's name; I have done.
Beat. You always end with a jade's trick: I know you of old.
D. Pedro. That is the sum of all, Leonato :—Signior Claudio, and signior Benedick, my dear friend Leonato hath invited you all. I tell him we shall stay here at the least a month, and he heartily prays some occasion may detain us longer: I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but prays from his heart.
Leon. If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.— Let me bid you welcome, my lord: being reconciled to the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.
John. I thank you: I am not of many words, but I thank you.
Leon. Please it your grace lead on?
[Exeunt all but BENEDICK and CLAUDIO. Claud. Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of signior Leonato ?
Bene. I noted her not; but I looked on her.
Bene. Do you question me, as an honest man should do, for my simple true judgment; or would you have me speak after my custom, as being a professed tyrant to their sex ?
Claud. No; I pray thee, speak in sober judgment.
4- an 'twere such a face as yours WERE.] In the corr. fo. 1632, “ were" at the end of this speech is erased ; and, probably, when it was struck out it was not the custom to pronounce it on the stage, though it was certainly the language of Shakespeare's day : therefore, we preserve it.
That is the sum of all, Leonato ] The folios read This, &c. Don Pedro, we must suppose, has been talking apart with Leonato; and, ending with this sen. tence, turns to Claudio and Benedick to tell them the subject and result of his conversation.
praise, too brown for a fair praise, and too little for a great praise : only this commendation I can afford her; that were she other than she is, she were unhandsome, and being no other but as she is, I do not like her.
Claud. Thou thinkest, I am in sport: I pray thee, tell me truly how thou lik'st her.
Bene. Would you buy her, that you inquire after her ?
Bene. Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you this with a sad brow, or do you play the flouting Jack, to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder, and Vulcan a rare carpenter ? Come, in what key shall a man take you, to go in the song ?
Claud. In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever I looked on.
Bene. I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no such matter: there's her cousin, an she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty, as the first of May doth the last of December. But I hope, you have no intent to turn husband, have you ?
Claud. I would scarce trust myself, though I had sworn the contrary, if Hero would be my wife.
Bene. Is't come to this, i’faith ? Hath not the world one man, but he will wear his cap with suspicion?? Shall I never see a bachelor of threescore again ? Go to; i'faith, an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke, wear the print of it, and sigh away Sundays. Look; Don Pedro is returned to seek you.
Re-enter Don PEDRO. D. Pedro. What secret hath held you here, that you followed not to Leonato's ?
Bene. I would your grace would constrain me to tell.
Bene. You hear, count Claudio: I can be secret as a dumb man, I would have you think so; but on my allegiance,– mark you this, on my allegiance.—He is in love. With whom?—now, that is your grace's part.—Mark, how short his answer is ® :—with Hero, Leonato's short daughter.
Claud. If this were so, so were it uttered.
6 — to go in the song ?] i.e. To join in the same song you are singing.
8 Mark, how short his answer is : ] So the old copies; but in the corr. fo. 1632, " his" is altered to the,-injuriously.