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Sir John Harington's translation of the whole “ Orlando Furioso” was originally published in 1591, but there is no special indication in “Much Ado about Nothing” that Shakespeare availed himself of it. In a note, at the end of the book occupied by the story of Ariodante and Geneura, Sir John Harington added this sentence :—“Howsoever it was, surely the tale is a pretty comical matter, and hath been written in English verse some few years past (learnedly and with good grace), though in verse of another kind, by M. George Turbervil.” If this note be correct, and Harington did not confound Turberville with Beverley, the translation by the former has been lost. Spenser's version of the same incidents, for they are evidently borrowed from Ariosto, in B. II. C. 4, of his “Faerie Queene,” was printed in 1590; but Shakespeare is not to be traced to this source. In Ariosto, and in Spenser, the rival of Ariodante has himself the interview with the female attendant on Geneura ; while in Shakespeare “ John the Bastard” employs a creature of his own for the purpose. Shakespeare's plot may, therefore, have had an entirely different origin, possibly some translation, not now extant, of Bandello's twentysecond novel, in vol. i. of the Lucca edition, 4to, 1554, which is entitled, “ Como il S. Timbreo di Cardona, essendo col Re Piero d'Aragona in Messina, s'innamora di Fenicia Lionata ; e i varii fortunevoli accidenti, che avvennero prima che per moglie la prendesse.” It is rendered the more likely that Shakespeare employed a lost version of this novel by the circumstance, that in Bandello the incident in which she, who may be called the false Hero, is concerned, is conducted much in the same way as in Shakespeare. Moreover, Bandello, like our great dramatist, lays his scene in Messina; the father of the lady is named Lionato; and Don Pedro, or Piero, of Arragon, is the friend of the lover who is duped by his rival.
Nobody has observed upon the important fact, in connexion with “Much Ado about Nothing," that a “ History of Ariodante and Geneuora" was played before Queen Elizabeth, by “ Mulcaster's children," in 1582-3? How far Shakespeare might be indebted to this production we cannot at all determine ; but it seems certain that the serious incidents he employed in his comedy had, at an early date, formed the subject of a dramatic representation.
In the ensuing text the 4to, 1600, has been followed, with due notice of variations in the folio of 1623, and of manuscript emendations in the corrected folio, 1632. The earliest impression contains several passages not inserted in the re-print (for such it undoubtedly was) under the care of Heminge and Condell,
? Extracts from Revels at Court, by Peter Cunningham, Esq., p. 177. It was printed for the Shakespeare Society in 1842.
and the text of the 4to, 1600, is to be preferred in nearly all instances.
We subjoin a ballad by Thomas Jordan on the serious portion of “Much Ado about Nothing.” It was printed in 1664 in a small 8vo. vol., which be called “A royal Arbor of loyal Poesie, consisting of Poems and Songs ;" but it was, doubtless, written earlier, (probably during the suppression of dramatic performances) and we may presume, although no such copy has reached our day, that it originally came out as a broadside, and was sung in the streets. The tune to which it was sung, “No man loves fiery passions," was a popular one, and the production is entitled
“ The Revolution : a Love-story.
Some crosses like your own, give ear to me.
“ A virtuous Lady, innocent and fair,
Who to a noble Knight was only heir,
“ The costly garments and the wedding cheer
Provided is, for now the day draws near :
Each hour's a day, and every day a year.
Did yet appear to bear a better mind,
Assur’d 'twas nothing but hypocrisy.
Unto the chambermaid that serv'd the Bride,
One of her mistress gowns that well was known.
“ If you, with two or three, with me will go,
At night I'll shew you what you ne'er did know :
These three nights I have cast my eyes upon them..
Hating to be the husband of a whore,
And with her plotting sweet-heart closely playing.
As some surmise, to make but one of two;
And vow'd from that time ne'er to see her more.
Alack for me! I would my childe had died
Desir'd her sweet-heart, that for her dear sake,
He did confess, and tell the naked truth.
And by the Bridegroom's brother thus abus'd;
It must be admitted that this is a very poor performance, but from the wording of it, and other circumstances, it is evident that it was founded upon Shakespeare's play, most likely at a date when it had ceased to be publicly performed, in consequence of the suppression of the theatres. Jordan was himself an actor, as well as a dramatist, before the breaking out of the Civil Wars, and it is not improbable that he had himself sustained some part in “Much Ado about Nothing" during the reign of Charles I.
DON PEDRO, Prince of Arragon.
BORACHIO, I followers of John.
} two Officers of Messina.
HERO, Daughter to Leonato.
Gentlewomen attending on Hero.
I No list of persons is prefixed to the 4to. or folio editions. The deficiency was first supplied by Rowe.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
ACT I. SCENE I.
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 deserved 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 bettered expectation, than you must expect of me to tell you how.
1- with a Messenger.] The old stage-direction, in the 4to, 1600, as well as in the first folio, runs thus, explaining the relations of the parties to each other, in the absence of any list of characters :-“Enter Leonato, governor of Messina, Innogen his wife, Hero his daughter, and Beatrice his niece, with a messenger." In the corr. fo. 1632, “ Innogen his wife" is erased, and there is little doubt that she neither made her appearance here, nor elsewhere : Gentleman is also there substituted for “ Messenger," as if this person, who joins freely in the conversation with Leonato, Hero, and Beatrice, were superior to an ordinary bearer of letters, or intelligence. With this note, the change is unnecessary.
? Don PEDRO] In the old copies, 4to. and folio, this name stands “Don Peter" here, as well as when Leonato speaks of him just afterwards ; but on his entrance he is called Don Pedro.