Much Ado About Nothing
Much Ado About Nothing

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Annotation: Shakespeare readers will further be able to understand and appreciate the text of this play with the help of explanatory footnotes on the language and expressions used and a history of Shakespearean theater and writing.
Catalog Number: #204300
Format: Perma-Bound Edition
All Formats: Search
Teaching Materials: Search
Common Core/STEAM: Common Core Common Core
Teaching Materials
Copyright Date: 1988
Edition Date: 1988
Pages: xxxiv, 120 pages
Availability: Available
ISBN: Publisher: 0-553-21301-6 Perma-Bound: 0-8000-5536-5
ISBN 13: Publisher: 978-0-553-21301-0 Perma-Bound: 978-0-8000-5536-3
Dewey: 822.3
Dimensions: 18 cm.
Subject Heading:
Comedies.
Language: English
Bibliography Index/Note: Includes bibliographical references (pages 115-118).
Word Count: 4,365
Reading Level: 4.4
Interest Level: 9+
Accelerated Reader: reading level: 4.4 / points: 1.0 / quiz: 140097 / grade: Middle Grades

[Dramatis Personae


don pedro, Prince of Aragon

leonato, Governor of Messina

antonio, his brother


benedick, a young lord of Padua

beatrice, Leonato's niece

claudio, a young lord of Florence

hero, Leonato's daughter

margaret,       gentlewomen attending Hero

ursula,


don john, Don Pedro's bastard brother

borachio,         followers of Don John

conrade,


dogberry, Constable in charge of the Watch

verges, the Headborough, or parish constable, Dogberry's partner

a sexton (francis seacoal)

first watchman

second watchman (george seacoal)


balthasar, a singer attending Don Pedro

friar francis

a boy

messenger to Leonato

Another messenger


Attendants, Musicians, Members of the Watch,

Antonio's Son, and other Kinsmen


scene: Messina]




1.1 Location: Messina. Before Leonato's house.

4 leagues units of about three miles

6 action battle.

7 sort rank. name reputation, or noble name.

13 remembered rewarded

16 bettered surpassed

18 will who will

21-3 joy . . . bitterness joy could show a decorous moderation only by weeping at the same time.

26 kind natural


[1.1] A Enter Leonato, Governor of Messina, Hero his daughter, and Beatrice his niece, with a Messenger.

leonato [holding a letter]  I learn in this letter that Don

Pedro of Aragon comes this night to Messina.

messenger  He is very near by this. He was not three

leagues off when I left him. 4

leonato  How many gentlemen have you lost in this

action? 6

messenger  But few of any sort and none of name. 7

leonato  A victory is twice itself when the achiever

brings home full numbers. I find here that Don Pedro

hath bestowed much honor on a young Florentine

called Claudio.

messenger  Much deserved on his part and equally

remembered by Don Pedro. He hath borne himself  13

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  16

you how.

leonato  He hath an uncle here in Messina will be  18

very much glad of it.

messenger  I have already delivered him letters, and

there appears much joy in him, even so much that joy  21

could not show itself modest enough without a badge  22

of bitterness. 23

leonato  Did he break out into tears?

messenger  In great measure.

leonato  A kind overflow of kindness. There are no  26


29 Mountanto montanto, an upward blow or thrust in fencing

35 pleasant jocular

37 bills placards, advertisements

38 at the flight to a long-distance archery contest. (Beatrice mocks Benedick's pretentions as a lady killer.)   my uncle's fool (Perhaps a professional fool in her uncle's service.)

39 subscribed for accepted on behalf of

40 bird-bolt a blunt-headed arrow used for fowling. (Sometimes used by children because of its relative harmlessness and thus conventionally appropriate to Cupid.)

43 tax disparage

44 meet even, quits

47 musty victual stale food.   holp helped

48 valiant trencherman great eater

49 stomach appetite. (With a mocking suggestion also of "courage.")

51 soldier to a lady lady killer. (With a play on to/too.)

52 to compared to

53 stuffed amply supplied

55-6  a stuffed man i.e., a figure stuffed to resemble a man.

56 the stuffing i.e., what he's truly made of.   well . . . mortal i.e., well, we all have our faults.


faces truer than those that are so washed. How much

better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!

beatrice  I pray you, is Signor Mountanto returned  29

from the wars or no?

messenger  I know none of that name, lady. There was

none such in the army of any sort.

leonato  What is he that you ask for, niece?

hero  My cousin means Signor Benedick of Padua.

messenger  Oh, he's returned, and as pleasant as ever  35

he was.

beatrice  He set up his bills here in Messina and chal-  37

lenged Cupid at the flight; and my uncle's fool, reading  38

the challenge, subscribed for Cupid and challenged  39

him at the bird-bolt. I pray you, how many hath he  40

killed and eaten in these wars? But how many hath he

killed? For indeed I promised to eat all of his killing.

leonato  Faith, niece, you tax Signor Benedick too  43

much, but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not. 44

messenger  He hath done good service, lady, in these

wars.

beatrice  You had musty victual, and he hath holp to  47

eat it. He is a very valiant trencherman; he hath an  48

excellent stomach. 49

messenger  And a good soldier too, lady.

beatrice  And a good soldier to a lady, but what is he  51

to a lord? 52

messenger  A lord to a lord, a man to a man, stuffed  53

with all honorable virtues.

beatrice  It is so, indeed, he is no less than a stuffed  55

man. But for the stuffing--well, we are all mortal. 56

leonato  You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is

a kind of merry war betwixt Signor Benedick and her.

They never meet but there's a skirmish of wit between

them.


62 five wits i.e., not the five senses, but the five faculties: memory, imagination, judgment, fantasy, common sense.   halting limping

65 difference heraldic feature distinguishing a junior member or branch of a family. (With a play on the usual sense.)

65-7  it is . . . creature i.e., his feeble wit is all he has left to identify him as rationally human.

68 sworn brother brother in arms (frater juratus, an allusion to the ancient practice of swearing brotherhood).

70 faith allegiance, or fidelity

72 block mold for shaping hats.

73-4  in your books in favor with you, in your good books. (But Beatrice, in her reply, takes books in the literal sense of something to be found in a library.)

75 An If. (Also in line 131.)

77 squarer quarreler

81 he i.e., Benedick

83 presently immediately

84 the Benedick i.e., as if this were a disease

85 'a he

86 hold friends keep on friendly terms (so as not to earn your enmity)

88 run mad i.e., "catch the Benedick"

89 not . . . January i.e., not any time soon.


beatrice  Alas! He gets nothing by that. In our last

conflict, four of his five wits went halting off, and now  62

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  65

the wealth that he hath left to be known a reasonable  66

creature. Who is his companion now? He hath every  67

month a new sworn brother. 68

messenger  Is't possible?

beatrice  Very easily possible. He wears his faith but as  70

the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the next

block. 72

messenger  I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your  73

books. 74

beatrice  No. An he were, I would burn my study. But  75

I pray you, who is his companion? Is there no young

squarer now that will make a voyage with him to the  77

devil?

messenger  He is most in the company of the right

noble Claudio.

beatrice  Oh, Lord, he will hang upon him like a  81

disease! He is sooner caught than the pestilence, and

the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble  83

Claudio! If he have caught the Benedick, it will cost  84

him a thousand pound ere 'a be cured. 85

messenger  I will hold friends with you, lady. 86

beatrice  Do, good friend.

leonato  You will never run mad, niece. 88

beatrice  No, not till a hot January. 89

messenger  Don Pedro is approached.

Enter Don Pedro, Claudio, Benedick, Balthasar, and [Don] John the Bastard.

don pedro  Good Signor Leonato, are you come to


92 your trouble i.e., the expense of entertaining me and my retinue.

93 encounter go to meet

98 charge social responsibility and expense

104 have it full are well answered

106 fathers herself shows by appearance who her father is.

109 his head i.e., with Leonato's white beard and signs of age

116 meet suitable. (With a pun on "meat.")

117 convert change

123 dear happiness precious piece of luck


meet your trouble? The fashion of the world is to  92

avoid cost, and you encounter it. 93

leonato  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.

don pedro  You embrace your charge too willingly.--I  98

think this is your daughter.

[Presenting himself to Hero.] 

leonato  Her mother hath many times told me so.

benedick  Were you in doubt, sir, that you asked her?

leonato  Signor Benedick, no; for then were you a

child.

don pedro  You have it full, Benedick. We may guess  104

by this what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady

fathers herself. Be happy, lady, for you are like an 106

honorable father.

benedick  If Signor Leonato be her father, she would

not have his head on her shoulders for all Messina, as  109

like him as she is. [Don Pedro and Leonato talk aside.]

beatrice  I wonder that you will still be talking, Signor

Benedick. Nobody marks you.

benedick  What, my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet

living?

beatrice  Is it possible disdain should die while she

hath such meet food to feed it as Signor Benedick?  116

Courtesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in  117

her presence.

benedick  Then is courtesy a turncoat. 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.

beatrice  A dear happiness to women! They would 123

else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I


125-6  I am . . . that I am of the same disposition in that matter, i.e., of loving no one.

129 scape escape.   predestinate inevitable (for any man who should woo Beatrice)

132 were i.e., is.

133 rare outstanding.   parrot-teacher i.e., one who would teach a parrot well, because you merely "parrot" my lines.

134 of my tongue taught to speak like me, i.e., incessantly

134-5  of yours taught to speak like you.

137 and . . . continuer i.e., and as much staying power in running as you have in talking.

139 a jade's trick i.e., an ill-tempered horse's habit of slipping its head out of the collar or stopping suddenly (just as Benedick proposes to abandon this exchange of witticisms when he thinks he has had the last word).

141 sum of all (Don Pedro and Leonato have been conversing apart on other matters.)

149 being since you are

153 Please it May it please

154 go together i.e., go arm in arm (thus avoiding the question of precedence in order of leaving).

154.1  Manent They remain onstage

157 noted her not gave her no special attention


thank God and my cold blood I am of your humor for 125

that. I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow than a 126

man swear he loves me.

benedick  God keep Your Ladyship still in that mind!

So some gentleman or other shall scape a predestinate 129

scratched face.

beatrice  Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere

such a face as yours were. 132

benedick  Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher. 133

beatrice  A bird of my tongue is better than a beast of 134

yours. 135

benedick  I would my horse had the speed of your

tongue and so good a continuer. But keep your way, 137

i'God's name; I have done.

beatrice  You always end with a jade's trick. I know 139

you of old.

don pedro  That is the sum of all, Leonato. Signor 141

Claudio and Signor 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.

leonato  If you swear, my lord, you shall not be for-

sworn. [To Don John] Let me bid you welcome, my

lord, being reconciled to the Prince your brother. I owe 149

you all duty.

don john  I thank you. I am not of many words, but I

thank you.

leonato  Please it Your Grace lead on? 153

don pedro  Your hand, Leonato. We will go together. 154

Exeunt. Manent Benedick and Claudio.

claudio  Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of

Signor Leonato?

benedick  I noted her not, but I looked on her. 157


162 tyrant one cruel or pitiless in attitude

164 low short

175 case (1) jewel case (2) clothing, outer garments. (There is also a bawdy play on the meaning "female pudenda.")

176 sad serious.   flouting Jack i.e., mocking rascal

177-8  to tell . . . carpenter? i.e., are you mocking us with nonsense? (Cupid was blind, not sharp-eyed like a hunter, and Vulcan was a blacksmith, not a carpenter.)

178-9  to . . . song as the song expresses it. (Alluding perhaps to some popular song.)

184 with a fury by an avenging, infernal spirit

189-90  hath . . . suspicion? i.e., isn't there a man left alive who will regard marriage with a jaundiced eye? (A cap might be used, unsuccessfully perhaps, in an attempt to hide a cuckold's horns.)

191 Go to (An expression of impatience.)


claudio  Is she not a modest young lady?

benedick  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? 162

claudio  No, I pray thee, speak in sober judgment.

benedick  Why, i'faith, methinks she's too low for 164

high 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 unhand-

some, and being no other but as she is, I do not like

her.

claudio  Thou thinkest I am in sport. I pray thee, tell

me truly how thou lik'st her.

benedick  Would you buy her, that you inquire after

her?

claudio  Can the world buy such a jewel?

benedick  Yea, and a case to put it into. But speak you 175

this with a sad brow? Or do you play the flouting Jack, 176

to tell us Cupid is a good hare-finder and Vulcan a rare 177

carpenter? Come, in what key shall a man take you, to 178

go in the song? 179

claudio  In mine eye she is the sweetest lady that ever

I looked on.

benedick  I can see yet without spectacles, and I see no

such matter. There's her cousin, an she were not poss-

essed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the 184

first of May doth the last of December. But I hope you

have no intent to turn husband, have you?

claudio  I would scarce trust myself, though I had

sworn the contrary, if Hero would be my wife.

benedick  Is't come to this? In faith, hath not the world 189

one man but he will wear his cap with suspicion? Shall 190

I never see a bachelor of threescore again? Go to, 191

i'faith; an thou wilt needs thrust thy neck into a yoke,


193 wear . . . Sundays i.e., display the marks of your domestic enslavement resignedly.



Excerpted from Much Ado about Nothing by William Shakespeare
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

Set in a courtly world of masked revels and dances, this play turns on the archetypal story of a lady falsely accused of unfaithfulness, spurned by her bridegroom, and finally vindicated and reunited with him. Villainy, schemes, and deceits threaten to darken the brilliant humor and sparkling wordplay–but the hilarious counterplot of a warring couple, Beatrice and Benedick, steals the scene as the two are finally tricked into admitting their love for each other in Shakespeare’s superb comedy of manners.

Each Edition Includes:
• Comprehensive explanatory notes
• Vivid introductions and the most up-to-date scholarship
• Clear, modernized spelling and punctuation, enabling contemporary readers to understand the Elizabethan English
• Completely updated, detailed bibliographies and performance histories
• An interpretive essay on film adaptations of the play, along with an extensive filmography


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