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THE story is taken from Ariosto, Orl. Fur. b. v. POPE.
It is true, as Mr. Pope has observed, that somewhat resembling the story of this play is to be found in the fifth book of the Orlando Furioso. In Spenser's Fairy Queen, b. ii. c. iv. as remote an original may be traced. A novel, however, of Belleforest, copied from another of Bandello, seems to have furnished Shakspeare with his fable, as it approaches nearer in all its particulars to the play before us, than any other performance known to be extant. I have seen so many versions from this once popular collection, that I entertain no doubt but that a great majority of the tales it comprehends have made their appearance in an English dress. Of that particular story which I have just mentioned, viz. the 18th history in the third volume, no translation has hitherto been met with.
This play was entered at Stationers' Hall, Aug. 23, 1600. STEEVENS.
Ariosto is continually quoted for the fable of Much Ado about Nothing, but I suspect our poet to have been satisfied with the Geneura of Turberville. "The tale (says Harington) is a pretie comical matter, and hath bin written in English verse some few years past, learnedly and with good grace, though in verse of another kind, by M. George Turbervil." Ariosto, fol. 1591, p. 39. FARMER.
I suppose this comedy to have been written in 1600, in which year it was printed. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays. MALONE.
Don PEDRO, Prince of Arragon.
CLAUDIO, a young Lord of Florence, favourite to Don Pedro.
BENEDICK, a young Lord of Padua, favourite likewise of Don Pedro.
LEONATO, Governor of Messina.
ANTONIO, his Brother.
BALTHAZAR, Servant to Don Pedro.
Followers of Don John.
Two foolish Officers.
HERO, Daughter to Leonato.
Gentlewomen attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watch, and Attendants.
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 2, and none of name. LEON. A victory is twice itself, when the achiever
* Old copies, Don Peter.
Innogen, (the mother of Hero,) in the old quarto that I have seen of this play, printed in 1600, is mentioned to enter in two several scenes. The succeeding editions have all continued her name in the Dramatis Personæ. But I have ventured to expunge it; there being no mention of her through the play, no one speech addressed to her, nor one syllable spoken by her. Neither is there any one passage, from which we have any reason to determine that Hero's mother was living. It seems as if the poet had in his first plan designed such a character: which, on a survey of it, he found would be superfluous; and therefore he left it out. THEOBALD.
The name of Hero's mother occurs also in the first folio: "Enter Leonato governor of Messina, Innogen his wife," &c. STEEVENS.
2-of any SORT,] Sort is rank, distinction. So, in Chapman's version of the 16th book of Homer's Odyssey:
"A ship, and in her many a man of sort."
I incline, however, to Mr. M. Mason's easier explanation. Of any sort, says he, means of any kind whatsoever. 'There were but few killed of any kind, and none of rank.' STEEVENS.
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.
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 3.
LEON. Did he break out into tears?
* Old copies, Peter.
3-joy could not show itself MODEST enough, without a BADGE of bitterness.] This is judiciously expressed. Of all the transports of joy, that which is attended with tears is least offensive; because, carrying with it this mark of pain, it allays the envy that usually attends another's happiness. This he finely calls a modest joy, such a one as did not insult the observer by an indication of happiness unmixed with pain. WARBURton.
A somewhat similar expression occurs in Chapman's version of the 10th book of the Odyssey:
our eyes wore
"The same wet badge of weak humanity."
This is an idea which Shakspeare seems to have been delighted to introduce. It occurs again in Macbeth :
"my plenteous joys,
"Wanton in fullness, seek to hide themselves
"In drops of sorrow." STEEVENS.
A badge being the distinguishing mark worn in our author's time by the servants of noblemen, &c. on the sleeve of their liveries, with his usual licence he employs the word to signify a mark or token in general. So, in Macbeth:
"Their hands and faces were all badg'd with blood." MALONE. 4 In great measure.] i. e. in abundance. STEEvens.