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Beatrice. I pray you, is signior Montanto returned from the wars,
Messenger. I know none of that name, lady; there was none such in army of any sort.
Leonato. What is he that you ask for, niece?
Hero. My cousin means signior Benedick of Padua.
Messenger. O, he is returned; and as pleasant as ever he was.
Beatrice. 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 bird-bolt.-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.
Leonato. Faith, niece, you tax signior Benedick too much; but he'll be meet with you, I doubt it not.
Messenger. He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
Beatrice. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it: he is a very valiant trencher-man, he hath an excellent stomach.
Messenger. And a good soldier too, lady.
Beatrice. And a good soldier to a lady:-But what is he to a lord ?
Messenger. A lord to a lord, a man to a man; stuffed with all honourable virtues.
Beatrice. It is so, indeed; he is no less than a stuffed man:-But for the stuffing,-Well, we are all mortal.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.-Act I. Scene I.
Bénédict. De grâce Béatrice.—
Béatrice. Ma pauvre cousine!-Elle est outragée, calomniée, perdue. Bénédict. Béat. . . .
Béatrice. D'étranges princes et de singuliers comtes, vraiment ! vrai témoignage de prince! noble confit, cavalier de sucre! Oh! que ne suis-je homme pour me mesurer avec lui! ou que n'ai-je un ami qui veuille être homme pour l'amour de moi! Mais le courage est dégénéré en vains salamalecs, la valeur en compliments; les hommes n'ont plus à leur service que des phrases, et des phrases fleuries encore! Celui-là est réputé aussi vaillant qu'Hercule, qui sait dire un mensonge et l'appuyer d'un serment.-Puisque tous les souhaits du monde ne peuvent faire de moi un homme, je mourrai de douleur de n'être qu'une femme.
Bénédict. Restez, Béatrice. Par ce bras, je vous aime.
Béatrice. Au lieu de jurer par lui, employez-le plus dignement pour
BEAUCOUP DE BRUIT POUR RIEN.-Acte IV. Scène I
"Oh! know'st thou not, his looks are my soul's food ?"
THE first scene of the Two Gentlemen of Verona is laid in that city, and introduces VALENTINE and PROTEUS. VALENTINE is about to depart for Milan, and, whilst bidding farewell to PROTEUS, banters him on being in love with JULIA, a lady of Verona.
In the second scene, JULIA is represented engaged in conversation with LUCETTA, her waiting-maid, and fixing her choice on one of her numerous suitors. After naïvely parrying the arguments of her maid in praise of the rest, she singles out PROTEUS. Her maid hands her a letter sent by him, which gives rise to an amusing illustration of the fickleness of woman. JULIA tears the letter into pieces, but tells the secret of her love in speedy repentance. ANTONIO, PROTEUS' father, resolves to send him to Milan; and PROTEUS, after vainly asking for time to prepare for his journey, is compelled to obey his parent's commands.
The second act introduces SYLVIA, on whom depends many of the chief incidents of the play. VALENTINE had already fallen in love with her; and, in a most amusing manner, SYLVIA, employing him to write a letter to "one she loves," declares her passion for him by requesting him to keep it. Blind in love, he cannot perceive her drift; but his servant, SPEED, at last convinces him of it. PROTEUS, before leaving Verona, visits JULIA, and protests his affection for her; and, on parting, they exchange rings as pledges for their mutual fidelity.
In the fourth act, we find PROTEUS arrived at Milan, and introduced by VALENTINE to SYLVIA, when, PROTEUS-like, he falls passionately in love with her in place of JULIA, whom he has left behind. Returning to Verona, we find JULIA unchanged in her affection. Speaking of PROTEUS, she exclaims—
"Oh! know'st thou not, his looks are my soul's food?
Pity the dearth that I have pined in,
By longing for that food so long."
She cannot bear separation from him; and at last, disguised in male attire, she sets out for Milan. Meanwhile, PROTEUS has been trying to supplant VALENTINE and THURIO in the affections of SYLVIA, and, by stratagem, manages to get VALENTINE banished from Milan. He has still to get rid of THURIO, and has also to bear the reproaches of SYLVIA; who, having discovered the object of his former affection, indignantly repels all his advances.
JULIA, disguised in boy's clothes, has arrived at Milan; and PROTEUS, not knowing who she is, engages her as his servant, sending her with a ring to SYLVIA. She can scarcely refrain from discovering herself to her rival, but rests satisfied for the present with professing sympathy for PROTEUS' rejected love, and so conceals her real position. In the fifth act, however, on pretence of having delivered the wrong ring to SYLVIA, she drops her disguise, and bitterly reproaches her false lover. The scene closes by THURIO resigning SYLVIA to VALENTINE; and PROTEUS, after doing penance for his perjured vows, marries JULIA.
In this play, Shakspeare paints the characters of JULIA and SYLVIA in the brightest colours of truthfulness and fidelity. It contains few striking incidents; and the plot is by no means complicated; its chief points exhibiting the constancy of JULIA, and the frailty of her lover.