Imatges de pÓgina

some about him: In brief, since I do purpose to marry, I will think nothing to any purpose that the world can say against it; and therefore never flout at me for what I have said against it; for man is a giddy thing, and this is my conclusion.-For thy part, Claudio, I did think to have beaten thee; but in that? thou art like to be my kinsman, live unbruis’d, and love my cousin.

Claud. I had well hoped, thou wouldst have denied Beatrice, that I might have cudgelld thee out of thy single life, to make thee a double dealer; which, out of question, thou wilt be, if my cousin do not look exceeding narrowly to thee.

Bene. Come, come, we are friends:-let's have a dance ere we are married, that we may lighten our own hearts, and our wives' heels.

Leon. We 'll have dancing afterwards.

Bene. First, o' my word; therefore, play, musick. Prince, thou art sad; get thee a wife, get thee a wife: there is no staff more reverend than one tipp'd with horn.


- in that -] i. e. because. So, Hooker : “ Things are preached not in that they are taught, but in that they are published.” Steevens.

1- no staff more reverend than one tipp'd with horn.] This passage may admit of some explanation that I am unable to fur. nish. By accident I lost several instances I had collected for the purpose of throwing light on it. The following, however, may as. sist the future commentator.



by order of the lawe both the parties must at their owne charge be armed withoute any yron or long armoure, and theire heades bare, and bare-handed and bare-footed, every one of them having a baston horned at ech ende, of one length," &c.

Again, in Stowe's Chronicle, edit. 1615, p. 669: “— his bas. ton a staffe of an elle long, made taper-wise, tipt with horne, &c. was borne after him.” Steevens.

Again, Britton, Pleas of the Crown, c. xxvii, s. 18: “ Next let them go to combat armed

without iron and without linnen armour, their heads uncovered and their hands naked, and on foot, with two bastons tipped with horn of equal length, and each of them a target of four corners, without any other armour, whereby any of them may annoy the other; and if either of them have any other weapon concealed about him, and therewith annoy his adversary, let it be done as shall be mentioned amongst combats in a plea of land.” Reed.

Enter a Messenger.
Mess. My lord, your brother John is ta’en in flight,

Mr. Steevens's explanation is undoubtedly the true one. The allusion is certainly to the ancient trial by wager of battel, in suits both criminal and civil. The quotation above given recites the form in the former case,-viz. an appeal of felony. The practice was nearly similar in civil cases, upon issue joined in a writ of right. Of the last trial of this kind in England, (which was in the thirteenth year of Queen Elizabeth) our author might have read a particular account in Stowe's Annales. Henry Nailor, master of defence, was champion for the demandants, Simon Low and John Kyme; and George Thorne for the tenant, (or defendant) Thomas Paramoure. The combat was appointed to be fought in Tuthill-fields, and the Judges of the Common Pleas and Serjeants at law attended. But a compromise was entered into between the parties, the evening before the appointed day, and they only went through the forms, for the greater security of the tenant. Among other ceremonies Stowe mentions, that “the gauntlet that was cast down by George Thorne was borne before the sayd Nailor, in his passage through London, upon a sword's point, and his baston (a staff of an ell long, made taper-wise, tipt with horn) with his shield of hard leather, was borne after him,” &c. See also Minsheu's Dict. 1617, in v. Combat; from which it appears that Naylor on this occasion was introduced to the Judges, with three solemn congees,” by a very reverend person,

“ Sir Jerome Bowes, ambassador from Queen Elizabeth into Russia, who carried a red baston of an ell long, tipped with horn."-In a very ancient law-book entitled Britton, the manner in which the combatants are to be armed is particularly mentioned. The quotation from the Sloanian Ms. is a translation from thence. By a ridiculous mistake the words, “ sauns lõge arme," are rendered in the modern translation of that book, printed a few years ago, “without linnen armour ;" and “a mains nues and pies” [bare-handed and bare-footed] is translated, “ and their hands naked, and on foot.Malone.

This play may be justly said to contain two of the most sprightly characters that Shakspeare ever drew. The wit, the humour. ist, the gentleman, and the soldier, are combined in Benedick. It is to be lamented, indeed, that the first and most splendid of these distinctions, is disgraced by unnecessary profaneness ; for the goodness of his heart is hardly sufficient to atone for the license of his tongue. The too sarcastic levity, which flashes out in the conversation of Beatrice, may be excused on account of the steadiness and friendship so apparent in her behaviour, when she urges her lover to risque his life by a challenge to Claudio. In the conduct of the fable, however, there is an imperfection similar to that which Dr. Johnson has pointed out in the Merry Wives of Windsor :-the second contrivance is less ingenious than



And brought with armed men back to Messina.

Bene. Think not on him till to-morrow; I'll devise thee brave punishments for him.-Strike up, pipers.


the first :-or, to speak more plainly, the same incident is become stale by repetition. I wish some other method had been found to entrap Beatrice, than that very one which before had been successfully practised on Benedick.

Much ado about Nothing, (as I understand from one of Mr. Vertue's MSS.) formerly passed under the title of Benedick and Beatrix. Heming the player received, on the 20th of May, 1613, the sum of forty pounds, and twenty pounds more as his Majesty's gratuity, for exhibiting six plays at Hampton-Court, among which was this comedy. Steevens.


THE reader will find a distinct epitome of the novels from which the story of this play is supposed to be taken, at the conclusion of the notes. It should, however, be remembered, that if our poet was at all indebted to the Italian novelists, it must have been through the medium of some old translation, which has hitherto escaped the researches of his most industrious editors.

It appears from a passage in Stephen Gosson's School of Abuse, &c. 1579, that a play, comprehending the distinct plots of Shakspeare's Merchant of Venice, had been exhibited long before he commenced a writer, viz. “ The Jew shown at the Bull, representing the greediness of worldly choosers, and the bloody minds of usurers.”—“ These plays,” says Gosson, (for he mentions others with it) “are goode and sweete plays,” &c. It is there. fore not improbable that Shakspeare new-wrote his piece, on the model already mentioned, and that the elder performance being inferior, was permitted to drop silently into oblivion.

This play of Shakspeare had been exhibited before the year 1598, as appears from Meres's Wits Treasury, where it is mentioned with eleven more of our author's pieces. It was entered on the books of the Stationers' Company, July 22, in the same year. It could not have been printed earlier, because it was not yet licensed. The old song of Gernutus the Few of Venice, is published by Dr. Percy in the first volume of his Reliques of ancient English Poetry: and the ballad intituled, The murtherous Life and terrible Death of the rich Jewe of Malta; and the tragedy on the same subject, were both entered on the Stationers' books, May, 1594. Steevens.

The story was taken from an old translation of The Gesta Romanorum, first printed by Wynkyn de Worde. The book was very popular, and Shakspeare has closely copied some of the lan. guage: an additional argument, if we wanted it, of his track of reading. Three vessels are exhibited to a lady for her choice The first was made of pure gold, well beset with precious stones without, and within full of dead men's bones; and thereupon was engraven this posie: Whoso chuseth me, shall find that he deserveth. The second vessel was made of fine silver, filled with earth and worms; the superscription was thus: Whoso chuseth me, shall find that his nature desireth. The third vessel was made of lead, full within of precious stones, and thereupon was insculpt this posie: Whoso chuseth me, shall find that God hath disposed for him. The lady, after a comment upon each, chuses the Icaden vessel.

In a MS. of Lidgate, belonging to my very learned friend, Dr. Askew, I find a Tale of Txvo Merchants of Egipt and of Baldad, ex Gestis Romanorum. Leland, therefore, could not be the original author, as Bishop Tanner suspected. He lived a century after Lidgate. Farmer.

The two principal incidents of this play are to be found sepa. rately in a collection of odd stories, which were very popular, at least five hundred years ago, under the title of Gesta Romanorum. The first, Of the Bond, is in ch. xlviii, of the copy which I chuse to refer to, as the completest of any which I have yet seen. MS.

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