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our hearts !-Come, I will have thee; but, by this light, I take thee for pity.
Beat. I would not deny you; but, by this good day, I yield upon great persuasion; and, partly, to save your life, for I was told you were in a consumption. Bene. Peace, I will stop your mouth.
[Kissing her. D. Pedro. How dost thou, Benedick the married
man? Bene. I'll tell thee what, prince; a college of wit-crackers cannot flout me out of my humour: Dost thou think, I care for a satire, or an epigram? No: if a man will be beaten with brains, he shall wear nothing handsome about him: In brief, since I do propose 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 unbruised, and love
Claud. I had well hoped, thou wouldst have denied Beatrice, that I might have cudgelled 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 á 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 tipped with horn.
Enter a Messenger. Mess. My lord, your brother John is ta'en in flight, 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.
3 Steevens, Malone, and Reed, conceive that there is an allusion here to the staff used in the ancient trial by wager of battle; but Mr. Douce thinks it is more probable the walking stick or staff of elderly persons was intended, such sticks were often tipped or headed with horn, sometimes crosswise, in imitation of the crutched sticks or potences of the friars, which were borrowed from the celebrated tau of St. Anthony. Chaucer's Sompnour describes one of his friars as having a 'scrippe and tipped staf,' and he adds that
. His felaw had a staf tipped with horn.' To these the epithet reverend would be much more appropriate than to the staff used by a felon in wager of battle.
This play may be justly said to contain two of the most sprightly characters that Shakspeare ever drew. The wit, the humourist, 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 licence 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 risk 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 the first:~or, to speak more plainly, the same incident is become stale by repetition. I wish some other method had been four 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.
* Mr. Pye thus answers the objection of Steevens. “The intention of the poet was to show that persons of either sex might be made in love with each other by supposing themselves beloved, though they were before enemies; and how he could have done this by any other means I do not know. He wanted to show the sexes were alike in this case, and to have employed different motives would have counteracted his own design.'