Much Ado About Nothing: Act 2, Scene 3

           Enter BENEDICK alone.

  1   Boy!

           [Enter Boy.]

  2   Signior?

  3   In my chamber-window lies a book: bring it hither
4. orchard: garden. —As we learn at the end of Benedick's long speech, this garden has an arbor, where Benedick hides and listens in on the conversation of Don Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio. ...more 5. I am here already: i.e., I'm already here in the orchard.
  4   to me in the orchard.

  5   I am here already, sir.

  6   I know that; but I would have thee hence, and here
  7   again. [Exit Boy.] I do much wonder that one man,
  8   seeing how much another man is a fool when he
9. behaviors: manner of behaving.
  9   dedicates his behaviors to love, will, after he hath
 10   laughed at such shallow follies in others, become
11. argument: subject.
 11   the argument of his own scorn by failing in love:
 12   and such a man is Claudio. I have known when
 13   there was no music with him but the drum and the
14. tabor: small drum. —The tabor and pipe were used for fun and games at home, in contrast to the drum and fife, used when marching to war. 16. armor: suit of armor.
 14   fife; and now had he rather hear the tabor and the
 15   pipe: I have known when he would have walked
 16   ten mile a-foot to see a good armor; and now will
17. carving: planning.
 17   he lie ten nights awake, carving the fashion of a
18. doublet: gentleman's close-fitting jacket.
 18   new doublet. He was wont to speak plain and to the
 19   purpose, like an honest man and a soldier; and now
20. turned orthography: i.e., become a collection of pretty words.  21. fantastical banquet: —Popular collections of love poetry in Shakespeare's time tended to have fantastical titles such as Paradise of Dainty Devices, and A Gorgeous Gallery of Gallant Inventions.
 20   is he turned orthography; his words are a very
 21   fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes.
 22   May I be so converted and see with these eyes?
 23   I cannot tell; I think not: I will not be sworn, but
 24   love may transform me to an oyster; but I'll take
 25   my oath on it, till he have made an oyster of me,
 26   he shall never make me such a fool. One woman
 27   is fair, yet I am well; another is wise, yet I am
 28   well; another virtuous, yet I am well; but till all
 29   graces be in one woman, one woman shall not
 30   come in my grace. Rich she shall be, that's certain;
31. I'll none: I'll have none of her. cheapen: bargain or bid for, ask the price of.
 31   wise, or I'll none; virtuous, or I'll never cheapen
 32   her; fair, or I'll never look on her; mild, or come
33. noble: i.e., a gentlewoman. noble . . . angel: —Benedick is punning. "Noble and "angel" were both names of coins; the noble was worth more. 34-35. her hair shall be of what color it please God: —Benedick is either making fun of his own pickiness, or he is saying that any woman he loves must have hair of the color that God gave, not dyed.
 33   not near me; noble, or not I for an angel; of good
 34   discourse, an excellent musician, and her hair shall
 35   be of what color it please God. Ha! the prince
 36   and Monsieur Love! I will hide me in the arbor.


           Enter prince [DON PEDRO], LEONATO,

 37   Come, shall we hear this music?

 38   Yea, my good lord. How still the evening is,
39. grace harmony: do honor to music.
 39   As hush'd on purpose to grace harmony!

 40   See you where Benedick hath hid himself?

41. the music ended: when the music is over.
 41   O, very well, my lord: the music ended,
42. We'll fit the kid-fox with a pennyworth: i.e., we'll give the hidden fox (Benedick) more than he bargained for. This may be an allusion to the game of hide-and-seek, called in Shakespeare's time "Hide fox, and all after." with Music: i.e., with a small band.
 42   We'll fit the kid-fox with a pennyworth.

         Enter BALTHASAR with Music.

 43   Come, Balthasar, we'll hear that song again.

44. tax: task.
 44   O, good my lord, tax not so bad a voice
 45   To slander music any more than once.

46-47. It is the witness still of excellency / To put on a strange face on his own perfection: It is always a proof of excellence that it does not admit its own perfection. 48. woo: entreat.
 46   It is the witness still of excellency
 47   To put a strange face on his own perfection.
 48   I pray thee, sing, and let me woo no more.

 49   Because you talk of wooing, I will sing;
 50   Since many a wooer doth commence his suit
 51   To her he thinks not worthy, yet he woos,
 52   Yet will he swear he loves.

 52                                             Now, pray thee, come;
 53   Or, if thou wilt hold longer argument,
54. notes: i.e., musical notes.
 54   Do it in notes.

 54                         Note this before my notes;
 55   There's not a note of mine that's worth the noting.

56. crotchets: (1) odd ideas; (2) quarter notes in music.  —Balthasar is being wittily modest, but Don Pedro jests that his belittling of his own singing is merely a crotchet. 57. Note, notes, forsooth, and nothing: i.e., take note, ...more     [Air.]: i.e., music is played. —After a few bars, while Benedick is making his sarcastic comments from his place in hiding, Balthasar will sing the words to the music.
59. sheeps' guts: i.e., violin or lute strings.
60. hale: draw, drag.
61. horn: —A horn, such as a bugle used in the military and in hunting, is a manly instrument, as opposed to a stringed instrument, such as a violin or lute. Also, Benedick's wish for a horn might make the audience giggle at the suggestion that Benedick wants to be a cuckold.
 56   Why, these are very crotchets that he speaks;
 57   Note, notes, forsooth, and nothing.


 58   Now, divine air! now is his soul ravished!
 59   Is it not strange that sheeps' guts should
 60   hale souls out of men's bodies? Well, a
 61   horn for my money, when all's done.

           THE SONG.

 62        Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
 63           Men were deceivers ever,
 64        One foot in sea and one on shore,
 65           To one thing constant never:
 66        Then sigh not so, but let them go,
 67           And be you blithe and bonny,
 68        Converting all your sounds of woe
 69           Into Hey nonny, nonny.
70. moe: more.
 70        Sing no more ditties, sing no moe,
71. dumps: mournful tunes.
 71           Of dumps so dull and heavy;
 72        The fraud of men was ever so,
 73           Since summer first was leafy:
 74        Then sigh not so, etc.

 75   By my troth, a good song.

 76   And an ill singer, my lord.

 77   Ha, no, no, faith; thou singest well enough
78. for a shift: to make do.
 78   for a shift.

79. An: if.
 79   An he had been a dog that should have
 80   howled thus, they would have hanged him:
 81   and I pray God his bad voice bode no mischief.
82. I had as lief have heard: I would have as gladly heard.  night-raven: a bird of ill-omen, whose cry forecast the coming of a disaster, such as the plague.
 82   I had as lief have heard the night-raven, come
 83   what plague could have come after it.

 84   Yea, marry, dost thou hear, Balthasar? I pray
85-87. for tomorrow ... chamber-window: —Perhaps we're supposed to assume that some time as passed and it is now two days before the wedding of Hero and Claudio. On the night before Hero's wedding it would be appropriate to play music at Hero's chamber-window.
 85   thee, get us some excellent music; for tomorrow
 86   night we would have it at the Lady Hero's
 87   chamber-window.

 88   The best I can, my lord.

           Exit Balthasar.

 89   Do so: farewell. Come hither, Leonato. What
 90   was it you told me of today, that your niece
 91   Beatrice was in love with Signior Benedick?

      CLAUDIO [Aside.]
92. stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits: walk stealthily, the bird has settled (in a bush). —Birds were hunted with the aid of a "stalking-horse," a portable hunting blind.
 92   O, ay: stalk on, stalk on; the fowl sits. I
 93   did never think that lady would have
 94   loved any man.

 95   No, nor I neither; but most wonderful that she
 96   should so dote on Signior Benedick, whom she
 97   hath in all outward behaviors seemed ever to abhor.

98. Sits the wind in that corner?: is that how the wind blows?
 98   Is't possible? Sits the wind in that corner?

 99   By my troth, my lord, I cannot tell what to think
100. enraged: mad with passion.
100   of it but that she loves him with an enraged
101. infinite: infinity, boundlessness.
101   affection: it is past the infinite of thought.

102. May be she doth but counterfeit: maybe she's only pretending.
102   May be she doth but counterfeit.

103   Faith, like enough.

104   O God, counterfeit! There was never counterfeit
105   of passion came so near the life of passion as she
106. discovers: reveals.
106   discovers it.

107. effects: manifestations.
107   Why, what effects of passion shows she?

      CLAUDIO [Aside.]
108   Bait the hook well; this fish will
109   bite.

110. She will sit you, . . . : i.e., you know, she will sit. —It appears that Leonato is having a little trouble coming up with a suitable lie.
110   What effects, my lord? She will sit you, . . .  you
111   heard my daughter tell you how.

112   She did, indeed.

113   How, how, pray you? You amaze me: I would
114   have thought her spirit had been invincible
115   against all assaults of affection.

116   I would have sworn it had, my lord; especially
117   against Benedick.

118. gull: trick, deception.
118   I should think this a gull, but that the
119   white-bearded fellow speaks it: knavery cannot,
120   sure, hide himself in such reverence.

      CLAUDIO [Aside.]
121-122. Hold it up: keep up the jest.
121   He hath ta'en the infection: hold
122   it up.

123   Hath she made her affection known to
124   Benedick?

125   No; and swears she never will: that's her
126   torment.

127   'Tis true, indeed; so your daughter says: 'Shall
128   I', says she, 'that have so oft encountered him
129   with scorn, write to him that I love him?'

130   This says she now when she is beginning to write
131   to him; for she'll be up twenty times a night, and
132. smock: i.e., nightgown.
132   there will she sit in her smock till she have writ a
133   sheet of paper: my daughter tells us all.

134   Now you talk of a sheet of paper, I remember a
135   pretty jest your daughter told us of.

136   O, when she had writ it and was reading it over,
137   she found 'Benedick' and 'Beatrice' between
138   the sheet?

139. That: that was it.

140. halfpence: very tiny silver coins; i.e., very small bits or pieces.
139   That.

140   O, she tore the letter into a thousand halfpence;
141   railed at herself, that she should be so immodest
142   to write to one that she knew would flout her; 'I
143   measure him', says she, 'by my own spirit; for I
144   should flout him, if he writ to me; yea, though I
145   love him, I should'.

146   Then down upon her knees she falls, weeps,
147   sobs, beats her heart, tears her hair, prays,
148   curses; 'O sweet Benedick! God give me
149   patience!'

150   She doth indeed; my daughter says so: and the
151. ecstasy: madness.
151   ecstasy hath so much overborne her that my
152   daughter is sometime afeared she will do a
153. outrage: act of violence.
153   desperate outrage to herself: it is very true.

154-155. knew of it by some other: were told of it by some other person. 155. discover: reveal.
154   It were good that Benedick knew of it by some
155   other, if she will not discover it.

156   To what end? He would make but a sport of it
157   and torment the poor lady worse.

158. An he should: if he does.  an alms: a good deed.
159. out of: beyond.
158   An he should, it were an alms to hang him. She's
159   an excellent sweet lady; and, out of all suspicion,
160   she is virtuous.

161   And she is exceeding wise.

162   In every thing but in loving Benedick.

163. blood: natural feeling.
163   O, my lord, wisdom and blood combating in
164   so tender a body, we have ten proofs to one
165   that blood hath the victory. I am sorry for her,
166   as I have just cause, being her uncle and her
167   guardian.

168. dotage: doting.
168   I would she had bestowed this dotage on me: I
169. daffed: doffed, put or thrust aside. respects: considerations. 170. half myself: i.e., my wife.
169   would have daffed all other respects and made
170   her half myself. I pray you, tell Benedick of it,
171   and hear what a' will say.

172   Were it good, think you?

173   Hero thinks surely she will die; for she says she
174   will die, if he love her not, and she will die, ere
175   she make her love known, and she will die, if he
176. bate: abate.
176   woo her, rather than she will bate one breath of
177. crossness: contrariness.
177   her accustomed crossness.

178. tender: offer.
178   She doth well: if she should make tender of her
179   love, 'tis very possible he'll scorn it; for the
180. contemptible: contemptuous.
180   man, as you know all, hath a contemptible
181   spirit.

182. proper: handsome.
182   He is a very proper man.

183-184. hath indeed a good outward happiness: has indeed a fortunate outward appearance.
183   He hath indeed a good outward
184   happiness.

185   Before God! and, in my mind, very wise.

186   He doth indeed show some sparks that
187. wit: sense.  —Of course, "wit" also means "wittiness," so Don Pedro is taking a poke at Benedick's reputation as a wit.
187   are like wit.

188   And I take him to be valiant.

189. Hector: The greatest of the Trojan warriors.
189   As Hector, I assure you: and in the managing of
190   quarrels you may say he is wise; for either he
191   avoids them with great discretion, or undertakes
192   them with a most Christian-like fear.

193   If he do fear God, a' must necessarily keep peace:
194   if he break the peace, he ought to enter into a
195   quarrel with fear and trembling.

196   And so will he do; for the man doth fear God,
197. large: broad, indelicate.
197   howsoever it seems not in him by some large
198   jests he will make. Well I am sorry for your
199   niece. Shall we go seek Benedick, and tell him
200   of her love?

201   Never tell him, my lord: let her wear it out with
202. good counsel: reflection, deliberation; i.e., giving herself good advice.
202   good counsel.

203   Nay, that's impossible: she may wear her
204   heart out first.

205   Well, we will hear further of it by your daughter:
206   let it cool the while. I love Benedick well; and I
207   could wish he would modestly examine himself,
208   to see how much he is unworthy so good a
209   lady.

210. walk: go.
210   My lord, will you walk? dinner is ready.

      CLAUDIO [Aside.]
211   If he do not dote on her upon this, I will never
212   trust my expectation.

      DON PEDRO [Aside.]
213   Let there be the same net spread for her; and
214   that must your daughter and her gentlewomen
215-216. carry: undertake.  they hold one an opinion of another's dotage: i.e., they each believe that the other is infatuated with him/her.  no such matter: nothing of the kind exists.  218. merely a dumb-show: entirely pantomime. —Neither one will have anything to say because they are both used to hurling insults at one another.
215   carry. The sport will be, when they hold one an
216   opinion of another's dotage, and no such matter:
217   that's the scene that I would see, which will be
218   merely a dumb-show. Let us send her to call him
219   in to dinner.

           [Exeunt Don Pedro, Claudio, and Leonato.]

220   This can be no trick: the conference was
221. sadly borne: seriously conducted.
221   sadly borne. They have the truth of this
222   from Hero. They seem to pity the lady: it
223. have their full bent: are at full stretch [like a crossbow which is ready to fire].
223   seems her affections have their full bent. Love
224   me! why, it must be requited. I hear how I am
225. censured: criticized.
225   censured: they say I will bear myself proudly, if
226   I perceive the love come from her; they say too
227   that she will rather die than give any sign of
228   affection. I did never think to marry: I must not
229. happy: fortunate.  their detractions: unfavorable criticisms of themselves. 230. put them to mending: i.e., start correcting their faults.
229   seem proud: happy are they that hear their detractions
230   and can put them to mending. They say the lady is fair;
231   'tis a truth, I can bear them witness; and virtuous; 'tis
232. reprove: refute, disprove, deny.
232   so, I cannot reprove it; and wise, but for loving
233   me; by my troth, it is no addition to her wit, nor
234   no great argument of her folly, for I will be
235-236. some odd: an unknown number of.
236. quirks: witticisms.  remnants of wit: —This phrase suggests that some of the witty things that Benedick has said about marriage and Beatrice will be thrown back at him.
235   horribly in love with her. I may chance have some
236   odd quirks and remnants of wit broken on me,
237   because I have railed so long against marriage: but
238   doth not the appetite alter? a man loves the meat
239   in his youth that he cannot endure in his age.
240-241. quips: sharp or sarcastic remarks. sentences: saws, maxims. paper bullets of the brain: i.e., verbal ammunition taken from books. 241. career of his humor: course or pursuit of his inclination.
240   Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of
241   the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?
242   No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would
243   die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I
244   were married. Here comes Beatrice. By this day!
245   she's a fair lady: I do spy some marks of love in
246   her.

           Enter BEATRICE.

247   Against my will I am sent to bid you come
248   in to dinner.

249   Fair Beatrice, I thank you for your pains.

250   I took no more pains for those thanks than you
251   take pains to thank me: if it had been painful, I
252   would not have come.

253   You take pleasure then in the message?

254   Yea, just so much as you may take upon a
255. daw: jackdaw. ...more
256. stomach: appetite. —I think Beatrice expected a witty come-back from Benedick, didn't get one, and so is saying he doesn't have the stomach for verbal jousting.
knife's point and choke a daw withal. You
256   have no stomach, signior: fare you well.


257   Ha! 'Against my will I am sent to bid you
258   come in to dinner'; there's a double meaning
259   in that! 'I took no more pains for those thanks
260   than you took pains to thank me'. That's as much
261   as to say, 'any pains that I take for you is as easy
262   as thanks'. If I do not take pity of her, I am a villain;
263. if I do not love her, I am a Jew: i.e., I will not be so vile as to refuse her love. ...more.
263   if I do not love her, I am a Jew. I will go get her
264   picture.