Much Ado About Nothing: Act 4, Scene 2

           Enter the Constables [DOGBERRY and
           VERGES] and the Town Clerk [or SEXTON]
gowns: i.e., robes of office, like judges' robes.
           in gowns, [and the WATCH with CONRADE
           and] BORACHIO.

1. dissembly: malapropism for "assembly."
  1   Is our whole dissembly appeared?

  2   O, a stool and a cushion for the sexton.

  3   Which be the malefactors?

4. Marry, that am I and my partner: —Dogberry apparently thinks that "malefactors" are important officers of the court.

5-6. exhibition to examine: —Maybe Verges thinks he means, "we have the commission (legal appointment) to conduct the examination."
  4   Marry, that am I and my partner.

  5   Nay, that's certain; we have the exhibition
  6   to examine.

  7   But which are the offenders that are to be
  8   examined? let them come before master constable.

  9   Yea, marry, let them come before me. What is your
 10   name, friend?

 11   Borachio.

12. sirrah: —This is a form of address for social inferiors. Conrade is not Dogberry's social inferior, and corrects Dogberry, saying "I am a gentleman, sir."
 12   Pray, write down, Borachio. Yours, sirrah?

 13   I am a gentleman, sir, and my name is
 14   Conrade.

 15   Write down, master gentleman Conrade. Masters,
16. do you serve God?: i.e., do you obey God's laws?
 16   do you serve God?

 17   Yea, sir, we hope.

 18   Write down, that they hope they serve God: and
19. defend: forbid.
20-22. it is proved already . . . it will go near to be thought so shortly: Dogberry has the normal (and legal) sequence backwards. Suspicion ("to be thought so") normally precedes proof. 22. go near to: almost.
 19   write God first; for God defend but God should go
 20   before such villains! Masters, it is proved already
 21   that you are little better than false knaves; and it
 22   will go near to be thought so shortly. How answer
 23   you for yourselves?

 24   Marry, sir, we say we are none.

25. witty: clever, cunning.
 25   A marvellous witty fellow, I assure you: but I
26. go about with: get the better of, outmaneuver.
27. a word in your ear: i.e., a private hint or warning.
 26   will go about with him. Come you hither, sirrah;
 27   a word in your ear: sir, I say to you, it is thought
 28   you are false knaves.

 29   Sir, I say to you we are none.

 30   Well, stand aside. 'Fore God, they are
31. in a tale: agreed on the same lie.
 31   both in a tale. Have you writ down, that
 32   they are none?

 33   Master constable, you go not the way to
 34   examine: you must call forth the watch that
 35   are their accusers.

36. eftest: easiest, quickest.
 36   Yea, marry, that's the eftest way. Let the watch
 37   come forth. Masters, I charge you, in the prince's
 38   name, accuse these men.

      First Watch
 39   This man said, sir, that Don John, the prince's
 40   brother, was a villain.

 41   Write down Prince John a villain. Why, this is
42. perjury: —Dogberry apparently thinks that "perjury" means "slander." Also, although Dogberry thinks that to call the prince's brother a villain is an obvious lie ("flat perjury"), the truth is that Prince John is a villain.
 42   flat perjury, to call a prince's brother villain.

 43   Master constable,—

44. Pray thee, fellow, peace: i.e., please, buddy, shut up.
 44   Pray thee, fellow, peace: I do not like thy look,
 45   I promise thee.

 46   What heard you him say else?

      Second Watch
 47   Marry, that he had received a thousand
 48   ducats of Don John for accusing the Lady
 49   Hero wrongfully.

50. burglary: —This is a double malapropism. Dogberry thinks "burglary" means "perjury," which he thinks is the same as "slander."
 50   Flat burglary as ever was committed.

 51   Yea, by mass, that it is.

 52   What else, fellow?

      First Watch
53-54. upon his words: on the basis of what he said.
 53   And that Count Claudio did mean, upon
 54   his words, to disgrace Hero before the
 55   whole assembly. and not marry her.

 56   O villain! thou wilt be condemned into
57. redemption: He means the opposite, "damnation."
 57   everlasting redemption for this.

 58   What else?

      [First and Second] Watch
 59   This is all.

 60   And this is more, masters, than you can deny.
 61   Prince John is this morning secretly stolen
62. in this manner: i.e., just as First Watch reported.
63. refused: renounced.
 62   away; Hero was in this manner accused, in
 63   this very manner refused, and upon the grief
 64   of this suddenly died. Master constable, let
 65   these men be bound, and brought to Leonato's:
66. examination: i.e., the written report of their interrogation.
 66   I will go before and show him their examination.


67. opinion'd: malapropism for "pinioned." —Criminals were pinioned by shackling their hands or legs together.
 67   Come, let them be opinion'd.

68-69. Let them be in the hands— . . . Off coxcomb!: —Apparently Verges tries to put handcuffs on Conrade, who is insulted and tells him to back off.
 68   Let them be in the hands—

 69   Off, coxcomb!

70. God's: God save.
 70   God's my life, where's the sexton? let him write
 71   down the prince's officer coxcomb. Come, bind
72. naughty: wicked.
 72   them. Thou naughty varlet!

 73   Away! you are an ass, you are an ass.

74. suspect: malapropism for "respect."
 74   Dost thou not suspect my place? dost thou not
75-76. O that he were here to write me down an ass!: —Dogberry wishes that the Sexton had been there to record, in writing, that Conrade called him an ass, so that Conrade would be sure to be punished for that offense.
 75   suspect my years? O that he were here to write me
 76   down an ass! But, masters, remember that I am an
 77   ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not
 78   that I am an ass. No, thou villain, thou art full of
79. piety: malapropism for "impiety."
 79   piety, as shall be proved upon thee by good witness.
 80   I am a wise fellow, and, which is more, an officer,
 81   and, which is more, a householder, and, which is
82. as pretty a piece of flesh: i.e., as fine a mortal man.
83. go to: —This is an expression of scorn, like current expressions such as "go to hell" or "get out of here." 84-85. a fellow that hath had losses: —Dogberry thinks he should be respected because he has known hardship. 86. handsome: fitting, impressive.
 82   more, as pretty a piece of flesh as any is in
 83   Messina, and one that knows the law, go to; and a
 84   rich fellow enough, go to; and a fellow that hath
 85   had losses, and one that hath two gowns and every
 86   thing handsome about him. Bring him away. O that
 87   I had been writ down an ass!