Philip Weller caricature
Philip and Weller hugging

Welcome to my web site, now under development for more than twenty years.   
-- Philip Weller, November 13, 1941 - February 1, 2021
Dr. Weller, an Eastern Washington University professor of English and Shakespearean scholar for more than 50 years.

Notable Quotes from Much Ado About Nothing

[Click on the quote to find it in the text.]

                            he hath indeed better
bett'red expectation than you must expect of me to
tell you how
— A messenger from the front confirms a report which praises Claudio: the messenger says that Claudio has far surpassed his already better than good expectations—so much so, that Leonato should not expect a mere messenger to know all the details.

                                             How much
better is it to weep at joy than to joy at
weeping!
— Upon hearing the news that Claudio's uncle wept for joy at his nephew's honors, Leonato comments how much better it is to weep for joy than to take enjoyment from another person's weeping.

he is a very valiant trencherman; he hath an
excellent stomach.
— Beatrice is making fun of the absent Benedick when she calls him a "valiant trencherman" (a hearty eater): to 'have a stomach' meant having courage, so Beatrice calls Benedick a courageous eater instead of a courageous man.

You must not, sir, mistake my niece. There is a
kind of merry war betwixt Signior Benedick and her:
they never meet but there's a skirmish of wit
between them.
— Leonato is assuring the messenger that his niece is not a bad person (as her wit is sharper than any knife); Beatrice is just caught up in a "merry war" of wits with the absent Benedick.

                             he wears his faith but as
the fashion of his hat; it ever changes with the
next block.
— According to Beatrice, Benedick has a new best friend every month because his loyalties change as often as hat fashion, which only require the switching of templates (blocks).

hat blocks


I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your
books.
— In reply to Beatrice's volley of witticisms about Benedick, the Messenger mildly remarks that he sees that Benedick is not in Beatrice's good books (favor).

What, my dear Lady Disdain! are you yet
living?
— Beatrice has just thrown out her first in-person barb at Benedick, and he replies with this sarcastic expression of wonder that she, "Lady Disdain," has not expired from the sheer effort it takes to look down on everyone else.

Shall I never see a bachelor of three-score again?
— Benedick is worried that Claudio is about to "turn husband," and he jestingly asks if he shall ever again see a sixty-year-old bachelor. Benedick's jest has two targets: 1) Claudio, for turning into a sappy groom-to-be, and 2) himself, for imagining that there are others besides himself who want to grow old without ever marrying.

Well, as time shall try: 'In time the savage bull
doth bear the yoke'.
— In response to one of Benedick's declarations that he will never fall in love and get married, Don Pedro quotes an adage which states that even the most savage animal can be tamed over time.

'Here you may see Benedick the
married man'.
— Benedick declares that should any of the men present ever witness Benedick himself bearing the yoke of marriage, they should pluck off the savage bull's horns, plant them on Benedick's forehead and make a sign to hang on his chest. That sign should be like one which advertises horses for hire, but it would advertise a wonder to gawk at: Benedick, a married man.

                                            Lord, I could
not endure a husband with a beard on his
face: I had rather lie in the woollen.
— Beatrice has just told Leonato that she prays twice daily to give thanks for the blessing of not having a husband; now she declares that she could not bear a man with a beard, that it would be worse than trying to sleep in the rough, dirty wool newly sheared from sheep.

                                          and away to Saint Peter
for the heavens; he shows me where the bachelors
sit, and there live we as merry as the day is long.
— Responding to the jesting threat that she may lead suffer the fate of old maids and lead apes in hell, Beatrice has declared that that wouldn't happen. Instead, the devil himself would tell her that his domain was no place for virgins and send her to Saint Peter at heaven's gate. Now she is saying that St. Peter would welcome her and direct her to area where all the bachelors (men and women) are "as merry as the day is long."

Not till God make men of some other metal
than earth. Would it not grieve a woman to be
overmastered with a piece of valiant dust? to
make an account of her life to a clod of wayward
marl?
— Beatrice's uncle has just told her he hopes she will find a husband and Beatrice replies that she will be interested when God makes man out of something besides earth. Beatrice asks if it would not grieve a woman to be ruled by "a piece of valiant dust," or to give an accounting of her life to a clod of dust.

I have a good eye, uncle; I can see a church
by daylight.
— Beatrice's uncle has just complimented her on the sharpness of her wit; Beatrice's reply pooh-poohs his opinion when she says, in essence, that she is only stating the obvious (as obvious as a church by daylight).

Speak low, if you speak love.
— At a masked ball, Hero and Don Pedro (disguised as Cluadio) have been wittily flirting. Now, as they dance out of hearing, Don Pedro advises her that words of love should be breathed out in whispers.

'Tis certain so; the prince woos for himself.
Friendship is constant in all other things
Save in the office and affairs of love:
Therefore, all hearts in love use their own tongues;
Let every eye negotiate for itself
And trust no agent; for beauty is a witch
Against whose charms faith melteth into blood.
— Don John and Borachio play a dirty trick on Claudio, making him believe that Claudio's friend, Don Pedro, is making his own move on Hero (instead of helping Claudio secure Hero's affections, as Don Pedro had promised him). Claudio immediately agrees with the false assessment of the situation, saying that friendship does not suffer the same challenges in other areas of life, but when it comes to love, friendship is ignored as hearts speak for themselves, and each eye sees for itself the charms of beauty which can bewitch even the faithful and loyal so that their faith melts into passion.

She speaks poniards, and every word stabs: if her
breath were as terrible as her terminations, there
were no living near her; she would infect to the
north star.
— Benedick is complaining about Beatrice's previous insult rampage when every word felt like a dagger stab; Benedick further declares if her breathe were as deadly as her words, there would be "no living near her"; infection could occur all the way to the North Star.

Poniard and Sheath


Silence is the perfectest herald of joy: I were
but little happy, if I could say how much.
— Claudio defends his silent response the joyous news that Hero is to be his bride by saying that when he is perfectly able to put his happiness into words, he is not as happy as when he is speechless.

Yea, my lord; I thank it, poor fool, it keeps
on the windy side of care.
— Don Pedro has just told Beatrice that she has a merry heart: Beatrice responds that she thanks her heart, as its cheeriness keeps her safe from worry.

                                                            there
was a star danced, and under that was I born.
— Don Pedro has just conjectured to Beatrice that she must have been born in a merry hour, and now Beatrice wittily agrees.

                                            Go in with me,
and I will tell you my drift.
— Don Pedro has a plan to make Beatrice and Benedick fall in love; all present have promised to help so Don Pedro tells them to follow him and he will explain his strategy.

He was wont to speak plain and to the
purpose, like an honest man and a soldier; and now
is he turned orthography; his words are a very
fantastical banquet, just so many strange dishes.
— Benedick is considering the fate of his friend Claudio who is about to be married; Benedick says that Claudio used be plain spoken and straightforward like you would expect the honest man and soldier to be, but now his speech has become ornate, as fanciful as an elaborate banquet with strange dishes, and therefore more decorative than communicative. —The word "orthography" means "the art of spelling correctly," and so it doesn't really fit into the grammar of the sentence. Perhaps Shakespeare had in mind the often ornate handwriting of his time, as in the signature of Queen Elizabeth.

Signature of Elizabeth I


Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more,
Men were deceivers ever,
One foot in sea and one on shore,
To one thing constant never
— The song Balthasar chooses to sing is a lulling ditty to soothe the ladies' nerves—telling them not to worry, "Men were deceivers ever," so they should relax and sing (since nothing they can do will change their men).

Is't possible? Sits the wind in that corner?
— Benedick is eavesdropping on Don Pedro, Leonato and Claudio when he hears Leonato say that Beatrice dotes upon him. Benedick asks himself if that is the way the wind blows; he is wondering if Beatrice's love for him is possible, not realizing that all three men are fabricating accounts of Beatrice's love precisely because they are all aware that Benedick is eavesdropping.

Bait the hook well; this fish will
bite.
— Claudio, in an aside, tells Leonato, Don Pedro and himself to bait Benedick's hook well, as Benedick is swallowing all the lies about Beatrice's love.

Shall quips and sentences and these paper bullets of
the brain awe a man from the career of his humour?
No, the world must be peopled. When I said I would
die a bachelor, I did not think I should live till I
were married.
— Benedick is reconsidering his attitude toward marriage in light of Beatrice's alleged love for him; he reconsiders the very bent of his witticisms—the "quips" which have "railed so long against marriage," and asks himself if his 'history' should keep him from pursuing his current inclinations ("career of his humour"). Then Benedick thinks of the necessity to people the world as a reason to marry, and adds that when he said that he "would die a bachelor," he did not think he would live to marry: thus Benedick abandons bachelorhood as a lifestyle choice almost immediately after his friends set him up by fooling him into thinking Beatrice loves him—Claudio was right when he said that Benedick would "bite" the baited hook.

                                                               I will only
be bold with Benedick for his company; for,
from the crown of his head to the sole of his
foot, he is all mirth: he hath twice or thrice cut
Cupid's bow-string and the little hangman dare
not shoot at him; he hath a heart as sound as a
bell and his tongue is the clapper, for what his
heart thinks his tongue speaks.
— Don Pedro tells Claudio why he enjoys Benedick's company: he is all laughs all the time. Then Don Pedro continues on about Benedick, saying that he has resisted Cupid's arrows so many times that Cupid is afraid to shoot, as Benedick's heart is healthy ("sound as a bell"), and that he speaks what his heart thinks, so everyone knows that Benedick is resistant to love's influence.

Well, every one can master a grief but
he that has it.
—Benedick has been moping around because he has suddenly fallen in love with Beatrice. He tried to disguise his true feelings by saying that he had a toothache, and immediately received facetious advice about all the ways to cure a toothache. This saying is Benedick's last defense. It's like saying, "You wouldn't be making jokes if you were standing in my shoes."

Are you good men and true?
— Dogberry, the constable of the watch, greets his watchmen by asking them if they are good and true men.

                                 to be a well-favored man is
the gift of fortune; but to write and read comes
by nature.
— Dogberry, a man of multiple malapropisms, has been taking suggestions on who would make the best chief watchman for the night, and someone suggested someone who can read and write, which Dogberry cannot do. This is his comment on reading and writing. He declares that being good looking ("well-favored") is a result of luck, but the ability to read write comes naturally. He probably means to pooh-pooh reading and writing, but it's hard to tell, as he is talking nonesense; the ability to read and write does not "come by nature"—you have to learn it.

Why, then, let them alone till they are sober:
if they make you not then the better answer,
you may say they are not the men you took
them for.
— Dogberry has instructed his men to visit the alehouses and tell the drunks to go to bed. A watchman asks what they are to do if the drunks refuse their orders and Dogberry instructs his watch to wait until they sober up and if they are still not compliant, the watchmen may tell the drunks that they are not the men the watch thought them to be, (which makes a mixed-up, Dogberry kind of sense, as they will no longer be drunk).

                                                            but I think
they that touch pitch will be defiled: the most
peaceable way for you, if you do take a thief,
is to let him show himself what he is and steal
out of your company.
— Dogberry continues to instruct his watch, advising them not to lay hands on a suspected thief as you cannot, according to a saying then well-known, touch pitch without dirtying or corrupting yourself; Dogberry's best advice for a "peaceable" solution is to do nothing and let the thief do what he does best—steal away. Of course this is ridiculous, and Shakespeare is poking fun at the multitude of lazy and incompetent constables in England.

                                  I see that the fashion wears
out more apparel than the man.
— Borachio, in a drunken digression, has just been trying to amuse Conrade with the ridiculousness and ever-changing nature of clothing fashion. Conrade confirms that he too has noticed the variable fashion of apparel and adds that clothing is more often discarded due to fashion than wear.

A good old man, sir; he will be talking: as they
say, when the age is in, the wit is out
— Dogberry is speaking to Leonato, and the "good old man" is Dogberry's partner Verges. Dogberry has been talking and talking without getting to the point, and Verges interrupts by giving some actual information. Dogberry, wrong-headed as usual, apologizes for Verges with a proverb that says that when you age, you often lose your wits.

O, what men dare do! what men may do! what
men daily do, not knowing what they do!
— The friar who is to marry Hero and Claudio asks Leonato, Hero's father, if there are any objections to the marriage. Leonato replies "I dare make his answer, none," which causes Claudio to declare cryptically that men dare without knowing what they do, as he thinks he has an objection to his own marriage due to the display he witnessed where Margaret played the part of Hero being disloyal to her betrothed (Claudio himself).

Behold how like a maid she blushes here!
O, what authority and show of truth
Can cunning sin cover itself withal!
— Claudio, thinking that Hero has cheated on him, declares that she is an example of how sin can look innocent, as Hero does now, looking like a blushing bride.

She dying, as it must so be maintain'd,
Upon the instant that she was accused,
Shall be lamented, pitied and excused
Of every hearer: for it so falls out
That what we have we prize not to the worth
Whiles we enjoy it, but being lack'd and lost,
Why, then we rack the value, then we find
The virtue that possession would not show us
Whiles it was ours.
— Friar Francis has just proposed that they let it be known that Hero died (instead of fainted) when Claudio accused her of cheating, saying that public opinion will be softened by grief, as people often do not realize how much they care about others until they are gone.

Kill Claudio!
— This is the shocking and funny answer which Beatrice gives when Benedick, eager to prove his love for Beatrice says, "Come bid me do any thing for thee."

                                 Masters, it is proved already
that you are little better than false knaves; and it
will go near to be thought so shortly.
— Dogberry is warning his prisoners, Borachio and Conrade, that they are in deep trouble. They are, but Dogberry has everything backwards as usual. What he should have said is that they are now thought to be lying knaves, and they soon will be proved to be lying knaves, but Dogberry is saying the opposite.

Flat burglary as ever was committed.
— The sexton is interviewing Dogberry's watch to find out why they detained Borachio and Conrade; a watchman has just stated that Borachio "had received a thousand / ducats of Don John for accusing the Lady / Hero wrongfully," when Dogberry (acting as a kind of chorus) comes up with another malapropism, mistaking burglary for slander.

O villain! thou wilt be condemned into
everlasting redemption for this.
— While the sexton interviews Dogberry's watch, Dogberry is interjecting his opinion of the accused, exclaiming in his backward way that the villain will suffer "everlasting redemption," when "everlasting damnation" is his true meaning.

                                 O that he were here to write me
down an ass! But, masters, remember that I am an
ass; though it be not written down, yet forget not
that I am an ass.
— After the sexton leaves, Conrade calls Dogberry an ass; Dogberry wishes the sexton was still there to record Conrade's offense, but the backward Dogberry way he states those feelings is comical, with Dogberry the butt of his own words.

Patch grief with proverbs
— Leonato is bemoaning his own situation with his daughter, as if his daughter were indeed dead or guilty: he says no father in his situation would heal by relying on the truth in proverbs—only men who do not experience true grief would be assuaged by an applicable aphorism.

Charm ache with air and agony with words.
— Leonato, submerged in self pity (despite the fact that his daughter is neither dead nor guilty), says that only men who have not tasted grief such as his can expect to soothe heartache and agony with the breath of words.

I will be flesh and blood;
For there was never yet philosopher
That could endure the toothache patiently,
However they have writ the style of gods
— Leonato is still elaborating on the hurtful grief he feels because he cannot help but be human ("flesh and blood") like every philosopher who has failed to endure a "toothache (which seems to be code for the worst pain a man can feel) patiently (not passionately)," despite their ability to write in the style of gods (who do not suffer like humans do).

And shall, or some of us will smart for it.
— Don Pedro has just told Leonato and his brother, Antonio, that he will not stop any longer to listen to either of them. Leonato replies by declaring that he will be heard and Antonio seconds his sentiment by affirming that his brother shall be heard or some people will feel the sting ("smart") of retribution. This vague threat from a very old man is almost comical.

What, courage, man! What though care killed
a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill
care.
— Claudio is trying to cheer up Benedick by quoting part of an old ballad, "Though care killed a cat, / We'll laugh and grow fat," and encouraging Benedick by saying that he has enough "mettle" (fortitude) to kill "care" (anxiety).

I was not born under a rhyming planet
— Benedick confides to Margaret that he is no good at rhyming.

                    Why, an hour in clamour and a
quarter in rheum: therefore is it most expedient
for the wise, if Don Worm, his conscience, find
no impediment to the contrary, to be the trumpet
of his own virtues, as I am to myself.
— Benedick is telling Beatrice that a man must broadcast his own virtues, for after death, his memory will live on only as long as the funeral bell tolls (an hour for "clamour") and the widow weeps ("quarter in rheum")—an hour and fifteen minutes altogether.

Done to death by slanderous tongues
Was the Hero that here lies
— These are the first two lines of the epitaph Claudio writes for Hero, who he believes is dead. These lines would be extremely sad if they were true.