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MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

AND

PARALLEL PASSAGES

ACT I

ACT FIRST

SCENE I

[Before Leonato's house) Enter Leonato, Hero, and Beatrice, with a Messenger. Leon. I learn in this letter that Don Pedro of Arra

gon comes this night to Messina. Mess. He is very near by this. He was not three

leagues off when I left him. Leon. How many gentlemen have you lost in this

action?
Mess. But few of any sort, and none of name.
Leon. A victory is twice itself when the achiever

brings home full numbers. I find here that Don
Pedro hath bestowed much honour on a young
Florentine called Claudio.

5

10

Act I. Sc. 1.-Line 7. sort = kind, class (especially one of the classes of English society). Frequent. 'Men of all sorts take a pride to gird at me,' 2H4 1.2.7. Discharge the common sort With pay and thanks,' 3H6 v.5.87. "None of noble sort Would so offend a virgin,' Mids. iii. 2. 159. A misunderstanding of this passage (line 7) has arisen through the natural tendency to refer few back to gentlemen instead of understanding it as simply few men. Thus Dyce, Schmidt, and Furness take sort to mean rank or quality (citing Fletcher's The Noble Gentleman, iv.4.6, “Less I cannot wish to men of sort”), and name to mean celebrity._Mason and White contended for the more general meaning of the word sort. See Furness for a long discussion which leaves the reader considerably in the fog. The matter is quite cleared by observing the use of the word in William Harrison's Description of England (Book ii, chapter v): “We in England divide our people commonly into four sorts, as gentlemen, citizens or burgesses, yeomen, and artificers, or laborers. Of gentlemen the first and chief (next the king) be the prince, dukes, marquesses, earls, viscounts, and barons : and these are called gentlemen of the greater sort, or (as our common usage of speech is) lords and noblemen: and next unto them be knights, esquires, and last of all they that are simply called gentlemen. .... The fourth and last sort of people in England are day laborers, poor husbandmen, : ... and all artificers. Unto this sort also may our great swarms of idle serving men be referred.” Below the four sorts then are the serving men, really men of no sort, but allowed by Harrison to be counted in with the fourth. Shakespeare once makes a very similar distinction: 'Give notice to such men of sort and suit as are to meet him,' Meas. iv. 4. 19. In this example, the men of sort, being set over against the retainers, are naturally men of the nobler sort. But it is clear that the term is not restricted to the nobility unless a qualifying word or the context makes it evident. In the text above, the noblemen are the men of name. The context requires that we do not take sort to refer to gentle blood, for if any gentlemen at all were lost in the action, Leonato's remark about bringing home full numbers lacks truth and point. The Messenger, with a full sense of the effect of his good news, gives a general report first, reserving for a climax the specific answer to the question asked him: 'There were few losses of any class, of gentlemen none.' This interpretation is borne out by the closely parallel passages cited above from Henry V and Richard III. 10 ]

[ 62 ]

ACT FIRST

SCENE I

5-7] K. Henry. What prisoners of good sort are taken, H5 iv . 8.80

uncle?
Exeter. Charles Duke of Orleans, nephew to the

King;
John Duke of Bourbon, and Lord Bouciqualt:
Of other lords and barons, knights and squires,

Full fifteen hundred, besides common men.
K. Henry. Where is the number of our English H5 iv . 8. 107

dead?
Edward the Duke of York, the Earl of Suffolk,
Sir Richard Ketly, Davy Gam, esquire;
None else of name; and of all other men

But five and twenty.
Richmond. What men of name are slain on either R3 v.5.12

side? 9] Diana. They say the French count has done most All's iii. 5.3

honourable service. King.

I have letters sent me All's v. 3.30 That sets him high in fame. 9-12) Valeria. .... there's wondrous things spoke of him. Cor. ii.1.152

Menenius. Wondrous ! ay, I warrant you, and not

without his true purchasing. 12] Florisel [to Camillo).

Very nobly Wint. iv.4.527
Have you deserv'd. It is my father's music
To speak your deeds, not little of his care

To have them recompens'd as thought on.
Duncan.

Noble Banquo, Mcb. i.

Mcb. i.4.29
That hast no less desery'd, nor must be known
No less to have done so, let me infold thee

And hold thee to my heart.
Menenius.

Coriolanus, whom Cor. ii . 2.50
We met here both to thank and to remember
With honours like himself.

8. achiever. Here only (achieve, achievement, common).

15

Mess. Much desery'd on his part and equally re

memb’red by Don Pedro. He hath borne himself
beyond the promise of his age, doing, in the fig-
ure of a lamb, the feats of a lion. He hath indeed
better bett'red expectation than you must expect

of me to tell you how.
Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very

much glad of it.
Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and there

appears much joy in him; even so much that joy
could not show itself modest enough without a

badge of bitterness.
Leon. Did he break out into tears?
Mess. In great measure.

20

25 Cor. ii. 2.91

12. remember = reward. “I pray you, remember the porter,' Mcb. ii.3.23.

16. better surpass. Several instances. 'I will better the instruction, Merch. iii. 1.76. With better bettered' cp. 'doubly redoubled,' R2 i.3.80; Mcb. i.2.38.

19. much with positive adjective. Various instances. 'I am much sorry,' Cym. ii.3.109.

23. badge of bitterness. 'Heavy tears, badges of either's woe,' Sonn. 44. 14. 'With tears and smiles, The badges of his grief and patience,' R2 v.2.33. This is one of the very few instances in which Shakespeare associates bitterness with tears. Rejecting two occurrences of 'bitter tears' in Titus Andronicus as non-Shakespearean, we find only 'wept bitterly,' Gent. iv. 4. 176, and 'cried bitterly,' Rom. i.3.54.

24. break out into tears. 'But through the flood-gates breaks the silver rain,' Ven. 959. . on what occasion break Those tears from thee?' Lucr. 1270. "These hot tears, which break from me perforce,' Lear i.4.320.

>

R2 ii. 1.173

3H6 ii.1.13

Cor. ii.1.12

Cor. ii. 1. 150

Cym. i.4.2

14] Cominius.

.. At sixteen years, When Tarquin made a head for Rome, he

fought

Beyond the mark of others. 15] York.

In war was never lion rag'd more
fierce,
In peace was never gentle lamb more mild
Than was that young and princely gentleman.

[Of Edward, the Black Prince.]
Richard. .... Methought he bore him in the thick-

est troop
As doth a lion in a herd of neat.

[Of Richard Plantagenet.]
Brutus. He's a lamb indeed, that baes like a bear.
Menenius. He's a bear indeed, that lives like a

lamb.
16] Volumnia. ... He hath in this action outdone his

former deeds doubly.

[Of Coriolanus.] Iachimo.

He was then of a crescent note, expected to prove so worthy as since he hath

been allowed the name of. [Of Posthumus. ] 21] Rosencrantz... ... And there did seem in him a

kind of joy

To hear of it.
21-23] First Gentleman. .. ... A notable passion of won-

der appeared in them; but the wisest beholder,
that knew no more but seeing, could not say if
the importance were joy or sorrow; but in the

extremity of the one, it must needs be.
22] Fool. . . . . Then they for sudden joy did weep.

...

(Various similar passages.]
Third Gentleman. There might you have

beheld one joy crown another, so and in such
manner that it seemed sorrow wept to take leave

of them, for their joy waded in tears.
Duncan.

My plenteous joys,
Wanton in fulness, seek to hide themselves
In drops of sorrow.

Hml. iii. 1.18

Wint. v.2.16

Lear i. 4. 191

Wint. v.2.47

Mcb. i. 4.33

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