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The story is taken from Ariosto, Orl. Fur. B. V. Pope.
It is true, as Mr. Pope has observed, that somewhat resembling the story of this play is to be found in the fifth Book of the Orlando Furioso. In Spenser's Fairy Queen, B. II. c. iv., as remote an original may be traced. A novel, however, of Belleforest, copied from another of Bandello, seems to have furnished Shakspeare with his fable, as it approaches nearer in all its particulars to the play before us, than any other performance known to be extant. I have seen so many versions from this once popular collection, that I entertain no doubt but that a great majority of the tales it comprehends have made their appearance in an English dress. Of that particular story which I have just mentioned, viz. the 18th history in the third volume, no translation has hitherto been met with.
This play was entered at Stationers' Hall, Aug. 23, 1600. STEEVENS.
Ariosto is continually quoted for the fable of Much Ado about Nothing; but I suspect our poet to have been satisfied with the Geneura of Turberville. “The tale (says Harrington) is a pretie comical matter, and hath bin written in English verse some few years past, learnedly and with good grace, by M. George Turbervil," Ariosto, fol. 1591, p. 39. Farmer.
I suppose this comedy to have been written in 1600, in which year it was printed. Malone.
Don Pedro, Prince of Arragon.
• Followers of Don John.
Hero, Daughter to Leonato.
Messengers, Watch, and Attendants.
MUCH ADO ABOUT
SCENE I.—Before LEONATO's House.
Enter LEONATO, HERO, BEATRICE, and others, with a
Leonato. I learn in this letter, that Don Pedro of Arragon 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.
Mess. Much deserved on his part, and equally remembered by Don Pedro: He hath borne himself beyond the promise of his age ; doing, in the figure of a lamb, the feats of a lion: he hath, indeed, better bettered 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 ?
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness: There are no faces truer than those that are so washed. How much better is it to weep at joy, than to joy at weeping !
Beat. I pray you, is signior Montanto returned from the wars, or no'?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady; there was none such in the army of any sort.
Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece ?
Mess. O, he is returned, and as pleasant as ever he was.
Beat. He set up his bills here in Messina’, and challenged Cupid at the flight': and my uncle's fool, reading the challenge, subscribed for Cupid, and challenged him at the bird-bolt :- I pray you, how many hath he killed and eaten in these wars ? But how many hath he killed ? for, indeed, I promised to eat all of his killing.
Leon. Faith, niece, you tax signior Benedick too much ; but he'll be meet with you', I doubt it not.
Mess. He hath done good service, lady, in these wars.
Beat. You had musty victual, and he hath holp to eat it: he is a very valiant trencher-man, he hath an excellent stomach.
1- is signior Montanto returned -] Montanto was one of the ancient terms of the fencing-school.
• He set up his bills, &c.] Published a general challenge, like a prize-fighter. STEEVENS.
: --- challenged Cupid at the flight:] Flight means a sort of shooting called roving, or shooting at long lengths. The arrows used at this sport are called flight-arrows.
"— at the bird-bolt.] The bird-bolt is a short thick arrow without a point, and spreading at the extremity so much, as to leave a flat surface, about the breadth of a shilling.
6.-_- he'll be meet with you,] i. e. he'll be your match.