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and he hands over the two aspicious persons' who hold his daughter's fate in their hands to the constable's leisurely 'excommunication. The very figure of Dogberry is reassuring; evil cannot be rampant in a city which he and his 'most quiet watchmen’ sufficiently protect, nor the story finally disastrous to which he contributes a link. It is a part of the irony, grave but not yet bitter, which underlies the play, that in this community of brilliantly accomplished men and women, it is not by dint of wit but through the blind channels of accident and unreason that the discovery makes its way. “What your wisdoms,' as Borachio says, 'could not discover, these shallow fools have brought to light.'
The other great Shakespearean creations of the play, Benedick and Beatrice, are far less intimately attached to the story of Hero. Both in Twelfth Night and in As You Like It the heroine of the story remains the heroine of the play. But the delicate girl whose purity is so little armed with wit that she helplessly succumbs at the false charge could not be a sister to Rosalind and Viola. Nor did women of her type, we may say with confidence, interest Shakespeare's imagination at this time by any means so keenly as the women of brilliant and somewhat aggressive charm, womanly to the core, but of more than masculine agility in the use of all the weapons of wit. She is indeed exquisitely drawn, with few strokes, and more by her silence than by her speech; but hers is not yet the breathing and perfumed quietness of Perdita and Imogen. Her place as heroine is taken, confessedly or not, by the sovran figure of Beatrice. It is easy to see the germ of Beatrice in the Rosaline of Love's Labour's Lost, as we may see the germ of Dogberry in Constable Dull. But Rosaline's wit is mere ingenious word-play, a halfmechanical accomplishment; Beatrice's is a play of thought upon thought, the spontaneous utterance of a brilliant mind steeped in the hues of highly individual character, and betraying in spite of her the impulses of a passionate woman's heart.
Beatrice creates the intellectual atmosphere in which the play moves; hence, although her part in the action is extremely slight and does not affect its issues, she seems to be the centre about which it revolves. At only two points does she intervene, actively or passively, in the plot; and these are points at which the passionate woman in her subdues the dazzling mocker. No whit less helplessly than her gentle cousin had fallen a victim to the malignant device of Don John, Beatrice falls a victim to its sportive counterpart, Leonato's 'pastime' for securing that time shall not go dully with us.' Nothing in the Comedies is more delicately imagined in all its details than this gay inversion of the tragic theme. Here two professed antagonists are beguiled into love, there two lovers are beguiled to a rupture. Here, as there, a deception which has a basis of truth; for Benedick's and Beatrice's professed antagonism conceals a sympathetic fascination which a slight stimulus shakes into love, and Claudio's professed love conceals a profound ignorance of Hero, which the bare suggestion of suspicion transforms into insulting and vindictive rage. The slanderous tongues do their work; and then the ardent womanhood of Beatrice alone rises up in protest against the inanities of evidence' and 'proof,' at first half baffled by grief and choked by tears, then flaming out into the great cry, 'Kill Claudio'; while the hesitating Benedick gathers energy and will under her spell. For the rest, the two plots, sharply contrasted as they are in tone and temper, are carried out by groups of characters who remain distinct. It is significant that Margaret, who counterfeits Hero's person, is tacitly excluded from the dainty deceit of the garden scene, where the transparent Hero, in her eagerness to help her cousin to a good husband, displays an else unsuspected artifice and eloquence.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING
SCENE I. Before LEONATO's house.
Enter LEONATO, HERO, and BEATRICE, with a
Messenger. Leon. I learn in this letter that Don Peter 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 Peter hath bestowed much honour on a young 10 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
7. sort, rank. 16. better bettered, more surpassed.
Leon. He hath an uncle here in Messina will be very much glad of it.
Mess. I have already delivered him letters, and 20 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 Mountanto returned from the wars or no?
Mess. I know none of that name, lady: there was none such in the
of Leon. What is he that you ask for, niece?
Hero. My cousin means Signior Benedick of Padua.
Mess. O, he's 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 40 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.
30. Mountanto, or Mon
public announcement (a placard tanto,' an Italian fencing ex- containing the challenge). pression, meaning 'an upright 40. the flight, a kind of light blow or thrust.' The form and well-feathered arrow.
montant' occurs in Merry 41. subscribed, signed. Wives of Windsor, ii. 3. 27. 42. bird-bolt, a broad, blunt
used for killing birds 37. pleasant, full of jests.
(contrasted with the flight'), a 39. set up his bills, put up a regular weapon of the Fool.