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Thanks, provost, for thy care and secrecy;
The novel of Giraldi Cinthio, from which Shakspeare is supposed to have borrowed this fable, may be read in Shakspeare Illustrated, elegantly translated, with remarks, which will assist the inquirer to discover how much absurdity Shakspeare has admitted or avoided.
I cannot but suspect that some other had new-modelled the novel of Cinthio, or written a story which in some particulars resembled it, and that Cinthio was not the author whom Shakspeare immediately followed. The emperor in Cinthio is named Maximine: the duke in Shakspeare's enumeration of the persons of the drama, is called Vincentio. This appears a very slight remark; but since the duke has no name in the play, nor is ever mentioned but by his title, why should he be called Vincentio among the persons, but because the name was copied from the story, and placed superfluously at the head of the list by the mere habit of transcrip tion? It is therefore likely that there was then a story of Vincentio, Duke of Vienna, different from that of Maximine, Emperor of the Romans.
Of this play, the light or comic part is very natural and pleasing, but the grave scenes, if a few passages be excepted, have more labor than elegance. The plot is rather intricate than artful. The time of the action is indefinite: some time, we know not how much, must have elapsed between the recess of the duke and the imprisonment of Claudio; for he must have learned the story of Mariana in his disguise, or he delegated his power to a man already known to be corrupted.* The unities of action and place are sufficiently preserved.
* The duke probably had learned the story of Mariana in some of his former retirements, “having ever loved the life removed.” And he had a suspicion that Angelo was but a seemer, and therefore stays to watch him.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
It is said that the main plot of this play is derived from the story of Ariodante and Ginevra, in the fifth book of Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. Something similar may also be found in the fourth canto of the second book of Spenser's Faerie Queene; but a novel of Bandello's, copied by Belleforest in his Tragical Histories, seems to have furnished Shakspeare with the fable. It approaches nearer to the play in all particulars than any other performance hitherto discovered. No translation of it into English has, however, yet been met with.
This play is supposed to have been written in 1600, in which year it was first published.
DON PEDRO, Prince of Arragon.
Servant to Don Pedro.
Followers of Don John.
two foolish Officers.
HERO, Daughter to Leonato.
MARGARET, } Gentlewomen attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watch, and Attendants.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING.
SCENE I. Before Leonato's House.
Enter LEONATO, HERO, BEATRICE, and others, with a
Messenger. 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 honor 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.