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Leon. You must not, sir, mistake my niece: there is a kind of merry war betwixt signior Benedick and her: they never meet, but there is a skirmish of wit between them.
Beat. Alas, he gets nothing by that. In our last conflict, four of his five wits5 went halting off, and now is the whole man governed with one: so that if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear it for a difference between himself and his horse ;6 for it is all the wealth that he hath left, to be known a reasonable
the pointing of this passage; which, by the way, he might learn from D'Avenant: but he says not a word, nor any one else that I know of, about the reason of this abruption. The truth is, Beatrice starts an idea at the words stuff?d man; and prudently checks herself in the pursuit of it. A stuf'd man was one of the many cant phrases for a cuckold. In Lily's Midas, we have an inventory of Motto's moveables : “ Item, says Petulus, one paire of hornes in the bride-chamber on the bed's head. The beast's head, observes Licio; for Motto is stuff'd in the head, and these are among unmoveable goods." Farmer.
-four of his five wits-) In our author's time wit was the general term for intellectual powers. So, Davies on the Soul:
“Wit, seeking truth from cause to cause ascends,
“And never rests till it the first attain;
“But never stays till it the last do gain.” And, in another part:
“But if a phrenzy do possess the brain,
“ It so disturbs and blots the forms of things,
“ And to the wit no true relation brings.
"Build fond conclusions on those idle grounds;". The wits seem to have been reckoned five, by analogy to the five senses, or the five inlets of ideas. Johnson.
- if he have wit enough to keep himself warm, let him bear if for a difference, &c.] Such a one has wit enough to keep himself warm,
is a proverbial expression. So, in The Wise Woman of Hogsden, 1638: “You are the wise woman, are you? and have wit to keep yourself warm enough, I warrant you.” Again, in Cynthia's Revels, by Ben Jonson:
your whole self cannot but be perfectly wise; for your hands have wit enough to keep themselves warm.'
To bear any thing for a difference, is a term in heraldry. So, in Hamlet, Ophelia says:
you may wear your rue with a difference.” Steevens.
creature.-Who is his companion now? He hath every month a new sworn brother.?
Mess. Is it possible?
Beat. Very easily possible: he wears his faiths but as the fashion of his hat, it ever changes with the next block."
Mess. I see, lady, the gentleman is not in your books.?
1.- sworn brother.] i.e. one with whom he hath sworn (as was anciently the custom among adventurers) to share fortunes. See Mr. Whalley's note on- we'll be all three sworn-brothers to France,” in King Henry V, Act II, sc. i.
Steevens. 8he wears his faith -] Not religious profession, but profession of friendship; for the speaker gives it as the reason of her asking, who was now his companion ? that he had every month a new sworn brother. Warburton.
with the next block.] A block is the mould on which a hat is formed. So, in Decker's Satiromastix:
“Of what fashion is this knight's wit? of what block? See a note on K. Lear, Act IV, sc. vi. The old writers sometimes use the word block, for the hat itself.
Steevens. - the gentleman is not in your books.] This is a phrase used, I believe, by more than understand it. To be in one's books is to be in one's codicils or will, to be among friends set down for legacies.
Johnson. I rather think that the books alluded to, are memorandum. books, like the visiting books of the present age. So, in Decker's Honest Whore, P. II, 1630:
“ I am sure her name was in my table-book once.” Or, perhaps the allusion is to matriculation at the University, So, in Aristippus, or The Fovial Philosopher, 1630:
“You must be matriculated, and have your name recorded in Albo Academiæ."
Again: “What, have you enrolled him in albo? Have you fully admitted him into the society ?-to be a member of the body academic?”
Again: “ And if I be not entered, and have my name admitted into some of their books, let," &c.
And yet I think the following passage in The Maid's Revenge, by Shirley, 1639, will sufficiently support my first suppos on:
“ Pox of your compliment, you were best not write in her table-books."
It appears to have been anciently the custom to chronicle the small beer of every occurrence, whether literary or domestic, in table-books. So, in the play last quoted:
“ Devolve itself!--that word is not in my table-books." Hamlet likewise has “my tables," &c.
Beat. No: an he were, I would burn my study. But, I pray you, who is his companion? Is there no young squarer2 now, that will make a voyage with him to the devil ?
Mess. He is most in the company of the right noble Claudio.
Beat. O Lord! he will hang upon him like a disease: he is sooner caught than the pestilence, and the taker runs presently mad. God help the noble Claudio! if he
Again, in The Whore of Babylon, 1607:
Campeius !—Babylon “ His name hath in her tables." Again, in Acolastus, a comedy, 1540:
We weyl haunse thee, or set thy name into our felowship boke, with clappynge of handes,” &c. I know not exactly
what custom this last quoted passage refers, unless to the album: for just after, the same expression oc. curs again: that “ from henceforthe thou may'st have a place worthy for thee in our whyte: from hence thou may'st have thy name written in our boke."
It should seem from the following passage in The Taming of a Shrew, that this phrase might have originated from the Herald's Office:
“ A herald, Kate! oh, put me in thy books .!”
“ Some write their fantasies in verse
“ The great good will that they do owe,” &c. Steevens. This phrase has not been exactly interpreted. To be in a man's books, originally meant to be in the list of his retainers. Sir John Mandeville tells us, "alle the mynstrelles that comen before the great Chan ben witholden with him, as of his houshold, and en. tred in his bookes, as for his own men.” Farmer.
A servant and a lover were in Cupid's Vocabulary, synonymous. Hence perhaps the phrase to be in a person's books-was applied equally to the lover and the menial attendant. Malone.
There is a MS. of Lord Burleigh's, in the Marquis of Lans. downe's library, wherein, among many other household concerns, he has entered the names of all his servants, &c. Douce.
- young squarer --) A squarer I take to be a cholerick, quarrelsome fellow, for in this sense Shakspeare uses the word to square. So, in A Midsummer Night's Dream, it is said of Obe, ron and Titania, that they never meet but they square. So the sense may be, Is there no hot-blooded youth that will keep him com. pany through all his mad pranks ? Fohnson.
have caught the Benedick, it will cost him a thousand pound ere he be cured.
Mess. I will hold friends with you, lady.
Mess. Don Pedro is approach’d.
Don John, CLAUDIO, and BENEDICK. D. Pedro. Good signior Leonato, you are come to meet your trouble: the fashion of the world is to avoid cost, and you encounter it.
Leon. Never came trouble to my house in the likeness of your grace: for trouble being gone, comfort should remain; but, when you depart from me, sorrow abides, and happiness takes his leave.
D. Pedro. You embrace your charge3 too willingly.-I think, this is your daughter.
Leon. Her mother hath many times told me so.
D. Pedro. You have it full, Benedick: we may guess by this what you are, being a man. Truly, the lady fathers herself:- Be happy, lady! for you are like an honourable father.
Bene. If signior Leonato be her father, she would not have his head on her shoulders, for all Messina, as like him as she is.
Beat. I wonder, that you will still be talking, signior Benedick; no body marks you.
Bene. What, my dear lady Disdain! are you yet living?
Beat. Is it possible, disdain should die, while she hath such meet food to feed it, as signior Benedick? 4 Cour
- your charge -] That is, your burden, your incumbrance.
Johnson. Charge does not mean, as Dr. Johnson explains it, burden, incumbrance, but “the person committed to your care.” So it is used in the relationship between guardian and ward. Douce.
- such meet food to feed it, as signior Benedick?] A kindred thought occurs in Coriolanus, Act II, sc. i:
"Our very priests must become mockers, if they encounter such ridiculous subjects as you are.” Steevens.
tesy itself must convert to disdain, if you come in her presence.
Bene. Then is courtesy a turn-coat:-But it is certain, I am loved of all ladies, only you excepted: and I would I could find in my heart that I had not a hard heart; for, truly, I love none.
Beat. A dear happiness to women; they would else have been troubled with a pernicious suitor. I thank God, and my cold blood, I am of your humour for that; I had rather hear my dog bark at a crow, than a man swear he loves me.
Bene. God keep your ladyship still in that mind! so some gentleman or other shall 'scape a predestinate scratched face.
Beat. Scratching could not make it worse, an 'twere such a face as yours were.
Bene. Well, you are a rare parrot-teacher.
Bene. I would, my horse had the speed of your tongue; and so good a continuer: But keep your way o' God's name; I have done.
Beat. You always end with a jade's trick; I know you of old.
D. Pedro. This is the sum of all: Leonato signior Claudio, and signior Benedick,--my dear friend Leonato, hath invited you all. I tell him, we shall stay here at the least a month; and he heartily prays, some occasion may detain us longer: I dare swear he is no hypocrite, but prays from his heart.
Leon. If you swear, my lord, you shall not be forsworn.--Let me bid you welcome, my lord: being reconciled to the prince your brother, I owe you all duty.
D. John. I thank you :5 I am not of many words, but
I thank you.
Leon. Please it your grace lead on?
[Exeunt all but BENE. and CLAUD. Claud. Benedick, didst thou note the daughter of sig. nior Leonato?
Bene. I noted her not; but I looked on her.
5 I thank you :] The poet has judiciously marked the gloomi. ness of Don John's character, by making him averse to the common forms of civility. Sir F. Hawkins.