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This play may be justly said to contain two of the most sprightly characters that Shakspeare ever drew. The wit, the humourist, the gentleman, and the soldier, are combined in Benedick. It is to be lamented, indeed, that the first and most splendid of these distinctions, is disgraced by unnecessary profaneness; for the goodness of his heart is hardly sufficient to atone for the licence of his tongue. The too sarcastic levity, which flashes out in the conversation of Beatrice, may be excused on account of the steadiness and friendship so apparent in her behaviour, when she urges her lover to risque his life by a challenge to Claudio. In the conduct of the fable, however, there is an imperfection similar to that which Dr. Johnson has pointed out in The Merry Wives of Windsor: -the second contrivance is less ingenious than the first: or, to speak more plainly, the same incident is become stale by repetition. I wish some other method had been found to entrap Beatrice, than that very one which before had been successfully practised on Benedick.
Much Ado about Nothing, (as I understand from one of Mr. Vertue's MSS.) formerly passed under the title of Benedick and Beatrix. Heming the player received, on the 20th of May, 1613, the sum of forty pounds, and twenty pounds more as his Majesty's gratuity, for exhibiting six plays at Hampton Court, among which was this comedy. STEEVENS.
THESEUS, Duke of Athens.
PHILOSTRATE, Master of the Revels to Theseus.
QUINCE, the Carpenter.
SNUG, the Joiner.
BOTTOм, the Weaver.
FLUTE, the Bellows-mender.
SNOUT, the Tinker.
STARVELING, the Tailor.
HYPPOLYTA, Queen of the Amazons, betrothed to Theseus.
HERMIA, Daughter of Egeus, in love with Lysander. HELENA, in love with Demetrius.
OBERON, King of the Fairies.
TITANIA, Queen of the Fairies.
PUCK, or ROBIN-GOODFELLOW, a Fairy.
Other Fairies attending their King and Queen.
SCENE, ATHENS, and a Wood not far from it.
SCENE I.-Athens. A Room in the Palace of
Enter THESEUS, HIPPOLYTA, PHILOSTRATE, and Attendants.
Now, fair Hippolyta, our nuptial hour
Long withering out a young man's revenue.
Four nights will quickly dream away the time;
The pale companion is not for our pomp.-