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Hero. He is of a very melancholy disposition.
Beat. He were an excellent man that were made just in the midway between him and Benedick : the one is too like an image, and says nothing : and the other too like my lady's eldest son, evermore tattling.
Leon. Then, half Signior Benedick's tongue in Count John's mouth, and half Count John's melancholy in Signior Benedick's face
Beat. With a good leg, and a good foot, uncle, and money enough in his purse,--such a man would win any woman in the world,—if he could get her good will.
Beatrice, then, we repeat, if she will maintain the honour of her sex at all, has no choice but to fight Benedick with his own weapons of unsparing raillery; and in the use of these, possessing, with superior exuberance of invention, the great advantage of “having her quarrel just,” she constantly proves herself an over-match for him. This is the kind of defeat most mortifying of all to a man of his character-the more humiliating that he receives it from a womanand most irritating of all from the woman for whom he really entertains the like personal preference that she cherishes for him. Hence it is, that this “merry
“ hearted, pleasant-spirited” lady, as everybody else finds her to be, seems to him an incarnate fury—as we find him declaring, just after their first “skirmish” above cited, in reply to Claudio's commendations of Hero's personal charms:
There's her cousin, an she were not possessed with a fury, exceeds her as much in beauty as the first of May doth the last of December.
Indeed, the gentleman's extravagant irritation at that sharpness of retort from his fair antagonist which he is continually provoking, as contrasted with the exulting tone of conscious superiority on her part, is exceedingly amusing. Thus, in the masquerade scene, again, though he has clearly been the aggressor, yet he lays all the blame of the verbal hostility upon her, and has all the exasperation to himself:
Beat. Will you not tell me who told you so ?
Beat. Nor will you not tell me who you are ?
Beat. That I was disdainful, and that I had my good wit out of the Hundred Merry Tales. Well, this was Signior Benedick that said so.
Ben. What's he?
Beat. Why, he is the Prince's jester-a very dull fool; only his gift is in devising impossible slanders; none but libertines delight in him; and the commendation is not in his wit, but in his villany; for he both pleases men and angers them; and then they laugh at him, and beat him. I am sure he is in the feet ; I would he had boarded me.
Ben. When I know the gentleman, I'll tell him what you say.
Beat. Do, do; he'll but break a comparison or two on me, which, peradventure, not marked or not laughed at, strikes him into melancholy; and then there's a partridge wing saved, for the
r fool will eat no supper that night.-We must follow the leaders.
These sportive sarcasms the gentleman finds far more irritating than any absolutely false imputations would have been. They are merely exaggerated representations of his actual failings—his loquaciously self-complacent raillery, and his habitual satire of the other sex; and they are addressed to him by the woman whom, on every other account, he is inclined to be in love with. Nothing short of this could account for the ludicrous extravagance
of resentment which he betrays on the occasion. Thus, when, according to his custom, he has just been rallying Claudio upon Don Pedro's supposed treachery towards him regarding Hero, he says to himself:
But, that my lady Beatrice should know me, and not know me !—The Prince's fool !-Ha! it may be I go under that title because I am merry. Yea, but so—I am apt to do myself wrong -I am not so reputed : it is the base, the bitter disposition of Beatrice, that puts the world into her person and so gives me out. Well, I'll be revenged as I may.
And again, to Don Pedro himself:
Oh, she misused me past the endurance of a block; an oak, but with one green leaf upon it, would have answered her : my very visor began to assume life, and scold with her. She told
me, not thinking I had been myself, that I was the Prince's jester; that I was duller than a great thaw; huddling jest upon jest, with such impossible conveyance, upon me, that I stood like a man at a mark, wi a whole army shooting at me. She speaks poniards, and every word stabs. If her breath were as terrible as her terminations, there were no living near her, she would infect to the north star. I would not marry her though she were endowed with all that Adam had left him before he transgressed : she would have made Hercules have turned spit; yea, and have cleft his club to make the fire, too. Come, talk not of her ; you shall find her the infernal Ate in good apparel. I would to God some scholar would conjure her ; for, certainly, while she is here, a man may live as quiet in hell as in a sanctuary; and people sin upon purpose, because they would go thither; so, indeed, all disquiet, horror, and perturbation follow her!
Don Ped. Look, here she comes.
Ben. Will your grace command me any service to the world's end? I will go on the slightest errand now to the Antipodes that you can devise to send me on ; I will fetch you a toothpicker now from the farthest inch of Asia; bring you the length of Prester John's foot : fetch you a hair off the great Cham’s beard; do you any embassage to the Pigmies—rather than hold three words' conference with this harpy. You have no employment for me?
Don Ped. None, but to desire your good company.
Ben. On God, sir, here's a dish I love not-I cannot endure my lady Tongue !
[Exit. Don Ped. Come, lady, come—you have lost the heart of Signior Benedick.
Beat. Indeed, my lord, he lent it me a while ; and I gave him use for it-a double heart for his single one.—Marry, once before he won it of me with false dice; therefore your grace may well say I have lost it.
Don Ped. You have put him down, lady, you have down.
This is the climax of mutual repulsion between our hero and heroine. Each is conscious of liking the other in every respect but one—which one, however, produces such violent irritation between them, as not only prevents each of them from thoroughly loving the other, but makes it impossible for either to perceive this decided partiality entertained in the other's breast. Our next paper will be occupied with shewing, in opposition to the established critical notions on the subject, that the ingenious intervention of their common friends, in the ensuing scenes of the
drama, is employed not only benevolently, but wisely, to convert this partial antipathy into a perfect sympathy.
2.-BENEDICK AND BEATRICE CONVERTED.
[August 17th, 1814.]
ALREADY we have indicated, in general terms, the absurdity of supposing, with most of the critics, that Shakespeare has represented the common friends of Benedick and Beatrice as being either so undiscerning as not to perceive the unsuitableness of this pair for a conjugal union, or so wanton as to seek to bring about their marriage in mere levity, knowing that it could not contribute to their mutual happiness. Let us now consider somewhat more particularly the spirit in which this project is undertaken—first of all
, as shown in the family conversation which immediately follows that announcing the engagement between Count Claudio and the lady Hero :
Don Ped. Count Claudio, when mean you to go to church?
Claud. To-morrow, my lord. Time goes on crutches, till love have all his rites.
Leon. Not till Monday, my dear son; which is hence a just seven-night; and a time too brief too, to have all things answer my mind.
Don Ped. Come, you shake the head at so long a breathing; but, I warrant thee, Claudio, the time shall not go dully by us; I will, in the interim, undertake one of Hercules'
labours; which is, to bring Signior Benedick and the lady Beatrice into a mountain of affection the one with the other. I would fain have it a match; and I doubt not but to fashion it, if you three will but minister such assistance as I shall give you direction.
Leon. My lord, I am for you, though it cost me ten nights' watchings.
Claud. And I, my lord.
Don Ped. And you too, gentle Hero ?
Hero. I will do any modest office, my lord, to help my cousin to a good husband.
Don Ped. And Benedick is not the unhopefullest husband that I know : thus far can I praise him ; he is of a noble strain, of approved valour, and confirmed honesty. I will teach you how to humour your cousin, that she shall fall in love with Benedick; and I, with your two helps, will so practise on Benedick, that in despite of his quick wit and his queasy stomach, he shall fall in love with Beatrice. If we can do this, Cupid is no longer an archer; his glory shall be ours, for we are the only love-gods. Go in with me, and I will tell you my drift.
In the arbour scene which follows, Benedick's friends and Beatrice's guardian shew in their conversation that they take precisely the same view of the moral relation already subsisting between the gentleman and the lady, that we have stated in our foregoing exposition. In this discourse, framed expressly for Benedick's overhearing, they apply themselves, on the one hand, to praise those qualities in the lady which they know that Benedick admires already:
Don Ped. She's an excellent sweet lady; and, out of all suspicion, she is virtuous.
Claud. And she is exceeding wise, &c. But, above all, they combat what they believe to be the sole impediment to his loving her outright-his notion of her violent aversion to himself-by the ingeniously and elaborately natural picture which they draw of the workings of her alleged passion. In this piece of acting, be it observed, Leonato himself, Beatrice's uncle and guardian, sustains the principal part; he it is who most particularly describes her pretended sufferings, which, he says, are reported to him by her bosom-friend and companion, his daughter Hero. Benedick, then, may well be excused for exclaiming in his concealment:--" I should think this a gull, but that the white-bearded fellow speaks it : knavery cannot, sure, hide itself in such reverence.” While, on the other hand, those critics, we must repeat, are less excusable, who have regarded the venerable governor as a personage so devoid of serious