The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 3 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 613 pages of information about The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb Volume 3.

Thus have we seen the patient virtues of the long-suffering Hermione rewarded.  That excellent lady lived many years with her Leontes and her Perdita, the happiest of mothers and of queens.

MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING

(By Mary Lamb)

There lived in the palace at Messina two ladies, whose names were Hero and Beatrice.  Hero was the daughter, and Beatrice the niece, of Leonato, the governor of Messina.

Beatrice was of a lively temper, and loved to divert her cousin Hero, who was of a more serious disposition, with her sprightly sallies.  Whatever was going forward was sure to make matter of mirth for the light-hearted Beatrice.

At the time the history of these ladies commences, some young men of high rank in the army, as they were passing through Messina on their return from a war that was just ended, in which they had distinguished themselves by their great bravery, came to visit Leonato.  Among these were Don Pedro, the prince of Arragon; and his friend Claudio, who was a lord of Florence; and with them came the wild and witty Benedick, and he was a lord of Padua.

These strangers had been at Messina before, and the hospitable governor introduced them to his daughter and his niece as their old friends and acquaintance.

Benedick, the moment he entered the room, began a lively conversation with Leonato and the prince.  Beatrice, who liked not to be left out of any discourse, interrupted Benedick with saying, “I wonder that you will still be talking, signior Benedick; nobody marks you.”  Benedick was just such another rattle-brain as Beatrice, yet he was not pleased at this free salutation:  he thought it did not become a well-bred lady to be so flippant with her tongue; and he remembered, when he was last at Messina, that Beatrice used to select him to make her merry jests upon.  And as there is no one who so little likes to be made a jest of as those who are apt to take the same liberty themselves, so it was with Benedick and Beatrice; these two sharp wits never met in former times but a perfect war of raillery was kept up between them, and they always parted mutually displeased with each other.  Therefore when Beatrice stopped him in the middle of his discourse with telling him nobody marked what he was saying, Benedick, affecting not to have observed before that she was present, said, “What, my dear lady Disdain, are you yet living?” And now war broke out afresh between them, and a long jangling argument ensued, during which Beatrice, although she knew he had so well approved his valour in the late war, said that she would eat all he had killed there:  and observing the prince take delight in Benedick’s conversation, she called him “the prince’s jester.”  This sarcasm sunk deeper into the mind of Benedick than all Beatrice had said before.  The hint she gave him that he was a coward, by saying she would eat all he had killed, he did not regard, knowing himself to be a brave man:  but there is nothing that great wits so much dread as the imputation of buffoonery, because the charge comes sometimes a little too near the truth; therefore Benedick perfectly hated Beatrice, when she called him “the prince’s jester.”

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The Works of Charles and Mary Lamb — Volume 3 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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