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The offence pardons itself.—Dear Isabel,
I have a motion much imports your good;
Whereto if you'll a willing ear incline,
What's mine is your's, and what is your's is mine :
So, bring us to our palace; where we'll show
What's yet behind, that's meet you all should know.

[Exeunt. e of this play, the light or comic part is very natural and pleasing, but the grave scenes, if a few passages be excepted, bave more labour 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.-Johnson.

There are very few readers whose admiration for Shakspeare will not be outraged by reading the above harsh and tasteless observations of Dr. Johnson. It may perhaps allay their irritation to find that all critics are not equally cold to the various merits of this beautiful play.-"Of Measure for Measure,” says

Dr. Drake, “independent of the comic characters, which afford a rich fund of entertainment, the great charm springs from the lovely example of female excellence exhibited in the person of Isabella. Piety, spotless purity, tenderness combined with firmness, and an eloquence the most persuasive, unite to render her singularly interesting and attractive. C'est un ange de lumiere sous l'humble habit d'une novice.* To save the life of her brother she hastens to quit the peaceful seclusion of her convent, and moves amid the votaries of corruption and hypocrisy, amid the sensual, the vulgar, and the profligate, as a being of a higher order, as a ministering spirit from the throne of grace. Her first interview with Angelo, and the immediately subsequent one with Claudio, exhibit, along with the most engaging feminine diffidence and modesty, an extraordinary display of intellectual energy, of dexterous argument, and of indignant contempt. Her pleadings before the lord deputy, are directed with a strong appeal both to his understanding and his heart, while her sagacity and address in the communication of the result of her appointment with him to her brother, of whose weakness and irresolution she is justly apprehensive, are, if possible, still more skilfully marked, and add another to the multitude of instances which ha e established for Shakspeare an unrivalled intimacy with the finest feelings of our nature.”+ There is one beauty in this play which I do not remember to have seen observed : though the vice of Claudio is one which the world is inclined to think too lightly of, and though there was offered so easy and popular a way of exciting an interest for him in the minds of the audience, by diminishing the heinousness of his offence, and representing the transgressor rather as a martyr than a culprit; Shakspeare has in no instance breathed a syllable that might seem to extenuate his guilt. Throughout the play, the crime which is so much debated, is represented as an object of disgust, both in its own impurity and in the mean, the selfish, and the loathsome baseness of its ministers. The very passages of a gross and indecent nature that occur, only serve to heighten the general, moral effect of the whole, and raise the reader's admiration of the holy chastity of Isabel, by placing it in contrast with the repulsive levity of the votaries of licentiousness.

• Schlegel Cours de in literature Dramatique, vol. iii. 22.
+Drake's Shakspeare and his Times, vol. ii. 454.

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Tais play was printed in quarto in the year 1600 ; and entered at Stationers' Hall, August 23, of that year: and as it is not mentioned by Meres, in his list of our Author's works published in 1598, the date of its production is ascertained with more than usual accuracy.

Mr. Pope says that the plot was taken from the fifth book of the Orlando Furioso.—Mr. Steevens conceives that not Ariosto but Spenser afforded the subject of the play, and that it was taken from the Fairy Queen, b. 2. c. 4. But as both these originals are most justly acknowledged to be remote, it has been suggested that the story might have been copied from the 18th history of the third volume of Belleforest. It never appears to have entered into the minds of the critics that Shakspeare might occasionally have dramatized a story of his own invention.—Much ado about Nothing, is reported in Mr. Vertue's MSS. to have passed formerly under the name of Benedick and Beatrice.


Don Pedro, prince of Arragon.
Don John, his bastard Brother.
CLAUDIO, a young lord of Florence, favourite to Don

BENEDICK, a young lord of Padua, favourite likewise of

Don Pedro,
LEONATO, governor of Messina.
ANTONIO, his brother.
BALTHAZAR, seroant to Don Pedro.


two foolish officers.
A Sexton.
A Friar.
A Boy.
Hero, daughter to Leonato.
BEATRICE, niece to Leonato.

{gentlewomen attending on Hero.
Messengers, Watch, and Attendants.

Scene, Messina.



Scene I.-Before Leonato's House. Enter LEONATO, Hero, BeATRICE, and others, with a


Leon. 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,a 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 honour 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.

Leon. Did he break out into tears?
Mess. In great measure.
Leon. A kind overflow of kindness : There are no faces

sort,]-i.e. Distinction.

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