Act I - Scene II


[A Room in Leonato's House]

Enter Leonato and [Antonio] brother to Leonato.

LEONATO:
How now, brother? Where is my cousin, your son?
Hath he provided this music?
ANTONIO:
He is very busy about it. But, brother, I can tell you
strange news that you yet dreamt not of.
LEONATO:
Are they good?(5)
ANTONIO:
As the event stamps them; but they have a good
cover, they show well outward. The prince and Count
Claudio, walking in a thick-pleached alley in mine
orchard, were thus much overheard by a man of mine; the
prince discovered to Claudio that he loved my niece your(10)
daughter and meant to acknowledge it this night in a
dance, and if he found her accordant, he meant to take
the present time by the top and instantly break with you
of it.
LEONATO:
Hath the fellow any wit that told you this?(15)
ANTONIO:
A good sharp fellow. I will send for him, and question
him yourself.
LEONATO:
No, no. We will hold it as a dream till it appear
itself; but I will acquaint my daughter withal, that she
may be the better prepared for an answer, if peradventure(20)
this be true. Go you and tell her of it.
Cousin, you know what you have to do. —
O, I cry you mercy, friend. Go you with me, and I will use
your skill.—Good cousin, have a care this busy time.

[Exeunt.]

Footnotes

  1. The title of the play—Much Ado About Nothing—represents a pun. In Elizabethan times, the word “nothing” would have been pronounced as “noting,” which has the additional meaning of “eavesdropping.” This pun thus prepares the audience for moments such as this exchange between Leonato and Antonio. These characters are making much of “noting”—Antonio’s eavesdropping—as well as “nothing,” for it is all a misunderstanding.

    — Zachary, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. “Peradventure” is an archaic form of the word “perhaps,” meaning that Leonato is somewhat suspicious about the truth of the rumor he has just heard. However, Leonato asks Antonio to make sure that Hero is “prepared for an answer” since he wants to warn her of Claudio’s potential proposal. Shakespeare here introduces the theme of the performative nature of love. Hero is essentially being instructed on how to behave in this situation before it happens (like an actress.) At the same time, Claudio and Don Pedro are staging their own play of sorts to win Claudio Hero’s affection.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. Antonio is relating information that he has heard through his “sharp” trusted servant, but Leonato is not entirely convinced of its veracity. Here, Shakespeare introduces the theme of perception, miscommunication, and misconception. Throughout the play, pay attention to the ways in which characters’ perceptions of reality are determined by misunderstandings, rumors, and deceit.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. That is, be very careful during this busy (and, presumably,) time

    — Stephen Holliday
  5. This bit of dialogue opens the theme of misunderstanding that begins innocently (as in this example) but becomes much more serious later on.

    — Stephen Holliday
  6. In modern terms, this would be Leonato's nephew.  In Elizabethan times, the word cousin is loosely used to mean any relatively close relative.

    — Stephen Holliday