Act III - Scene III

[A Street]

Enter Dogberry and his copartner [Verges] with the Watch.

DOGBERRY:
Are you good men and true?
VERGES:
Yea, or else it were pity but they should suffer salvation,
body and soul.
DOGBERRY:
Nay, that were a punishment too good for them, if
they should have any allegiance in them, being chosen for(5)
the prince's watch.
VERGES:
Well, give them their charge, neighbour Dogberry.
DOGBERRY:
First, who think you the most desartless man to be
constable?
FIRST WATCHMAN:
Hugh Oatcake, my lord, or George Seacoal; for(10)
they can write and read.
DOGBERRY:
Come hither, neighbour Seacoal. God hath blessed
you with a good name. To be a well-favoured man is the gift
of fortune, but to write and read comes by nature.
SECOND WATCHMAN:
Both which, Master Constable—(15)
DOGBERRY:
You have. I knew it would be your answer. Well, for
your favour, my lord, why, give God thanks and make no
boast of it; and for your writing and reading, let that appear
when there is no need of such vanity. You are thought here
to be the most senseless and fit man for the constable of(20)
the watch. Therefore bear you the lanthorn. This is your
charge: you shall comprehend all vagrom men; you are to
bid any man stand, in the prince's name.
SECOND WATCHMAN:
How if 'a will not stand?
DOGBERRY:
Why then, take no note of him, but let him go, and(25)
presently call the rest of the watch together and thank
God you are rid of a knave.
VERGES:
If he will not stand when he is bidden, he is none of
the prince's subjects.
DOGBERRY:
True, and they are to meddle with none but the(30)
prince's subjects. You shall also make no noise in the
streets; for for the watch to babble and to talk is most
tolerable, and not to be endured.
SECOND WATCHMAN:
We will rather sleep than talk. We know
what belongs to a watch.(35)
DOGBERRY:
Why, you speak like an ancient and most quiet
watchman, for I cannot see how sleeping should offend.
Only have a care that your bills be not stolen. Well, you
are to call at all the alehouses and bid those that are
drunk get them to bed.(40)
SECOND WATCHMAN:
How if they will not?
DOGBERRY:
Why then, let them alone till they are sober. If they
make you not then the better answer, you may say they
are not the men you took them for.
SECOND WATCHMAN:
Well, my lord.(45)
DOGBERRY:
If you meet a thief, you may suspect him, by virtue
of your office, to be no true man; and for such kind of
men, the less you meddle or make with them, why, the
more is for your honesty.
SECOND WATCHMAN:
If we know him to be a thief, shall we not(50)
lay hands on him?
DOGBERRY:
Truly, by your office you may; but I think they that
touch pitch will be defiled. The most peaceable way for
you, if you do take a thief, is to let him show himself what
he is, and steal out of your company.(55)
VERGES:
You have been always called a merciful man, partner.
DOGBERRY:
Truly, I would not hang a dog by my will, much
more a man who hath any honesty in him.
VERGES:
If you hear a child cry in the night, you must call to
the nurse and bid her still it.(60)
SECOND WATCH:
How if the nurse be asleep and will not hear
us?
DOGBERRY:
Why then, depart in peace and let the child wake
her with crying; for the ewe that will not hear her lamb
when it baes will never answer a calf when he bleats.(65)
VERGES:
'Tis very true.
DOGBERRY:
This is the end of the charge—you, constable, are to
present the prince's own person: if you meet the prince in
the night, you may stay him.
VERGES:
Nay, by'r lady, that I think 'a cannot.(70)
DOGBERRY:
Five shillings to one on't with any man that knows the
statutes, he may stay him! Marry, not without the prince be
willing; for indeed the watch ought to offend no man, and it
is an offence to stay a man against his will.
VERGES:
By'r lady, I think it be so.(75)
DOGBERRY:
Ha, ah, ha! Well, masters, good night. An there be
any matter of weight chances, call up me. Keep your
fellows' counsels and your own, and good night. Come,
neighbour.
SECOND WATCHMAN:
Well, masters, we hear our charge. Let us go(80)
sit here upon the church bench till two, and then all to bed.
DOGBERRY:
One word more, honest neighbours. I pray you watch
about Signior Leonato's door; for the wedding being there
tomorrow, there is a great coil tonight. Adieu. Be
vigitant, I beseech you.(85)

Exeunt [Dogberry, Verges]

Enter Borachio and Conrade.

BORACHIO:
What, Conrade!
SECOND WATCHMAN:
[Aside] Peace! stir not!
BORACHIO:
Conrade, I say!
CONRADE:
Here, man. I am at thy elbow.
BORACHIO:
Mass, and my elbow itched! I thought there would(90)
a scab follow.
CONRADE:
I will owe thee an answer for that; and now forward
with thy tale.
BORACHIO:
Stand thee close then under this penthouse, for it
drizzles rain, and I will, like a true drunkard, utter all to(95)
thee.
SECOND WATCHMAN:
[Aside] Some treason, masters. Yet stand
close.
BORACHIO:
Therefore know I have earned of Don John a
thousand ducats.(100)
CONRADE:
Is it possible that any villainy should be so dear?
BORACHIO:
Thou shouldst rather ask if it were possible any
villainy should not be so rich; for when rich villains have need
of poor ones, poor ones may make what price they will.
CONRADE:
I wonder at it.(105)
BORACHIO:
That shows thou art unconfirmed. Thou knowest
that the fashion of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak, is
nothing to a man.
CONRADE:
Yes, it is apparel.
BORACHIO:
I mean the fashion.(110)
CONRADE:
es, the fashion is the fashion.
BORACHIO:
Tush, I may as well say the fool's the fool. But seest
thou not what a deformed thief this fashion is?
FIRST WATCHMAN:,
[Aside] I know that Deformed. He has been
a vile thief this seven year. He goes up and down like a(115)
gentleman. I remember his name.
BORACHIO:
Didst thou not hear somebody?
CONRADE:
No, 'twas the vane on the house.
BORACHIO:
Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this
fashion is, how giddily he turns about all the hot bloods(120)
between fourteen and five-and-thirty, sometimes fashioning
them like Pharaoh's soldiers in the reechy painting,
sometimes like god Bel's priests in the old church window,
sometimes like the shaven Hercules in the
smirched worm-eaten tapestry, where his codpiece(125)
seems as massy as his club?
CONRADE:
All this I see; and I see that the fashion wears out
more apparel than the man. But art not thou thyself giddy
with the fashion too, that thou hast shifted out of thy tale
into telling me of the fashion?(130)
BORACHIO:
Not so neither. But know that I have to-night
wooed Margaret, the Lady Hero's gentlewoman, by the
name of Hero. She leans me out at her mistress' chamber
window, bids me a thousand times good night—I tell this
tale vilely; I should first tell thee how the prince, Claudio(135)
and my master, planted and placed and possessed by my
master Don John, saw afar off in the orchard this amiable
encounter.
CONRADE:
And thought they Margaret was Hero?
BORACHIO:
Two of them did, the prince and Claudio; but the(140)
devil my master knew she was Margaret; and partly by his
oaths, which first possessed them, partly by the dark
night, which did deceive them, but chiefly by my villainy,
which did confirm any slander that Don John had made,
away went Claudio enraged; swore he would meet her, as(145)
he was appointed, next morning at the temple, and there,
before the whole congregation, shame her with what he
saw o'ernight and send her home again without a husband.
FIRST WATCHMAN:
We charge you in the prince's name stand!
SECOND WATCHMAN:
Call up the right master constable. We have(150)
here recovered the most dangerous piece of lechery that ever
was known in the commonwealth.
FIRST WATCHMAN:
And one Deformed is one of them. I know
him; a' wears a lock.
CONRADE:
Masters, masters—(155)
SECOND WATCHMAN:
You'll be made bring Deformed forth, I
warrant you.
CONRADE:
Masters—
SECOND WATCHMAN:
Never speak; we charge you, let us obey you
to go with us.(160)
BORACHIO:
We are like to prove a goodly commodity, being taken
up of these men's bills.
CONRADE:
A commodity in question, I warrant you. Come, we'll
obey you.

Exeunt.

Footnotes

  1. Borachio comments that clothing has the capacity to conceal one’s true identity, and thus, clothing symbolizes disguise and deceit. When Borachio reflects on “how giddily [fashion] turns about” he talks about the capriciousness of fashion; people discard of clothing not when it is worn out, but when it is no longer fashionable. Since Borachio has just confessed to his part in Don John’s plot, clothing here becomes a symbol of the fleeting and fickle nature of love. Characters fall in and out of love as quickly as they change their appearances.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  2. “The Tudor Myth,” a representation of fifteenth century England as an age of darkness and bloodshed, was a literary tradition that began in the sixteenth century . Part of this myth depicted Richard III as a horrible villain, and since his back was deformed, physical deformity became associated with an evil temperament. This association extended into literature and plays, including Shakespeare’s. Here, Shakespeare connects physical deformity with villainy.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  3. “Pitch” is a sticky, dark substance, that is retrieved as residue from the distillation of wood tar. Dogberry says that those who stick their hands in pitch inevitably get their hands dirty. In other words, if you try to catch a criminal you will be worse off than if you just let him be on his way.

    — Kayla, Owl Eyes Staff
  4. That is, we are likely to be a valuable prisoners after having been caught by these men's [either, their arrest warrants or their hooked pikes]

    — Stephen Holliday
  5. The Watchman, clearly still excited, comes out with a confusing order: he means *we order you to *obey us and come with us.

    — Stephen Holliday
  6. The Watchman refers to Dogberry with a very exalted title in the excitement of this arrest.

    — Stephen Holliday
  7. That is, more clothes are thrown away because of being out-of-fashion than because they are worn out.

    — Stephen Holliday
  8. This reference has not been identified.  In Greek mythology, there is no image or story involving a shaven Hercules.  It is possible that Shakespeare refers to Samson (whose strength was the result of his long hair, which was shaven on the orders of Delilah) of the story of Samson and Delilah, but that is a stretch.

    — Stephen Holliday
  9. That is, don't you realize how deceiving fashion is? (because it disguises the true form of a person)

    — Stephen Holliday
  10. That is, clothes are not fashionable to a man--they are just clothes.

    — Stephen Holliday
  11. a scoundrel, villain, or someone with scurvy (a tropical disease)

    — Stephen Holliday
  12. In other words, the nurse is like a ewe who can't hear her own lamb bleating: if the nurse can't hear her child crying, don't bother with her--let the child's crying wake her up.  This is just another way the night watch manages to do its job by doing nothing.

    — Stephen Holliday
  13. Dogberry, of course, has completely subverted the goals of the night watch: their job is to let the guilty go but catch the innocent who pose no threat.

    — Stephen Holliday
  14. Another funny line--the watchman is saying, we know we're supposed to sleep while on watch.

    — Stephen Holliday
  15. The word allegiance in this line is often thought to be some kind of *malapropism *(mis-speaking) due to Dogberry's constant mis-use of words, but if we change *if *to *except or unless, *the word *allegiance *makes sense.

    — Stephen Holliday
  16. The joke here is based on the night watch's lack of logic: they conclude that if someone ignores them, that person must not be one of the Prince's subjects and therefore not subject to the night watch's jurisdiction, a good way to avoid any unpleasantness such as an arrest.

    — Stephen Holliday
  17. The humor here is that if the night watch challenges someone who then ignores their challenge, they simply let that person go.  The night watch is almost useless, but they do provide comic relief at an otherwise tense part of the play.

    — Stephen Holliday
  18. Dogberry is saying sarcastically, "for favoring us with your presence."

    — Stephen Holliday
  19. Dogberry most likely means that the ability to read and write is from nature.

    — Stephen Holliday
  20. With these names, Shakespeare emphasizes the contrast between the upper classes and the lower classes, represented by Dogberry, Oatcake and Seacoal.

    — Stephen Holliday