“We’ll Have Dancing Afterward.”

So says Leonato at the end of Much Ado About Nothing, which I finished reading today. I found a shelf of The Yale Shakespeare here in the town library, and decided to read one new to me every month during this year. And except for December, when I was out of town for almost half the month, I did just that.

I read Julius Caesar (October), The Merchant of Venice (November), All’s Well that Ends Well (to start off 2006), The Comedy of Errors (February), The Merry Wives of Windsor (March), The Two Gentlemen of Verona (April), and now Much Ado.

All of which had quite a cast of characters, including Pinch the schoolmaster, Speed the clownish servant, two other servants named Simple and Rugby, the country justice Shallow, Shallow’s cousin Slender, a girl named Hero, and the constable Dogberry.

Surely some of Shakespeare’s greatest lines are these, from Act Four, Scene One of All’s Well

Second Lord: Throca movousus, cargo, cargo, cargo.
All: Cargo, cargo, cargo, villiando par corbo, cargo…
First Soldier: Boskos thromuldo boskos…
Second French Lord: Oscorbidulchos volivorco.

* * *

Much Ado includes a great joke in Act Three, Scene Three when Borachio is trying to find Conrade. “Here man, I am at thy elbow,” Conrade tells him, and Borachio says, “Mass, and my elbow itched; I thought there would a scab follow.”

What a guy. (Even though he’s an old dead white man.) An amazing writer, who (to coin a phrase) certainly knew how to coin a phrase.

Most women, for example, might say, “I hope my boyfriend doesn’t get shot.” Helena, in Act Three, Scene Two of All’s Well, puts it this way (talking to the bullets): “O you leaden messengers, that ride upon the violent speed of fire, fly with false aim; move the still-peering air, that sings with piercing; do not touch my lord.”

To paraphrase another (more modern) bard: “Can’t touch that.”

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