Much Ado About Nothing: A Verse Translation
Beatrice and Benedick
To win her heart, he must do one thing...
Beatrice, Benedick, and Dogberrry—those nonstop talkers—do not have much time for the niceties of blank verse, but they are certainly among the funniest of Shakespeare’s characters. In a play that is only about 30% verse, Shakespeare lets the comic banter rule the day as Beatrice and Benedick stumble toward love and Dogberry, the intrepid constable, trips over his words on the way to getting his man.
Kent Richmond’s translation of Much Ado About Nothing captures both the tight verbal sparring and the more poetic moments. This line-by-line translation respects the complexity of Shakespeare’s language yet removes just enough of the archaic language to make the play more accessible to modern readers. Jokes and wordplay are gently reworked to be more meaningful for today's audiences without undercutting the themes of the play.
Readers will experience this comic exploration of male suspicion and its consequences with the challenge, comprehension, and delight of audiences 400 years ago—the way Shakespeare intended. [read an excerpt]
Number of Unique Words
Shakespeare's original: 2,907
Richmond's translation: 3,269
from Act 4 Scene 1
How is the lady?
Dead, I think.—Help, uncle!
Hero! Why, Hero! Uncle! Signior Benedick!—Friar!
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O Fate, don’t take away your heavy hand!
Death is the fairest way to cloak her shame
That could be wished for.
What’s wrong, cousin Hero? [Hero moves]
[to Hero] Rest quietly, lady.
[to Hero] You look to heaven?
Yes, why shouldn’t she?
Why shouldn’t she? When every earthly thing
Cries out her shame? Oh, could she now deny
The story that is printed in her cheeks?
Do not live, Hero. Don’t open up your eyes.
For if I thought you would not quickly die,
And thought your spirit stronger than your shame,
I would, hot on the heels of their rebukes,
Strike at your life. Did I grieve at just one?
Did I find fault in nature’s frugal plan?
With you one is too much! Why even one?
Why were you ever lovely in my eyes?
Why didn’t these benevolent hands take in
A beggar’s infant left outside my gates?
If it were soiled and mired in infamy
I then could say, “No part of it is mine;
This shame has drawn itself from unknown loins.”
But mine that I have loved, and mine I’ve praised,
And mine whom I was proud of; mine so much,
That I myself have lost myself to mine,
To one so prized. Why she—Oh, she has fallen
Into a pit of ink, and no vast sea
Has drops enough to wash her clean again,
Nor salt enough to disinfect her foul
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And tainted flesh!
Sir, sir, you must be calm.
For my part, I am wrapped in such amazement,
I don’t know what to say.
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Benedick and Beatrice
"Too often, unless we read a Shakespeare play beforehand, we process the language as if it were coming from a poorly tuned-in radio station. Shakespeare didn’t write his plays to be experienced impressionistically as ‘poetry;’ he assumed his language was readily comprehensible. At what point does a stage of a language become so different from the modern one as to make translation necessary? Mr. Richmond is brave enough to assert that, for Shakespeare, that time has come. The French have Moliere, the Russians have Chekhov—and now, we can truly say that we have our Shakespeare.”
—John McWhorter, Manhattan Institute
Beatrice Eavedrops in the Garden
Dogberry and the Watch