“Mock not, mock not”: Shakespeare’s curious nod to July 6




Don Pedro: Well, you temporize with the hours. In the meantime, good Signior Benedick, repair to Leonato’s: commend me to him and tell him I will not fail him at supper; for indeed he hath made great preparation.

Clare Asquith

She solved the riddle.

Benedick:  I have almost matter enough in me for such an embassage; and so I commit you—

Claudio:  To the tuition of God: From my house, if I had it,—

Don Pedro:  The sixth of July: Your loving friend, Benedick.

Benedick:  Nay, mock not, mock not. The body of your discourse is sometime guarded with fragments, and the guards are but slightly basted on neither: ere you flout old ends any further, examine your conscience: and so I leave you.

I know of no one who has been able to explain these curious lines from Act 1, Scene 1 of William Shakespeare‘s Much Ado About Nothing better than Clare Asquith in her controversial book Shadowplay, which I reviewed years ago for the Washington Post.  Not even my comprehensive Riverside Shakespeare provides a gloss on the line. While I found some of her interpretations extreme (read more about them and Asquith’s book in The Guardian here), this one seemed spot on.

July 6 marks the anniversary of the execution of Sir Thomas More, an occasion that was remembered in England long after Harry the Eighth was buried. Yes, yes, I know about Hilary Mantel and what she said. Still, his contemporaries and near-contemporaries had a different view:  John Donne called him “a man of the most tender and delicate conscience that the world saw since Augustine.” Jonathan Swift referred to him as “the person of the greatest virtue these islands ever produced.” And if the play Sir Thomas More is to be considered as the Bard’s handiwork, Shakespeare himself called him “the best friend the poor ever had.”

Famous film about him below:

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