Act III, Scene 3 Summary and Analysis
New Characters: Dogberry: illiterate master constable, whose love of high--faluting words is only matched by his misuse of them, he exposes the slanderous deception, thereby saving Hero
Verges: headborough, or parish constable, Dogberry's elderly companion
First Watchman and Second Watchman (George Seacoal):
Dogberry's assistant, who providentially overhear Borachio describe the details of the deception perpetrated upon Hero
The scene takes place at night, on the street, to the side of the door of Leonato's house. Master Constable Dogberry, bearing a lantern, and his elder compartner, Verges, arrive with the watch. Dogberry gives them their charge, specifically instructing them to watch about Leonato's door because of the preparations for the marriage. Borachio staggers forth from Leonato's, followed by Conrade, into the drizzling rain. The watch overhear Borachio, his tongue liquor-loose, boast that he earned a thousand ducats for his villainy from Don John. Borachio then discourses upon fashion, calling it a deformed thief. Then he details how he wooed Margaret, by the name of Hero, while being observed by Don John, Don Pedro, and Claudio from the orchard and how, believing the deceit, Claudio vowed to shame Hero at the wedding before the congregation the next day. The watch immediately takes them into custody.
The tragic apprehensions stirred by the last scene are quickly relieved as Shakespeare introduces his broadly comic auxiliary plot in the person of the initimable Master Constable Dogberry, which brings a common touch to a play peopled with aristocrats. The scene is impeccably timed for the process of discovery and the direction of our dramatic responses and Dogberry's world of language parodies the syntactic landscapes of the other characters in the play and, as he says, "present[s] the Prince's own person."
As this prose scene opens, Dogberry instructs the watch with the zaniest misuse of language imaginable-"This is your charge: you shall comprehend all vagrom men," "[y]ou are thought here to be the most senseless and fit man for the constable of the watch," "for the watch to babble and talk is most tolerable and not to be endured," and "[b]e vitigant," all of which translates into normal police procedure-challenge suspicious characters, make no noise, send drunks home, don't strike too quickly and "let [a thief] show himself what he is and steal out of your company."
Dogberry is the name of a shrub that sprang up in every county of England, a commentary on the constabulatory of Shakespeare's day. The names Oatcake and Seacoal suggest that the men were dealers in these commodities and trained to read and write. The name Borachio is derived from a Spanish word meaning drunkard.
Seacoal follows Dogberry's instructions precisely and directs the watch to stand close as Borachio, "like a true drunkard, utter[s] all," which Shakespeare emphasizes by giving him plenty of sibilants to slur. Borachio brings the clothes imagery, sustained throughout the play, to a climactic point with his seemingly tangential discourse on fashion (116-42):
Borachio: Thou knowest that the fashions of a doublet, or a hat, or a cloak is nothing to a man.
Conrade: Yes, it is apparel.
Borachio: Tush, I may as well say the fool's the fool. But seest thou not what a deformed thief this fashion is .... Seest thou not, I say, what a deformed thief this fashion is, how giddily 'a turns about all the hot bloods between fourteen and five and thirty, sometimes fashioning them like Pharaoh's soldiers in the reechy painting, sometime like god Bel's priests in the old church window, sometime like the shaven Hercules in the smirched worm--eaten tapestry, where his codpiece seems as massy as his club?
Conrade: All this I see and I see... that thou hast shifted out of thy tale into telling me of the fashion?
Borachio: Not so either.
He finally gets to the meat of his story. Borachio, architect of this hoax, now repeatedly calls Don John his "master," claiming...
(The entire section is 1,035 words.)