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The story is taken from Ariosto, Orl. Fur. b. v. Pope.
It is true, as Mr. Pope has observed, that somewhat resembling the story of this play is to be found in the fifth book of the Orlando Furioso. In Spenser's Fairy Queen, b. ii. c. iv. as remote an original may be traced. A novel, however, of Belleforest, copied from another of Bandello, seems to have furnished Shakspeare with his fable, as it approaches nearer in all its particulars to the play before us, than any other performance known to be extant. I have seen so many versions from this once popular collection, that I entertain no doubt but that a great majority of the tales it comprehends have made their appearance in an English dress. Of that particular story which I have just mentioned, viz. the 18th history in the third volume, no translation has hitherto been met with. This play was entered at Stationers' Hall, Aug. 23, 1600.
STEEVENS. Ariosto is continually quoted for the fable of Much Ado about Nothing, but I suspect our poet to have been satisfied with the Geneura of Turberville. “ The tale (says Harington) is a pretie comical matter, and hath bin written in English verse some few years past, learnedly and with good grace, though in verse of another kind, by M. George Turbervil.” Ariosto, fol. 1591, p. 39.
FARMER. I suppose this comedy to have been written in 1600, in which year it was printed. See An Attempt to ascertain the Order of Shakspeare's Plays. Malone.
Don PEDRO, Prince of Arragon.
wise of Don Pedro.
Followers of Don John.
Two foolish Officers.
HERO, Daughter to Leonato.
Gentlewomen attending on Hero.