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Act III, Scene 3
This is a classic Shakespearean scene of low comedy. The two amusing characters, Constable Dogberry and his assistant Verges, are giving instructions to the watchmen to do 'nothing' at all for their duty. They are hapless, ineffectual, confusing men with no clear sense of purpose or direction-a characteristic that will come to be very significant later in the plot.
Borachio has performed his part in the dirty plot against Hero and Claudio by meeting his lover Margaret at Hero's window, and allowing Don Pedro and Claudio to mistake her for Hero. A dismayed and angry Claudio plans to insult Hero the next day by publicly shaming her. Don Pedro soothes him, and Don John acts as if he has had no part in the dirty deed
Borachio, in a drunken confession, relates the whole incident to his friend, Conrade, and boasts about the huge sum of money he was given in exchange for his part in this plot. One of Dogberry's watchmen overhears Borachio and, not realizing the full extent of the crime but suspecting foul play, takes him and Conrade into custody.
There is a wonderful mingling of humor and seriousness in this scene, as in the preceding one. Dogberry and Verges, stalwart comic characters in Shakespeare's play, haplessly play a role of great importance in the eventual outcome of the plot. Typical of Shakespeare's low comedy characters, Dogberry and Verges use malapropisms (wrong meanings of words with comic consequences). Some examples from the text are the use of salvation instead of damnation, and desertless for deserving. The fact that the speakers are unaware of their folly amuses the audience and confounds the plot even more.
Borachio's villainy is the serious aspect of this scene. The way he fools Don Pedro and Claudio shows how unethical he is, and his incessant boasting shows a total lack of remorse. True to his name Borachio is the drunken confessor who ultimately and inadvertently leads to the resolution of an otherwise possibly tragic plot twist. Again, as in Othello, Shakespeare shows how honest and gallant men play into the hands of unscrupulous elements. He also makes use of the constant and dangerous habit of observing without fully understanding ("noting", as it will later be called). The characters of this play seem to constantly be noting events and misinterpreting them with the worst possible consequences.