Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Yeomen of the Guard

Click a term to expand the definition; Search for a term; Select other Opera Chapters; Go to the Lexicon menu for introductory and afterword content..

Enter part of a term; e.g., "gill" for Gillow's.

Act I

Heighdy [Heighdy! Misery me, lackadaydee!]

Pronunciation: HAY-dee

Heighdy is presumably a variation on heigh-ho, implying weariness (75). Bushland (64) says it is “an attempt to spell what a sigh sounds like.”

Misery me

Simply means the singer is feeling miserable.


Derived from lackadaisical, which Brewer (56) defines as “Affected, pensive, sentimental [or] artificially tender.” Bushland (64) observes that the root “alackaday” is a contraction of “alas the day.” See also Ruddigore.

Peerly [peerly proud]

An obsolete word meaning “in the manner of a peer or equal” (229). A peer would be a nobleman.

Ladye [for the love of a ladye]

Lady. Perhaps Gilbert spelled it this way to make sure you would pronounce it to rhyme with HAY-dee. Rees (254) says it is probably just an attempt to make it look early English. See also Ruddigore.


Ringing of a funeral bell.

Dirge [a doleful dirge]

Funeral music, from the Latin dirige, the first word of the prescribed service for the dead. See also Cox and Box.

Popinjay [It’s a song of a popinjay, bravely born]

Vain, empty-headed fop, decked out in ornamental finery (115). Not the sort you’ll find reading this book. The word is taken from the dummy bird formerly used in target practice (2). See also Princess Ida.

Bravely [bravely born]

Referring to brave in the sense of being noble.

Pother [What is this pother?]

Confusion, bustle, disturbance.

Strolling players

Small troupes of performers who rove the countryside seeking appreciative audiences willing to toss a few coins.

Interludes [playing brief interludes]

Among other possibilities: “any intermediate performance or entertainment, as between acts of a play” (158). These would presumably be comedies or farces (178). Are Jack and Elsie a t the Tower of London to keep the boorish bourgeoisie from becoming beastly bored between beheadings?

Bridget Maynard

Like Secretary Poltwhistle, Elsie’s mother never appears on stage. She is introduced to head off any inference that Elsie and Jack Point are traveling without benefit of chaperone. Furthermore, Elsie’s marrying for money to save her dying mother is a noble deed well suited to a Victorian heroine (64).


“A medicine compounded with honey, syrup, or conserves to disguise the taste” (75). Brewer (54) says it comes from a Greek word meaning to lick up, and applies to any sweetened medicine.

Out of place [like some of my jests, out of place]

Inappropriate. A second meaning is unemployed –– as Jack Point happens to be at the moment.

Marry [Marry, sir, I have a pretty wit]
Sketch of A pretty wit!

Indeed, or why, to be sure. Stedman (273) notes that the word is an abbreviated derivative of an oath involving the Virgin Mary, and is often thrown in to add gentle emphasis.

Extempore [I can rhyme you extempore]

Without previous thought or preparation.


“A riddle, the answer to which involves a pun or play on words” (250). See also Thespis.


Bitter, scornful, mocking, and so forth.


A sneering comment.