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

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

Act I

Sketch of the Headsman

The executioner, whose mode of operation is decapitation administered, if all goes well, with a short, sharp shock.


Imprisoned, walled in.

Double gratings [The double gratings open were]

Inner and outer metal gates to the cell.

Troth [by my troth]

Pronunciation: Can rhyme with either broth or both

Word of honor (archaic).

Forfeit [Thy life shall forfeit be instead!]

Given up as punishment.

Misbegotten [Who is the misbegotten knave]

Of illegitimate birth. We might term it “S.O.B.”


A dishonest person or villain.



Marks [A thousand marks to him]

A medieval English coin worth 13.33 shillings or two-thirds of a pound sterling (75). That reward would have amounted to more than six years of the lieutenant’s salary (319).

Act II

Pall [Night has spread her pall]
Sketch of Night has spread her pall once more

A black cloak or cover.

Yoke [has shaken off his yoke]

Figuratively: constraints or burdens.


A U-shaped metal link with a heavy pin closing the free ends, used for joining lengths of chain (75).

Fetter [fetter and chain]

Leg irons.

Hugh Ambrose [The Merrie Jestes of Hugh Ambrose]

Like Richard Colfax and Warren the preacher-poet, Hugh Ambrose is apparently a fictitious name.


One who gives official counsel. In this case perhaps a member of some civic governing body.


Hungry (an expression found in both Shakespeare and the Bible).

Mumming [Ah! ‘tis but melancholy mumming ]

Acting in a dumb show, usually wearing a mask.

Jerry [jerry-jailing]
Sketch of Jerry-jailing

“Jerry” is used as a prefix to denote poor workmanship or shoddy material (229). Although of uncertain origin, some think the word may come from Jericho, whose “walls came tumbling down” at the sound of Joshua’s trumpets (43, 54). Alternatively, Stone (284) thinks it more likely to derive from “jury mast,” a corruption of joury mast, being a spar used temporarily when the mast has been carried away. This is from the French jour, meaning a day. Thus something jerry-built is not intended to last.

Butt [a big butt of humour]

A cask or barrel.


A hand tool for boring small holes.