Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Ruddigore

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

Act I

Engender [A life-love can engender]

To cause to exist, to create.

Nuptial knot


Spoke [I have-- so to speak -- spoke her]

When Dick says he "spoke" Rose, he is using good nautical parlance to say he has communicated with her (92, 250).

Skulk [don't skulk under false colours]

To lurk out of sight in a furtive way.

Oil [and much corn and oil]

This refers to vegetable (probably olive) oil. Stedman (274) reminds us that "corn and oil" is a Biblical reference to agricultural wealth. There are literally dozens of references to oil in the Good Book. The First Book of Kings, for example, relates how Solomon gave Hiram corn and oil in exchange for cedars from Lebanon. (And keep in mind that Rose Maybud is addicted to expressing herself in the King James vernacular.)

Strong waters [he drinketh strong waters which do bemuse a man]

A euphemism for alcoholic beverages.



Wild beasts of the desert

I have heard doubts expressed that any wild beasts could live in a desert. But here's an authentic list: antelopes, elephants, gemsboks, giraffes, lions, suricates, and zebras (30).

Lothario [a regular out-and-out Lothario]
Sketch of Little prone to lead serious and thoughtful lives

A charming seducer and deceiver. The name is derived from a character in Nicholas Rowe's tragic play The Fair Penitent (1703).

Dead-eye [a better hand at turning-in a dead-eye]
Sketch of a Deadeye

A dead-eye is a round block of wood with, usually, three holes drilled through the flat face. They are used in pairs as a crude block-and-tackle to apply tension to the shrouds of a mast. For a picture see HMS Pinafore. "Turning-in" refers to the art of wrapping a rope around the dead-eye and binding it with lighter cord. Fortunately, the plot line is in no way dependent upon your understanding all this esoteric nautical lore. Read on.

Settle [You mean to settle all you've got]

Prestige (245) explains: "This refers to a marriage settlement, wherein the husband will give his wife a life interest in his property when she becomes a widow."

Tack [Hearts often tack]

Change direction. To tack means to zigzag upwind. See entry for "Bowline", also in Ruddigore.

Strain [its latest strain]

You may interpret this as "its latest order."

Cot [Cheerily carols the lark over the cot]




Bowers [he wanders through its bowers]

Arbors or shady recesses.


Straying from moral rectitude.

Cytherean [Cytherean posies]

Pronunciation: sith-er-EE-en

Related to Cythera, the ancient name for the Greek island of Cerigo, famous for a temple of Aphrodite (Venus). Thus Cytherean posies are flowers gathered to advance an affair of the heart.

Fisht! [But that's all gone. Fisht!]

An otherwise meaningless word but said in a sibilant way expressive of rapid motion, like w h o o s h! (257).

Italian glance [He gave me an Italian glance -- thus]
Sketch of An Italian glance

Halton (147) claims the "expression originated in the person of Machiavelli, an Italian, noted for being unscrupulous, crafty and cynical." Stedman (273) says that a character in Mrs Radcliffe's novel The Italian sparked a line of Gothic villains with mesmeric eyes. This became a stock character in Gilbert's time. Indeed, he used it in at least two of his plays. Wilson (320) proposes "a suggestive, melodramatic look." Hyder (161) believes "it refers to an emotional, melodramatic, mesmeric, and even romantic look." Kesilman (174) and Knight (177) hold similar views. Asimov (11) supposes it to be a romantic look. The old D'Oyly Carte Opera troupe underscored the term with a dramatic flourish, holding cape in front of face with one arm and pointing melodramatically with the other. The term glance implies a fleeting look, but that need not be taken too literally. In truth, of course, Margaret tends to babble incoherently, so directors are free to interpret the expression any way they choose, and so are you.

Land-agent [I would treat you as the auctioneer and land-agent treated the lady-bird]

A person retained by a landowner to manage an estate, collect rents, and so forth. (257).


The little beetle Americans call a ladybug. Are these lines intended to make sense? I doubt it. So does Asimov (11). Kravetz (181) believes Gilbert is parodying Ophelia's lines in Hamlet.

Commissioner [Come to a Commissioner and let me have it on affidavit]

Evans (111) explains that a Commissioner is a solicitor "especially empowered by the Lord Chancellor to administer an oath to an affidavit." Goodman (142) adds that court officers and notary publics can also fulfill the function. The full title is Commissioner of Oaths.


A written statement signed under oath.

Bucks and Blades

One definition of a buck is "a man of spirit or gaiety of conduct." As for a blade, well he is "a roysterer; a gallant; a sharp keen fellow; a free and easy, good fellow. (Probably from BLADE, a sword, a soldier … )" (115).

Gentry [Welcome, gentry]

Men of respectable families and good breeding. In its broadest sense the term applies to ladies as well as gentlemen.

Sated [With flattery sated]

Filled to capacity, stuffed to saturation,

Intramural [From charms intramural!]

Indoors, or within city walls. "Charms intramural," then, would refer to the enticements of refined city ladies, as distinct from the unsophisticated attractions of the young country women of Rederring.

Elysian [Is simply Elysian]

Pertaining to the part of the classical Greek underworld reserved for the blessed (66).

Amaryllis [Come, Amaryllis, come, Chloe and Phyllis]

Amaryllis is a classical name for a rustic sweetheart.