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

Filly [happy the filly]

A young female horse.

Pound [A pound to a penny]

Refers to the unit of British currency, the pound sterling. A pound in those days was worth 240 pennies (pence). Thus Rose and Richard are implying that lovers, when embracing, are 240 times happier than anyone (or anything) else in the world.


A favor granted. See also The Yeomen of the Guard, Utopia, Limited, and Cox and Box.

Man of descent

Someone of noble, or at least notable, family.

Lea [that bloom on the lea]


Deed [Who's signing a deed]

A legal document. "The reference here is to a mortgage deed, or deed of assignment, signed by a debtor in favour of a creditor" (245).

Act II

Act II Scene

[The next two entries are from Gilbert's description of the scene.]

James I [from the time of James I]

His name is familiar to us as the royal sponsor of the best known version of the Bible. He was the only child of Mary Stuart and reigned as king of Scotland (as James VI) from 1567 until his death in 1625. In 1603, upon the death of Elizabeth I, he took the English throne as well. He was once aptly described as "the wisest fool in Christendom." He was one of the targets of the Gunpowder Plot, with which the name of Guy Fawkes is closely tied.

Roué [Sir Ruthven, wearing the haggard aspect of a guilty roué]

A dissolute person. (Some texts substitute "Robin" for "Sir Ruthven.")

Elision [With greater precision -- without the elision]

This could be described as the telescoped version of a word, i.e., shortened by omitting one or more syllables. Thus, Ruthven becomes "Rivven." But, perhaps it would be good to repeat the entire stanza

I once was as meek as a new-born lamb,
    I'm now Sir Murgatroyd -- ha! ha!
    With greater precision
    (Without the elision),
Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd -- ha! ha!

In only this one place the name Ruthven is pronounced as spelled rather than as "Rivven." Reference to "Sir Murgatroyd" is a grammatical error because to be correct the "Sir" should be prefixed to a nobleman's Christian (i.e., first) name, not his family name. Thus "With greater precision" means "more correctly." In short, he might have said, "To speak more correctly, I'll apply the 'Sir' to my first name, which in this one instance I'll pronounce exactly the way it's spelled."


Valet-de-chambre, i.e., personal servant. Only in comic operas do we find a pure and blameless peasant who can afford one of these.

Steward [As steward I'm now employed]

Estate manager.

Dickens [The dickens may take him]

A euphemism for the devil. Shakespeare used the word in The Merry Wives of Windsor (115).

Paramount [a … man's oath is paramount]

Of supreme importance.

Creep under my lee

Come under my protection.

Immure [would immure ye in an uncomfortable dungeon]

Imprison. Did you need to be told that the dungeon would be uncomfortable?

Union Jack

The national flag of the United Kingdom, comprising the superimposed crosses of St. George, St. Andrew, and St. Patrick. "Jack" has many meanings, one of which is a flag flown on a ship to show her nationality.

Solicitous [we're solicitous very]

Eager and concerned.


A slippery way of wiggling out of a difficult situation.

Cloying [from your cloying guiltiness]

Satiated, perhaps even disgustingly so.


A wretched coward. It may be derived from the French poltron or the Italian poltro, both meaning lazy (75).


Gilbert's creative word meaning a person who is squeamish, i.e., easily shocked or sickened.

Grisly [set on thee his grisly hand]

Gruesome, inspiring horror.

Hearsèd [Dead and hearsèd, all accursèd!]

Carried off in a hearse. This is from one of the first-night choruses no longer used (3).


A ghost or apparition.

Alas, poor ghost!

Here Robin, in speaking to his uncle's ghost, echoes a remark made by Hamlet to his father's ghost. Hyder (162) labels this "a bit of Gilbertian whimsy."

Chimney cowls

Hooded tops for chimneys.

Funeral shrouds

Winding sheets for corpses, and popular every-night attire for ghosts.

Footpads [when the footpads quail]

Robbers who travel the highways on foot. One meaning of "pad" is a highwayman, i.e., a highway robber (250).

Fen [the mists lie low on the fen]

Low marshy land or bog.