Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for Ruddigore

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

Act II


A vile, unprincipled wretch. Someone who borrows this book and never returns it.

Lower [When the tempest 'gan to lower]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with sour.



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 The Yeomen of the Guard.

Mickle [But his gallantries were mickle]

This is an archaic term that suffers under the burden of meaning much (or many) in some instances, and small (or few) in others. The OED (229), Samuel Johnson (165), and then-contemporary dictionaries (77, 250, 290) all focus on the former meaning alone. Nevertheless, in current usage the second meaning seems more likely to apply. That is presumably Gilbert's intent here (48, 294). See The Yeomen of the Guard for another example of the same interpretation.


A crescent-shaped reaping blade with a short handle. Gilbert really means a scythe, which is akin to a sickle but is bigger and swinging requires two arms rather than one. The scythe is the traditional implement shown in pictures of the Grim Reaper.

Tantamount [tantamount to suicide]

Equivalent in significance, i.e., "amounts to."

[Note on final entries in Ruddigore]

The final entries are found in some, but not all, versions of the libretto.

Mousie in the fable

Knight (177) explains that this refers to one of Aesop's fables. In it a mouse disturbed a sleeping lion. The lion was about to eat the mouse but laughed and let him go when the mouse offered to aid him in the future. Later, when the lion was captured and bound up, the mouse gnawed the ropes and freed him.

Pipe … eye [why I do not pipe my eye]

Cry (54, 115, 229, 250). You can imagine fitting one's eyes with pipes to bring in a goodly supply of tears. See also Iolanthe.

Bread and cheese and kisses

An early edition of Brewer (56) defines this as a bachelor's fare. That seems an unsatisfactory definition within the context of Dick Dauntless saying: "… with Zorah for my missis, there'll be bread and cheese and kisses …" A later edition of Brewer (54) defines "Bread and cheese" as the barest necessities of life. So let's say Dick is aware he'll never be rich, but he and Zorah will nevertheless live happily ever after.