Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Gondoliers

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Act I

Stipulated for a trifle on account

They wanted a down payment.

Band [And the band who were to have had the honour of escorting us?]

Our English friends call a small orchestra a band, but the duke probably had a military band in mind, with plenty of brass and percussive complement.


Pronunciation: core-nay tah pees-TONE

This is just a fancy way of referring to a cornet, the poor man’s trumpet.

Graziers [We are not a parcel of graziers]

Herdsmen. Or should we say herdspersons?

Count [Count Matadoro]

On the European continent a rank of nobility about equal to an English earl.


Mock-Spanish for “matador,” the fellow who finally finishes off the bull in a bullfight. Olé!

Baron [Baron Picadoro]

A relatively low ranking member of the nobility.


Mock-Spanish for “picador,” the mounted man who torments the bull with little lances.

Prattling [a prattling babe

Uttering unintelligible (except to grandparents) sounds.

Married by proxy

With someone else acting on your behalf (because you aren’t even there).

Wesleyan Methodist
Sketch of a Wesleyan Methodist of the most bigoted & persecuting type

A member of the Protestant denomination founded by John Wesley shortly before the time of the opera, which Gilbert gives as 1750. For further commentary see Knight (178).

Fortnight [a fortnight since]

Two-week period.

Straitened [straitened circumstances]

Financially embarrassed. Broke.

Limited [a Company, to be called the Duke of Plaza-Toro, Limited]

A limited company is equivalent to an American corporation in that the shareholders cannot lose more than their investments if the enterprise fails. See also Utopia, Limited.

Work [a Company … is in course of formation to work me]

To exploit, as one “works” a gold mine.

Allotment [I shall myself join the Board after allotment]

When a limited company is newly formed, it issues a sales brochure, or prospectus, and invites investors to apply. When the applications are all in hand, the company allots shares to the various investors. As for the duke not joining the board until after allotment, Walmisley (299) explains that the duke was the principal salesman for the shares, and it was the custom for such salesmen and the company to maintain a semblance of independence until after the initial sale of shares.

Liquidation [in process of liquidation]

When a company is liquidated its physical assets are sold and it closes its doors. The process, called “liquidation,” is usually associated with bankruptcy and that is the implication here.

Wind him up [If your father should stop, it will, of course, be necessary to wind him up]

The expression has double meaning. When a company goes out of business it is “wound up” in the sense of winding up its affairs. The duchess also means that the duke will be wound up again like a mechanical toy. This reflects Gilbert’s complaint about limited companies: the entrepreneurs could sell stock to trusting investors, mismanage a company into bankruptcy, then step aside –– without any personal financial loss –– and start a new enterprise. Gilbert’s views on this practice are all too well aired in Utopia Limited.

Martial [In enterprise of martial kind]



The term dates back to Charlemagne’s twelve heroic peers, typified by the gallant Roland. The word itself is derived from the Latin palatinus, an imperial functionary (250). The Duke of Plaza-Toro’s deficient personal characteristics are of course in marked contrast to those of the chivalrous knights of legendary fame.

Grosser clay

“Clay” refers to one’s body, as distinct from one’s soul. A person of grosser clay is simply one of less noble blood.

Tether [May join in temporary tether]

A means of keeping together.

Feigning [a course of feigning]

Pronunciation: FAYning


Arraign [So much the bitterer their arraign]

This is from a second verse of Luiz and Casilda’s duet used on opening night (3), but since cut. The term is short for “arraignment” and can be taken to mean the threat of punishment.


This is explained under the entry “Grand Inquisitor” above.

Retrospectively [to act retrospectively]

In the past.

Thrall [Each in the other’s thrall]

Literally, serfdom. Let us interpret it as their being completely devoted to one another.


Funeral music, from the Latin Requiem aeternam dona eis (Grant them, O Lord, eternal rest).

Abstracted [so thoughtfully abstracted]
Sketch of Abstracted

Separated. (The Grand Inquisitor shortly applies the less euphemistic “stole” to his action.)


Slender and elegant. The term is of Scottish origin (229).