Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Grand Duke

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Act I

Square the press

Bribe some critics to write favorable reviews.

Hoydens [F claims all hoydens]

Boisterous, ill-bred, rude girls (229). The deplorable sort who prefer rock concerts to G&S productions.

Wheelers [wheelers and leaders]

Those horses in a large team that are hitched just ahead of the carriage.


In a large team of horses, those at the front.

Fin [with a wave of his fin]

Slang for “the arm” or “the hand” (115).

Ireland [All Europe––with Ireland thrown in!]

I suppose this is a reflection on the rather bitter tensions between Ireland and England. It also reflects the typical Englishman’s tendency to look upon his nation as being quite distinct from Europe. You may recall the British newspaper’s headline: FOG BLANKETS CHANNEL: CONTINENT ISOLATED.

Troilus of Troy

The tragic hero of Shakespeare’s play Troilus and Cressida, based on a narrative poem by Chaucer, which was in turn based on Homeric lore. Troilus was the son of Priam, king of Troy. His lover, Cressida, was unfaithful to him and Troilus was slain in trying to take revenge on his rival, a Greek.

Throwing it up [there’s no throwing it up]

Slang for “resigning” (115).

Gerolstein [It’s a very good part in Gerolstein]

Pronunciation: GAIR-ohl-sh’tyne

This is a sly reference to Offenbach’s 1867 comic opera The Grand Duchess of Gerolstein (which actually opened more than a century after the specified time of The Grand Duke; but let it pass). Gerolstein is in fact a German health resort in the Rhineland “with a romantic ruined castle” (48).

[Note: Anyone playing the role of Julia should remember that all her lines are to be delivered in a strong foreign accent. As conventionally directed, the accent is German. Hyder (161) argues that a Hungarian accent would be more appealing and would accord with that of Ilka von Palmay, who created the role.]

Rancour [All rancour in my heart]

Deep malignity or spite (75).

Witch [I’d witch and woo]

Bewitch: to enchant with witchcraft (229).

Turtle [Like turtle, her first love confessing]

Turtledove. The “turtle” is derived from the Latin turtur, which Shipley (266) says is echoic of the dove’s cooing call. See also The Yeomen of the Guard and Utopia, Limited.

Mock [That it was “mock,” no mortal would be guessing]

This, of course, is a pun on mock turtle soup –– which is made of calf’s head, or other veal, and flavored to imitate real turtle soup. (Maybe you were better off not knowing.)

Jade [the forward jade]

A term of contempt for a woman (115).

Vernal [aglow with beauty vernal]

Spring-like, youthful.

Diurnal [with joy diurnal]


Histrionic [My histrionic art]

The word has two meanings, both of which would apply: (1) pertaining to actors and acting, and (2) insincere.


This is the name of a skin disease. Asimov (11) extends that to an itching that drives one to distraction. I think it more likely that it is just Gilbert’s made-up word meaning all atwitter.

Agitato [What means this agitato?]

An Italian musical term for something agitated, hurried, or restless.

Eat [A sausage-roll I took and eat]

Pronunciation: Rhymes with yet.

He means he ate it. Stedman (274) points out that in Gilbert’s day that was a common pronunciation.