the Annotated Popular Edition of





by George Chapman



Featuring complete and easy-to-read annotations.

Annotations and notes © Copyright ElizabethanDrama.org, 2018
This annotated play may be freely copied and distributed.


Dramatis Personae:


Duke Alphonso.

The Gentleman Usher is George Chapman's crowning

     Prince Vincentio, his son.

comedy achievement. It features one very lusty duke,

     Medice, the duke's favourite.

an alcoholic noblewoman, a most vain usher, and a lot of

          A servant of Medice.

genuine laugh-out-loud dialogue. Though the play includes

much of Chapman's tell-tale obscurity, the comedic scenes

Strozza, a Lord.

are as entertaining today on the page as they must have

     Cynanche, wife of Strozza.

been on the stage four centuries ago.

     Poggio, his nephew.

          Ancilla, a servant.


Earl Lasso, an old Lord.

The text of the play is taken from Thomas Marc Parrott's

          Bassiolo, gentleman usher to Lasso.

1913 collection Chapman's Comedies, fully cited below.

          Fungus, a servant of Lasso.

     Cortezza, sister of Lasso.


     Margaret, daughter of Lasso.

     Mention of Parrott and Smith in the annotations refers

Benevemus, a doctor.

to the notes provided by each of these editors in their

Sarpego, a pedant.

respective editions of this play, each cited fully below.

Julio, a courtier.

     The most commonly cited sources are listed in the

footnotes immediately below. The complete list of footnotes

Attendants, servants, huntsmen,

appears at the end of this play.

guards, two pages, maids.

     1. Oxford English Dictionary (OED) online.

     2. Crystal, David and Ben. Shakespeare's Words.

Figures in the Masques:

London; New York: Penguin, 2002.

Enchanter, Spirits, Sylvanus,

     3. Parrott, Thomas Marc. Chapman's Comedies.

A Nymph, Broom-man, Rush-man,

London: George Routledge & Sons, 1914.

a man-bug, a woman-bug.

     5. Smith, John Hazel. The Gentleman Usher. Lincoln,

NE: U. of Nebraska Press, 1970.





Before the House of Strozza.

The Scene of the Play: an unspecified duchy in Italy.

Enter Strozza, Cynanche, and Poggio.

Entering characters: Cynanche is the wife of Lord Strozza, Poggio his nephew. Poggio is a well-meaning lad, but a mental feather-weight, who talks in excess, and much of what he says is nonsense and hilariously self-contradictory. His primary role is the bearer of bad news.


Stroz.  Haste, nephew; what, a sluggard? Fie, for shame!

= hurry up.  = common expression of disdain.


Shall he that was our morning cock, turn owl,

2: Strozza suggests that Poggio is not so much like the bird 

And lock out daylight from his drowsy eyes?

of the morning (cock), which is associated with leadership


or supremacy, as he is the bird of the night (owl), with its own connotations of drowsiness or stupidity.1,5
     Actually, the association of Poggio with an owl is even more significant: since ancient times, the screech of an owl was believed to be an omen of death or disaster: in Richard III, the king cries out, "Out on you, owls! nothing but songs of death?" (Act IV.iv). This ties in nicely with Poggio's primarily role in this play as the bearer of bad news.

Pog.  Pray pardon me for once, lord uncle, for I'll be


sworn I had such a dream this morning: methought one

= someone.

came with a commission to take a sorrel curtal that was

= a warrant or order.  = a horse with its tail cut short or off.


stolen from him, wheresoever he could find him. And

because I feared he would lay claim to my sorrel curtal


in my stable, I ran to the smith to have him set on his

= (re)attach.

mane again and his tail presently, that the commission-

= right away.  = ie. so that.


man might not think him a curtal. And when the smith

would not do it, I fell a-beating of him, so that I could


not wake for my life till I was revenged on him.


Cyn.  This is your old valour, nephew, that will fight

= courage.

sleeping as well as waking.


Pog.  'Slud, aunt, what if my dream had been true (as it

= a variation on 'Sblood; both are short for "God's blood",


might have been for anything I knew)! There's never a

     an oath or swear. Parliament around this time passed a

smith in Italy shall make an ass of me in my sleep, if I

     statute banning the explicit blasphemous use of God's


can choose.

     name on stage, so such implied blasphemies became the


Stroz.  Well said, my furious nephew; but I see

24ff: note that Strozza, a lord, speaks largely in verse, while
     his foolish nephew Poggio speaks mainly in prose.

You quite forget that we must rouse to-day

25-27: a hunt is planned on the estate of Earl Lasso; Duke
     Alphonso, the ruler of the duchy, will be the featured
     guest. Strozza will want his entire family to appear for
     the event.


The sharp-tusked boar; and blaze our huntsmanship

= show off.1

Before the Duke.


Pog.  Forget, lord uncle? I hope not; you think belike

= it appears.


my wits are as brittle as a beetle, or as skittish as your

= Poggio's prattle is difficult to make any sense of: he begins by misspeaking the common expression, "blind as a beetle"; brittle conveys the sense of "weak", or perhaps "unreliable",1 as he is responding to Strozza's suggestion that he might have forgotten the hunt.
     The word beetle could refer to the insect, with its concomitant brittleness, or to an old name for what is essentially a sledgehammer, and which was used as a byword for stupidity.1
     30-31: skittish...Barbary mare = skittish could mean "fickle" or "frivolous", but also could have its modern meaning as applied to a horse, hence Poggio's use of Barbary mare. The famous horses of Barbaria, or Northern Africa, were frequently mentioned in drama of the era.

Barbary mare; one cannot cry wehee, but straight she

31-32: one cannot…tehee = wehee is the whinny of a horse,


cries tehee.

     tehee the laugh of a person; Poggio has gotten the two
     terms reversed.3


Stroz.  Well guessed, cousin Hysteron Proteron!

= this is the name for the rhetorical device of connecting two ideas in such a way that the one that occurs last in time is named first, to signify its greater importance. Strozza is of course teasing Poggio's confusing the order of his onomatopoeic words.


Pog.  But which way will the Duke's Grace hunt to-day?

36: which way = the sense seems to be "where", though

Strozza responds to the directional sense of the phrase with Toward in line 38.
     the Duke's Grace = ie. the duke; "His Grace" or "Your Grace" would be  correct titles to use in discussing or addressing a duke.1


Stroz.  Toward Count Lasso's house his Grace will hunt,

Where he will visit his late honoured mistress.

= ie. Count Lasso's daughter Margaret, whom the duke is


      interested to marry;  late = most lately or recent.

Pog.  Who, Lady Margaret, that dear young dame? Will


his antiquity never leave his iniquity?

42: his antiquity may be a parody of His Grace, describing the duke as an old man; iniquity refers to sinful or injurious actions.1 Poggio is thus expressing disapproval for the old duke's desire to match with the young Margaret. Note that Iniquity was also an alternative name for Vice, a buffoonish character from the old morality plays, who was frequently alluded to in Elizabethan drama. Vice played the role of the tempter of humanity.


Cyn.  Why, how now, nephew? Turned Parnassus lately?

= ie. poet; Parnassus is a mountain in Greece, long considered a source of inspiration for literary and poetic accomplishment; hence, it stands for the world of poetry or literature in general.1


Pog.  “Nassus”? I know not; but I would I had all the

46: Nassus = nassus, or nasus, is "nose" in Latin; perhaps
     this is what Poggio thinks he heard Cynanche say; or he
     may have no idea what she is talking about.
          would = wish.

Duke's living for her sake; I'd make him a poor duke,

= wealth, income.  = ie. by spending all his money on





Stroz.  No doubt of that, if thou hadst all his living.


Pog.  I would not stand dreaming of the matter as I do



Cyn.  Why, how do you dream, nephew?


Pog.  Marry, all last night methought I was tying her

= a mild oath, derived from the Virgin Mary.




Stroz.  What, all night tying her shoe-string?


Pog.  Ay, that I was, and yet I tied it not neither; for,

as I was tying it, the string broke, methought, and


then, methought, having but one point at my hose,

= a tagged cord or ribbon used to attach hose to a doublet;

methought, I gave her that to tie her shoe withal.

     hose and doublet were the basic male garments of


     Elizabethan society: hose covered the bottom half of the
     body, including the legs, while a doublet was a close-
     fitting garment for the upper body.
         withal (line 65) = with.

Cyn.  A point of much kindness, I assure you.


Pog.  Whereupon, in the very nick, methought, the

= old form of "in the nick of time".1


Count came rushing in, and I ran rushing out, with my

heels about my hose for haste.

71: having given up his point for Margaret, Poggio's dream hose have fallen down around his ankles; but, confused again, Poggio has heels and hose backwards in this line.
     Note also the alliteration in this last line.


Stroz.  So, will you leave your dreaming, and dispatch?

= cease.  = hurry up,1 ie. get ready.


Pog.  Mum, not a word more, I'll go before, and

= "I'll leave first"; note the self-contradictory nature of the


overtake you presently.

     sentence. The reader should be prepared to pick up 

     Poggio's absurd conflicting assertions throughout the




Cyn.  My lord, I fancy not these hunting sports,

= Cynanche addresses Strozza, her husband.

When the bold game you follow turns again


And stares you in the face. Let me behold

A cast of falcons on their merry wings

83-84: a number of terms from falconry appear here: a cast = a pair; daring = frightening; to stoop = to swoop down on: hence, the stooped prey = the prey upon which the falcon is set to swoop down; shifting = ie. acting to avoid the hawk.1,3


Daring the stoopèd prey, that shifting flies;

Or let me view the fearful hare or hind,

85-87: Cynanche compares the baying of the hunting


Tossed like a music point with harmony

     hounds to musical harmony, in which the mixed
     barkings resemble the tossing around of a musical
     phrase or motif (a music point),1 as in a fugue.3 The
     baying accompanies the agitated (tossed)1 fleeing
     rabbit or deer (hind). Note the two senses of tossed

Of well-mouthed hounds. This is a sport for princes.

= the sense is likely "strong-voiced": a 19th century poem
     tells us that "well-mouthed hound makes the music of
     the woods."


The other rude; boars yield fit game for boors.

88: boars would have been pronounced like boors.


Stroz.  Thy timorous spirit blinds thy judgment, wife;

Those are most royal sports, that most approve

= test or demonstrate.


The huntsman's prowess and his hardy mind.


Cyn.  My lord, I know too well your virtuous spirit;

= courageous.

Take heed, for God's love, if you rouse the boar,


You come not near him, but discharge aloof

= from a distance1 (to remain safe).

Your wounding pistol, or well-aimèd dart.

= arrow.


Stroz.  Ay, marry, wife, this counsel rightly flows


Out of thy bosom; pray thee take less care;

= "please (pray thee), don't worry so much."

Let ladies at their tables judge of boars,

= ie. by judging their taste.


Lords in the field. And so farewell, sweet love;

Fail not to meet me at Earl Lasso's house.


Cyn.  Pray pardon me for that. You know I love not

= ie. "from having to attend the event at the earl's house."


These solemn meetings.

= formal, ceremonial.2


Stroz.                             You must needs for once

Constrain your disposition; and indeed


I would acquaint you more with Lady Margaret

For special reason.


Cyn.                     Very good, my lord.

= according to the OED, this is the earliest known written
     use of the phrase very good to indicate assent.


Then I must needs go fit me for that presence.

= "prepare myself".


Stroz.  I pray thee do, farewell!


[Exit Cynanche.]


Enter Vincentio.

Entering Character: Vincentio is the son and heir of Duke

     Alphonso, and a close friend of Strozza's.


                                           Here comes my friend. −

Good day, my lord! Why does your Grace confront

= since Vincentio is royalty - his father the duke is the ruler
     of his land - he may properly be addressed as your


So clear a morning with so cloudy looks?

= Vincentio is obviously unhappy.


Vinc.  Ask'st thou my griefs that know'st my desp'rate love

126-7: Vincentio, the duke's son, wants to marry Margaret,

Curbed by my father's stern riválity?

     just as his father does!


Must not I mourn that know not whether yet

I shall enjoy a stepdame or a wife?

129: if Margaret marries Vincentio's father, she will be his


Stroz.  A wife, Prince, never doubt it; your deserts

131-3: Strozza is confident Margaret will marry Vincentio.


And youthful graces have engaged so far

The beauteous Margaret that she is your own.


Vinc.  Oh, but the eye of watchful jealousy

135-6: Vincentio has no chance to meet with Margaret


Robs my desires of means t' enjoy her favour.

     because the duke always seems to have his eye on her.


Stroz.  Despair not: there are means enow for you:

= plural form of "enough".

Suborn some servant of some good respect

139-143: Strozza's idea is that Vincentio should convince


That's near your choice, who, though she needs no wooing,

     one of Margaret's family-servants to act as a go-be-

May yet imagine you are to begin

     tween for her and Vincentio; the servant would be led


Your strange young love-suit, and so speak for you,

     to believe that their relationship is only just beginning,

Bear your kind letters, and get safe accéss.

     though in reality, the young couple already have an
     understanding (hence, she needs no wooing).
         That's near your choice (line 140) = "one (ie. a servant)
     who has access to your beloved".5


All which when he shall do, you need not fear

144-6: the servant, in helping Margaret and Vincentio, could
     not them give them away to the duke without implicating

His trusty secrecy, because he dares not


Reveal escapes whereof himself is author;

146: report any transgressions (escapes)1 which he is
     responsible for having arranged.

Whom you may best attempt, she must reveal;

147: "she will have to let you know which servant is the
     one you should work on."


For, if she loves you, she already knows,

And in an instant can resolve you that.

= "inform you of".


Vinc.  And so she will, I doubt not; would to Heaven

= "I wish".


I had fit time, even now, to know her mind!

= ie. which servant she will recommend.

This counsel feeds my heart with much sweet hope. 

= ie. "this advice of yours, etc."


Stroz.  Pursue it then; 'twill not be hard t' effect:


The Duke has none for him, but Medice,

= assisting him;  = Medice is a member of the duke's court, and his most trusted advisor; Strozza points out that unlike Vincentio, who has himself and Margaret on his side, Alphonso only has the lowly Medice to help him court Margaret.
     Medice should be pronounced with the accent on the first syllable: ME-di-ce

That fustian lord, who in his buckram face

157: fustian and buckram are types of coarse fabric, the
     latter stiffened with gum; the terms are figuratively
     applied to mean "ridiculous" or "pompous" and "stiff"
     or "stuck-up" respectively.1


Bewrays, in my conceit, a map of baseness.

= betrays, reveals.  = the very image or representation.1


Vinc.  Ay, there's a parcel of unconstruèd stuff,

160: Medice is like a load of uninterpretable nonsense
     (unconstrued stuff);1 Smith interprets otherwise,
     suggesting Medice is like a section of woven fabric
     (stuff) not yet turned into anything.

That unknown minion raised to honour's height,

= the favourite (minion) of the duke's is unknown in that
     no one knows where he came from,


Without the help of virtue, or of art

= ie. possessing any.  = skill or learning.

Or (to say true) of any honest part.

= quality.


Oh, how he shames my father! He goes like

A prince's footman, in old-fashioned silks, 

165: Medice's old-fashioned apparel makes him look like
     a footman, a servant who ran alongside a noble's
     carriage when it was in motion.


And most times in his hose and doubtlet only;

166: perhaps making fun of Medice for not wearing a
     fashionable cloak or gown.

So miseráble, that his own few men

167-8: Medice is so cheap (miserable) that his own servants 


Do beg by virtue of his livery;

     must beg on the street to survive; English laws of the

For he gives none, for any service done him,

     era banned vagrancy, but since Medice's servants are


Or any honour, any least reward. 

     in fact employed, they would not be subject to arrest for

     violating the statutes; hence, their servants' uniforms
     (livery) could be said to protect them by acting as
     evidence of their employment.3


Stroz.  'Tis pity such should live about a prince:

I would have such a noble counterfeit nailed

173-4: noble counterfeit = ie. one impersonating an aristocrat.
     nailed…pillory = while secured in a pillory (a kind of stocks), a prisoner might have his ears nailed onto it, with the expectation that the ears would be torn off as the prisoner moved.


Upon the pillory, and, after, whipped

For his adultery with nobility.

= metaphor for Medice's illegally or improperly consorting
     with the nobility.


Vinc.  Faith, I would fain disgrace him by all means,

= truly  = "like to" or "prefer to".


As enemy to his base-bred ignorance,

That, being a great lord, cannot write nor read.

177-9: Vincentio would like to use Medice's illiteracy as a
     means to humiliate him.


Stroz.  For that, we'll follow the blind side of him,

= "seek out his vulnerable side".1


And make it sometimes subject of our mirth.


Enter Poggio post-haste.

= in a hurry.


Vinc.  See, what news with your nephew Poggio? 


Stroz.  None good, I warrant you!


Pog.  Where should I find my lord uncle?


Stroz.  What's the huge haste with you?


Pog.  O ho, you will hunt to-day!


Stroz.  I hope I will. 


Pog.  But you may hap to hop without your hope, for

= happen;  = leap about, as on a horse;1 note Poggio's very

the truth is, Killbuck is run mad.

     silly wordplay with hap, hop and hope.


         Smith cites a thesis by Akhiro Yamada16 which
     suggests Poggio is parodying or misapplying a proverb
     of the time, one version of which was published in a
     book by J. Florio in 1591: "he that lives in hope, doth
     dance in narrow scope."
         198ff: Poggio describes how Strozza's hunting dogs
     have become unemployable for the hunt; Killbuck was
     a common name for a hound or beagle.13

Stroz.  What's this?


Pog.  Nay, 'tis true, sir: and Killbuck being run mad, 


bit Ringwood so by the left buttock, you might have

= another common hunting dog name.13

turned your nose in it.

205: "stuck your nose into it and rotated it."


Vinc. Out, ass!


Pog.  By Heaven, you might, my lord! D'ye think I lie?

= ie. "you really could (turn your nose in it)".


Vinc.  Zounds, might I? Let's blanket him, my lord. A

211: Zounds = a euphemism for the oath "God's wounds".


blanket here!

         blanket him = ie. "toss Poggio in a blanket"; a person
     who deserved humiliation for some misbehavior might
     be subject to this treatment.


Pog.  Nay, good my lord Vincentio, by this rush I tell

= typical Elizabethan vow taken on an inanimate object;
     rushes were frequently strewn on the floor in this era.

you for good will: and Venus, your brach there, runs so

= female hound.1 
     215-6: runs so proud = is in such heat.1


proud that your huntsman cannot take her down for his

= as we can see from Strozza's response to this line, Poggio


     has used the wrong expression: to take (her) down is
     a term from falconry, meaning to recall a hawk from


Stroz.  Take her up, fool, thou wouldst say.

= ie. handle or restrain her.


Pog.  Why, sir, he would soon take her down, and he

= as soon.  = "as" or "if".


could take her up, I warrant her!

= guarantee it.


Vinc.  Well said, hammer, hammer!

= a small bird, the yellowhammer, here meaning "fool".1,3


Pog.  Nay, good now, let's alone. And there's your

horse, Gray Strozza, too, has the staggers, and has

= a disease of horses, which causes them to stagger.2 


strook Bay Bettrice, your Barbary mare, so that she

= struck, though Smith suggests Poggio means "mated

goes halting o' this fashion, most filthily.

= "goes about limping (halting) like this": Poggio likely


     demonstrates how the horse limps.

Stroz. What poison blisters thy unhappy tongue,


Evermore braying forth unhappy news? −

= like the ass that Vincentio called him in line 207 above.

Our hunting sport is at the best, my lord:

232: "well, our hunting plans are in great shape, my lord."
         232f: having finished berating Poggio, Strozza turns to


How shall I satisfy the Duke your father,

     Vincentio; he worries about disappointing the duke, who

Defrauding him of his expected sport?

     would expect Strozza to be an excellent hunting


See, see, he comes.



Enter Alphonso, Medice, Sarpego, with attendants.

Entering Characters: Alphonso is the duke, Medice his

     minion (favourite), and Sarpego a pedant, or scholar.


Alph.  Is this the copy of the speech you wrote, Signor



Sarp.  It is a blaze of wit poetical;  

243ff: Sarpego, a scholar, speaks with humorous and
     ridiculous rhetorical flourishes, indicating his high


Read it, brave Duke, with eyes pathetical.

= ie. that would be moved or emotionally stirred.14 Note
     that Sarpego's opening lines comprise a rather awkward
     rhyming couplet.


Alph.  We will peruse it straight: − well met, Vincentio,

= immediately.

And good Lord Strozza; we commend you both


For your attendance; but you must conceive

'Tis no true hunting we intend to-day,

249-252: rather than go hunting, the duke decides to court
     Margaret instead, by means of taking part in the
     production of a small play (known as a masque); one
     of the endearing traits of Elizabethan drama is the
     willingness of the characters to put on plays and
     shows for each other.


But an inducement to a certain show,

= prologue;5 the duke already has plans for an elaborate
     evening masque, and now intends to stage an additional
     earlier one as well.

Wherewith we will present our beauteous love,

251: "at which I will formally bring the lovely Margaret (our
     beauteous love
) to public notice".


And therein we bespeak your company.

= "engage your help" or "request your attendance."1


Vinc.  We both are ready to attend your Highness.


Alph.  See then, here is a poem that requires 

Your worthy censures, offered, if it like,

= judgments.  = "pleases you".


To furnish our intended amorous show:

= use in.

Read it, Vincentio.


Vinc.                      Pardon me, my lord.


Lord Medice's reading will express it better.

262: Vincentio and Strozza now fulfill their earlier intention

     to tease Medice about his illiteracy.


Med.  My patience can digest your scoffs, my lord. 

I care not to proclaim it to the world:

265: "I don't mind announcing it to the whole world".


I can nor write nor read; and what of that?

I can both see and hear as well as you.


Alph.  Still are your wits at war.

269: Alphonso's comment reveals that this is not the first


                   [To Vincentio] Here, read this poem.

     time Medice and Vincentio have bared their fangs at

     each other.


Vinc.  [Reads]

“The red-faced sun hath firked the flundering shades,

= driven away.1  = stumbling or struggling shadows (of
     the night).1,5


And cast bright ammel on Aurora's brow.”

= enamel,1 ie. colourful ornament.  = goddess of the dawn.


Alph.  High words and strange! Read on, Vincentio.

275: the outrageously pretentious and absurd nature of
     Sarpego's poetry is not lost on his listeners.


Vinc.  “The busky groves that gag-toothed boars do shroud

= full of bushes.1  = having prominently extending teeth.1

With cringle-crangle horns do ring aloud.”

= twisting;1 lines 278-9 offer another clunky rhyming



Pog.  My lord, my lord, I have a speech here worth ten  


of this, and yet I'll mend it too.

= improve or fix.1


Alph.  How likes Vincentio?

284: "How did you like it, Vincentio?"


Vinc.                                 It is strangely good,

No inkhorn ever did bring forth the like.

= ink container.


Could these brave prancing words with action's spur,

288-290 note Vincentio's extended metaphor (with prancing,
     spur, ridden and managed) comparing the reciting of
     Sarpego's poem for an audience to riding a horse.
         The word action here, and in the next several lines,
     refers to the gestures an actor would make to accompany
     his speech.

Be ridden throughly, and managed right, 

= used for "thoroughly", meaning "perfectly".1


'Twould fright the audience, and perhaps delight.

289-290: Vincentio mocks Sarpego's rhyming couplets
     by making up one of his own - actually, with fright, a
     rhyming triplet of sorts.


Sarp.  Doubt you of action, sir?

292: "do you doubt I can act, sir?"


Vinc.                                      Ay, for such stuff.

294: "yes, to such garbage as this."


Sarp.  Then know, my lord, I can both act and teach

To any words; when I in Padua schooled it,

= Padua was well-known in England for its university.


I played in one of Plautus' comedies,

= Plautus, who lived around the 2nd-century B.C., was the
     most famous of Roman comic playwrights; about 20 of
     his plays are extant.

Namely, Curculio, where his part I acted,

= Curculio is the shortest of Plautus' plays, about 700


Projecting from the poor sum of four lines

     lines; Sarpego played Curculio, a parasite or hanger-on.

Forty fair actions.


Alph.                     Let's see that, I pray.

303: Alphonso requests a demonstration of Sarpego's


     portrayal of Curculio.

Sarp.  Your Highness shall command.


But pardon me, if in my action's heat, 

306-8: Sarpego intends to act the part as realistically as
     possible, which may entail him tripping over the others.

Entering in post post haste, I chance to take up

= presumably meaning "super-hurriedly".  = ie. trip.3


Some of your honoured heels.


Pog.                                      Y' ad best leave out

310-1: Poggio suggest Sarpego leave out the part where he

That action for a thing that I know, sir.

bumps into the others; line 311's exact meaning is unclear, but perhaps Poggio is vaguely hinting at a retaliatory beating, should Sarpego knock him down.


Sarp.  Then shall you see what I can do without it.

313: Sarpego agrees to leave out the collisions.


[Sarpego puts on his parasite's costume.]

= the parasite, a stock character of ancient comedies, was a person who ingratiated himself through flattery to a wealthy patron, who in return would feed and support him; we may also note here how absurd is Sarpego's desire to demonstrate his acting ability to the others, complete with a costume that he just happens to have with him!



Alph.  See, see! He hath his furniture and all. 

= costume.2


Sarp.  You must imagine, lords, I bring good news,


Whereof being princely proud I scour the street,

And over-tumble every man I meet.


[Exit Sarpego.]


Pog.  Beshrew my heart if he take up my heels!

325: "damn him if he knocks me over!"


Enter Sarpego, running about the stage.


Sarp.  Date viam mihi, noti atque ignoti, dum ego

Translation: "Known or unknown, make way for me, while


hic officium meum.

     here I execute my commission; fly all of you, be off, and

Facio: fugite omnes, abite, et de via secedite,

     get out of the way, lest I should hurt any person in my


Ne quern in cursu capite aut cubito aut pectore

     speed with my head, or elbow, or breast, or with my

offendam aut genu.



Alph.  Thanks, good Signor Sarpego.


How like you, lords, this stirring action?


Stroz.  In a cold morning it were good, my lord, 

But something harsh upon repletiön.

= after a full meal.3


Sarp.  Sir, I have ventured, being enjoined, to eat

= ie. asked (to perform).


Three scholars' commons, and yet drew it neat.

342: commons = the share of food a college student was
     entitled to.1

         drew it neat = the sense seems to be "performed it


Pog.  Come, sir, you meddle in too many matters; let us,

I pray, tend on our own show at my lord Lasso's. 


Sarp.  Doing obeisance then to every lord,

= bowing


I now consort you, sir, even toto corde.

= attend.2  = with all my heart (Latin); Sarpego's inclination

     to speak in Latin would have been viewed as pretentious.


[Exit Sarpego and Poggio.]


Med.  My lord, away with these scholastic wits,

Lay the invention of your speech on me,

353: Medice asks the duke to let him write his speech for


And the performance too; I'll play my part

That you shall say, Nature yields more than Art.

= in such a way that.  =  ie. "natural talent is superior to
    learned skills."


Alph.  Be't so resolved; unartificial truth

= decided.  = natural.1


And unfeigned passion can decipher best.

= genuine.  = allow one to interpret (decipher)1 a role in
     the best way.


Vinc.  But 'twill be hard, my lord, for one unlearn'd.

360: Vincentio again cruelly points out Medice's lack of
     education and literacy.


Med.  Unlearn'd? I cry you mercy, sir; unlearn'd? 

362: Medice takes Vincentio's comment badly, perhaps
     interpreting unlearned in its harsher sense of ignorant
     or unsophisticated, as opposed to one simply lacking
     formal education.


Vinc. I  mean untaught, my lord, to make a speech

364: Vincentio dissembles, pretending he only meant that
     Medice is untrained as an actor.

As a pretended actor, without clothes

= ie. a costume.


More gracious than your doublet and your hose.

366: now Vincentio makes fun of Medice's unstylish clothes.


Alph.  What, think you, son, we mean t' express a speech

Of special weight without a like attire? 

= important or exceptional.1  = a costume of similar distinc-


     tion, ie. an appropriate outfit.

[Alphonso puts rich robes on Medice.]


Vinc.  Excuse me then, my lord; so stands it well.


Stroz.  Has brought them rarely in to pageant him.

375: the duke brought regal clothing for Medice's use to


     honor him, as with a triumph,3 or to exhibit him.1

Med.  What, think you, lord, we think not of attire?


Can we not make us ready at this age?

378: "are we not old enough to dress ourselves?"


Stroz.  Alas, my lord, your wit must pardon his. 

380: Strozza addresses Vincentio.


Vinc.  I hope it will; his wit is pitiful.

= pitiable.5


Stroz.  [To Medice]

I pray stand by, my lord; y' are troublesome.


Med.  To none but you; − am I to you, my lord?


Vinc.  Not unto me.


Med.               Why, then, you wrong me, Strozza.


Vinc.  Nay, fall not out, my lords. 

= "don't argue".


Stroz.                                        May I not know


What your speech is, my Liege?


Alph.  None but myself, and the Lord Medice.


Med.  No, pray, my lord,

Let none partake with us.

401: ie. "don't tell anyone what we are planning."


Alph.                               No, be assured.


But for another cause:

404: "but I have another matter (cause) I need to take care

[Aside to Strozza]     a word, Lord Strozza;



I tell you true I fear Lord Medice

Will scarce discharge the speech effectually;


As we go, therefore, I'll explain to you

My whole intent, that you may second him

= support him, ie. take Medice's place.


If need and his debility require.

= ie. an inability to perform his role.


Stroz.  Thanks for this grace, my Liege.


[Vincentio overhears.]


Med.  My lord, your son!


Alph.  Why, how now, son? Forbear. − Yet 'tis no matter,

We talk of other business, Medice;


And come, we will prepare us to our show. 

420, 424: the final two lines of the scene form, typically,

     a rhyming couplet.


[Exeunt Alphonso, Medice, and attendants.]



Stroz. and Vinc.  Which, as we can, we'll cast to overthrow.

= contrive, cause.1  = subvert or ruin.1




A Room in the House of Lasso.

Enter Lasso, Bassiolo, Sarpego, two Pages;

Entering Characters: Bassiolo is a gentleman usher, and

Bassiolo bare before.

as such he holds the second highest position in the household of Earl Lasso, after the steward, and is responsible for managing many of the important activities of the home, including overseeing the hiring, firing and work of all the household's servants, supervising the preparation of meals, announcing callers, and preceding his master or mistress as he or she moves formally about.5
     Earl Lasso is the father of Margaret, the young lady both the duke and his son Vincentio want to marry; Sarpego is our scholar, whom we met in the play's first scene.
     Bassiolo enters the room without a servant's hat (bare), and preceding the others (before). A fascinating handbook of instructions, written by the Viscount Montague in the late 16th century, details the duties of the household servants; it specifically outlines when his gentleman usher shall wear his hat: for example, he writes, "I will that my Gentleman Usher shall use me or my wife in all places convenient through cities, towns, &c bare-headed as well on horseback as on foot, saving that in the presence of an Earl or upwards he shall forebear to do so."18


Bass.  Stand by there, make place!

= "make room!"


Lasso.  Say, now, Bassiolo, you on whom relies


The general disposition of my house

In this our preparation for the Duke,


Are all our officers at large instructed 

= servants.2  = altogether.1

For fit discharge of their peculiar places?

= particular jobs.


Bass.  At large, my lord, instructed.


Lasso. Are all our chambers hung? Think you our house

= ie. with tapestries, etc.


Amply capacious to lodge all the train?

= ie. all those expected to be present.1


Bass.  Amply capacious, I am passing glad. 

= exceedingly.

And now, then, to our mirth and musical show,


Which, after supper, we intend t' endure,

Welcome's chief dainties; for choice cates at home

17: dainties and cates both refer to delicacies


Ever attend on princes, mirth abroad.

Are all parts perfect?


Sarp.                          One I know there is. 


Lasso.  And that is yours.


Sarp.                           Well guessed, in earnest, lord!


I need not erubescere to take

= blush (Latin).

So much upon me; that my back will bear.


Bass.  Nay, he will be perfectiön itself


For wording well and dextrous action, too. 

30: ie. in reciting his lines well and gesturing appropriately.


Lasso.  And will these waggish pages hit their songs?

= mischievous young servants.  = succeed (in singing).5


Both Pages.  Re, mi, fa, sol, la.

34: the boys sing or warm up.


Lasso.  Oh they are practising; good boys, well done!

But where is Poggio? There y' are overshot,

37-38: y' are…his brain = Lasso suggests Bassiolo has made a mistake in giving an important part to Poggio.
     y' are overshot = "you have overshot the target" (from archery).


To lay a capital part upon his brain,


Whose absence tells me plainly he'll neglect him.

= it (ie. his part).


Bass.  Oh no, my lord, he dreams of nothing else,

41-42: Bassiolo assures Lasso that Poggio is actually waiting


And gives it out in wagers he'll excel;

     to perform his part with great anticipation, so much so

And see (I told your lordship) he is come.

     that he is taking bets on his success; Parrott notes that


     it was common for people to act parts in a play on a bet.

Enter Poggio.


Pog.  How now, my lord, have you borrowed a suit for

= costume.


me? Signor Bassiolo, can all say, are all things ready?

= ie. recite their parts properly.

The Duke is hard by, and little thinks that I'll be an

= close by, ie. almost arrived.


actor, i'faith; I keep all close, my lord.

= secret.


Lasso.  Oh, 'tis well done, call all the ladies in; −

Sister and daughter, come, for God's sake, come,


Prepare your courtliest carriage for the Duke.

= bearing.


Enter Cortezza, Margaret, and Maids.

Entering Characters: Cortezza is Lasso's sottish sister, Margaret his daughter.


Cort.  And, niece, in any case remember this:

58-65: Cortezza gives her niece advice on how to flirt with
     the duke.

Praise the old man, and when you see him first,


Look me on none but him, smiling and lovingly;

= ie. "look on": this is an example of the now lost gramma-
     tical form known as the ethical dative; the extra pronoun
     me after Look suggests extra interest on the part of the
     speaker to have the action completed.

And then, when he comes near, make beisance low, 

= curtsy.


With both your hands thus moving, which not only

Is, as 'twere, courtly, and most comely too,

= attractive, pleasing.1


But speaks (as who should say “Come hither, Duke.”)

And yet says nothing, but you may deny.

62-65: the gestures Cortezza demonstrates for Margaret


     are intended to be seductive, but subtle enough that if
     anyone should accuse Margaret of coming on to the
     duke, she can credibly deny it.

Lasso.  Well taught, sister! 


Marg.                             Ay, and to much end;

69: "and for a great purpose"; Margaret is ironic.


I am exceeding fond to humour him.

70: ie. "I would be very foolish (fond) to indulge the duke."



Enter Enchanter, with spirits singing;

72-74: the show begins, as the performers enter the stage;

after them Medice like Sylvanus, next the Duke

     Medice is dressed as Sylvanus, a god of the woods and


bound, Vincentio, Strozza, with others.

     fields. The duke, unusually, appears himself in the show,
     apparently tied up.


Lasso.  Hark! Does he come with music? What, and bound?

= ie. the duke.

An amorous device; daughter, observe!

= dramatic presentation or idea with a love-related theme.


Vinc.  [Aside to Strozza]


Now let's gull Medice; I do not doubt

= play a trick on.

But this attire put on, will put him out. 

= "put him out of sorts", ie. cause him to be unable to 


     recite his lines properly.

Stroz.  [Aside to Vincentio]


We'll do our best to that end, therefore mark.

= to achieve that goal.  = "let's be attentive"


Enchanter.  Lady or Princess, both your choice commands,

86: spoken to Margaret: "it is your choice as to whether you
     you remain a simple member of the nobility (Lady) or a
     duchess (Princess).3

These spirits and I, all servants of your beauty,


Present this royal captive to your mercy.


Marg.  Captive to me, a subject?

90: ie. a citizen of the duchy over which the duke rules.


Vinc.                                       Ay, fair nymph!

And how the worthy mystery befell,


Sylvanus here, this wooden god, can tell.

= god of the woods, played by Medice; Smith notes

     Vincentio is also referring to Medice's stiff acting style.5
         Note how the members of the show's "audience" 
     continuously interrupt and converse during the


Alph.  Now, my lord!


Vinc.  Now is the time, man, speak!


Med.                                         Peace!

= "be quiet!"


Alph.                                              Peace, Vincentio!


Vinc.  'Swounds, my lord,

= God's wounds (alternative form of zounds)

Shall I stand by and suffer him to shame you? −

= ie. "let him argue your cause so poorly (with his rotten


My lord Medice!


Stroz.                 Will you not speak, my lord?

108: Strozza, following Vincentio's lead, heckles Medice,

     without giving him a chance to speak; one can imagine
     Medice appearing to suffer from stage-fright here.


Med.  How can I?


Vinc.                    But you must speak, in earnest. −

Would not your Highness have him speak, my lord?


Med.  Yes, and I will speak, and perhaps speak so 


As you shall never mend: I can, I know.

= improve upon;1 but Parrott also sees an implied threat



Vinc.  Do then, my good lord.


Alph.                                     Medice, forth!


Med.  Goddess, fair goddess, for no less − no less –


[Medice hesitates.]


Alph.  No less, no less? No more, no more!

                                             [To Strozza] Speak you.

127: Alphonso wastes no time in having Strozza take over


     the part from the faltering Medice.

Med.  'Swounds, they have put me out! 


Vinc.                                    Laugh you, fair goddess?

131-2: Vincentio addresses Margaret, who seems to have


This nobleman disdains to be your fool.

     to be laughing at the goings-on; note that Vincentio

     has mockingly repeated Medice's use of the phrase
     fair goddess.


Alph.  Vincentio, peace!


Vinc.  'Swounds, my lord, it is as good a show! −

136: Medice's failure is as entertaining to watch as if he had

Pray speak, Lord Strozza.

     carried off his speech successfully.


Stroz.                                Honourable dame –


Vinc.  Take heed you be not out, I pray, my lord.

141: Now Vincentio harasses his friend!


Stroz.  I pray forbear, my lord Vincentio. −


How this distressèd Prince came thus enthralled,

144f: Strozza recites his lines. The Prince is the duke.
     enthralled = bound, tied-up.

I must relate with words of height and wonder:

= ie. high style.


His Grace this morning, visiting the woods,

And straying far to find game for the chase, 


At last out of a myrtle grove he roused

148-9: the myrtle was sacred to Venus, and thus became a symbol of love; more apropos, as Smith notes, is that Venus' beloved, Adonis, hunted the boar that killed him in a myrtle grove, as described by Shakespeare in his long poem, Venus and Adonis (1593).

A vast and dreadful boar, so stern and fierce.


As if the fiend, fell Cruèlty herself,

150: "as if Satan, in the personified guise of malevolent

Had come to fright the woods in that strange shape.

     (fell) Cruelty, etc."


Alph.  Excellent good! 


Vinc.                         Too good, a plague on him!

155: Vincentio does not want Strozza, nor anyone else for that matter, to perform well, because he knows the show is intended to be a cute and clever romantic device for the duke to court Margaret.



Stroz.  The princely savage being thus on foot,

= ie. the boar.  = on the move.1


Tearing the earth up with his thundering hoof,

And with th' enragèd Ætna of his breath

= reference to Mt. Etna, Italy's famous volcano.


Firing the air, and scorching all the woods,

Horror held all us huntsmen from pursuit;

161: notice the nice alliteration in this line.


Only the Duke, incensed with our cold fear,

= furious at or incited by1 the cowardice of those attending
     him in the hunt.

Encouraged like a second Hercules –

=  inspired with courage.1


Vinc.  Zounds, too good, man!


Stroz.                                     Pray thee let me alone!


And like the English sign of great Saint George –

168: the reference is to the red cross on the banner or flag (sign) long associated with England, known as the Saint George's cross.



Vinc.  Plague of that simile! 

170: perhaps Vincentio is displeased because the image of the duke as St. George is too flattering to his father; George had saved a princess's life when he captured, and then slew, the dragon.11


Stroz.  Gave valorous example, and, like fire,

= moving as fiercely as fire.

Hunted the monster close, and charged so fierce

= ie. the boar.


That he enforced him (as our sense conceived)

= forced it.

To leap for soil into a crystal spring;

= take to the water; to take soil is a hunting term, used to
     describe game taking refuge in a water source (soil).3


Where on the sudden strangely vanishing, 

Nymph-like, for him, out of the waves arose

= in his place.


Your sacred figure, like Diana armed,

= ie. meaning Margaret.  = Roman goddess of the hunt.

And (as in purpose of the beast's revenge)

179-180: a spirit in the figure of Margaret wounded


Discharged an arrow through his Highness' breast,

     Alphonso with an arrow, as if to retaliate against the
     duke on behalf of the boar; the arrow may perhaps be
     considered to have caused the duke to fall in love with
     Margaret, as if it had been shot by Cupid.

Whence yet no wound or any blood appeared; 


With which the angry shadow left the light;

182: then the spirit of Margaret disappeared.

And this enchanter, with his power of spirits,

= Strozza indicates the character of the Enchanter.


Brake from a cave, scattering enchanted sounds,

That strook us senseless, while in these strange bands

= common variation of struck, commonly used in the 17th
         bands = chains.2


These cruèl spirits thus enchained his arms,

= ie. the duke's.

And led him captive to your heavenly eyes,

187-8: the Enchanter will next explain (report) why the


Th' intent whereof on their report relies.

     bound duke has been brought before Margaret.


Enchanter.  Bright nymph, that boar figured your cruèlty,

= ie. Margaret.  = represented.2