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Monday, March 1, 2010

Words I Love and Terms You Should Know in "Richard III"

Abortive rooting Hogge: an aborted or stillborn fetus, failing to produce a viable child, an unsuccessful result; the act of implanting, later, slang for the male’s part of sexual intercourse; specifically, a castrated male swine raised for slaughter, also refers to Richard’s symbol, the boar.

Arme: spelling could mean both arm or army, conjuring images of flesh and war at once.

Burgundy: the most wealthy, powerful state during the 15th century in Europe reaching from the English Channel to western Germany with power concentrated in the Duchy of Burgundy, it had a large influence on English trade and culture. For example, under Edward IV, England adopted the elaborate Burgundian court ceremonies. Burgundy’s Phillip the Good allowed the English to take much of northern France and thus this remained a supporter of York while his cousin, Charles VII, and later Louis XI supported Lancaster. The even more fervently anti-French successor, Charles the Bold, married Edward IV’s sister, Margaret of York, who was hostile towards Henry VII and continued to support various Yorkists even after the Duchy was reabsorbed into France. Also, a sweet red wine from this region in France.

Cloy: satiate, gorge, satisfy.

Cockatrice: a serpent identified with a Basilisk that was hatched from a cock’s egg and could kill with its glance; rarely, another term for crocodile.

Crosbie House: one of Richard’s houses in London, which became where Elizabeth I received ambassadors.

Crosse-row: the alphabet, used in prophesizing; Shakespeare’s audience would have known that Queen Elizabeth was herself a fan of astrology and employed “philosophers,” such as John Dee, who scheduled her coronation with his horoscope.

Diet: way of living, i.e. Edward’s corrupt lifestyle is his “evil diet."

Dighton and Forrest: The two servants hired by Tyrell to carry out the murder of the two princes.

Eagles should be mew’d up: specifically the Golden Eagle, a native species of England, symbolic of nobility, power, and royalty.

Haire about her ears: Elizabeth enters with her hair undone, a way Shakespeare liked to depict his distressed damsels, such as Constance who tears her hair in King John.

Hedge-hogge: hedgehogs represented evil because they “robbed” grapes from vines the way the devil was thought to rob people of their souls. They were also believed to be another form of goblin and were associated with neglecting to pray.

Humour: mood, disposition, frame of mind as determined by the balance of the four humours, or bodily fluids, blood (passion), phlegm (idleness), choler (anger) and melancholy (sadness).

Kites and Buzzards: birds of prey, thieving birds and bad omens; inferior breed of hawks used as an insult to mean a stupid person. Hastings means that it is a pity that he and Clarence (“eagles”) should be locked up by their enemies, whom he likens to inferior species of bird.

Livery: the special uniform provided for an official by his employer, such as a collar, hood or gown in a special color or design.

Lord Chamberlaine: a peer and member of the Privy Council who was one of the King’s closest, most important officers. This is Lord Hastings.

Margaret’s “bloody deed”: In Henry IV, Part III, Margaret stabs Richard of York, Richard III’s father, at Wakefield, after first offering him a handkerchief drenched in his son Edmund, Earl of Rutland’s blood and placing upon then knocking off a paper crown from his head.

Minority: the state of being a minor, not of age (14 years old), so that a Lord Protector would rule instead until he was of age (typically one of the King’s brothers according to age).

Mistress Shore: Elizabeth or Jane Shore was allegedly Edward’s favorite mistress, with whom he became involved about 1470. Her later affair with Thomas Grey, marquis of Dorset and later his rival Lord Hastings is what landed her in prison for practicing “sorcery,” though she was probably just their political go-between.

Nest of Spicery: figuratively, the womb.

Pomfret: from Latin “ponte fracto,” meaning broken bridge; Pontefract Castle, in Pontefract, West Yorkshire; belonged to John of Gaunt and the site of Richard II’s murder in 1399.

Pursuiuant at Armes: a junior officer attending a herald.

Queenes Kindred: Elizabeth’s eldest son Thomas Grey, marquis of Dorset, her son Richard Grey, her brother Anthony, Earl Rivers.

Scaffold: hanging was considered a common form of punishment while beheading was typically saved for the upper classes. Traitors could be hung, drawn and quartered, murderers or criminals might be mutilated or dissected and displayed after death, and drowning or boiling pits were not unheard of.

Son of York: Edward IV assumed a sun as his emblem after the vision of the three suns appear to him and his brothers before the battle of Mortimer’s Cross (Henry VI, Part III).

Sowre Ferry-man: Charon, who carries souls across the rivers Styx and Acheron in hell.

Surfet: illness brought on by excess, gluttony. Margaret’s curse reflects on Edward’s indulgent lifestyle.

“The Curse my Noble Father layd on thee”: at Wakefield, Richard of York curses Queen Margaret in Henry VI, Part III before she slays him.

“What would betide on me”: While some Queen Mothers became guardians or coregents of their young kings, others were completely stripped of their political power and left court, some evening entering a convent, unable to remarry. Historically, Elizabeth did not receive much from Edward IV’s will and it was not until Henry VII was crowned that she received the wealth and property due to her position as Queen Dowager.

White-livered runnagate: cowardly fugitive or rebel.

Wolves, Spiders, Toades: wolves are both a symbol of appetite and Catholicism; spiders could traditionally symbolize both evil creatures who sucked the blood of their prey and signs of good luck; toads were symbols of witchcraft and decay.

Wonton ambling Nymph: Literally, a malicious and lusty wandering earth-spirit in the form of a maiden; nymph can mean anything from a maiden to a prostitute to a slangy old-Latin term for the labia minora.

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