Notes on Act III, scene iii

emperor: Charles V, the greatest of the Hapsburgs, ruled 1519-1558, but he would not have been emperor at the time of these events (1511)

ere: before; that is, the emperor heard that the Cardinal was a worthy soldier before he became a churchman

Pescara: historical figure who defeated the French in 1525

Lannoy: viceroy of Naples and a favorite of Charles V

French king: Francis I, another anachronism as the French were not defeated until 1525

employment: an appointed post by the king

muster-book: registry for the army

gunpowder: they ridicule him for using gunpowder only for a toothache, not for fighting

leaguer: army camp

Til the scent be gone: until the food runs out

service: the news about the battles

pewterers: artists who make pewter toy soldiers; that is, he only plays at war (some editions have "painter")

by the book: his experience with war comes only from reading

almanac: astrological charts

critical: dangerous

taking: being taken

pate: head

pot-gun: a child's popgun, describing a braggart of no substance

touchhole: where a cannon is lit (I wish he had blown his bragging to bits)

sumpter-cloth: fancy blanket for a horse's saddle, only for the wealthy and powerful to sit on

foxes ... tails: reference to the biblical story of Samson, who tied foxes' tails together (hence dividing their heads) and lit them on fire to run through the enemies' fields (Judges 15)

wrack: ruin

fantastical: fanatical, or pursuing foolish fantasies, trivial knowledge about classical myths

shoeing-horn: to know whether Julius Caesar's nose was as well shaped as a shoe horn (to help slip on shoes)

mark: notice

salamander: thought to live in fire

bad faces: he has made more men suffer 

Michael Angelo: the Renaissance artist of the Sistine chapel

foul porpoise: porpoises supposedly would play (lift up their noses) before a coming storm, thus a bad (foul) sign

lightens: flashes from the explosion; his smile signals danger to follow

pangs: statesmen struggle with life and death issues

hood: concealment, protection

That: that she does

christen'd: baptized by the church as legitimate; she appears to make light of religious ceremony

ceremony: to instate him as a soldier (we never see the consequences of this action; Webster inserts it to show that state business continues while this personal tragedy plays out).

Duke of Malfi: the only time this older son is mentioned in the play

honesty: chastity, but spoken sarcastically

audit-time: suggesting that Antonio made enough money to be counted a gentleman, even though not born one

presently: immediately

fort-bridge: drawbridge


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