Notes on Act II, scene i

fain: desire to

main: chief goal

nightcap: white cap worn by lawyers

expresses your ears: shows off your ears (i.e., like a jackass)

band: part of the lawyer's attire

president: presiding judge

causes: cases

roaring boys: rowdy young men

nightcaps: lawyers; that is, if the people hear that you are dying and curse you, then be certain they think you are a true lawyer.

painting: putting on makeup

scurvy face-physic: medicine for a diseased complexion

sloughs: muddy ditches, commenting on her wrinkles which she tries in vain to cover up with makeup

nutmeg crater: because her skin was so marked by small pox

hedgehog: similar to a porcupine; flayed skin would be taken off in strips and roll up, like a hedgehog when protecting himself

careening: scraping barnacles off a ship

morphew'd: blistered, scaly skin

disembogue: disembark, as a ship leaving port; that is, as she leaves for a potential affair

rough-cast phrase: there's a speech as rough and ugly as your plastered face

closet: private room where she would do her makeup

ordure: excrement, filth; Bosola suggests she uses these strange ingredients to make potions for her face

pigeon: dead pigeons were thought to absorb the poison out of plague sores

sin of your youth: Bosola implies that Castruchio and the old lady suffer from venereal disease, which keeps the doctor in business

footcloth: extravagant coverings for the feet of horses, bought only by the wealthy

fall of the leaf: he can afford to change courtesans every autumn

prodigy: unnatural monster

rich tissue: fine clothes

sweet: to become a tasty treat for the worms

couple: Bosola implies that while Julia, Castruchio's wife is away (committing her own adulteries, as we discover in II.iv), he should take advantage of her absence and take this old woman.

wells of Lucca: warm springs near Pisa, known for their healing properties

on foot: in progress (at hand)

fins: edges

teeming: to teem means to give birth

wanes: grows thin

waxes: grows fat

somewhat: something in it (both in this suspicious manner of behavior, and in her belly)

apricocks: apricots; Bosola hopes to appeal to the cravings that pregnant women have for fresh fruit, thus finding her out

tetter: skin disease

simplicity: simple-minded as opposed to philosophical: "ignorance is bliss"

inside: I understand your inner meaning

preferment: advancement to the status of keeper of the Duchess' horses

the devil, that rules i'th'air: allusion to Ephesians 2:2, "the prince of the power of the air"

ascendant: your fortune is on the rise, based on good astrological signs

cousin-german: first cousin

King Pepin: Pippin, father of Charlemagne, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire around 800 AD

meaner: common

tithe-pig: greed makes even a holy man sue another for the tenth of his possessions including so much as a pig, tithe being the tax paid to the church; this same greed leads men to war.

short-winded: out of breath

litter: carriage

great with child: pregnant

ruff: lace collar

when?: she is impatient with her servant

peels: chewed to remedy bad breath (the first quarto edition of the play has "pills")

sound: swoon, faint

mother: hysteria, but Bosola picks up on another meaning

presence: former meeting hall of the court

bare: bare-headed, removing one's hat as a sign of respect; but Antonio may also intend a double meaning, sharing a secret joke with his wife

to-year: this year

colour: blush

pare: peel

musk: strong perfume

loath: you would hate to rob me of such delicacies

restorative: healthful

grafting: the art of taking a branch of one fruit tree and making it grow on another kind of tree; Bosola also alludes to the "grafting" of a husband (unknown to him at this time) to the noble house of Malfi

pippin ... crab: different kinds of apples

bawd farthingales: hooped skirts which would hide a pregnancy

springal: young animal, usually born in the spring

cutting a caper: dancing, kicking

politic: secret

colour ... close: this story will give some justification for her keeping herself closed up in her room


Back to Act II, scene i

Table of contents