Notes on Act II, scene ii

tetchiness: irritability

breeding: pregnancy

glass house: glass factory; there was a famous one near the Blackfriars theater (Lucas)

instrument: double entendre, referring to the glass blower's tube and to the male genitals

The orange tree ... well: Bosola suggests that women in all seasons of life are lustful, some for pure love, others for pay. In the spring of life young women have sex for love; in their autumn years older women may sell themselves in order to eat.

showers: Zeus impregnated Danae (the mother of Perseus) by falling into her lap as a golden shower.

center: allusion to the lap of a whore, visited by many men (image borrowed from Montaigne's Essays III.v)

foster-daughters: suggesting that the old lady is a madam in charge of  younger prostitutes 

the devil ... time passes: the devil tempts old women in their lustfulness to think they are still sexually attractive, not acknowledging the passage of time. 

posterns: back gates

presently: immediately

Switzer: Swiss guard, mercenary

cod-piece: baglike flap in the front of men's breeches, now replaced by the fly.

ladies’ chambers: the ladies would have searched his codpiece if given the chance

cannibal: savage, with wordplay on “cannonball” (bullet) in the previous line

plate: gold or silver tableware

cabinet: private room

wood-yard: Bosola insults these men by referring to them as lowly woodcutters.

blackguard: kitchen servants

post: hasten

daunt whole man in us: to rob us of our bravery

set a figure: work out his baby's horoscope, based on when he was born.

Back to Act II, scene ii

Table of contents