Benford's G&S Lexicon Entries for The Yeomen of the Guard

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Act I

Standard [as a reward for his valour in saving his standard]

A consecrated battle flag “carried at the head of troops in battle as a rallying point and intended to inspire” (178). Terry (286) says a standard would be carried by a cavalry regiment. What the infantry carried would be called the colors. Neither is carried any longer except in parades.

Court [from Windsor, where the court is]

This would imply the court of Henry VIII.


A town on the Thames about 25 miles upstream from London. The site of the royal residence, Windsor Castle.

Circumspection [a very dragon of virtue and circumspection]

Prudence, discretion and vigilance (directed toward his little sister’s reputation).

Pursed [my lips pursed up]

Closed tight, like a miser’s purse.


Foster-brothers are unrelated boys raised by the same family. (There are plenty of details in the libretto that make it hard to believe that Leonard and Fairfax were really foster-brothers. But then it might as well be confessed that this opera is shot full of inconsistencies, if you want to be picky.)

Advent [due notice of his advent]

Imminent arrival.

Boon [no light boon]

Benefit or favor. See also Ruddigore, Utopia, Limited, and Cox and Box.

Sooth [for, in sooth, I have tried both]


Another moon

Another month.


Short for complaint.

Whit [Then count it not a whit]

A little, or jot.

Essay [He should all means essay]


Sir Clarence Poltwhistle

A villainous character who never appears on stage, but who would be hissed off if he so dared.

Secretaries of State

Among the king’s chief ministers (245). Each was given responsibility over some aspect of government (64).

Devolves [which devolves to him]

Transfers or passes down.

Grace [by your worship’s grace]

Kind assistance.


“A widow’s share of her husband’s property” (75).

Crowns [a hundred crowns to boot]

The crown was a British coin worth five shillings or one quarter of a pound sterling. One hundred crowns would be worth £25 –– a lot of money in those days. For example, ancient records show that the lieutenant of the Tower was then paid £100 per year (plus luxurious lodging), putting him in a class with London’s wealthier burgesses (319). Goodman (142) says £5 would represent three or four months’ wages for a laborer. Knight (178) says the coins were first struck in 1526.