A-Z of Shakespeare – V


Today’s Shakespearean word of the day is… viol-de-gamboys

V- viol-de-gamboys

A viola da gamba, played between the legs like a modern cello (gamba is ‘leg’ in Italian).


In Twelfth Night, Sir Toby tells Maria that Sir Andrew ‘plays o’the viol-de-gamboys’ (Twelfth Night, 1.3.23). However, it is highly unlikely that a knight would ever have learned to play such an instrument. Sir Toby makes it up in order to impress Maria.


Shakespeare Dictionary _130This definition is taken from the Oxford Illustrated Shakespeare Dictionary, a unique dictionary to unlock the mysteries of Shakespeare’s world, words and language, compiled by renowned English language expert David Crystal and Shakespearean actor and producer Ben Crystal.