Naught Without Mustard

Sometimes you find yourself in those situations that make you feel like more of a geek than usual.

A reddit user had asked about Touchstone in As You Like It and I was going through some quotes when I found this:

Of a certain knight that swore by his honour they
were good pancakes and swore by his honour the
mustard was naught: now I’ll stand to it, the
pancakes were naught and the mustard was good, and
yet was not the knight forsworn.

Hmmm, that rang  a bell. I immediately thought of, “Not without mustard,” and had to go do some research.

For those that don’t get it, “Not without mustard” is a line from Ben Jonson’s Every Man out of His Humor, and is thought by some to be a joke reference to the coat of arms that Shakespeare had recently acquired for himself bearing the motto Non Sans Droit, or, “Not Without Right.”


So, then, is Touchstone’s line a response to Jonson’s? It’s unlikely we’d ever truly know for sure, but it can be fun to pursue the line of reasoning.

Dating the plays is already notoriously tricky, not to mention answering the question of who knew what when.  Would Shakespeare have had to see a performance of Jonson’s play to know the line, or would they have been sharing scripts while it was being written?

Jonson’s play was acted by the Lord Chamberlain’s Men in 1599, and it is technically a sequel to the 1598 Every Man in His Humour, so we have a pretty small window to work with there.

But what about As You Like It?  The Wikipedia entry reads, “believed to have been written in 1599 and first published in the First Folio, 1623.” Even if we don’t always trust Wikipedia, the Royal Shakespeare Company page says, “Typically dated late 1599.”

Not Without Right
Not without mustard.

Looks like it’s certainly possible.  After some cursory research I called in Bardfilm, who is much better at this sort of thing than I, and has access to all the best resources. He tells me that the Arden edition offers no notes on the connection, but then goes on to find this amusingly “relevant” article from an author named Mustard.

So who knows.  Either we’ve uncovered a joke between playwrights that nobody else has thought to mention, or it’s just a coincidence.  This is why we’re geeks about this stuff!


2 thoughts on “Naught Without Mustard

  1. Very interesting post. I was tracking down the As You Like It passage online in order to include it in a new Shakespeare reference work I’m doing and found your blog. I bet you are correct that this passage is Shakespeare’s parody of Jonson, which becomes very interesting when you consider that Jonson is making fun of Shakspere’s coat of arms application! Much ado about something, that’s for sure…

  2. Your speculation sounds plausible. I’ve read I believe in James Shapiro’s 1599 that the character Jaques in As You Like It is meant to be a caricature of Jonson.

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