Shakespeare Quotes

Laid on with a trowel

Celia:
Bon jour, Monsieur Le Beau. What's the news?

Le Beau:
Fair princess, you have lost much good sport.

Celia:
Sport! of what color?

Le Beau:
What color, madam? How shall I answer you?

Rosalind:
As wit and fortune will.

Touchstone:
Or as the Destinies decrees.

Celia:
Well said—that was laid on with a trowel.

As You Like It Act 1, scene 2, 97–106

No doubt, masons and bricklayers, when discussing their mortar, had used the phrase "laid on with a trowel" long before Shakespeare got to it; but its metaphorical and proverbial forms are probably the Bard's invention. The young lady Celia uses the figure to describe language that's plastered on, not with workmanlike care, but with unsubtle force. The clown Touchstone's inflated language itself parodies the lady Rosalind's courtly discourse, just as Rosalind makes fun of Le Beau's unspontaneous phraseology. While Celia refers to Touchstone's crude linguistic workmanship, our use of the phrase is slightly different. Le Beau's sort of "polite" language, a little too elegant and weighty for the situation, is the usual object of the phrase "laid on with a trowel"—eagerly flattering speech.

What Le Beau has come to announce is a wrestling match—the "good sport" sponsored by Celia's uncle, who is now Duke. At this match, Rosalind will meet her future husband, but they won't be married before Shakespeare has put them through the comic wringer.

Themes: wit, expressions and idioms

Speakers: Celia, Le Beau, Rosalind, Touchstone