What is the meaning of the passage in Edward II that begins "Ay, ay, these words of his move me as much"?

The meaning of the passage that begins "Ay, ay, these words of his move me as much" is to characterize Galveston as an uncaring man, who first mocks the soldier who curses him and then pretends he will help the three poor men if he gets a good reception from the king. However, Galveston already knows he will get a good reception and has no real intention of aiding the men.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

This passage starting "Ay, ay" continues as follows:

Ay, ay, these words of his move me as much,

As if a Goose should play the Porpentine,

And dart her plumes, thinking to pierce my breast,

But yet it is no pain to speak men fair,

I'll flatter these, and make them live in hope

You know that I came lately out of France,

And yet I have not viewd my Lord the king,

If I speed well, ile entertaine you all.

Galveston has received a letter from King Edward II as the play opens, inviting back home to be his favorite. In England, he is greeted by three poor men who hope he can help them. One of the three, wounded fighting the Scots, asks for help, and Galveston advises he go to a hospital. The soldier, feeling insulted, tells Galveston that he hopes another soldier will kill him for offering such words.

At this point, Galveston says, mockingly, that this curse means nothing to him. He conveys that idea by stating the soldier's words are

As if a Goose should play the Porpentine,

And dart her plumes, thinking to pierce my breast.

What Galveston means is that the soldier's words are as painless as the feathers of goose pretending to be a porcupine. A goose might "dart" or widen out her feathers to try to pierce Galveston's chest as if she has sharp quills, but she doesn't: all she has are soft feathers. Galveston is telling the soldier with contempt that he has no power to hurt him.

Galveston then says, as an aside that the poor men can't hear, that "fair" or kind words cost him nothing ("no pain") so he will flatter these men and give them false hope. He then says to them that he just returned to England from France, but it he gets a good reception from the king, he'll help them. (He already knows he will get a good reception and has no intention of helping them.)

This exchange with the poor men shows that Galveston is not a kind or good person. He doesn't care about what happens to these men. He treats the soldier rudely, and then pretends to care about the threesome, while it is clear he has no real concern for their welfare.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial