On the windy side
[to Hero] Lady, as you are mine, I am yours; I give
myself for you and dote upon the exchange.
Speak, cousin, or (if you cannot) stop his mouth with a kiss,
and let not him speak neither.
In faith, lady, you have a merry heart.
Yea, my lord, I thank it, poor fool, it keeps on the windy
side of care.
After Shakespeare's usual dose of anxiety and suspicion, the
young and inexperienced Claudio is affianced to the young and
inexperienced Hero. Hero's witty cousin Beatrice pokes a little fun
at the timid bride-to-be, urging her either to say something or to
"stop" Claudio's mouth—that is, kiss him. Pedro comments on
Beatrice's merriness, which is noteworthy since she claims to
despise the very idea of marriage [see VALIANT DUST]. Her
heart, she replies, is like a "poor fool," who, to earn his keep,
must keep on "the windy side of care." There is some disagreement
as to where this image comes from, although critics and editors
agree that "the windy side of care" means something like "out of
care's way." A glum fool is an unemployed fool.
The phrase may derive, as the editor A. R. Humphries suggests,
from a nautical image, so that to be on the "windy side" means to
be to the windward of care and therefore to intercept the wind and
steal it from care's sails. The OED guesses that the phrase
means to be situated windward so as "not to be 'scented' and
attacked" by care. Though both these derivations seem a little
forced, I can suggest nothing better.
In a later comedy, Twelfth Night, Fabian approves a scurrilous
and provocative letter that Sir Andrew Aguecheek has written to a
supposed competitor in love. Sarcastically, Fabian tells Sir Andrew
that "Still you keep o'th' windy side of the law" (Act 3, scene
4)—that is, he pulls back from the verge of slander, which might
land him in court.