Greylag Goose Anser anser, Oie cendrée;
or its domesticated variation.
44 occurrences (29 goose, 7 geese, 3 wild-goose, 3 wild-geese, 1 goose-pen, 1 goose-quills)
TMP 2 2 132 p thou art made like a goose.
TGV 4 4 32 p I have stood on the pillory for geese he hath killed,
WIV 3 4 40 p tell Mistress Anne the jest how my father stole two geese
WIV 5 1 25 p Since I plucked geese, played truant, and whipped top,
WIV 5 5 8 p how near the god drew to the complexion of a goose!
LLL 1 1 97 The spring is near, when green geese are a-breeding.
LLL 3 1 88 Until the goose came out of door,
LLL 3 1 94 Until the goose came out of door,
LLL 3 1 96 p A good l'envoi, ending in the goose. Would you
LLL 3 1 98 The boy hath sold him a bargain, a goose, that's flat.
LLL 3 1 99 Sir, your pennyworth is good an your goose be fat.
LLL 3 1 101 Let me see; a fat l'envoy; ay, that's a fat goose.
LLL 3 1 106 Then the boy's fat l'envoy, the goose that you bought;
LLL 3 1 119 I smell some l'envoy, some goose in this.
LLL 4 3 72 A green goose a goddess; pure, pure idolatry.
MND 3 2 20 As wild geese that the creeping fowler eye,
MND 5 1 232 p True, and a goose for his discretion.
MND 5 1 234 p and the fox carries the goose.
MND 5 1 236 p for the goose carries not the fox.
MV 5 1 105 When every goose is cackling, would be thought
AYL 2 7 86 Why then my taxing like a wild-goose flies
AYL 3 4 40 p but on one side breaks his staff, like a noble goose.
TN 3 2 48 p though thou write with a goose-pen,
1H4 2 4 135 p thy subjects afore thee like a flock of wild-geese,
1H4 3 1 223 Go, ye giddy goose!
2H4 5 1 68 p they flock together in consent like, so many wild-geese.
1H6 1 3 53 Winchester goose! I cry, 'A rope! a rope!'
TRO 5 10 55 Some galled goose of Winchester would hiss.
COR 1 1 171 Where foxes, geese: you are no surer, no,
COR 1 4 34 Against the wind a mile! You souls of geese,
ROM 2 4 72 p Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done.
ROM 2 4 73 p for thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy wits
ROM 2 4 75 p Was I with you there for the goose?
ROM 2 4 77 p when thou wast not there for the goose.
ROM 2 4 79 p Nay, good goose, bite not.
ROM 2 4 82 p And is it not then well served in to a sweet goose?
ROM 2 4 86 p which, added to the goose,
ROM 2 4 87 p proves thee far and wide a broad goose.
MAC 2 3 15 p Come in, tailor; here you may roast your goose.
MAC 5 3 12 Where gott'st thou that goose look?
MAC 5 3 13 Geese, villain?
HAM 2 2 341 p that many wearing rapiers are afraid of goose-quills
LR 2 2 80 Goose, an I had you upon Sarum plain,
LR 2 4 45 Winter's not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that way.
The greylag goose is the only native breeding goose of the British Isles. Julius Caesar noted that the British kept geese and that they appeared to use them as watch-dogs rather than for food. In spite of continuing domestication, the wild birds continued on their own. The truly wild goose population is now reduced to 500 pairs nesting in the Hebrides.
The spring is near, when green geese are a-breeding.
(LLL 1 1 97)
May is the time for a green or grass-fed goose, while the stubble goose comes in at Michaelmas. King, in his Art of Cookery, has:
So stubble-geese at Michaelmas are seen
Upon the spit; next May produces green.
(HARTING, p. 198)
In a dialogue between Mercutio and Romeo, "goose" is repeated eight times:
Nay, if our wits run the wild-goose chase, I am done.
For thou hast more of the wild-goose in one of thy
wits than I am sure I have in my whole five. Was I
with you there for the goose?
Thou wast never with me for anything, when
thou wast not there for the goose.
I will bite thee by the ear for that jest.
Nay, good goose, bite not.
Thy wit is very bitter sweeting, it is a most sharp
And is it not then well served in to a sweet goose?
O, here's a wit of cheveril, that stretches
from an inch narrow to an ell broad.
I stretch it out for that word 'broad', which,
added to the goose, proves thee far and wide a
(ROM 2 4 72-87)
The "wild-goose chase" above alluded to was a reckless sort of horse-race, in which two horses were started together, and the rider who first got the lead, compelled the other to follow him over whatever ground he chose. (HARTING, p. 200).
"Good goose, bite not" is registered by TILLEY (G349) as being proverbial. "Goose" repeated eight times gives the rhythm of this wild chase, especially with sound associations such as "good goose". Another interest of this passage is that it contains many of the elements of the "Goose Image-Cluster" defined by ARMSTRONG (Chap. 7):
For most people, I suppose, the associations of the word "goose" are pleasant. It arouses visions of a plump, appetising bird on the dining table. Not so for Shakespeare. His goose is frequently connected with disease and lechery.
ARMSTRONG's image cluster is scattered over seventeen plays, but the different elements can be grouped as follows, in order to get an overall view of Shakespeare's association of ideas.
turns the key
Another good instance is found in King Lear:
Winter's not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that way.
Fathers that wear rags
Do make their children blind,
But fathers that bear bags
Shall see their children kind.
Fortune, that arrant whore,
Ne'er turns the key to th' poor.
But for all this thou shalt have as many dolours for
thy daughters as thou canst tell in a year.
(2 4 45-53)
The connexion between the goose and repulsive things requires explanation. Why should the goose be constantly associated with disease, micturition and prostitution? There is really no mystery about it. The association arose through Shakespeare's familiarity with the phrase "Winchester goose" [TILLEY, G366] as a euphemism for a person suffering from veneral disease. [...] The expression originated from the fact that the Southwark brothels were on the land within the juridiction of the Bishop of Winchester. [...] It should be noted that the connexion between "goose" and "blindness" indicates that at the back of the Shakespeare's mind was the realisation that syphilis causes blindness. [...]
(ARMSTRONG, Chap. 7)
Winchester goose! I cry, 'A rope! a rope!'
(1H6 1 3 53)
Some galled goose of Winchester would hiss.
(TRO 5 10 55)
As this discussion has shown, the goose linkage admirably illustrates the"spread" of Shakespeare's associations. Each aspect of the original phrase, or it may be, word-image, starts a chain of associations such as the pen, ink, gall, liver sequence. [...]
Although, as we have noted, the connexion between geese and disease appears explicitly in Shakespeare's earliest play yet the intensity of the disease reference in goose contexts increases in later works such as Troilus and Cressida, Lear and Coriolanus. In these, revulsion is extreme, and in Troilus and Cressida the reference to veneral disease is quite definite. These facts should be viewed in the light of Dr. Spurgeon's argument (Shakespeare's imagery, pp. 129-36) that Shakespeare's interest in the treatment of disease increased as he reached middle age. She shows that his references to plague are rather playful up to the year 1600, but that after that date it is always mentioned in a serious way.
In the light of Armstrong's analysis, it is fascinating to realize how fast Shakespeare carries his audience along from a reference to the goose - the bird - for example in the fool's speech in King Lear quoted above, reflecting at first traditional country lore "Winter's not gone yet, if the wild-geese fly that way", to his own world.