As with other types of emotion, the interpretation of everyday politeness expressions depends partly on context and actor interpretation. For example, most uses of so please you are affable, but when Oswald uses it on abruptly leaving Lear (KL I.iv.45) it is positively rude, equivalent to ‘Excuse me, I’m busy’. The table does not include cases of ‘special pleading’, such as the highly refined formulae used by aristocrats to each other (e.g. ‘an it please your grace’, 2H6 II.iv.76) or the formulaic begging expression used by prisoners to passers-by, ‘for the Lord’s sake’ (MM IV.iii.18).

When asking or begging for something

[modern: please; may I ask]

Item Location Example
beseech you Cor I.iii.28 Beseech you, give me leave to retire myself
beseech you, I KL I.iv.234 I do beseech you / To understand my purposes aright
good now TNK III.iii.9 Sit down, and good now, / No more of these vain parleys
pray Tem III.i.24 Pray, give me that
pray, I Cor II.iii.74 Kindly, sir, I pray let me ha’t
pray you, I AYL II.iv.58 I pray you, one of you question yond man
prithee Ham II.ii.498 Prithee say on
prithee, I AYL I.ii.25 [Rosalind] what think you of falling in love? [Celia] Marry, I prithee, do, to make sport withal

When asking for agreement or permission to do something

[modern: if you please; by your leave; if you agree; begging your pardon; etc]

Item Location Example
favour, by your KL IV.vi.211 But, by your favour, / How near’s the other army?
favour, under Tim III.v.41 My lords, then, under favour - pardon me
leave, by Cym V.v.315 Have at it then, by leave
leave, by your MW I.i.179 [before kissing] By your leave, good mistress
leave, give us MW II.ii.155 Give us leave, drawer [i.e. please leave us]
like you, an it MM II.i.154 First, an it like you, the house is a respected house
like you, so Cym II.iii.53 So like you, sir, ambassadors from Rome
offence, without Cym I.vi.6 But I beseech your grace, without offence ... wherefore you have / Commanded of me
pardon, by your MA II.i.314 By your grace’s pardon [before leaving]
pardon, under LLL IV.ii.100 Under pardon, sir, what are the contents?
patience, by your Cor I.iii.75 [Volumnia] She shall [go out of doors]. [Virgilia] Indeed, no, by your patience
patience, under your Tit II.iii.66 Under your patience, gentle Empress
please it MA I.i.150 Please it your grace lead on? [i.e. may it please]
please you CE I.ii.27 Please you, I’ll meet with you upon the mart
please you, so AYL I.i.86 So please you, he is here at the door, and importunes access
please you, may it 2H6 II.iv.80 So am I given in charge, may’t please your grace
please you, will it MM IV.i.58 Will’t please you walk aside?
vouchsafe MA III.ii.3 I'll bring you thither ... if you'll vouchsafe me [i.e. be pleased to agree]

When apologising

[modern: I apologise; I beg your pardon; excuse me]

Item Location Example
mercy, cry R3 V.iii.225 Cry mercy, lords and watchful gentlemen, / That you have ta’en a tardy sluggard here
mercy, I cry you 1H6 V.iii.109 [Suffolk] Lady, wherefore talk you so? [Margaret] I cry you mercy, ’tis but quid for quo
mercy, I cry your worships MND III.i.174 I cry your worships mercy, heartily

When softening an offensive remark or dubious subject

[modern: pardon my language; excuse my French]

Item Location Example
bless us, God MND IV.ii.13 A paramour is - God bless us - a thing of naught
manhood, saving your 2H4 II.i.25 ’A comes continually to Pie Corner - saving your manhoods - to buy a saddle
mark, bless the TG IV.iv.18 he had not been there, bless the mark, a pissing while
mark, God bless the MV II.ii.21 the Jew my master who, God bless the mark, is a kind of devil
mark, God save the 1H4 I.iii.55 Of guns, and drums, and wounds, God save the mark! / And telling me
reverence, saving Cym IV.i.5 The rather (saving reverence of the word), for ’tis said a woman’s fitness comes by fits
reverence, saving your 1H4 II.iv.455 that he is, saving your reverence, a whoremaster
sir-reverence CE III.ii.93 such a one as a man may not speak of without he say ‘sir-reverence’

When thanking

[modern: thank you; thanks; many thanks]

Item Location Example
God-a-mercy Ham II.ii.172 [Polonius] How does my good Lord Hamlet? [Hamlet] Well, God-a-mercy
God dild/ild you Ham IV.v.42 [Claudius] How do you, pretty lady? [Ophelia] Well, God dild you! [i.e. God reward you]
gramercy Tit IV.ii.7 [Young Lucius] I greet your honours ... [Demetrius] Gramercy, lovely Lucius
gramercies TS I.i.41 [Tranio] study what you most affect. [Lucentio] Gramercies, Tranio



Jump directly to