What is a Dishclout and a Favour?

Author: Cole Ritota

A dishclout, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is “A ‘clout’ or cloth used for washing dishes,” (OED). Despite the difference in spelling in other versions of the text, such as dish-cloute found in Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, the meaning of the word remains the same. It is important to keep in mind that in 1598, when Shakespeare wrote this play, a dish cloth was not something thought as being a clean object by any means. It was most likely just an old, dirty rag that was used for cleaning.

Favour is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as, “Something given as a mark of favour; esp. a gift such as a a knot of ribbons… or in medieval chivalry by a lady to her knight, to be worn conspicuously as a token of affection,” (OED). Similarly to dishclout, favour is also spelled differently in the Oxford Scholarly Editions Online and the Shakespeare’s Word’s translation. In both cases, favour is spelled fauour, and appears to just be a different way of spelling the word and the meaning remains the same. A favour could really be anything

In the play, Boyet is referencing Braggart as the individual wearing the dishclout from Jaquenetta. Shakespeare intended this to be a humorous line in the play by using these two contrasting words that don’t exactly fit together. Braggart is a knight, so it would be fitting for his lady, Jaquenetta to give him a favour. However, a dishclout is not a typical favour a lady would give to a knight. This can be seen as an insult to Braggart in that he is not what would be thought of as a usual handsome and respected knight, and he is not worthy of a precious favour from his lady. It can also be interpreted as an insult towards Jaquenetta saying that she does not have the means capable to offer a more precious favour to her knight. Either way, Shakespeares play on words here was intended to create a comedic part in the play.