Today I stumbled on an classic Swedish translation of Shakespeare: in Love's Labour's Lost, act V, sc II Biron says (in Shakespearean English):


Henceforth my wooing mind shall be express'd

in russet yeas and honest kersey noes


In the most famous Swe translation, it comes out as "in tow(-yarn) yeas and vadmal noes"

Naturally, I looked up "russet" - here is a definition from Webster's universal college dictionary:

1. yellowish or reddish brown; 2. a coarse reddish brown or brownish homespun cloth formerly used for clothing [...]

Several 'net sources agree with the "coarse homespun" (and the colour, of course)


Now, my question to all you fibre people out there: is the tow of the Swe translation "just" a word, capturing the flavour, or does "russet" have anything to do with cloth woven of tow yarn?

Or: does anyone have a definition of russet, a bit more informative than "coarse homespun"?

(i can easily live with the kersey/vadmal parallell, even if they are not quite synonyms)


Joanne Hall

Hi Kerstin

Neither of these terms is used today as far as I know.  So, it would mean research.  Our dictionarys will probably give the same results.  Mine says that the russet cloth is homespun cloth from middle English from old French rousset. 

My dictionary says Kersey is a woolen fabric, often ribbed formerly used ofr hose and trousers, sometimes with a cotton warp and used ofr coats,  Middle English probably after Kersey, village in Suffolk England.


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