At the end of chapter VIII of Thomas Deloney's Jack of Newbury, Jack has a discussion with his wife about a certain "gossip" (an archaic term for "familiar acquaintance"), that he does not want to see in his house again. His wife says:

Leave her company? why husband, so long as she is an honest woman, why should I leaue her company? She never gave me hurtfull counsell in all her life, but hath alwaies been ready to tell mee things for my profit, though you take it not so. Leave her company? I am no gyrle I would you should well know, to bee taught what company I should keepe: I keepe none but honest company, I warrant you. Leave her company ketha? Alas poore soule, this reward shee hath for her good will. I wis, I wis, she is more your friend, than you are your owne.

What does "ketha" mean here?

It is worth knowing that the word or phrase "ke-tha" occurred in Act II, Scene 1 of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, namely in the First Quarto of that play. (Pericles was not included in the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays but was one of the plays in the 1619 False Folio.) The relevant lines go as follows (Per. = Pericles; 1. = First fisherman):

Per. What I haue been, I haue forgot to know;
But what I am, want teaches me to thinke on:
A man throng'd vp with cold, my Veines are chill,
And haue no more of life then may suffize,
To giue my tongue that heat to aske your helpe:
Which if you shall refuse, when I am dead,
For that I am a man, pray you see me buried.

1. Die, ke-tha; now Gods forbid't, and I haue a Gowne
heere, come put it on, keepe thee warme: now afore mee a
handsome fellow : Come, thou shalt goe home, and wee'le
haue Flesh for all day, Fish for fasting-dayes and more; or
Puddinges and Flap-iackes, and thou shalt be welcome.

Editors emend "ke-tha" to "quoth-a" (i.e. quoth he), which is plausible, since the words "Die, ke-tha" may be spoken to the second fisherman. However, in the dialogue from Jack of Newbury, there is no third person, and the wife consistently uses "you" and "your" to refer to her husband, so "ketha" cannot plausibly be emended to "quoth-a" here. This leaves us with the question what it actually means.

  • I could imagine the 'quoth he' being applicable to the Jack of Newbury. She's having a good old rant at him, she is in high dudgeon and in those circumstances in current parlance it would not be at all out of order to, as it were, break the fourth wall in appealing to the sympathy of the wider world, regardless of whether there is a third person present. Jack has presumed to tell his wife who she can be friends with, exactly the sort of thing that makes a person say indignantly 'Leave her company says he' as a way of underlining the ridiculousness of the idea.
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 13:33
  • @Spagirl Jack of Newbury isn't a play, even though there is a lot of dialogue. I can't remember any "breaking of the fourth wall" by a character in either this novel or in Deloney's Thomas of Reading.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 19:07
  • I didn’t think it was a play, perhaps I should have used inverted commas but I intended the ‘as it were’ to qualify the ‘4th wall’ comment. So disregarding that phrase, have you never heard a person in high dudgeon, indignant at someone else, make that kind of aside to an imaginary audience?
    – Spagirl
    Commented Jun 20, 2019 at 21:50
  • @Spagirl Lots of people speak in high dudgeon in Deloney's novels Jack of Newbury and Thomas of Reading (or in the other Elizabethan novels I have posted questions about), but I have seen "ketha" only once.
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Jun 21, 2019 at 18:09
  • 1
    "Leave her company ketha? Alas poore soule, this reward shee hath for her good will." She is very annoyed at her husband and angry. "Leave her company, says he (or ''he says?)!" Different example of annoyedly quoting somebody: "Sell the house, he says. Travel the world, he says! As if it were that easy!"
    – jo1storm
    Commented Aug 17, 2021 at 8:50

1 Answer 1


As Valorum pointed out in a comment, The Works of Thomas Deloney. Edited from the Earliest Extant Editions & Broadsides with an Introduction and Notes by Francis Oscar Mann (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1912) contains the following endnote for "ketha":

ketha. A variant of ‘quotha’.

Similarly, the glossary in An Anthology of Elizabethan Prose Fiction, edited by Paul Salzman (Oxford University Press, 1987, 1998) contains the following entry:

ketha, quotha = says he

This is the meaning that editors agree on, in spite of the reservations I expressed in my question.

Update, 08.08.2021:

The Language of Shakespeare by G. L. Brook (André Deutsch, 1976) contains the following comment in the entry for "Quoth" (§ 299, page 126):

Quotha 'said he' is used sarcastically in repeating something said by another character: The humour of it (quoth'a?) heere's a fellow frights English out of his wits (MWW II.I.140. It is reduced to ke-tha in Per[icles] II.I.83.

This confirms the findings quoted earlier.


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