|The Worlds Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes. 1906.|
Vols. VIIX: British
|The Retort Courteous|
|By William Shakespeare (15641616)|
Touchstone. I did dislike the cut of a certain courtiers beard: he sent me word, if I said his beard was not cut well, he was in the mind it was: this is called the retort courteous. If I sent him word again it was not well cut, he would send me word he cut it to please himself; this is called the quip modest. If again, it was not well cut, he disabled my judgment: this is called the reply churlish. If again, it was not well cut, he would answer, I spake not true: this is called the reproof valiant. If again, it was not well cut, he would say, I lie: this is called the countercheck quarrelsome: and so to the lie circumstantial, and the lie direct.
I durst go no farther than the lie circumstantial, nor he durst not give me the lie direct; and so we measured swords, and parted
. We quarrel in print, by the book; as you have books for good manners: I will name you the degrees. The first, the retort courteous; the second, the quip modest; the third, the reply churlish; the fourth, the reproof valiant; the fifth, the countercheck quarrelsome; the sixth, the lie with circumstance; the seventh, the lie direct. All these you may avoid, but the lie direct, and you may avoid that, too, with an if. I knew when seven justices could not take up a quarrel. But when the parties were met themselves, one of them thought but of an if, as, If you said so, then I said so. And they shook hands and swore brothers. Your if is the only peace-maker; much virtue in if.