For where a heart is hard they <make no battery>


Senior Member
Hello. Could you please tell me what "make no battery" means in William Shakespeare's:

Dismiss your vows, your feigned tears, your flattery; For where a heart is hard they make no battery.

Does it mean that the speaker's heart is unfeeling and thus the woman's vows, tears and flattery are not effective weapons? That her feminine guile doesn't work on him?

Thank you.
  • Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    Battery is seldom used with this meaning nowadays except in the set phrase "assault and battery": the combination of two violent crimes, assault (the threat of violence) and battery (physical violence).


    Senior Member
    English - England
    The meaning is close to this meaning from the WordReference dictionary:
    a group of guns or other weapons operated in one place
    In fact, that might be exactly what is meant: vows, feigned tears and flattery do not make an irresistible combination of weapons.


    Senior Member
    English (American)
    The OED lists this very line from Shakespeare under the following definition marked obsolete:

    †I.1.b A mark of beating; a wound or bruise. Obs.

    1592 Shakes. Ven. & Ad. 426 For where a heart is hard they make no battery. 1639 City-Match i. iv. in Hazl. Dodsl. XIII. 218 Lets feel: No batteries in thy head, to signify Th' art a constable.​

    That seems sensible: that he is using "make" in its more ordinary sense of "cause, produce," and not "constitute."


    Senior Member
    Thank you all. So it seems that there could be actually more than two ways of explaining this.


    Senior Member
    English - USA
    That's right, I count three:
    1) the gun emplacement of se16teddy and ain'ttranslationfun
    2) the breach, entry explanation of velisarius
    3) the wound or bruise obsolete definition of Glenfarcias

    I think I understand all three, but I'm siding with Glenfarcias and the OED, that one fits better with my understanding of the line and of Shakespeare's English. That one also appears here: C. T. Onions, A Shakespeare Glossary, battery

    This meaning is also used, I think, other places by Shakespeare:

    In Henry VI part III, "By this account then Margaret may win him... Her sighs will make a battery in his breast; her tears will pierce into a marble heart;" This one could have all three of the same meanings, I think. Same with some of the other usages (you can view them all RhymeZone Shakespeare Search: battery )

    In all cases with this meaning, "make" is the verb used. So that's probably a standard phrase "make (a) battery" for "make bruises/wounds" ...
    Last edited:


    Senior Member
    English - British
    Interesting. Onions is a respected name in Shakespearian scholarship and I agree with the 'bruise or wound' explanation.

    This also allows a subtlety in relation to the speaker's feelings. 'Where a heart is hard' may mean not 'when you are dealing with a heart that is hard' but 'on the hardened side of a heart' meaning only that the speaker has hardened his heart against the other person, not that he is hard-hearted in general.
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