Hoisted with One’s Own Petard

Castle About to Blow

     The phrase “hoisted with one’s own petard” was first referenced by Shakespeare in Hamlet. A petard was a small bomb used to blow breaches in gates or walls. They were bell- or box-shaped boxes of metal or wood which were filled with gunpowder. 

Sample petards

The device, usually constructed by engineers, was used by the military forces of all the major European fighting nations by the 16th century. Shakespeare’s reference, therefore, was to seeing an engineer blown up by the bomb he constructed. 

Tomorrow, The King’s Speech                    Rita Bay


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2 responses to “Hoisted with One’s Own Petard

  1. Interesting as always! I had thought a petard was a pike-type thing, like the heads were carried on at the Bastille. Now i know the real story!

    • It’s not as if we have them lying around today. I assume Shakepeare was referring to the irony of being destroyed by something of one’s own creation-a violent image, any way you look at it. Rita Bay

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