arras

Definition

Theater

  • Tapestry, so called from the French town of Arras, once famousfor its production of fine textiles. When rooms were hung with tapestry, this provided an obvious hiding place for anyone wishing to conceal him or herself; this is a frequent device in Elizabethan drama. In Shakespeare, for example, Polonius is killed by Hamlet while concealed behind the arras (Hamlet, III, iv); Falstaff hides behind it in Ford's house (The Merry Wives of Windsor, III, iii); and so on.

Origin & History of “arras”

An arras is a tapestry hanging, immortalized by Shakespeare in Hamlet when he conceals Polonius behind one, there to be killed by hamlet. The word comes from the Anglo-Norman phrase draps d’arras, literally ‘cloth of Arras’: Arras is a city in the Pas-de-Calais, northern France, famous in the middle Ages as a centre for the manufacture of woollens and tapestry.
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