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by W.S. Gilbert

Genre: Comedy, Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: 60 Minutes

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Likely


The story of the opera tells of the struggle for supremacy over female hearts between an æsthetic (Bunthorne) and an idyllic poet (Grosvenor). In the opening scene lovesick maidens in clinging gowns, playing mandolins, sing plaintively of their love for Bunthorne. Patience, a healthy milkmaid, comes upon the scene, and makes fun of them, and asks them why they sit and sob and sigh. She announces to them that the Dragoon Guards will soon arrive, but although they doted upon Dragoons the year before they spurn them now and go to the door of Bunthorne to carol to him. The Guards duly arrive, and are hardly settled down when Bunthorne passes by in the act of composing a poem, followed by the twenty lovesick maidens. After finishing his poem he reads it to them, and they go off together, without paying any attention to the Dragoons, who declare they have been insulted and leave in a rage. Bunthorne, when alone, confesses to himself he is a sham, and at the close of his confession Patience comes in. He at once makes love to her, but only frightens her. She then confers with Lady Angela, who explains love to her, and tells her it is her duty to love some one. Patience declares she will not go to bed until she has fallen in love with some one, when Grosvenor, the idyllic poet and “apostle of simplicity,” enters. He and Patience had been playmates in early childhood, and she promptly falls in love with him, though he is indifferent. In the closing scene Bunthorne, twined with garlands, is led in by the maidens, and puts himself up as a prize in a lottery; but the drawing is interrupted by Patience, who snatches away the papers and offers herself as a bride to Bunthorne, who promptly accepts her. The maidens then make advances to the Dragoons, but when Grosvenor appears they all declare their love for him. Bunthorne recognizes him as a dangerous rival, and threatens “he shall meet a hideous doom.”


The object of Gilbert’s satire here, the Aesthetic Poet, seems difficult to modernize.  (Perhaps the self-inflated social media influencer?)  And without the satire, the actual plot doesn’t add up to much.


A word of caution: This plot summary was written by 19th-century literary critic George Upton, who often mixes personal opinion with summation. You would be advised to consult the original source material, if the general plot appeals to you.


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