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by W.S. Gilbert

Genre: Melodrama, Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length:

Candidate for Adaptation? Promising


The first act opens in Cornwall. Sir Rupert Murgatroyd, the first of the baronets, employed his leisure in persecuting witches and committing other crimes. The chorus of “the legend,” sung by Hannah, an old spinster, prophesies that each Murgatroyd will die “with sinning cloyed.” To avoid this fate, the last inheritor of the title, Sir Ruthven, secludes himself under the name of Robin Oakapple, in the Cornish village of Rederring, and his younger brother, Despard, believing him to be dead, succeeds to the title. Robin, who is shy and modest, is in love with Rose, a foundling, who is very discreet. The love-making lags, and meanwhile Richard, his foster brother, a man-o’-war’s man, returns from sea, and so commiserates Robin that he offers to plead his case with Rose. Instead of that he pleads his own case, and is accepted by her, much to the disappointment of Robin, who supports Richard’s claim, however. Robin’s younger brother, Sir Despard, next appears, and hears from Richard of the existence of the brother whom he had thought dead. He thereupon claims Robin as his elder brother, and Rose shows her preference for Sir Despard, who is also claimed by Mad Margaret, a village maiden, whom he had mistreated when he was under the influence of the Murgatroyd curse.


The plot is deliberately melodramatic and absurd, but tells a cogent story, and you might be able to lift it intact and write a new libretto to the existing structure.  (Although, if that’s your bent, you might find plots from other actual melodramas which have even more appeal and theatrics than Ruddygore.)


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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