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The Gondoliers

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The Gondoliers

by W.S. Gilbert

Genre: Operetta
Format of Original Source: Plot summary
Recommended Adaptation Length: Two Hours

Candidate for Adaptation? Not Likely


The story opens in Venice. The contadine are weaving garlands for the two favorite gondoliers, Marco and Giuseppe, who, as they have no preference, make their choice blindfolded, and secure Tessa and Gianetta for their brides. As all gayly dance off, a gondola arrives with the Spanish Duke of Plaza-Toro, the Duchess, their daughter Casilda, and Luiz, their attendant. While waiting for an audience with the Grand Inquisitor, the Duke tells Casilda the object of their visit. When she was an infant she was married by proxy to the infant son of the King of Barataria. When the latter abandoned the creed of his fathers and became a Methodist, the Inquisitor had the young husband stolen and taken to Venice. Now that the King is dead, they have come to find the husband, and proclaim Casilda queen. During the audience the Inquisitor announces that the husband is a gondolier, and that the person who brought him up had “such a terrible taste for tippling” that he was never certain which child had been intrusted to him, his own or the other. The nurse, however, who is Luiz’s mother, would know, and he would induce her to tell in the torture chamber. Shortly afterwards the Inquisitor meets the newly wedded gondoliers, Marco and Giuseppe, and decides that one or the other of them is the new King, but as he cannot tell which, he arranges that both of them shall rule until the nurse can be found and made to settle the matter. Thereupon they bid their wives good-by, and sail away for Barataria.


Lightweight stuff, with almost all the important action having taken place twenty years ago.  Not a lot of present-tense action on the stage, and therefore, very difficult to imagine a successful adaptation based on this structure.

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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