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Trial by Jury

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Trial by Jury

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 is a satire upon the English courts, the incident being a breach of promise case. Edwin is sued by Angelina. The usher impresses upon the jury its duty to divest itself of prejudice in one breath, and in the next seeks to prejudice it against the defendant by most violent denunciations of him. When Edwin enters he is at once requested by the jury to “dread our damages.” He tells them how he became “the lovesick boy” first of one and then of another. The jurymen in chorus, while admitting that they were fickle when young, declare that they are now respectable and have no sympathy with him. The judge enters, and after informing the audience how he came to the bench, announces he is ready to try the breach of promise case. The jury is sworn. Angelina enters, accompanied by her bridesmaids. The judge takes a great fancy to the first bridesmaid, and sends her a note, which she kisses rapturously and places in her bosom. Immediately thereafter the judge transfers his admiration to the plaintiff, and directs the usher to take the note from the bridesmaid and give it to Angelina, which he does, while the jurymen taunt the judge with being a sly dog, and then express their love for her also. The plaintiff’s counsel makes the opening speech, and Angelina takes the witness-stand, but, feeling faint, falls sobbing on the foreman’s breast, who kisses her as a father. She revives, and then falls sobbing upon the judge’s breast, while the jurymen shake their fists at the defendant, who comes forward and offers to marry Angelina “to-day and marry the other to-morrow.” The judge thinks it a reasonable proposition, but the plaintiff’s counsel submits that “to marry two at once is Burglaree.” In this dilemma Angelina embraces Edwin rapturously, but he repels her furiously and throws her into the arms of her counsel. The jury thereupon becomes distracted, and asks for guidance, whereupon the judge decides he will marry Angelina himself, to which she gives enthusiastic consent.


As fun as the original is, there’s probably little oomph in a modern-day retelling, and not much reason to retell the OLD story.  If you’re looking to satire the current system of trials by jury, there are probably more interesting ways to go about that than adapting directly from this source.


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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