The Pirates of Penzance

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The Pirates of Penzance - or, The Slave of Duty

by Gilbert and Sullivan

First produced at the Opéra Comique on April 3, 1880

Act I

  • FREDERIC: Yes, I have done my best for you. And why? It was my duty under my indentures, and I am the slave of duty.
  • KING: Well, Frederic, if you conscientiously feel that it is your duty to destroy us, we cannot blame you for acting on that conviction. Always act in accordance with the dictates of your conscience, my boy, and chance the consequences.
  • SAMUEL: But, hang it all! you wouldn't have us absolutely merciless?
FREDERIC: There's my difficulty; until twelve o'clock I would, after twelve I wouldn't. Was ever a man placed in so delicate a situation?
  • SONG - PIRATE KING: Oh better far to live and die
Oh, better far to live and die
Under the brave black flag I fly,
Than play a sanctimonious part
With a pirate head and a pirate heart.
Away to the cheating world go you,
Where pirates all are well-to-do;
But I'll be true to the song I sing,
And live and die a Pirate King.
For I am a Pirate King!
And it is, it is a glorious thing
To be a Pirate King!
For I am a Pirate King!
  • KING: There are the remains of a good woman about Ruth.
  • FREDERIC: Ruth, tell me candidly and without reserve: compared with other women, how are you?
RUTH: I will answer you truthfully, master: I have a slight cold, but otherwise I am quite well.
  • FREDERIC: Oh, false one, you have deceived me!
RUTH: I have deceived you?
FREDERIC: Yes, deceived me!
FREDERIC: You told me you were fair as gold!
RUTH: (wildly) And, master, am I not so?
FREDERIC: And now I see you're plain and old.
RUTH: I'm sure I'm not a jot so.
FREDERIC: Upon my innocence you play.
RUTH: I'm not the one to plot so.
FREDERIC: Your face is lined, your hair is grey.
RUTH: It's gradually got so.
  • SONG — FREDERIC: Oh, is there not one maiden breast
Oh, is there not one maiden here
Whose homely face and bad complexion
Have caused all hope to disappear
Of ever winning man's affection?
Of such a one, if such there be,
I swear by Heaven's arch above you,
If you will cast your eyes on me,
However plain you be, I'll love you,
However plain you be,
If you will cast your eyes on me,
However plain you be I'll love you,
I'll love you, I'll love, I'll love you!
Hold, monsters!
Ere your pirate caravanseri proceed against our will
To wed us all...
Just bear in mind that we are wards in Chancery-
And Father is a Major-General!


We'd better pause, or danger may befall-
Their father is a Major-General!


Yes, yes, he is a Major-General!

(The Major-General appears)


Yes, yes, I am the Major-General!
  • SONG — MAJOR-GENERAL: I am the very model of a modern Major-General
I know our mythic history, King Arthur's and Sir Caradoc's;
I answer hard acrostics, I've a pretty taste for paradox,
I quote in elegiacs all the crimes of Heliogabalus,
In conics I can floor peculiarities parabolous;
I can tell undoubted Raphaels from Gerard Dows and Zoffanies,
I know the croaking chorus from the Frogs of Aristophanes!
Then I can hum a fugue of which I've heard the music's din afore,
And whistle all the airs from that infernal nonsense Pinafore.
For my military knowledge, though I'm plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still, in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
  • GENERAL: And now that I've introduced myself, I should like to have some idea of what's going on.
KATE: Oh, Papa-- we---
SAMUEL: Permit me, I'll explain in two words: we propose to marry your daughters.
  • GENERAL: But wait a bit. I object to pirates as sons-in-law.
KING: We object to major-generals as fathers-in-law. But we waive that point. We do not press it. We look over it.
KING: Although our dark career
Sometimes involves the crime of stealing,
We rather think that we're
Not altogether void of feeling.
Although we live by strife,
We're always sorry to begin it,
For what, we ask, is life
Without a touch of Poetry in it?
(all kneel)
ALL: Hail, Poetry, thou heav'n-born maid!
Thou gildest e'en the pirate's trade.
Hail, flowing fount of sentiment!
All hail, all hail, divine emollient!

Act II

  • GENERAL: Why do I sit here? To escape from the pirates' clutches, I described myself as an orphan; and, heaven help me, I am no orphan! I come here to humble myself before the tombs of my ancestors, and to implore their pardon for having brought dishonour on the family escutcheon.
FREDERIC: But you forget, sir, you only bought the property a year ago, and the stucco on your baronial castle is scarcely dry.
GENERAL: Frederic, in this chapel are ancestors: you cannot deny that. With the estate, I bought the chapel and its contents. I don't know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are, and I shudder to think that their descendant by purchase (if I may so describe myself) should have brought disgrace upon what, I have no doubt, was an unstained escutcheon.
  • SONG: Go, ye heroes, go to glory
MABEL: Go, ye heroes, go to glory,
Though you die in combat gory,
Ye shall live in song and story.
Go to immortality!
Go to death, and go to slaughter;
Die, and every Cornish daughter
With her tears your grave shall water.
Go, ye heroes, go and die!
  • FREDERIC: You don't mean to say you are going to hold me to that?
KING: No, we merely remind you of the fact, and leave the rest to your sense of duty.
RUTH: Your sense of duty!
FREDERIC: (wildly) Don't put it on that footing! As I was merciful to you just now, be merciful to me! I implore you not to insist on the letter of your bond just as the cup of happiness is at my lips!
RUTH: We insist on nothing; we content ourselves with pointing out to you your duty.
KING: Your duty!
FREDERIC: (after a pause) Well, you have appealed to my sense of duty, and my duty is only too clear. I abhor your infamous calling; I shudder at the thought that I have ever been mixed up with it; but duty is before all -- at any price I will do my duty.
  • FREDERIC: Ought I to tell you? No, no, I cannot do it; and yet, as one of your band--
KING: Speak out, I charge you by that sense of conscientiousness to which we have never yet appealed in vain.
  • DUET - MABEL and FREDERIC: Stay, Fred'ric, stay!
MABEL: Stay, Fred'ric, stay!
They have no legal claim,
No shadow of a shame
Will fall upon thy name.
Stay, Frederic, stay!
FREDERIC: Nay, Mabel, nay!
To-night I quit these walls,
The thought my soul appalls,
But when stern Duty calls,
I must obey.
MABEL: Stay, Fred'ric, stay!
FREDERIC: Nay, Mabel, nay!
MABEL: They have no claim--
FREDERIC: But Duty's name.
The thought my soul appalls,
But when stern Duty calls,
MABEL: Stay, Fred'ric, stay!
FREDERIC: I must obey.
  • MABEL: Sergeant, approach! Young Frederic was to have led you to death and glory.
POLICE: That is not a pleasant way of putting it.
MABEL: No matter; he will not so lead you, for he has allied himself once more with his old associates.
POLICE: He has acted shamefully!
MABEL: You speak falsely. You know nothing about it. He has acted nobly.
POLICE: He has acted nobly!
MABEL: Dearly as I loved him before, his heroic sacrifice to his sense of duty has endeared him to me tenfold; but if it was his duty to constitute himself my foe, it is likewise my duty to regard him in that light. He has done his duty. I will do mine. Go ye and do yours.
(Exit MABEL)
POLICE: Right oh!
SERGEANT: This is perplexing.
POLICE: We cannot understand it at all.
SERGEANT: Still, as he is actuated by a sense of duty--
POLICE: That makes a difference, of course. At the same time, we repeat, we cannot understand it at all.
SERGEANT: No matter. Our course is clear: we must do our best to capture these pirates alone. It is most distressing to us to be the agents whereby our erring fellow-creatures are deprived of that liberty which is so dear to us all-- but we should have thought of that before we joined the force.
POLICE: We should!
SERGEANT: It is too late now!
  • KING: With base deceit
You worked upon our feelings!
Revenge is sweet,
And flavours all our dealings!
With courage rare
And resolution manly,
For death prepare,
Unhappy Gen'ral Stanley.
  • SERGEANT: To gain a brief advantage you've contrived,
But your proud triumph will not be long-lived
KING: Don't say you are orphans, for we know that game.
SERGEANT: On your allegiance we've a stronger claim.
We charge you yield, we charge you yield,
In Queen Victoria's name!
KING: (baffled) You do?
POLICE: We do!
We charge you yield,
In Queen Victoria's name!
(PIRATES kneel, POLICE stand over them triumphantly.)
KING: We yield at once, with humbled mien,
Because, with all our faults, we love our Queen.
  • MABEL: Poor wandering ones!
Though ye have surely strayed,
Take heart of grace,
Your steps retrace,
Poor wandering ones!
Poor wandering ones!
If such poor love as ours
Can help you find
True peace of mind,
Why, take it, it is yours!
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