H.M.S. Pinafore

or, The Lass That Loved A Sailor Show Logo

Book by W. S. Gilbert
Music by Arthur Sullivan

Production Runs

Some time before Act I opens, Ralph has fallen in love with Josephine, the daughter of his commanding officer, Captain Corcoran. Likewise, Little Buttercup, a buxom peddler-woman, has fallen in love with the Captain himself. Class pride, however, stands in the way of the natural inclinations of both the Corcorans to reciprocate Ralph's and Buttercup's affections. The Captain has, in fact, been arranging a marriage between his daughter and Sir Joseph Porter, First Lord of the Admiralty, who is of the class above even the Corcorans.

When Act I opens, the sailors are merrily preparing the ship for Sir Joseph's inspection. The generally happy atmosphere on deck is marred only by Little Buttercup's hints of a dark secret she is hiding, by the misanthropic grumbling of Dick Deadeye, and by the love-lorn plaints of Ralph and Josephine. Sir Joseph appears, attended by a train of ladies (his relatives, who always follow him wherever he goes). He explains how he became Lord of the Admiralty and examines the crew, patronizingly encouraging them to feel that they are everyone's equal, except his. Like the Captain, he is very punctilious, demanding polite diction among the sailors at all times.

Josephine finds him insufferable; and, when Ralph again pleads his suit and finally threatens suicide, she agrees to elope. The act ends with the general rejoicing of the sailors at Ralph's success; only Dick Deadeye croaks his warning that their hopes will be frustrated.

Act II opens with the Captain in despair at the demoralization of his crew and the coldness of his daughter towards Sir Joseph. Little Buttercup tries to comfort him, and prophesies a change in store. But Sir Joseph soon appears and tells the Captain that Josephine has thoroughly discouraged him in his suit; he wishes to call the match off. The Captain suggests that perhaps his daughter feels herself inferior in social rank to Sir Joseph, and urges him to assure her that inequality of social rank should not be considered a barrier to marriage. This Sir Joseph does, not realizing that his words are as applicable to Josephine in relation to Ralph as they are to himself in relation to Josephine. He thinks that she accepts him, whereas actually she is reaffirming her acceptance of Ralph; and they all join in a happy song.

Meanwhile Dick Deadeye has made his way to the Captain, and informs him of the planned elopement of his daughter with Ralph. The Captain thereupon intercepts the elopers; and, when he learns that Josephine was actually running away to marry Ralph, he is so incensed that he cries, "Damme!" Unfortunately, Sir Joseph and his relatives hear him and are horrified at his swearing; Sir Joseph sends him to his cabin in disgrace. But when Sir Joseph also learns from Ralph that Josephine was eloping, he angrily orders Ralph put in irons.

Little Buttercup now comes out with her secret, which solves the whole difficulty...

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