The Gondoliers Essay - Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

W. S. Gilbert

Further Critical Evaluation of the Work

William S. Gilbert wisely set the story of THE GONDOLIERS in Italy rather than in England, so that he would have ample scope to satirize a topic otherwise unapproachable even for his genial talents: the institution of monarchy. However uncomfortable certain liberal spirits like Gilbert might have been with Queen Victoria, he could scarcely criticize upon the stage either her person or her prosperous reign; his was an audience which delighted, rather, in reading mischievous accounts about the vulgarity of American democracy, for which English travelers such as Mrs. Trollope gratified the public taste. But at the same time, Gilbert had to avoid offending American feelings, for his works were also popular in the United States. Consequently, he established his monarchy in the never-never land of Barataria and selected Venetians for his republican protagonists

Marco and Giuseppe, Gilbert’s two would-be kings, are simple gondoliers who have been reared to respect liberty; they cannot understand the pomp and pretentions of courtly life, and they cherish their freedom. At the Court of Barataria, garbed in their kingly robes, they clean their own crowns and scepters, while around them their servants and ministers-of-state fuss over games of chance and petty gossip. Unlike the drones at court, they work (as they explain in the brisk duet “Rising Early in the Morning”) only for the good of their subjects. Obviously, such egalitarian kings are unsuited...

(The entire section is 467 words.)