*Penzance. Port on the southern coast of southeastern England’s Cornwall region. In choosing Penzance, Cornwall, as the setting of his play, W. S. Gilbert situates an improbable plot in a remote town in one of Britain’s most remote southern regions. Beautiful and wild, Cornwall was seen in the Victorian era as a place where most anything could happen.
*Cornish seashore. This remote outcropping is the site of the pirates’ lair. The Pirate King presides over a bumbling group of inefficient buccaneers. Into this scene stumble the many daughters of Major General Stanley, who are promptly seized by the pirates. Fortunately, General Stanley and his policemen are equally inept, and the girls fall in love with the pirates who, in truth, have hearts of gold. The romantic setting of the seacoast encourages the audience to suspend disbelief and accept a ludicrous situation.
Chapel. Ruined Gothic chapel in act 2 that echoes the Victorian love for this style of architecture and provides the backdrop for the inept efforts of the police to capture the equally inept pirates and for romantic interludes between the hero Frederic and his love, Mabel. The pirates finally yield when commanded to do so in the name of Queen Victoria; they in fact are peers of the realm, not pirates, so all is well in the high Victorian setting of a ruined chapel in remote Penzance.