(Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

Lying at anchor in Portsmouth harbor, the Pinafore is the scene of hectic activity. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., First Lord of the Admiralty, has announced his intention to visit the ship. The sailors swab the decks and are inspected by the captain, who is as content with them as they are with him. One member of the crew, however, is far from happy. Ralph, the lowly foremast hand, is sunk in gloom and despair. He loves Josephine, the captain’s daughter, but because of his low rank she repulses his advances and rejects his love.

Before Sir Joseph’s arrival, Little Buttercup comes on board, plying her trade as a seller of ribbons and laces, scissors and knives, treacle and toffee. In a conversation with the captain she hints that appearances are often deceiving. The captain notices that Little Buttercup has physical charms not displeasing to him. Sir Joseph’s barge approaches, and the First Lord is soon on board, accompanied by his sisters, his cousins, and his aunts. After inspecting the crew, he gives them instructions for success. His own formula is simple enough: He polished door handles, stuck close to his desk, and never went to sea. Sir Joseph then proceeds to the purpose of his visit: He comes to ask Josephine to marry him.

Josephine has no intention of marrying Sir Joseph, whom she dislikes. Not able to give an outright refusal, she informs him that marriage with such a high-ranking officer is impossible because she is only a...

(The entire section is 602 words.)