by W. S. Gilbert

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Castle Bunthorpe

Castle Bunthorpe. Fictional castle setting that gives W. S. Gilbert the opportunity to dress up his burlesque of English sham. The chorus of twenty-six lovesick maidens with lutes and mandolins hearkens back to the Pre-Raphaelites, and the appearance of Patience the milkmaid in a costume copied from a painting by Sir Luke Filde suggests the kind of decorative taste and sentimentality prevalent in Victorian society. The opera ridicules affectation, nowhere more so than in the fleshly figure of Bunthorne, who has a languid love of lilies and who appears to be an all-purpose amalgam of Oscar Wilde, Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, and Dante Gabriel Rossetti.


Glade. Site of the pastoral scene that opens act 2, with the Lady Jane (one of the Rapturous Maidens) playing on a violincello as the chorus is heard singing in the distance. The libretto specified a small pond in the center, a tree stump, and a rock. The tree stump is an essential part of the action; for Bunthorne, it is a surface on which to scribble a poem, a rest stop during the floral procession at the end of act I, and an obstacle in his attempt to evade Lady Jane after their duet. For her, it is a cello stand. Thus, an ordinary piece of stage decor becomes a means to further farcical action and to mock certain attitudes.


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Baily, Leslie. Gilbert and Sullivan and Their World. London: Thames and Hudson, 1973. Examines the original production of Patience and considers the play as a satire on Pre-Raphaelite poets and aesthetes such as Rossetti and Oscar Wilde. Contains photographs and sketches of early productions of the opera.

Dunn, George E. A Gilbert and Sullivan Dictionary. New York: Da Capo Press, 1971. Goes beyond the mere listing of characters to include allusions to Greek and Roman mythology; Latin, French, German, and Italian languages; mathematics; rhetoric; and other topics. Shows correlations between various Gilbert and Sullivan plays.

Godwin, A. H. Gilbert and Sullivan: A Critical Appreciation of the Savoy Operas. Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1969. Includes a consideration of Patience as a satirical gust of common sense in the midst of the aesthetic movement. Shows antecedents of characters in the opera.

Jones, John Bush, ed. W. S. Gilbert: A Century of Scholarship and Commentary. New York: New York University Press, 1970. Includes a study of the sources Gilbert drew on in writing Patience, a consideration of the character of Archibald Grosvenor, and two pieces on the opera’s place in the tradition of the Greek comic drama.

Moore, Frank Ledlie. Handbook of Gilbert and Sullivan. New York: Schocken Books, 1975. Gives a good overview and synopsis of Patience and examines its satire of the aesthetic movement. Considers the role of Richard D’Oyly Carte in the success of the play and in Gilbert and Sullivan’s other work.

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Critical Essays