Gilbert and Sullivan’s most popular show, The Pirates of Penzance, is a rollicking, delightfully funny tale of a band of soft-tempered pirates. Mistakenly apprenticed to a pirate (instead of a pilot) by his nursemaid Ruth at the age of eight, the handsome Frederic is now twenty-one and, though quite fond of the group of joyous and fun-loving pirates, chooses to abandon his profession and “lead a blameless life henceforth,” dedicating himself instead to their eradication. Shortly after leaving them, he encounters a gaggle of beautiful maidens (one of whom, Mabel, steals his heart) and their father, the eccentric Major-General. The whole group has a run-in with the pirates themselves before escaping on the false premise that the Major-General is an orphan -- a fact these tenderhearted pirates simply cannot help but take into account, given the fact that the majority of them are orphans themselves and “know what it’s like.” Just as Frederic is ready to lead a band of lily-livered policemen to take out the Pirate King and his men, a secret is uncovered that will change his fate forever, but, naturally, all comes out right in the end. Beloved since its premiere in 1879, The Pirates of Penzance (or The Slave of Duty) is a delightful farce of a classic that is fun for all ages.
Pirates of Penzance guide sections