Sir William Schwenck Gilbert (commonly known as W.S. Gilbert) was born in London in 1836. Although his early work as a playwright demonstrates his aptitude for taking on the styles of the day, Gilbert very rapidly developed a style of his own. He continued the use of rhyming couplets, and intelligent puns, but instead of simply shocking his audience with vulgarities, he chose to mock them artfully. Much of Gilbert's work is parody and satire, either of the politics or society of his time, or of other art forms. Where much of the importance of this satirical work is lost on the sensibilities of 21st century society, Gilbert's work is still incredibly popular.
He is most well-known for his collaborations with the composer Sir Arthur Sullivan. Brought together by impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, Gilbert and Sullivan's relationship was one that shaped the history of English opera. For 14 years, they wrote new operas and operettas together, as Carte provided them space to be performed. The works enjoyed great success, and the partnership continued until a petty rift over financial matters pushed them apart.
In 1907, Gilbert received a knighthood for his contributions to British theatre and music.
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