Plays by W. S. Gilbert: The Palace of the Truth, Sweethearts, Princess Toto, Engaged, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

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CUP Archive, Mar 4, 1982 - Drama - 189 pages
This edition includes four plays and one libretto, covering more than twenty years of the dramatist's career: The Palace of Truth (1870), Sweethearts (1874), Princess Toto (1876), Engaged (1877) and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (1891). The collection demonstrates that Gilbert was an original dramatist in his own right. The sophisticated irony of his plays challenged the conventions of the Victorian burlesque and sentimental comedy by demanding, and receiving, an intelligent response from the audience. George Rowell's useful and thorough introduction, which presents the theatrical background to Gilbert's development, also shows the dramatist's influence on Pinero, Wilde and Shaw. Gilbert's style combines a technique rarely realistic and stretching to fantasy with a tone apparently cynical and in fact deeply pessimistic. This odd pairing of fantasy and fatalism was recognized by his own and later generations as 'Gilbertian' and the term has been widely applied even outside the theatre.
 

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Contents

Biographical record
23
SWEETHEARTS
73
PRINCESS TOTO
89
ROSENCRANTZ AND GUILDENSTERN
172
The plays of W S Gilbert
186
Copyright

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About the author (1982)

Born in London, William S. Gilbert served a term as a government clerk and was called to the bar as a barrister before being diverted into the bohemian world of Victorian comic journalism. He first achieved popularity as the author of several volumes of "Bab Ballads" (Max Beerbohm praised them as "silly"). Moving on to theater, Gilbert contributed to the current rage for travesties of opera and for one-act musical "entertainments" until a blank-verse burlesque of Tennyson's Princess Princess led to commissions and full-length comedies, both mythological and "modern." Still highly regarded by critics, some of these---perhaps Sweethearts (1874) and Engaged (1877)---should be investigated by today's readers and producers. As it is, their best memorial is the early work of George Bernard Shaw, who, although he polemically rejected their cynicism, was clearly influenced by Gilbert's comedies and their inversion of social values. By the time of Engaged, however, a second dramatic career had overtaken Gilbert. Collaboration with the composer Arthur Sullivan, begun in 1871 (Thespis), achieved theatrical success with Trial by Jury in 1875. In the comic operas that followed, Sullivan's generally allusive music enriched the sometimes shrill pessimism of Gilbert's wit. An unlikely jostle of theatrical parody, contemporary satire, intricate meters, and logical fantasy, the librettos have often been compared with the comedies of Aristophanes and have influenced English playwrights from Oscar Wilde to Tom Stoppard. Uncomfortable, often acrimonious, the partnership nevertheless lasted through 25 years and 13 Savoy operas (so called because many were staged by Richard D'Oyly Carte at his Savoy Theatre). Gilbert, whose merely theatrical connections (as opposed to Sullivan's serious musical credentials) held him back from formal honors, was knighted in 1907, only a few years before his death.

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