The Princess


Original Plays, by W. S. Gilbert

SCENE SECOND.--The Gates of Castle Adamant.

Enter GOBBO, with ladies' robes on his arm.

GOBBOMore robes for undergraduates! I suppose
Some students are expected here to-day.
No girl without a robe may pass those gates!
They are so proud of these here caps and gowns,
They hardly like to take 'em off a-night!
They even wear (or so I've heard it said)
Night-caps and night-gowns when they go to bed!
[Exit into porter's lodge.


HILAR.So, here's the Princess Ida's castle? Well,
They must be lovely girls if it requires
Such walls as these to keep intruders off!
CYRILTo keep men off is only half their charge,
And that the easier half. I must suspect
The object of these walls is not so much
To keep men off as keep the maidens in!
HILAR.Here lives the porter, Cyril. I'll be bound
He's quite as learned as the rest of them,
Half Newton and half Bacon! Here he comes.

Enter GOBBO from lodge.

CYRILHalf Bacon? No,--all Bacon I should say!
GOBBONow then, what is it?
HILAR.I'm a royal prince;
These gentlemen are followers of mine;
We hold King Gama's letters, charging you
To bear us safely to the Council Hall,
In which the Princess Ida holds her state.
GOBBOHo! ho! ho! ho!
HILAR.How now?--you mock at us? (Draws sword.)
GOBBOMock you? Why, bless your heart and soul alive,
No man may place his foot within those walls;
It's death to disobey our Princess, sir!
FLORI.It's double death to disobey your king! (draws.)
CYRILIt's treble death to disobey ourselves! (draws.)
GOBBOBut, sirs, I am the only man alive
Who ever enters!
GOBBOYes! Once a year
I am led through their ranks that they may see
What sort of thing's a man! "See here!" she cries.
"See--this is what you lose in losing man!
This is a courtly knight--well born, well formed!"
(I'm comely, sirs; but, bless you, I'm no knight!)
"Look, girls," she cries, "this is a courtly knight--
A type of all that's beautiful in man!"
(aloud) And then they make me gibber, squeak, and mow;
Then, with much deference and mock courtesy,
They bow me to my duty at the gate!
FLOR. Are there no males whatever in those walls?
GOBBONone, gentlemen, excepting letter mails!
And they are driven (as males often are
In other large communities)--by women!
If you'll believe me, gentlemen, I swear,
She's so confoundedly particular,
She'll scarcely suffer Dr. Watts's hymns;
And all the animals she owns are "hers"!
The ladies rise at cockcrow every morn--
HILAR.Oh, then they have male poultry!
GOBBONot at all.
(confidentially.) The crowing's done by an accomplished hen!
CYRILAnd what are these? (Looking at robes in lodge.)
GOBBOThe academic robes,
Worn by the lady undergraduates
When they matriculate.
HILAR.I'll try one on. (Does so.)
Why, see--I'm covered to the very toes!
Ha! I've a proposition!
FLORI.State it then.
HILAR. Suppose we dress ourselves as girls, and claim
Admission to this University?
It is a thing we've often done at home
In amateur theatricals. You know
How well I play viragos in burlesque!
FLORI. My Cleopatra, too--remember that!
CYRILMy Mrs. Bouncer, too, in 'Box and Cox'!
HILAR.Wilt play the woman, then?
CYRILOf course! What knight
Would hesitate to "take a woman's part" ?

Quartette.--HILARION, CYRIL, FLORIAN, and GOBBO, as they dress themselves in women's clothes.

"Les Trois Cousines" (La Perichole ).

FLORI.If we are hailed with any query, Say we are nice young ladies, three;
Who of the world terribly weary,
Enter a University.
Such lovely girls, ha, ha, ha, ha!
ALLSuch lovely girls, ha, ha, ha, ha!
CYRILWe will declare to them that lately,
We have been bored with suitors stately,
And we prefer young ladies greatly--
Sorry to say that that's too true!
ALLSorry to say that that's too true!
HILAR.We must take care when we are talking,
Never our manly tastes to show;
Hold up our dresses thus in walking,
Showing an inch of ankle--so!
ALLShowing an inch of ankle--so!
Such lovely girls, ha, ha, ha, ha!
Such lovely girls, ha, ha, ha, ha!
GOBBO(in terror). But, gentlemen, observe--if you do this,
What's to become of me?
HILAR.I do not know
What will become of you if we do this;
But I can read the fate in store for you
If you presume to interfere with us.
Now, porter, say to whom we should apply
To gain admission.
GOBBO(in tears). Why, to Lady Blanche
Or Lady Psyche.
FLORI.Which is prettier?
GOBBOWell, I like Lady Blanche by far the best.
FLORI.Then we declare for Lady Blanche at once.
GOBBOYou see, she's more my age--the other one.
Is young and pretty! (contemptuously).
CYRILBah! Then I retract;
We will be Psyche's interesting charge!
So go and summon her. (GOBBO rings and then exit.)
FLORI.But stop a bit,
What will your father think of such a scheme?
CYRILOh, he be--dashed!
HILAR.Extremely shocked I am!
CYRILI meant my sire--
HILAR.I thought you meant your "dam"!

Enter LADY PSYCHE from gate, attended.

PSYCHE Who summons us?
HILAR.Three would-be students, ma'am--
Three noble ladies, ma'am, of good estate,
Who wish to join this University (they courtesy).
PSYCHEIf, as you say, you wish to join our ranks,
And will conform with all our rules, 'tis well;
But understand--you must adapt yourselves
To all the regulations now in force,
In Princess Ida's University.
HILAR.To all its rules, we cheerfully subscribe.
FLORI.(aside to HILARION). Here's a catastrophe, Hilarion!
This is my sister! She'll remember me,
Though years have passed since she and I have met!
HILAR.No matter, hide your face--she'll know you not.
PSYCHEYou say you're noblewomen--well, you'll find
No sham degrees for noblewomen, here--
Or other cruel contrivances to draw
An arbitrary line 'twixt rich and poor,
No butteries, or other institutes,
To make poor students feed rich cooks--no tufts
To mark nobility; except such tufts
As indicate nobility of brain.
As to your fellow-students, mark me well--
There are five hundred maidens in these walls
All good, all learned, and all beautiful.
You must select your intimates from these;
They are prepared to love you; will you swear
You'll do your best to love them in return?
FLORI.Upon our words and honors, ma'am, we will!
PSYCHEAnd will you swear that, if, by any chance,
You're thrown into a man's society,
You'll not allow your thoughts to stray from us,
But, at the earliest opportunity,
You'll give up his society for ours?
CYRIL All this, dear madam, cheerfully we swear.
PSYCHEBut we go further: will you undertake
That you will never marry any man?
FLORI. Indeed we never will!
PSYCHEConsider well,--
You must prefer our maids to all mankind!
HILAR. To all mankind we much prefer your maids!
CYRIL We should be dolts, indeed, if we did not,
Seeing how fair----
HILAR.(aside to CYRIL). Take care, that's rather strong!
(aloud) We have seen men of wealth--ay, princes too--
Whose beauty has been so remarkable,
That half the maidens in our monarch's court
Have pined away and died for love of them!
These men--Apollos in their manly grace,
Indeed in every thing (except in that
They wore a proper quantity of clothes)--
We think of with profound indifference,
But, when we see a woman who excels
In virtue, scholarship, and loveliness,
We long to lay our heads upon her breast,
And join our lives with hers!
PSYCHEWhy, that's well said.
But have you left no lovers at your home,
Who may pursue you here?
HILAR.No, madam, none--
We're homely ladies, as no doubt you see,
And we have never fished for lover's love--
We smile at girls who deck themselves with gems,
False hair, and meretricious ornaments,
To chain the fleeting fancy of a man;
But do not imitate them. What we have
Of hair is all our own--our color, too,
Unladylike, but not unwomanly,
Is but the glow of rugged, boisterous health;
Our gait, untrammeled by the influence
Of high heeled boots, small waists, and Grecian bends,
May seem undignified--but then we walk
As Nature meant us to--and man has learnt
To reckon Nature an impertinence!
PSYCHEI know how coldly men regard a girl,
Whose beauty is her poorest excellence;
But beauty goes for nothing in these walls.
You'll find yourselves appreciated here:
If what you say is true, you'll spend with us
A happy, happy time!
CYRILIf, as you say,
Five hundred lovely maidens wait within
To welcome us with smiles and open arms,
I think there's very little doubt we shall!
[Exeunt into Castle.


Last updated November 9, 1997