The Princess


Original Plays, by W. S. Gilbert

SCENE THIRD.--Grounds of Castle Adamant;

Waterfall and Stream, crossed by rustic bridge; GIRL-STUDENTS discovered grouped about the stage, occupied with philosophical instruments, &c.

ADAI shall be quite alone, dear, in my rooms,
So come and spend a long, long evening--do!
And bring your steam-engine!
CHLOEOh, that I will!
And you shall show me all your nice new things--
That quadrant--and the anemometer;
And oh, that darling, darling dumpy-level
I've heard so much about!
LYDIAMy love, I see
You've got another new theodolite.
(aside to CHLOE) That's the fifteenth this month! The one I use
Went out of fashion half a year ago!
Oh, I've a bit of scandal! What d'you think?
Melissa found a billet-doux, concealed
In that Egyptian mummy we unrolled
Last night. Just think of that!

Enter MELISSA, from bridge, running.

MELISSAI say, my dear,
I have such news for you! I've just been shown
The robe for doctors of divinity.
Oh, it's the sweetest thing!--Magenta silk,
Trimmed with chinchilla, bouilloné, behind,
Gored to the figure though; and on the skirt,
Two rows of Cluny lace as deep as that!
CHLOEOh my! How lovely!
MELISSAThen the trencher cap
Is amber satin, trimmed with Cluny lace
And rows of pearls; and round the outer edge
The tiniest, tiniest rosebuds in the world!
ADA (to Chloe). It's much more lovely than the legal gown--
Green grenadine, with rûchings down the front,
That we shall wear.
CHLOE (pouting). I shall give up the law
And go into the church! I've always felt
A serious longing for a pastor's life;
Besides, I'm dark, and look a fright in green!
SACHA.Take care, here's Lady Blanche. How stern she looks!

Enter LADY BLANCHE, L., GIRLS study vigorously.

BLANCHEAttention, ladies, while I read to you
The Princess Ida's list of punishments:
The first is Sacharissa. She's expelled.
BLANCHEExpelled--because, although she knew
No man of any kind may see these halls,
She dared to bring a set of chessmen here!
SACHA.(in tears). I meant no harm--they're only men of wood!
BLANCHEThey're men with whom you give each other mate--
And that's enough! The next is Sylvia--
BLANCHESylvia is rusticated for a month
Because, in spite of all our college rules
Upon the point, she dared to put three rows
Of lace insertion round her graduate's gown!
Phyllis will lose three terms, for yesterday,
When, looking through her drawing book, I found
A sketch of a perambulator!
BLANCHEDouble perambulator, shameless girl!
That's all at present. Now, attention please,
Your principal, the Princess, comes to give
Her usual inaugural address,
To those young ladies who joined yesterday.

(March.--Enter the PRINCESS, over bridge, attended by eight "daughters of the plow." All courtesy profoundly.)

PRINCESS Women of Adamant--fair neophytes,
Who pant for the instruction we can give,
Attend, while I unfold a parable:
The elephant is stronger than the man,
Yet man subdues him. Why? The elephant
Is elephantine everywhere but here (tapping forehead),
And Man, who's brain is to the elephant's
As Woman's brain to Man's--that's rule of three--
Conquers the foolish giant of the woods,
As Woman, in her turn, shall conquer Man,
In mathematics Woman leads the way!
The narrow-minded pedant still believes
That two and two make four! Why, we can prove--
We women, household drudges as we are--
That two and two make five--or three--or seven--
Or five-and-twenty, as the case demands!
Finance? Why, I've heard clever men declare,
Their bankers' balance being overdrawn,
They don't know where to turn for ready cash,
Yet willfully ignoring all the while
That remedy unfailing--draw a check!
Diplomacy? The wily diplomate
Is absolutely helpless in our hands:
He wheedles monarchs--Woman wheedles him!
Logic? Why, tyrant man himself admits
It's waste of time to argue with a woman!
Then we excel in social qualities--
Though man professes that he holds our sex
In utter scorn, I'll undertake to say
If you could read the secrets of his heart,
He'd rather be alone with one of you
Than with five hundred of his fellow-men!
In all things we excel. Believing this,
Five hundred maidens here have sworn to place
Their foot upon his neck. If we succeed,
We'll treat him better than he treated us,
But if we fail--oh then let hope fail too!
Let no one care one penny how she looks!
Let red be worn with yellow--blue with green,
Crimson with scarlet--violet with blue!
Let all your things misfit, and you yourselves
At inconvenient moments come undone!
Let hair-pins lose their virtue; let the hook
Disdain the fascination of the eye,--
The bashful button modestly evade
The soft embraces of the button hole!
Let old associations all dissolve,
Let Swan secede from Edgar--Grant from Gask,
Sewell from Cross--Lewis from Allenby--
In other words, let Chaos come again!
Who lectures in the Upper Hall to-day?
BLANCHEI, madam, on Abstract Philosophy.
There, I propose considering at length
Three points--the Is, the Might Be, and the Must.
Whether the Is, from being actual fact,
Is more important than the vague Might Be,
Or the Might Be, from taking wider scope,
Is, for that reason, greater than the Is,
And lastly, how the Is and Might Be stand
Compared with the inevitable Must.
PRIN.The subject's deep--how do you treat it, pray?

BLANCHEMadam, I take three Possibilities,
And strike a balance then between the three,
As thus--the Princess Ida Is our head--
The Lady Psyche Might Be--Lady Blanche--
Neglected Blanche--inevitably Must.
Given these three hypotheses--to find
The actual betting against each of them!
Come, girls!
PRIN.(looking after her). Ambitious fool. And do you think you can
Provide this college with a head. Go, go!
Provide yourself with one--you want it more!

Enter LADY PSYCHE, over bridge, conducting HILARION, FLORIAN, and CYRIL.

LADY P.Here is the Princess Ida's favorite grove,
And here's the Princess. (To PRINCESS.) These are ladies three
Who join our College.
HILAR.(aside to CYRIL). Gods! how beautiful!
PRIN.What special study to you seek, my friend?

HILAR.(enraptured). Madam, I come that I may learn to live,
For, if I come not here, I die!
Your case is desperate! We welcome you.
We meet at luncheon--until then, farewell!
FLORI.(aside to HILARION). When Psyche sees my face, I'm confident
She'll recognize her brother Florian.
Let's make a virtue of necessity,
And trust our secret to her gentle care.
(HILARION assents.)
(aloud) Psyche! Why don't you know me--Florian?
(PSYCHE amazed.)
PSYCHEWhy, Florian!
FLORI.My sister!
PSYCHEOh, my dear,
What are you doing here--and who are these?
HILAR.I am that Prince Hilarion to whom
Your Princess is betrothed--I come to claim
Her promised love--your brother Florian, here,
And Cyril--come to see me safely through.
PSYCHEThe Prince Hilarion! -- Cyril too! How strange!
My earliest playfellows!
HILAR.(astonished).Why let me look!
Are you that learned little Psyche who
At school alarmed her mates because she called
A buttercup "ranunculus bulbosus"?
CYRILAre you indeed that Lady Psyche, who
At children's parties drove the conjurer wild,
Explaining all his tricks before he did them?
HILAR.Are you that learned little Psyche, who
At dinner parties brought into dessert
Would tackle visitors with "you don't know
Who first determined longitude--I do--
Hipparchus 'twas, B.C. one sixty three!"
Are you indeed that little Psyche then?
PSYCHEThat small phenomenon in truth am I!
But gentlemen, 'tis death to enter here--
My vow will make me speak. What shall I do?
This palace is a rat trap--we the bait--
And you the foolish victims!
CYRILBe it so--
A prisoned rat, before he dies the death,
Has liberty to nibble at the bait! (kisses her).
PSYCHEForbear, sir--pray--you know not what you do!
We have all promised to renounce mankind.
HILAR.But on what grounds do you, fair Psyche, base
This senseless resolution?
PSYCHESenseless? No!
It's based upon the grand hypothesis
That as the Ape is undeveloped Man,
So Man is undeveloped Woman.
This, of all others, is the place for us!

Enter MELISSA unperceived, at back; she listens in astonishment.

If Man is only undeveloped Woman,
We men, if we work very hard indeed,
And do our utmost to improve ourselves--
May in good time be women! Though I own
Up to this point (as far as I'm aware)
The metamorphosis has not commenced.
MELISSA(coming down). Oh, Lady Psyche! --
PSYCHE(startled). What--you heard us, then?
Oh, all is lost!
MELISSANot so; I'll breathe no word.
(Advancing in astonishment to FLORIAN.)
How marvelously strange! And are you then,
Indeed young men?
FLORI.Well, yes--just now we are;
But hope, by dint of study, to become,
In course of time, young women!
MELISSA(eagerly).No! no! no!
Oh, don't do that! Is this indeed a man?
I've often heard of them, but till this day
Never set eyes on one. They told me men
Were hideous, idiotic, and deformed!
They're quite as beautiful as women are!
(patting FLORIAN'S cheek) Their cheeks have not that pulpy
softness which
One gets so weary of in womankind!
Their features are more marked, and oh! Their chins (feeling his chin)
How curious!
FLORI.I fear it's rather rough.
MELISSAOh, don't apologize--I like it so!
But I forgot; my mother, Lady Blanche,
Is coming--and her eyes are very keen--
She will detect you, sir!
HILAR.Oh, never fear!
We saw her ladyship an hour ago;
She seemed to have suspicions of our sex,
And showed us robes, and gave us needlework,
As though to test us. Well, we did the work
Like seamstresses--and named the various stuffs,
As if we'd spent a full apprenticeship
At Swan and Edgar's!

Enter LADY BLANCHE. Exeunt the three GENTLEMEN with LADY PSYCHE.

BLANCHE(aside to MELISSA). Here, Melissa--hush!
Those are the three new students?

MELISSA(confused).Yes, they are--
They're charming girls!
BLANCHE(sarcastically). Particularly so!
So graceful, and so very womanly;
So skilled in all a girl's accomplishments!
MELISSA(confused). Yes very skilled!
BLANCHEYou stupid little fool!
Awhile ago, I placed before their eyes,
Some Cluny lace--they call it Valenciennes--
Hemming is stitching--so at least they say--
A gusset is a gore--a tuck's a flounce--
Merino's cotton--linen's calico--
Poplin is silk, and rep is corduroy!
I bade them hem a pocket handkerchief--
They placed their thimbles on their forefingers!
And set about their work as clumsily
As if they had been men, in girls' disguise!
MELISSA(trembling). You surely wrong them,
Mother dear, for see--(picking up a case from floor)
Here is an étui dropped by one of them--
Containing scissors, needles, and----
BLANCHE(taking it from her, and opening it). Cigars!!!
Why these are men! And you knew this, you cat!
MELISSAOh, spare them--they are gentlemen, indeed,
The Prince Hilarion--betrothed long since
To Princess Ida--with two trusted friends!
Consider, Mother, he's her husband now!
And has been, twenty years! Consider, too, (insidiously)
You're only second here--you should be first--
Assist the Prince's plan, and when he gains
The Princess Ida's hand, you will be first!
You will design the fashions--think of that!
And always serve out all the punishments!
The scheme is harmless, Mother--wink at it!
BLANCHEThe prospect's tempting! Well, well, well, I'll try--
Though I've not winked at any thing for years!
'Tis but one step towards my destiny--
The mighty Must! Inevitable Shall!
MELISSASave for a while at least!


FLORI.Melissa here?
MELISSAOh, sir, you must away from this at once,
My mother guessed your sex--it was my fault,
I blushed and stammered so, that she exclaimed:
"Can these be men" (then seeing this) "Why these----"
"Are men!" she would have added, but "are men"
Stuck in her throat! She keeps your secret, sir,
For reasons of her own; but fly from this,
And take me with you--that is--no, not that!
FLORI.I'll go--but not without you.(Bell.)
Why, what's that?
MELISSAThe luncheon bell.
FLORI.I'll wait for luncheon, then.
See, here's Hilarion with the stern Princess,
And Cyril with my sister Psyche, too.

Enter CYRIL with PSYCHE, and HILARION with PRINCESS, LADY BLANCHE, also all the other GIRLS, over bridge, bearing luncheon, which is spread. They all sit down and eat, CYRIL drinking freely.

PRIN.You say you know the Court of Hildebrand?
There is a prince there--I forget his name.
PRIN.Exactly. Is he well?
HILAR.If it is well to droop and pine and mope--
To sigh, "Oh, Ida! Ida!" all day long--
"Ida! my love! my life! Oh, come to me!"--
If it is well, I say, to do all this,
Then Prince Hilarion is very well.
PRIN.He breathes our name? Well, it's a common one!
And is the booby comely?
HILAR.Pretty well.
I've heard it said that if I dressed myself
In Prince Hilarion's clothes (supposing this
Consorted with my maiden modesty),
I might be taken for Hilarion's self.
But what is this to you or me, who think
Of all mankind with unconcealed contempt?
PRIN.Contempt? Why, damsel, when I think of man,
Contempt is not the word!
CYRIL(getting tipsy).I'm sure of that;
Or, if it is, it surely should not be!
HILAR.(to CYRIL). Be quiet, idiot, or they'll find us out!
CYRILThe Prince Hilarion's a goodly lad!
PRIN.You know him, then?
CYRILI rather think I do!
We were inseparables.
PRIN.Why, what's this?
You loved him then? (horrified).
CYRILWe did--and do--all three!
And he loves us sincerely in return!
HILAR.(confused). Madam, she jests--(aside to CYRIL.) Remember where you are!
CYRILJests? Not at all--why, bless my heart alive,
You and Hilarion, when at the Court,
Rode the same horse!
CYRILOf course--why not?
Wore the same clothes--and once or twice, I think
Got tipsy in the same good company!
PRIN.Well, these are nice young ladies, on my word--
CYRIL(to FLORIAN). Don't you remember that old laughing song,
That he and we would troll in unison,
At the Three Pigeons--just when daylight broke?
I'll give it you!
Song, CYRIL, Air--Laughing Song from "Manon Lescaut."
A young and earnest reader,
Once with a special pleader,
Was reading for the bar,
Ha! ha! ha! ha!
A budding luminary,
Particularly wary,
As lovers often are,
Ha! ha! ha! ha!
He met a lady bright, ha! ha!
'Twas very late at night, ha! ha!
There shone no moon nor star,
Ha! ha! ha! ha!
Her head lay on his shoulder,
And what d'you think he told her?(
You'll never guess, I know.
I scarcely like to tell you,
For fear it should repel you--
Come, whisper, whisper low!
No! no! no! no! no! no! no! no!
Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!

They threaded many mazes,
Of buttercups and daisies,
They wandered very far,
Ha! ha! ha! ha!
So amiable he found her,
He put his arms around her,
And she opposed no bar,
Ha! ha! ha! ha!
He squeezed her little fin, ha! ha!
He chucked her little chin, ha! ha!
And christened her his star,
Ha! ha! ha! ha!
Her head lay on his shoulder,
And what d'you think he told her?
You'll never guess, I know--
I'll hazard it and tell you,
Although it may repel you--
Come, whisper, whisper low!
No! no! no! no! no! no! no! no!
Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!
(After song he lights a cigarette.)

PRIN.Infamous creature--get you hence away!
HILAR.Dog! Here is something more to sing about! (Strikes him.)
CYRIL (sobered). Hilarion--are you mad?
PRIN. (astonished).Hilarion? Help!
Why these are men! Lost! Lost! betrayed! undone!
(running on to bridge).
Girls, get you hence--man-monsters, if you dare
Approach one step--I--ah! (loses balance and falls.)
PSYCHEOh! Save her, sir!
BLANCHEIt's useless, sir, you'll only catch your death. (HILARION springs in.)
SACHA.He catches her--
MELISSAAnd now he lets her go--
Again she's in his grasp--
PSYCHEAnd now she's not!
He seizes her back hair--
BLANCHEAnd it comes off!
PSYCHENo.--no--she's saved! She's saved! She's saved! She's saved!

(HILARION is seen swimming with the PRINCESS in one arm--he swims to a bank and the PRINCESS and he are brought to land.)

PRIN.You've saved our lives and so have saved your own,
But leave this palace--men in women's clothes!

Enter LYDIA, running.

Why, what's the matter now?
LYDIAKing Hildebrand,
Holding your father captive, sends to say
That if Hilarion suffers any harm,
Your father's life will pay the penalty,
Moreover--if you do not yield yourself,
According to the tenor of your oath,
He will attack you ere to-morrow's dawn--
And force compliance!
PRIN.Will he so, indeed?
We'll teach these men a lesson. (To HILARION.) Get you gone!
You saved our lives--we thank you for it--go!
Arm, Amazons! We'll show these gentlemen,
How nobly Woman vindicates her claim
To equal individuality!
Arm! Arm! This is our opportunity.

The three GENTLEMEN are thrust forth by the AMAZONS. Tableau.


Last updated November 9, 1997