Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



Robert Jones: But here's a thought (suddenly changing topic): Phyllis asks Strephon, "Does your mother know you're - ". I don't believe Gilbert's supposed answer to this ("Does your mother know you're out?") What would be a fitting conclusion to this question? What other instances are there in G&S of incomplete and unexplained lines?

Barri Soreil: Don't know if this is an "Americanism" but in most productions I've seen, Phyllis' question to Strephon is "Does your mother know we're.." the inference being does his mother know they're engaged. This makes a lot more sense to me than the line does as you've quoted it. Are you sure?

Robert Jones: Yes, Barri, I'm sure. It's "you're" in the libretto I have, and in all the performances I've seen and heard (as far as I recall). I've tried to find the WSG quote (when asked about the truncated question, he is said to have claimed it was: "Does your mother know you're out?"). But I can't find it. Perhaps it's in Martyn Green's Treasury, which I foolishly lent to a friend and never saw again.

I can understand why editors or directors might change it to "we're", for the obvious expedient of making sense, but there's something particularly Gilbertian about an unfinished and irrelevant sentence.

What do other people ---

Philip Sternenberg: I believe it. I've even heard the expression used in my lifetime -- once. I imagine most of you are familiar with the ODD COUPLE episode in which Oscar has to lip-sync the title role in RIGOLETTO to the voice of Richard Fredericks. The official title of this episode is "Does Your Mother Know You're Out, Rigoletto?" I am not making this up, as Dave Barry would say. (What Dave Barry also once said was, "'Aria' is Italian for 'song that will not end in your lifetime'.")

Theodore C Rice: Just checked in the Martyn Green book,and on page 306, note 75, Green quotes J. M. Gordon as being sure that Phyllis was going to ask, "Does your mother know you're out,?" He says that Gordon directed the line to be spoken as if she were saying that, and remembering herself just in time.

There was a popular song in the (19)30's which used the line. Title was "Cecilia," and the first line was "Does your mother know you're out, Cecilia ?"

Marc Shepherd: There's no question this was a stock phrase in Victorian times, and Gilbert expected his audience would be familiar with it. This is one of many examples of jokes in IOLANTHE that has lost its impact over time. (Captain Shaw, Parliamentary Pickford, "cherished rights...on Friday nights", etc., are among the others.)

Barri Soreil: There was indeed such a song "Does Your Mother Know You're Out, Cecelia?". My husband sang it with a barbershop quartet (great for keeping the old songs alive!) in a local competition about 20 years ago. It also was quite a popular expression in common usage in the USA during the 20's and 30's.

Updated 28 November 1997