Gilbert and Sullivan Archive



PAUL McSHANE: Rose belongs to the class of un-loveblind heroine whom Gilbert invested with a modicum of shrewd common sense and an eye to the main chance. She joins the Plaintiff, Phyllis, Yum-Yum, Phoebe, Julia and possibly Zara in this class.

She probably isn't the one I'd choose as my personal choice of marooned-on-desert-island partner (I think that vote goes to Phyllis), but she'd make a good dinner party guest and a useful ally.

ANDREW CROWTHER: Someone said something about "Happily coupled are we", about how the second verse shouldn't be cut because it's integral to the meaning (or something like that). I agree absolutely. It's a perfect example of how Gilbert's famous cynicism, or topsyturvydom, or whatever you like, works. In the first verse we have Dick Dauntless singing breezily away in the usual nautical metaphors about tight little crafts (all stage sailors talked like that - see Jerrold's Black-Eyed Susan, if you don't believe me.) He even calls himself a Jolly Jack Tar, for God's sake! But then, in the second verse, to the same tune, we have Rose chiming in with a much more realistic view of the matter. (She may be in thrall to a book of etiquette, but she isn't a complete fool.) Get rid of the second verse, and we're left with nothing but Dick's breeziness, which is all very well, but missing the point somewhat.

And the actual lyrics are superb, of course. "And I shall be left all alone/To moan/And weep at your cruel deceit/Complete,/While you'll be asserting/Your freedom by flirting/With every woman you meet,/You cheat!" She could hardly have said it better in prose.

It occurs to me that Rose must have some of the most sheerly funny songs of all G&S heroines. I haven't made a survey, but mostly their songs have a rather sentimental/cute edge, don't they? But Rose, lucky woman, gets to sing about how unfaithful her lover is going to be, in addition to that wonderful "Etiquette" song, which always gets its laughs (in my experience).

ANDREW TAINES: I was interested to read Mr. Crowther's assessment of Rose's verse. I have always had trouble with her verse (once it became known to me). While I appreciate Mr. Crowther's comments, I'm not totally convinced. The verse strikes me as mean-spirited and in that, doesn't fit Rose's character. While she may not be a "complete fool," she is pretty naive as witnessed in her scene with Richard and the following scene with Richard and Robin (Act One). Or, has she suddenly became knowledgeable about men in the intervening week between Acts One and Two? She is, also, "sweet Rose Maybud"; another reason I have trouble with her singing these lines.

But, yes, I agree that the "Etiquette" song is quite funny and can hardly fail to get laughs.

CHARLES SCHLOTTER: But is she really "sweet?" That is her character as defined by the conventions of melodrama but Gilbert goes to a great deal of trouble to stand those conventions on their heads. She is supposed to be virtuous and naive. Yet her "virtue" is entirely a matter of literally-interpreted rules from an etiquette book. She is so "naive" that she instantaneously switches fiancees back and forth and back again based upon financial calculation.

Therefore it doesn't surprise me that the second verse shows her to be mean-spirited - her actions, as opposed to her pronouncements and her official title as Sweet Rose Maybud, have been ruthlessly self-aggrandizing, in fact considerably more ruthless than Katisha.

Is that too strong? My assessment: If Katisha acts badly from hurt feelings, at least she has some feelings to hurt. Can you imagine Sweet Rose Maybud singing anything with the emotional depth of "Hearts do not Break?" Hardly - it would no doubt violate some rule of etiquette. Mind you, I'm not saying this from indignation. I think Rose's selfishness is killingly funny.

The central joke of the piece is that the "virtuous" characters (virtuous according to stock-dramatic types) are disloyal, dishonest and greedy, whereas Despard, the cardboard villain, is the softie.

BILL SNYDER: A-many years ago a friend xeroxed a copy of a short essay from what she said was a Gilbert & Sullivan journal. It purported to prove, by analyzing Mad Margaret's ramblings, that she was indeed the mother of Rose Maybud, the obvious father being Despard. Who else would leave a baby "hung in a plated dish-cover to the knocker of the workhouse door, with naught that [she] could call [her] own save a change of baby-linen and a book of etiquette"?

One could agree or disagree with the thesis (do the ramblings of a disturbed fictional character prove a concrete parentage to another fictional character?) but it was a good argument. And the upshot would be that as the operetta ends Rose is preparing to become her own aunt! Oh, dear!

DANIEL KRAVETZ: I remember reading this essay. It was either in the G&S Journal or The Savoyard sometime in the mid-1960's. The most interesting thing about it was an outraged letter in the next issue from a reader who demanded that his/her subscription be terminated because "G&S" now stood for "Garbage and Sex."

MICHAEL WALTERS: I think this was probably from The Savoyard, and I think the author was Diana Burleigh.

DIANA BURLEIGH: Sorry, but I haven't had time to check back on old papers to see if I wrote the article you describe. I have given a couple of talks on the hidden meaning of Ruddigore and can't really separate all the ideas that I have developed over the years. I did write a couple of articles for FUMGASS back in the early 70's and I think one suggested that Corcoran was the illegitimate son of one of the Murgatroyds and Dick Dauntless and Dick Deadeye one and the same person, but I can't recall the details.

MIKE NASH: An idea has been circulating that Rose Maybud was actually the illegitimate daughter of Sir Despard and Mad Margaret, giving new meaning to Sir Despard's "Italian glance" and Margaret's line to Rose, "Be my mother!" Well, sorry to pour cold water on this but it's impossible. Why? Because Rose is a "bride of seventeen summers", which means she was born seven years before Sir Roderic died and Sir Despard became (so he thought) the Baronet of Ruddigore. The story and the humour of Ruddigore rest on the fact that the Murgatroyds were all perfectly virtuous people except for the curse. If Despard had committed adultery with (or even raped) Margaret before the curse had begun its effect on him, then it would have meant that some at least of the Murgatroyds were bad without the curse having to make them bad, and so the curse's effect would have been greatly diminished, if not totally neutralised.

ARTHUR ROBINSON: Why adultery? Is there any evidence that either of them was married? Gilbert certainly didn't think that premarital sex made someone automatically bad (as his play Charity shows).

But tush! I am taking this too seriously. Otherwise, you make a couple of good points.

Actually, I think Rose is the illegitimate daughter not of Mad Margaret or Dame Hannah, but of Mr. Wilkinson and Tarara's daughter.

GENE LEONARDI: May I offer another possibility? Perhaps her real parents are Dame Hannah and "good ol Roddy-doddy." Consider. Dame Hannah has obviously never gotten over her brief fling with that "god-like youth," and she was certainly left in a "pretty pickle" as she says in Act Two. Despite her protestations of "maidenhood" she well could have spent some time away from Rederring visiting "relations" at the fateful moment. She certainly does have an inordinate amount of interest in a girl who really should have no specific claim on her (all use of "aunt" notwithstanding). Ergo, to keep the Mozart analogy alive, just as Figaro finds his long lost parents, so goes Rose and I forsee Dame Hannah "telling it all" at the final curtain and being made an honest woman at last.

Page created 4 October 1997