Gilbert and Sullivan Archive


"A Private Buffoon"

ARTHUR ROBINSON: I have always assumed-probably because I read it in Martyn Green's Treasury or somewhere-that Point's line "Though your wife ran away with a soldier that day" doesn't mean it actually happened to him, but might indicate he's thinking of Elsie, his potential wife, marrying Fairfax. But the fact that Point is single doesn't mean he wouldn't commit burglaree (in the Counsel for the Plaintiff's sense)-since he plans to propose to Elsie, knowing that her husband is still alive.

RICHARD BLIGHT: In agreement with Arthur Robinson, I have always assumed that Point's "though your wife ran away with a soldier that day" applied to Elsie's marrying Fairfax. Where the "and took with her your trifle of money" comes in is a little harder to see. Is Point referring to the "an hundred crowns" promised by the Lieutenant? If so they could hardly be considered his money, considering it was Elsie who did the marrying and it was Elsie's mother (the true villain of the opera) who needed the money.

THEODORE C RICE: Point sings ".....ran away with a soldier..." Considering his lack of formal education, couldn't we assume that poor Jack is using a simple form of the verb vice the future subjunctive (which he probably never heard of, let alone used)?

TOM SHEPARD: Of course it will remain moot, and I don't think any of us can solve it on the basis of Point's usage of future subjunctive-but I do think this: that Point was giving every example he could of why it's tough for anyone to be a jester.

Point may or may not have personally experienced some or all of his catalog of injustices. Inevitably he must have occasionally told a joke that's "too French"-but I don't think he ever had a runaway wife-again, I can't know this, but I believe it to be true.

ANDREW CROWTHER: It never occurred to me that "A Private Buffoon" should be taken as purely autobiographical, at least to the extent of meaning that Point has a wife. Surely the meaning of these lines is clear enough? It's the universal complaint of the employee about his hard-hearted employer: "Your wife might have just run away from you for all he cares". It isn't a confession that Point's wife did do so-just a bit of grumbling that if she did, his employers wouldn't give a stuff.

TOM SHEPARD: It's the life of A jester we are hearing about, not necessarily this one particular jester. He's a poor soul, one of thousands of funnymen who manage to slip through life relatively unnoticed and unharmed. But he got himself into a very high-level intrigue involving the Military and the Upper Classes, and they just rolled all over him without giving him much of a thought. Only Elsie (as properly revised by WSG) has the courage to publicly drop a tear. She's a good girl, also out of her depth, but, for the moment at least, a lot better off than her old partner.

BRUCE I. MILLER: It is certainly ironic for Point to talk about a situation in which he is soon to find himself, and perhaps that is all Gilbert intended. If that is all, it certainly hits home for those who already know the play.

However, in the very next dialogue, we have this exchange:

POINT: ...My sweetheart, Elsie Maynard, was secretly wed to this Fairfax half an hour ere he escaped.

WILFRED: She did well.

POINT: She did nothing of the kind, so hold thy peace and perpend.

As Fairfax was known to be a soldier (at least that's what I get from a line of Meryll's about him in Act I), it makes real sense for the last verse of Private Buffoon to be Point relating to his own situation. In our recent production, Peter Stark (playing Point) roared the last line above at Wilfred, to emphasize how disturbed he was at the both of them. He also sang Private Buffoon so as to become progressively more distressed and angry, so that by the last verse he was bitter-this naturally progressed into the dialogue given above.

Page created 7 June 1997