Gilbert and Sullivan opera set at some indeterminate point in English history poking considerable fun at the House of Lords.
This work provides examples of:
- Absurdly Youthful Mother: Fairies are unaging, and Stephron has a hard time explaining to his beloved that these nubile women he is seen embracing are, in fact, his mother and his aunts, all of whom look younger than him.I wouldn't say a word that could be reckoned as injurious
But to find a mother younger than her son is very curious
- Arcadia: The "Arcadian Shepherds" trope is parodied mercilessly with Phyllis and Strephon.
- Blue Blood: All the peers. Lord Tolloler even gets a song about it, "Spurn Not the Nobly Born."
- Blessed with Suck: Strephon who is half a fairy. He's a fairy down to the waist, but his legs are mortal, and will eventually grow old and die.
- British Royal Guards: Private Willis is one of these, and he sings a solo while no one's looking.
- Cloud Cuckoolander: Most of the chorus of peers and the chorus of fairies.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: The Fairy Queen's response to the Peers' intransigenceFairy Queen: Peers shall teem in Christendom/and a Duke's exalted station/Be attainable by Competitive Examination!Peers NO!
- She then goes on to add even more horrific punishments, such as rearranging Parliament's schedule so that the House of Lords will be in session during grouse hunting season.
- Cut Song: Fold your flapping wings, a solo for Strephon (he has no solo if it's cut, despite being the romantic lead) about poverty and crime, cut for being too serious for the show.
- Drag Queen: At least one production has had "The Fairy Queen" played by a man in drag.
- Felony Misdemeanor: See Cool and Unusual Punishment, above. Played for laughs, obviously.
- The Fair Folk: The fairies, of course.
- Forgot I Could Change the Rules: How the plot conflict is conveniently resolved at the end.
- The Lord Chancellor's old job as "Equity Draughtsman"note is parodied: in equity, a document may have to be redrafted to reflect as much of the authors' intent as possible, while making it consistent with law, justice, or public policy. His single-word proposed alteration of fairy law completely reverses the meaning and intent of the law.
- Friend Versus Lover: Tolloler and Mountararat are torn between their friendship and their unrequited love triangle with Phyllis.
- Almost leads to a Cock Fight between the two friends, until Phyllis reminds them of what's important and what's not.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Strephon is worried that Phyllis will no longer want to marry him if she finds out he is half a fairy.
- His monologue wondering what will happen as he grows older and only half of him ages is also full of this, to the point that it's not even all that hidden in terms of what precisely he's worried about.
- "We were boys together! Or at least, I was."
- Phyllis is beloved by the entire House of Lords. Here's a line of dialogue about it: "Why did five-and-twenty Liberal Peers come down to shoot over your grass-plot last autumn? It couldn't have been the sparrows. Why did five-and-twenty Conservative Peers come down to fish your pond? Don't tell me it was the gold-fish!"
- The peers' explanation to Phyllis of what Strephon said in Act I Finale's opening section "When darkly looms the day" must be an example of this, because noone complained at the time, but it really is not subtle at all...
- Half-Human Hybrid: The half-fairy Strephon, the romantic lead. His top half is an immortal fairy, but below the waist he'll eventually grow old.
- Have a Gay Old Time: "Tripping hither, tripping thither!"
- A Fairy member - how delightful! Not really though - she's talking about Parliament.
- Hurricane Of Aphorisms:Nothing venture, nothing win
Blood is thick, but water's thin
In for a penny, in for a pound
It's Love that makes the world go round!
- Luke, I Am Your Father: The Lord Chancellor is Strephon's father
- Mood Whiplash: the second half of Act 2. The Lord Chancellor sings a gloomy recitative which leads into the surreal Nightmare Song. He, Tolloller and Mountararat then have a funny dialogue and an upbeat song. Then Strephon enters "in low spirits" (the whiplash is even more pronounced if his darkly satirical Cut Song is included) but then reconciles with Phyllis and they sing a happy duet. They ask Iolanthe to persuade the Lord Chancellor to let them marry.
- The Mood Whiplash reaches its ultimate with a totally non-comic Tear Jerker scene absolutely Played for Drama: Iolanthe reveals to Strephon and Phyllis that she married the Lord Chancellor years ago, but now must never see again on pain of death. The Lord Chancellor enters, determined to marry Phyllis. Iolanthe pleads with him incognito in a beautiful, heart-rending song, reminding him of his own dead wife from his youth. After momentary indecision, he steels himself and informs this unknown lady that Phyllis is his own promised bride. Iolanthe reveals herself, determined to sacrifice her life for his son's happiness — and possibly because of her own jealousy. The Fairy Queen enters to execute her. Then the whole thing is resolved with a typically ridiculous G&S happy ending.
- Sullivan may have been "inspired" to compose for that scene by his mother's death that year.
- Murphy's Bed: The Lord Chancellor's nightmare provides the page quote.
- Not What It Looks Like: Strephon's mother looks about 17. His fiance catches the two of them embracing. Oops.
- Later on, Strephon reminds Phyllis that all aunts look just as young. Phyllis understands:Phyllis: Whenever I see you kissing a very young lady, I shall know it's an elderly relative.
- Later on, Strephon reminds Phyllis that all aunts look just as young. Phyllis understands:
- Older Than They Look: All the fairies are Really 700 Years Old, but appear to be attractive teenage girls.
- Opening Chorus: "Tripping Hither, Tripping Thither."
- Patter Song: The Nightmare Song, easily the toughest such song in the whole canon.
- The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything:"When Wellington thrashed Bonaparte,
As every child can tell,
The House of Peers, throughout the war,
Did nothing in particular,
And did it very well."
- Playing Gertrude: Justified in any production, as Strephon's mother and aunts are supposed to all look noticeably younger than him, and one of the jokes is the need for him to explain to people (such as his intended bride) why teenage girls are seen hugging and kissing him.
- Power of Friendship: Parodied with Lords Tolloler and Mountararat, with heavy doses of both Jerkass and What an Idiot, not to mention so much Have a Gay Old Time, it verges on Ho Yay."We were boys together! Or at least, I was."
- Punch Clock Villain: The Lord Chancellor prides himself on never letting his good heart interfere with the rulings he makes as a judge.
- Purple Prose: Satirized in this particularly purpurescent speech:Strephon: My Lord, I know no Courts of Chancery; I go by Nature's Acts of Parliament. The bees — the breeze — the seas — the rooks — the brooks — the gales — the vales — the fountains and the mountains cry, "You love this maiden — take her, we command you!" 'Tis writ in heaven by the bright barbed dart that leaps forth into lurid light from each grim thundercloud. The very rain pours forth her sad and sodden sympathy! When chorused Nature bids me take my love, shall I reply, "Nay, but a certain Chancellor forbids it"? Sir, you are England's Lord High Chancellor, but are you Chancellor of birds and trees, King of the winds and Prince of thunderclouds?Lord Chancellor: No. It's a nice point. I don't know that I ever met it before. But my difficulty is that at present there's no evidence before the Court that chorused Nature has interested herself in the matter...
- Relative Error: Justified quite well, as Strephon's mother (as an immortal fairy) is Really 700 Years Old but looks to be about seventeen. Phyllis is understandably skeptical when she sees them embracing, and promptly breaks off her engagement. Eventually resolved in the hilarious lines:Phyllis: Whenever I see you kissing a very young lady, I shall know it's an elderly relative.Strephon: You will? Then, Phyllis, I think we shall be very happy!
- Saying Sound Effects Out Loud: The chorus of Peers mimics the sound of brass and percussion: "Tantantara, Tzing, Boom!"
- Tsundere: The fairies in Iolanthe, especially in "In vain to us you plead", which is practically the Tsundere anthem.
- Unwanted Harem: The Lord Chancellor, the Earls of Mountararat and Tololler, and the entire Chorus of Peers are all in love with Phyllis, who wants none of them.
- Wife Husbandry: The Lord Chancellor's plan for Phyllis, his ward.