%% Do not add information about Trope Namers on this page.
%% Information about Trope Namers goes on the Trivia page.
%% Also, since the trope MajorGeneralSong is about parodies of the Major General's song,
%% the Major General's song is not itself an example of the trope.
''The Pirates of Penzance, or: The Slave of Duty'' is a famous and much-parodied (and itself redolent with parodies and lampshade-hanging) operetta by Creator/GilbertAndSullivan, and one of the most famous works of 19th century English drama. The eponymous slave to duty is Frederic, who was accidentally apprenticed to a pirate ship when he was a boy, and felt honour-bound to be the best pirate he could be -- but now he has come of age, and his period of apprenticeship is over, he feels honour-bound to round up a posse and wipe the pirates from the face of the earth. Due to a quibble, it turns out his apprenticeship hasn't quite run out after all. HilarityEnsues.

Penzance was a prominent seaside resort town in UsefulNotes/{{Cornwall}}. Thus, the title sounds like "The Pirates of Malibu" would today.

One of the most widely-recognised bits of the operetta is the PatterSong "I am the very model of a ModernMajorGeneral", sung by the father of the obligatory love interest.

Two '''very''' different film versions were made in TheEighties in the wake of a wildly successful New York City revival of the operetta. ''Film/ThePirateMovie'' (1982) has a modern day teen heroine dreaming herself into the story as Mabel (Frederic's love interest); with light pop songs and pop culture parodies alongside the Gilbert and Sullivan material, it could be described as ''Pirates of Penzance'' meets ''Grease'' meets ''Airplane!''. A film adapted from the aforementioned revival staging was released the following year with the original title, and starred Creator/KevinKline as the Pirate King and Music/LindaRonstadt as Mabel.
!!This work provides examples of:

* AbductionIsLove: When the pirates capture Major-General Stanley's daughters, their first thought is "to be married with impunity."
* ActionGirl: Ruth, a 47 year old child's maid who joins battle between pirates and police during a full raid on Penzance, coming out without a scratch.
* AffectionateParody: The entire play. Down to the music; "Poor Wand'ring One" is a parody of "Sempre libera" from Music/GiuseppeVerdi's ''Theatre/LaTraviata'' and "Come, Friends Who Plough The Sea" is a parody of the "Anvil Chorus" from Verdi's ''Theatre/IlTrovatore''.
* AllThereInTheScript:
** The Pirate King's lieutenant is Samuel, and is referred to as such in the script, but his name is never spoken. The same goes for Mabel's three sisters with lines, Kate, Edith and Isabel.
** In the first American production, which debuted at an earlier date than the British one for copy-right reasons, the Pirate King and the Sergeant of Police have their names listed in the dramatis personae as Richard and Edward, respectively. This never comes up anywhere else.
* AffablyEvil: The pirates are technically, well, ''pirates'', but they're so endearingly dimwitted (and completely rubbish at their attempts at piracy) that you can't help but like them.
* AmbiguouslyGay: Perhaps he's just posh, but the Major-General seems to often be played this way. His enormous number of daughters doesn't prove anything, as they are stated to be wards in chancery, not his biological daughters.
* AntiquatedLinguistics: Wouldn't be a G&S play without it. The most extreme is probably "sat a gee" which relies on knowing that a "gee-gee" is a horse. Made worse by the fact that even at the time the phrase was a grammatical disaster.
* BadassBaritone: The part of the Pirate King is written for a bass-baritone voice. The Chief of Police is written for an even deeper bass, but he's not as badass as he thinks.
* BerserkButton: The Pirate King is tired of people pretending to be orphans to manipulate him. This is a rare trope played absolutely straight in the show, and the pirate songs after they learn Major-General Stanley did so are entirely serious about wanting to kill him.
* BlatantLies: Major-General Stanley claims to be an orphan, but he's not. While he initially justifies his lie by saying it's "an innocent fiction / which is not in the same category / as telling a regular terrible story," he feels remorse about it later on.
* BlueBlood: As it turns out, [[spoiler: the pirates are (nearly) all Peers who have gone wrong.]]
* BoisterousBruiser: Traditionally, the only way to portray the Pirate King... though in recent years '[[Franchise/PiratesOfTheCaribbean Jack Sparrow]]' has been gaining popularity [[RuleOfCool for some reason]].
* BreakingTheFourthWall: If it doesn't have it at some point, it's not true ''Pirates''. Sorry. There is even a notable sword fight with the conductor, which has occurred in several versions, and originated as a [[ThrowItIn spur-of-the-moment outburst]] in the original production.
* CloseToHome: The pirates have a soft spot for orphans, so anyone who [[BlatantLies claims to be an orphan]] [[FlawExploitation will be spared]]. This leads Frederic to observe "The last three ships we took proved to be manned entirely by orphans, and so we had to let them go. One would think that Great Britain’s mercantile navy was recruited solely from her orphan asylums – which we know is not the case. "
* ConvenientlyAnOrphan: It's amazing how often the Pirates run into people who claim this applies to them...
* CounterpointDuet: "How Beautifully Blue the Sky" and "When the Foeman Bares His Steel / Go Ye Heroes."
* DamnItFeelsGoodToBeAGangster: And it is, it is, a glorious thing, to be a Pirate King!
* DeusExMachina: The pirates finally surrender when asked to do so "in the name of the Queen". A deliberate parody of Victorianism.
* DirtyCoward: The entire police force.
* DontExplainTheJoke:
** The Major-General. The orphan gag.
** The Paradox.
* DramaticGunCock: "I do not think I ought to listen to you..."
* DrinkOrder: Due to their unusual origins, these pirates prefer sherry to the more obvious rum.
* EasilyForgiven: When the pirates reveal their true identities, the Major General seems to forget about their past, and even invites them to marry his daughters.
* EitherOrTitle
* EvenEvilHasStandards: A major plot point. The titular Pirates of Penzance are highly infamous and feared pirates, but it is also well-known that they, being orphans, would never kill an orphan. This weakness has been manipulated by many would-be victims, such as three whole ships and the Major General. The Pirate King really isn't able to tell if anyone is lying about it, since he trusts that all of his victims would be honest about it.
--> Frederic: "One would think that Great Britain's mercantile navy was recruited solely from her orphan asylums — which we know is not the case."
* EvilSoundsDeep: Played with. Although the Pirate King and Samuel are in the traditionally villainous lower registers, the pirate chorus in the first act covers the full range -- and when the male ensemble divides into pirates and policemen for the second act, it's the pirates who get all the high vocal parts and the policemen (led by a Sergeant with an even deeper voice than the Pirate King) who get the low vocal parts.
* EvolvingMusic: For the 1908 revival, Gilbert had the pirates being charged to yield "in good King Edward's name." Later productions have not followed suit, as [[UsefulNotes/VictorianBritain Victorian]] pirates are [[RuleOfFunny just funnier]].
* ExactWords: Frederic's indentures specify that he is bound to his apprenticeship until his 21st ''birthday''. This is a problem, since he was born on LeapDay.
* FailedASpotCheck: General Stanley fails to notice the group of about two dozen pirates and policemen hiding (poorly) in his garden. On top of that, the ''pirates'' fail to notice the ''policemen''. This despite all of them serving as chorus to General Stanley's song.
* FlawExploitation:
** The Pirates themselves make a point of two things: 1. Never to attack a weaker party than themselves, and 2. Never to harm an orphan. Word gets around.
** Also, it's common knowledge that every British person loves his queen.
** Frederick's [[HonorBeforeReason love of duty]] means he's bound to piracy for what amounts to a typo in his contract.
* TheGoldenAgeOfPiracy: [[{{Parodied}} Spoofed to high heaven]].
* GoYeHeroesGoAndDie: Mabel's attempt at a rousing speech before the policemen set out to fight the pirates is all about how they'll be fondly remembered after the pirates kill them all. As the Sergeant replies,
-->"We observe too great a stress\\
On the risks that on us press\\
And of reference a lack\\
To our chance of coming back."
* HeartwarmingOrphan: Hoorah for the orphan boy!
* HighClassGlass: The Major-General usually wears one.
* HonorBeforeReason: Frederic's defining trope. Ironically, taught him by the pirates themselves, who never attack orphans or weaker enemies. Last but not least, General Stanley deeply regrets subverting this trope to help himself and his daughters escape the pirates. It's arguable that deconstructing this trope is one of the play's main themes.
* IAmSong: "I am the very model of a ModernMajorGeneral", "Better Far to Live and Die".
* IncessantChorus: During "Oh False One, You Have Deceived Me", the chorus of pirates ends up repeating both sides of an argument.
--> '''Ruth:''' Oh, do not leave me!\\
'''Pirates:''' Oh, do not leave her!\\
'''Frederic:''' Away, you grieve me!\\
'''Pirates:''' Away, you grieve him!\\
'''Frederic:''' I wish you'd leave me!\\
'''Pirates:''' We wish you'd leave him!
* IncrediblyLamePun: "You said often frequently only once!" It makes sense in context, but it's also often the line that pushes the Pirate King to order the Major-General's death.
* IneffectualSympatheticVillain: The pirates are too soft-hearted to be much good at piracy.
* InformedAttractiveness: Each of Stanley's daughters is described as surpassingly beautiful by Frederic, shortly after confessing to having never seen a woman other than Ruth. Mabel, the last daughter revealed, is of course the most beautiful as well.
** Savagely satirized with Ruth. The pirates struggle to convince Frederic to take her with him, with such lines as "there are the remains of a fine woman about Ruth," but it's clear neither Frederic nor the crew really find her attractive.
* InformedFlaw: In the first act, Ruth confesses she mistakenly had Frederic apprenticed to a ''pirate'', rather than a ''pilot'', due to being hard of hearing. Her deafness never comes up again in the rest of the play.
* TheIngenue: Mabel: a young soprano winning the affection of the lead tenor, whose role calls for some terribly soprano-y cadenza runs (which are hilarious).
* InsaneTrollLogic: Major-General Stanley claims the tombs in the ruined chapel on his estate are the tombs of his ancestors, even though he only bought the estate a year ago. He is their "descendant by purchase," you see. (It is a satire of newly wealthy middle class family buying their way to respectability, something which happened reasonably often in Victorian England but was nevertheless looked down upon.)
** They're his ancestors. [[MathematiciansAnswer He bought them, they're his now.]]
* {{Irony}}: The pirates sing "With Catlike Tread" at the top of their lungs. Often while performing a kick line. With an orchestral accompaniment featuring heavily accented chords and cymbal crashes. And frequently rhythmic stomping by the pirates.
-->"With cat-like tread, upon our prey we steal\\
In silence dread, our cautious way we feel\\
No sound at all, we never speak a word\\
A fly's footfall would be distinctly heard!"
* ItsProbablyNothing: After the loud, loud "With Catlike Tread", Major General Stanley comes out to see what the noise was, but concludes that it "must have been the sighing of the breeze."
* IWasQuiteALooker: Ruth, or so she claims. Samuel backs her up, kind of, saying that "[[DamnedByFaintPraise There are the remains of a fine woman about Ruth.]]"
* IWillWaitForYou: Till 1940, when Frederic's indenture is finally up.
* LamePunReaction: Drives the Pirate King to order the Major-General's death at the end of the Major General's song.
--> "You said often frequently only once!"
* LargeHam: The Pirate King, the Major-General, and pretty much the rest of the cast too.
* LawfulStupid: Frederic, the eponymous "Slave of Duty". Hell, ''the entire cast''. The plot runs on it.
* LeapDay: A major plot point for Frederic. The Pirate King attempts to get him back into the fold by pointing out that his apprenticeship expires on his 21st ''birthday'', not in his 21st ''year'', which wouldn't matter much except that he was born on the 29th of February and so his 21st birthday won't arrive until he's in his eighties.
* LeaveTheTwoLovebirdsAlone: hence the desire to TalkAboutTheWeather
* LyricalDissonance: The dynamic notation for the song "With Catlike Tread...", which covers (and talks about) the Pirates quietly sneaking into Major General Stanley's manor and into his house to gain revenge, is ''Fortissimo''. For those unfamiliar with musical notation, for singers ''Fortissimo'' means "sing it at the top of your lungs, as loudly as you can". The number is accompanied by heavy use of cymbals and brass in the accompaniment, and brother, it's a ''[[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I1r_KUjRRxM show-stopper]]''.
* MathematiciansAnswer: When the Major-General wants to find out more about the men in piratical outfits who propose to marry his daughters:
-->'''Major General:''' May I ask – this is a picturesque uniform, but I’m not familiar with it. What are you?\\
'''Pirate King:''' We are all... single gentlemen.\\
'''Major General:''' [[DeadpanSnarker Yes, I gathered that.]]
* ModernMajorGeneral: Major General Stanley, who introduces himself with a long-winded song listing all of the things he knows, eventually summing up with a long verse about his complete and utter lack of military knowledge.
* MoodWhiplash: "Oh False One, You Have Deceived Me" begins loud and dramatic as Frederic accuses Ruth of lying to him, before slowing to a soft song as she pleads with him not to abandon her. It's not until she accidentally reminds him how much older than him she is that he erupts into decrying her once again.
-->'''Ruth''': ''(sweetly)'' My love unabating...\\
'''Frederic''': ''(also sweetly)'' If, as you are stating...\\
'''Ruth''': Has been accumulating...\\
'''Frederic''': Has been accumulating...\\
'''Ruth''': [[SayingTooMuch Forty-seven year-]]\\
'''Frederic''': ''(horrified)'' '''Forty-seven year?!'''
** The pirates, previously described as tender-hearted and unwilling to harm either an orphan or a weaker foe, find out that Stanley lied to them about being an orphan. [[NotSoHarmlessVillain The pirates begin an immediate crusade to straight up murder the liar.]]
* MotorMouth: A requirement for singing the MajorGeneralSong. If there's an encore, expect to have to sing it ''even faster.''
* OpeningChorus: "Pour, O Pour the Pirate Sherry."
* OverlyLongGag: Often.
** No, only once!
* PatterSong: The Major General's Song is a shining example of the craft.
* {{Pirate}}: Many of the characters, as the title suggests.
* APirate400YearsTooLate: Well, more like 300 but still...
* PirateGirl: Although describing piratical maid-of-all-work Ruth as a 'girl' might be a bit of a stretch.
* PirateKing: The Pirate King seems to be the kind who commands only a single ship and just uses the title.
* PirateSong: The Pirate King sings a self-titled song about how great it is to be a pirate.
* ThePiratesWhoDontDoAnything: Subverted, sort of--they attempt piratical activities, they're just useless at them, combining being very soft-hearted with being rather dim-witted. Played straight in that they speak oft and loud about how they are rough men (rough!) and lead a rough life (rough, rough!), and how they live by strife, and so on... but every time they do, it's to point out that they'll make an exception just this time. It is eventually revealed that [[spoiler: the pirates are members of the peerage gone to the bad]]—which means that they weren't doing anything related to ''that'' position either.
* PoliceAreUseless
--> '''Sergeant of Police''': "They come in force,\\
With [[WithCatlikeTread stealthy stride]].\\
Our obvious course\\
[[DirtyCoward Is now to hide]]!"
* PunchClockVillain: The focus of the song "When a Felon's Not Engaged in His Employment."
* RagsToRoyalty: When it's revealed that [[spoiler: the pirates are all noblemen who have gone wrong, they immediately resume their ranks and legislative duties.]]
* RulesLawyer: The Pirate King holds Frederick to the ExactWords of his apprenticeship contract, which releases him on his twenty-first ''birthday'', not when he's twenty-one years old. Since he was born on LeapDay, that makes things a bit complicated.
* ScareChord: The opening bars of "Oh False One, You Have Deceived Me" are typically played loudly and suddenly as Frederic turns on Ruth.
* ScoundrelCode: {{Parodied}}. The pirates' code entails that they will never hurt an orphan, so all anyone has to do to foil their attacks is claim to be one. Similarly, they never attack anybody weaker than themselves, and when they attack a stronger party, they invariably get thrashed.
* SelectiveSlaughter: The pirates will never hurt an orphan, which leads to the FlawExploitation mentioned above.
* SelfDeprecation: "That infernal nonsense ''[[Theatre/HMSPinafore Pinafore]]''"
* SesquipedalianLoquaciousness: [[ModernMajorGeneral Major-General Stanley]], especially when it comes to his renowned [[MajorGeneralSong "I am The Very Model of a Modern Major General"]] musical number.
* ShouldHaveThoughtOfThatBeforeX:
-->'''Sergeant of Police:''' It is most distressing to us to be the agents whereby our erring fellow-creatures are deprived of that liberty which is so dear to us all-- but we should have thought of that before we joined the force.
* SkeletonKey: In the song, "With Cat-Like Tread", one of the pirates' tools mentioned is their "skeletonic keys."
* SayingSoundEffectsOutLoud: The chorus of policemen sing the trumpet parts: "Tarantara, tarantara..."
* SuddenlySuitableSuitor: In the final scene, [[spoiler: Ruth reveals that all the pirates are "Noblemen who have gone wrong." The Major General is suddenly eager for the buccaneers to marry his daughters, as are the girls themselves. "With all our faults, we love our House Of Peers!"]] Gilbert and Sullivan used this trope regularly.
* SwiperNoSwiping: The pirates turn themselves in when requested to surrender in the name of Queen Victoria.
* TalkAboutTheWeather: The chorus indulges in this to give Frederic and Mabel some privacy.
* TenorBoy: Frederic
* TitleDrop:
** "Don't believe them papa! They are pirates. The famous '''Pirates of Penzance'''!"
** "For I am '''the Slave of Duty'''!"
* ThatRemindsMeOfASong: Though G&S used this less often than most musicals do, "Hail, Poetry" and "Sighing Softly to the River" may qualify.
** "Hail Poetry" comes out of nowhere, extols the vitrues of poetry in an {{acappella}} anthem, and is never mentioned again. The piece gets away with it by being a simply awesome choral number.
** "Sighing Softly To The River" is a gag in which the major-general FailedASpotCheck ("It must have been the sighing of the breeze…") and proceeds to sing a random ballad about flowers and trees, accompanied by a chorus of the pirates ''and'' the policemen, none of whom have noticed each other. Still, it's sometimes cut for pacing, especially since the Major-General already has a perfectly good solo elsewhere.
* TwoWordsAddedEmphasis: Subverted. The 'two words' are "we propose to marry your daughters."
* VillainSong: "I Am a Pirate King."
* VillainsOutShopping: Lampshaded in one of the songs as the reason why "A policeman's lot is not a happy one."
* WeddingsForEveryone: As usual in a G&S production, the entire chorus gets to PairTheSpares.
* WeirdTradeUnion: Apparently, one can be apprenticed to a pirate, just like one could be apprenticed to a plumber or stonemason.
* WhosOnFirst: The orphan / often routine.
* WithCatlikeTread: The Pirates sneak up on the General while singing, in chorus, ''fortississimo'', with cymbals and drums, about [[LampshadeHanging how stealthy they're being]]. However, because the General never actually sees them, this is a subversion.
* WorldOfHam: Oh yeah. Especially during the "With Catlike Tread" number.
!!Specific productions or adaptations provide examples of:

* ''Film/ThePirateMovie'' has its own trope page.

* AdaptationNameChange: The Pirate King is regularly renamed Roderick because so many directors like to have Frederic, Ruth and the Pirate King perform some variation on "My Eyes Are Fully Opened" from Ruddigore.
* AntiquatedLinguistics: The 1983 film version (of the Broadway production, with Creator/KevinKline as the Pirate King and Creator/AngelaLansbury as Ruth) {{lampshades}} it:
-->'''Mabel''': Oh, Frederic, cannot you, in the calm excellence of your wisdom, reconcile it with your conscience to say something that will relieve my father's sorrow?\\
'''Frederic''': What?\\
'''Mabel''': [[LaymansTerms Can't you cheer him up?]]
** At one point, the Pirate King's speech is so thick with this that he himself has to stop and ponder what he just said.
* AshFace: The 2003 revival performance by Essgee Entertainment sees this happening to the Pirate King, [[BreakingTheFourthWall in lieu of a previous joke where he fell off the stage]]. Given Australia's [[ValuesDissonance lack of history with Africa]] (we have our own racial issues to contend with), this isn't considered as offensive.
* BadassBystander: In some productions, the pirate king [[BreakingTheFourthWall picks a fight with the conductor]], and the conductor manages to fight back for a while.
* BreakingTheFourthWall: The 1994 Australian production (the one with Jon English and Toni Lamond) is filled to the brim with this, amongst {{Actor Allusion}}s and {{Shout Out}}s aplenty. The revival production a decade later even referenced ''this'' -- Jon English stops to make sure that a number of gags from the original aren't repeated, with the explanation "they've all seen the DVD anyway".
** A 1990s production by amateur company ''The Young Savoyards'' had the policemen hiding in the front row of the audience.
* CallingMeALogarithm: Depending on the production, this can be the pirates' reaction to Major-General Stanley asking "You're not thespians, are you?". The non-verbal reaction of Jon English, playing the Pirate King in Australian productions, is a comic masterpiece.
* EvolvingMusic: It's quite common for renditions of the Major General's song to incorporate new lyrics poking fun of current topical references; in fact it even [[MajorGeneralSong warrants its own trope]].
* LastChorusSlowDown:
** In some productions, if they follow the famous 1982 Joseph Papp revival, "With Catlike Tread". Possibly followed by several encores, each slowing it down even further, and raising the volume even more.
** Most productions will do this with the last verse of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major General"...[[SubvertedTrope before returning to the original tempo]] for the final few lines. And then [[UpToEleven speeding up]] ''[[UpToEleven again]]'' for the encore.
* {{Mondegreen}}: In certain productions, an in-universe example occur when the Major-General's daughters mishear Frederic's "I, sore at heart" as "I saw a tart".
* NobodyHereButUsStatues: In the 1983 film, The Pirate King and Frederick take positions like this on each side of the door when the Major General comes out.
* OverlyLongGag: The 1994 Australian production had the conductor force the pirates to perform four encores of "With Catlike Tread", each more dramatic than the one before.
* PairTheSpares: General Stanley and Ruth are often paired off at the conclusion. (The policemen also end up [[spoiler: gaining wives along with the pirates]], depending on the male-to-female ratio of the cast.)
** It can also depend on the director's sense of humor. One production had [[spoiler:enough daughters for every pirate and every constable, but the Sergeant remained alone because the Pirate King grabbed two girls!]]
** In the 2013 production by Seattle's 5th Avenue Theater, [[spoiler:one of the couples that steps up to be married consists of [[ManlyGay a pirate and a constable]]. The Doctor of Divinity pauses for a brief double-take, then cheerfully marries them without further ado]]. Considering recent events in Seattle at the time, this brief bit invariably got one of the biggest cheers of the night from the audience.
** Averted in the 2015 ENO production directed by Creator/MikeLeigh: nobody wants a deaf middle-aged pirate maid any more at the end than at the beginning, and the show ends with Ruth sitting sad and alone off to one side of the general celebration.
** The 1983 film version has Ruth paired with the Sergeant at the end.
* PatterSong: Several productions interpolate "My Eyes Are Fully Open" (originally from ''Theatre/{{Ruddigore}}'').
* PorkyPigPronunciation: In the 1983 film, the second time the phrase comes up during his song, the Major-General gives up on trying to make a rhyme with "strategy" and just says "rode a horse."
* RecitationHandclasp: In the 1983 film version (and in the Delacorte theatrical version from which it sprang), the womens' chorus assume this pose.
* SpeakingSimlish: In the 1983 film, in the pre-credit sequence showing the villagers, they babble in Simlish.
* TwoWordsAddedEmphasis: Directors love to have fun with this bit. In some productions, the 'two words' ("We propose to marry your daughters.") are delivered as two words each by three different pirates. Another production has it rendered as "We propose-to-marry-your-daughters" (with the pirate counting the words on his fingers, and being surprised when he reaches six (or seven, with "daugh" and "ters" as separate words)). Others have a pirate deliver the first two, "We propose," and have the Major-General be confused or offended that he's being proposed to before the sentence continues.