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Rule Of Three / Theatre

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The Rule of Three in theatre.


  • In Animal Crackers, after the song "Hooray for Captain Spaulding", Spaulding tries three times to give his welcoming address. The first two times, the chorus interrupts him with encores of "Hooray for Captain Spaulding". He interrupts his third attempt by singing it himself, then saying: "Well, somebody's got to do it."
  • In the Cirque du Soleil show The Beatles LOVE a white VW bug appears several times. The third (or possibly fourth) and final time it smashes into a woman (who represents John Lennon's mother, who died in a car crash); the car bursts apart.
  • Cyrano de Bergerac: This trope is combined with Department of Redundancy Department: The gratuitous repetition of a question or a gesture three or more times are shown in the play:
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    • Played for Laughs: At Act I Montfleury tries to say his lines four times, Cyrano orders him to disappear when Cyrano claps his hands the third time, the bore asks Cyrano three times if he has a protector. Lampshaded by Cyrano when he does not answer a third time:
      Cyrano: [irritated] No, I have told you twice! Must I repeat?
    • Played for Drama: At Act II, Cyrano asks Roxane three times what she would do if Christian is not as eloquent as he is fair; she answers two times that being fair, he has to be eloquent, and the third time she invokes Driven to Suicide. At Act IV, Cyrano asks Roxane if she would love Christian, even if he would be ugly, three times. She answers yes every time.
  • Erronius in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum is told to walk seven times around the seven hills of Rome. The first two times he re-enters and walks sloooooowly across the stage as the rest of the cast watch silently. The third time he gets run over during a chase scene.
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  • In The Granny Awards, whenever Snoozy the dwarf falls asleep, the Fairy Godmother will appear and make the audience and the chorus shout "Wake up, Snoozy!" three times to wake him up and keep the show running, and tells them to yell the phrase even louder than the last until he finally wakes up.
  • In Hamilton, there are 3 duels in the musical, Laurens and Lee, Philip and Eacker, and of course Hamilton and Burr.
  • In Into the Woods, the Witch tells the Baker and his wife that they must bring her the items "before the chime of midnight in three days time" in order to break the spell.
  • One of the musical themes in The Magic Flute, labeled "The Triple Chord," is three voicings of a B-flat major chord, each one repeated three times in a short-long-long pattern.
  • The Mikado:
    • Pooh-Bah gives a "toast with three times three" repeating the phrase "long life to you" three times. Most people who play the role ham the third time up even more than is called for in the script (which is quite a bit.)
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    • Also from The Mikado:
      "One little maid is a bride, Yum-Yum,
      Two little maids in attendance come,
      Three little maids is the total sum,
      Three little maids from school."
  • In The Music Man, the piano lesson scene begins with Amaryllis practicing the same passage three times, always ending on the same wrong note. Mrs. Paroo plays the right note for Amaryllis the first two times, and Marian enters to correct her third try.
  • Pokémon Live! has three trainers and three Pokemon MechaMew2 defeats, and three girls Brock is interested in.
  • From RENT: "Say something. Anything." "Test, one, two, three— " "Anything but that."
  • Shakespearean examples:
    • In Julius Caesar, Marc Anthony speaks at Caesar's funeral:
      You all did see that on the Lupercal
      I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
      Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?
    • During this speech, he also says "Brutus is an honorable man" three times. A fourth time he just says, "And sure he is an honorable man", by which time he's in full Sarcasm Mode.
    • King Lear has three daughters to whom he intends to leave a third of his kingdom each. (However, he gets annoyed with the third one and ends up giving his kingdom to the other two).
    • When Mercutio is fatally stabbed in Romeo and Juliet, he curses the Montagues and Capulets thrice ("A plague on both your houses!") before dying, thus ensuring that the curse comes true.
    • The Merchant of Venice has three caskets, of which the third chosen is successful.
    • Macbeth alone contains too many examples to count, most coming from the three witches.
    • And therefore also the amount Witches like to assemble in, 'cause two is just an argument.
  • In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Todd teaches Mrs. Lovett a pound-three-times signal.


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