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Theatre / Patience

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Patience; or, Bunthorne's Bride is a satire by W. S. Gilbert with music by Arthur Sullivan on the aesthetic movement and the soldiers of the 35th Dragoon Guard. The play deals with two rival poets, the grouchy, effeminate and decadent Bunthorne, and the kind and gentle but vain and vapid Grosvenor.

Patience, a dairy maid who knows nothing of love, is told it is the only truly unselfish emotion, and so sets out to find such truly selfless love. The other characters are a male chorus of manly and dashing but dim dragoons,note  and a female chorus of languid and pretentious but charming maidens.

Of all the 14 operettas in the Gilbert & Sullivan series, the subject matter of Patience is the most remote to modern audiences because aestheticism was a fad of Gilbert's day and did not have a lasting impact, although the more general theme of artists being self-obsessed, pretentious and followed by an adoring inner circle remains topical to this day.

This work provides examples of

  • Abhorrent Admirer: Lady Jane to Bunthorne. (While he wouldn't give any of his female admirers the time of day, he considers her the absolute worst.)
  • Adaptation Expansion: Pretty much a major expansion of The Rival Curates, though Gilbert knew that, as much as he might want to poke fun of clerics on the stage, he'd cause every cleric out there -- who were already, many of them, railing against the wicked stage from the pulpit — to think they'd been proven right.
  • Affectionate Parody: The show makes fun of aestheticism as popularized by Oscar Wilde. Wilde himself was a fan of the show, and Gilbert and Sullivan themselves even sent him on a lecture tour in America to explain the principles of aestheticism and help publicize the show. It helped that G&S's producer, Richard D'Oyly Carte, was also Wilde's booking agent.
  • Alliterative Name: Colonel Calverly, Major Murgatroyd, and the Duke of Dunstable.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: The Dragoons love the Lovesick Maidens, who all love Bunthorne, who loves Patience, who loves nobody. Lady Jane loves Bunthorne even more, but he loathes her. Then in act two, all the maids fall in love with Grosvener, who also loves Patience, who can't return his love because she winds up attached to Bunthorne, whom she still does not love, and the Dragoons are left even more annoyed. At least it works out in the end for everyone except Bunthorne.
  • Bachelor Auction: At one point, Bunthorne is prepared to raffle himself in marriage, angering the Dragoons since presumably one of their lovers would hold the winning ticket.
  • Big "NO!": The response Bunthorne receives from all the dragoons in unison when he offers to recite some of his poetry. He does so anyway, and it is terrible (but the ladies love it anyway).
  • Blessed with Suck: Grosvenor is So Beautiful, It's a Curse.
  • Butt-Monkey: Poor Lady Jane can't catch a break for most of the opera.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Patience and Archibald Grosvenor.
  • Comically Missing the Point: When Patience has it explained to her that love must be completely unselfish, she concludes that she needs to become engaged to a person she finds completely unattractive, since being with someone she enjoys being around would obviously be selfish.
  • Curse: Bunthorne threatens Grosvenor with one.
  • Expospeak Gag: Bunthorne's first poem, "Oh, Hollow! Hollow! Hollow!", is about how he has an upset stomach (presumably from eating straight butter while following Patience around the dairy) and now has to take laxatives or purgatives to treat it.
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: The soldiers and the women were engaged before the opera, but the women broke it off so they could Fangirl Bunthorne. In the end, everyone pairs off (except Bunthorne), but one of the jokes is that no-one in the cast has the faintest understanding of what love really is, so there's a sort of rapid-fire fiancée-swapping set to music ("If Saphir I choose to marry..."), and the Duke chooses to marry the Old Maid because she's the only woman there who isn't drop-dead gorgeous, and he's quite aware he's completely dull and average.
  • Grande Dame: Lady Jane, again, discussed wistfully in her song "Silvered Is The Raven Hair."
  • Good-Looking Privates: Discussed in "When First I Put This Uniform On." When the Dragoons first joined, they were persuaded that women would find their uniforms attractive. In actuality, this has rather mixed results—the chorus of ladies does find them attractive, just not as attractive as aesthetic poets.
  • Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight: Bunthorne secretly dislikes poetry and aestheticism (when alone he sings a song mocking the latter's ridiculousness) but maintains the persona of an aesthetic poet because he likes the admiration it gets him from women.
  • Have a Gay Old Time: Patience sings "For I Am Blithe and I Am Gay" in a song about her ignorance and innocence about love.
  • High-Class Glass: Bunthorne, only in some productions.
  • Hurricane of Puns: The second stanza of "The Magnet and The Churn."
  • Hypocrite: When he is alone with the audience, Bunthorne confesses ("If You're Anxious For To Shine") that he is not really into aesthetic poetry, just putting on airs to impress everyone by appearing deep.
  • "I Am" Song:
    • "When I Go Out Of Door"
    • "Twenty Lovesick Maidens We"
    • "If You Want A Receipt"
  • The Ingenue: Patience is woefully naive regarding matters of love, which is a major plot point.
  • Ironic Episode Title: The subtitle is "Bunthorne's Bride"; as it turns out, Bunthorne's eventual bride is nobody.
  • Kick the Dog: Teasing Tom "punched his poor little sisters' heads/And Cayenne-peppered their four-post beds."
  • List Song: This is Gilbert and Sullivan, after all. "If You Want a Receipt for that Popular Mystery..."
  • Love Freak: All the women except Patience are in love with the poetic ideal of love. (Although this being a satire, their ideal involves a lot of melodramatic pining.)
  • Morality Ballad: Satirized in Grosvenor's poems "Gentle Jane" and "Teasing Tom."
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Although "fleshly poet" Reginald Bunthorne, is widely thought to represent Oscar Wilde, the actor playing Bunthorne is usually made up to resemble Wilde's fellow wit, the American painter, James Abbott McNeill Whistler of Whistler's Mother fame.note  Bunthorne's rival, the "idyllic poet" Archibald Grosvenor has been traditionally assumed to resemble the English poet, Algernon Charles Swinburne, who was born on a street called Grosvenor Place. However, the real Swinburne was a fleshly poet famed for his opposition to idyllic poetry, and consequently many scholars now think he was in fact the model for Bunthorne. The main character of Swinburne's novel A Year's Letters is also called Reginald, giving weight to the latter argument.
  • Old Maid: Lady Jane is getting on in years, but still wants to be considered a good catch in the romantic department.
  • Only Sane Man: Patience, when Bunthorne is reading his poetry to the maidens. "Well, it seems to me to be nonsense!"
  • Opening Chorus: "Twenty Lovesick Maidens We."
  • Parody: Bunthorne's poetry and stylistic affectations satirized the "aesthetic movement" popularized by Oscar Wilde.
  • Patter Song: Patience offers several different flavors:
    • We get the List Song variety with "If You Want a Receipt for That Popular Mystery." (Doubles as an "I Am" Song since the Dragoons are introducing themselves.)
    • A more straightforward "I Am" Song in patter style is Bunthorne's "If You're Anxious For To Shine," though it could also be called an I-Am-Pretending-To-Be Song or even an I-Am-A-Shameless-Hypocrite Song.
    • "Come, Walk Up, and Purchase with Avidity" is classic G&S patter in the tradition of the Major General Song, complete with choral echoes.
    • "When I Go Out of Door" is a full-fledged, no-holds-barred patter duet, an achievement unrivaled until the invention of the patter trio "My Eyes are Fully Open" for Ruddigore.
      • It follows another patter duet, "So Go To Him And Say To Him."
  • Pretty Boy: Bunthorne aspires to be; Grosvener actually is. The Dragoons spend most of the show disgruntled that women prefer this look to Good-Looking Privates.
  • Purple Prose: Parodied with the maidens who speak, for example, of the inner brotherhood of aesthetics being "consummately utter"; in other words, completely complete.
  • Reference Overdosed: "If You Want a Receipt" rattles off Shout Outs to a bewildering number of famous figures, some of them well-known but many of them well into Viewers Are Geniuses territory (less so at the time, of course).
  • Rewritten Pop Version: The lyrics of Jane's "Silvered is the Raven Hair" are about her physical deterioration as she grows older, set to a beautiful, sentimental melody. A different lyricist, Hugh Conway, wrote new lyrics and it was published as a parlor song entitled "In the Twilight of Our Love."
  • Sexy Man, Instant Harem: Grosvenor. "Conceive, then, the horror of my situation when I tell you that it is my hideous destiny to be madly loved at first sight by every woman I come across!"
  • Silly Rabbit, Romance Is for Kids!: Our female lead does not love, and is happy because she does not love (in both senses of the clause). After another character explains that love is the only unselfish emotion, Patience decides that it's her duty to fall in love and that, to be truly unselfish, love must make her as miserable as possible. But after a third character is forced to renounce it, most of the other characters decide that romantic love is irrelevant. And, until the end, love is depicted as nothing but painful.
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Bunthorne and Grosvenor
  • So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Poor Grosvenor is so handsome that every woman who sees him immediately falls madly in love with him. Worse, the one woman he actually does want turns him down on the grounds that love should be selfless and loving such an attractive man is obviously selfish.
  • Straw Critic: Bunthorne. "Of course you will pooh-pooh whatever's fresh and new, and declare it's crude and mean, / For art stopped short in the cultivated court of the Empress Josephine."
  • Stupid Good: Patience.
  • Stylistic Suck: Parodied with Bunthorne's poetry.
  • True Art Is Incomprehensible: Parodied. "If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me / Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!"
  • Unwanted Harem: Played with. Bunthorne affects an interest in aesthetic poetry because he thinks it will get him an (un)wanted harem, and this actually works quite well... until the handsome Grosvenor shows up, causing the ladies to immediately transfer their affections.
    Grosvenor: Yes yes—I am aesthetic
    and poetic.
    All the Ladies: Then, we love you!
    Dragoons: They love him! Horror!
    Bunthorne and Patience: They love him! Horror!
    Grosvenor: They love me! Horror! Horror! Horror!
  • Viewers Are Geniuses: If you get even half the references in "If You Want a Receipt for that Popular Mystery," you may consider yourself remarkably well-read.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: The eponymous character specifically does not, in the beginning, understand why all the other women love when it is clear that Love Hurts. When it is explained to her, she immediately sets out to fall in love:
    Patience: I had no idea that love was a duty!