Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Ruddigore

Go To
Each lord of Ruddigore,
Despite his best endeavour,
Shall do one crime, or more,
Once, every day, for ever!
This doom he can't defy,
However he may try,
For should he stay
His hand, that day
In torture he shall die!
Dame Hannah, Act I

Ruddigore, or The Witch's Curse, described by its author as "An Entirely Original Supernatural Opera in Two Acts," was the 10th of the "Savoy operas" produced by Gilbert and Sullivan. Ruddigore is a parody of the so-called "TranspontineLatin melodramas" of the early 19th century,note  which were performed at theatres south of the Thames — including their high-flown and archaic language, the extravagances of their plots, and their recurring Stock Characters: the innocent orphaned Village Maiden, the poor-but-honest Yeoman Hero, the sneering, snarling Bad Baronet, the Honest Sailor, the Good Old Servant, the Fallen Woman Driven Mad By A Dark Secret, and, of course, the Ghost — in this case, a whole Gallery of Ghosts. (By staggering coincidence, Oscar Wilde's story "The Canterville Ghost" was published within days of Ruddigore's premiere, and parodies Gothic ghost stories and their stock tropes and characters in similar ways.)

An Animated Adaptation of the opera by British animation company Halas and Batchelor appeared in 1966. There have been three Live Action Television adaptations, in 1972, 1982, and 2005; the 1982 version featured Vincent Price as Sir Despard. Ruddigore is also the focus of the Phryne Fisher novel Ruddy Gore.

Tropes Associated With Ruddigore Include:

    open/close all folders 

    Tropes A-M 
  • All There in the Script: Some characters are given names for no apparent reason, which appear only in the dramatis personae. Of course, that's when the character appears in the script at all; for instance, Ruddigore has a long list of named ghosts in the dramatis personae. The script itself refers only to Roderick by name (Sir Rupert is mentioned in dialogue, but never pointed out as a specific ghost when he appears), and list the others as "1st ghost," "2nd ghost," and so on. The numbers never get high enough to include half the ghosts listed; the rest are presumably just ordinary choristers. The "professional bridesmaid" Ruth is also never named in the script.
  • Aristocrats Are Evil: "All baronets are bad…," we are told.
  • Barefoot Loon: Mad Margaret is costumed and made up as a caricature of theatrical madness in the first act, and this often includes barefootedness.
  • Beta Couple: Ruthven's reformed brother, Despard, marries his Old Flame Margaret offstage between acts. The happy couple comes to Ruthven in Act II to encourage him to reform as well.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: Dame Hannah, near the end of Act II.
  • BFS: Dame Hannah appropriates one when confronting Sir Ruthven.
  • Big Book of War: Rose Maybud was raised from birth by a "little book of etiquette," the contents of which are never known except that Rose herself is an expert in all matters of propriety as a result.
  • Bowdlerise:
    • Played straight in the work's very title, which was changed from the original Ruddygore because it was deemed too offensive. note 
    • All the ghosts coming back to life to marry the professional bridesmaids was deemed too shocking, so Sir Despard's former retinue returned and married them instead. Most modern productions opt to bring in the ghosts.
    • When the curse is broken, the opening night libretto had Roderic suggesting that he and all the ancestors could be brought back to life by a simple "appeal to the Supreme Court". Enough people took "Supreme Court" to mean "Supreme Being" and raised objections that the line was cut, so Roderic ends up "practically alive" apparently as an automatic effect of breaking the curse.
  • Burn the Witch!: Sir Rupert Murgatroyd ruthlessly persecuted witches, including burning them at the stake. The curse which drives the plot is a Dying Curse by one such witch.
  • Catchphrase: Basingstoke it is! Also, every appearance of the Bridesmaids in Act I is punctuated by outbursts of "Hail the bridegroom! hail the bride!"
  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: Mad Margaret is a pitiable madwoman in the first act, with her madness implied to stem from lost love.
  • Compliment Backfire: "You are Rose Maybud? … Strange — they told me she was beautiful."
  • Convenience Store Gift Shopping: Rose makes her entrance carrying a basket of gifts she intends to distribute in a highly inappropriate manner.
  • Crowd Song: All the choruses, which evokes some classic Lampshade Hanging from Mad Margaret, who comments, "They sing choruses in public! That's mad enough, I think."
  • Curse: The catalyst of the whole plot.
  • Damned by Faint Praise: Used by Robin to reveal Richard's bad character to Rose.
  • Dastardly Whiplash: The Murgatroyd family of Ruddigore, especially Sir Ruthven, parody this character, which was still played straight in the "Transpontine" theatres of the time.
  • The Dead Can Dance: "When the Night Wind Howls", sung by Sir Roderick (a ghost) with a chorus of other ghostly ancestors. It is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
  • Deadpan Snarker: When asked casually by a theatre-goer how "Bloodygore" (see Bowdlerization, above) was doing, Gilbert replied, "The name is Ruddigore." "Well, it's the same thing, what?" said the man, to which Gilbert replied, "Then I suppose that if I say, 'I admire your ruddy countenance,' it's the same thing as, 'I like your bloody cheek.' Well, it isn't — and I don't!
  • Designated Villain: In-Universe, the Bad Baronets of Ruddigore, who are obligated by the family curse to commit one evil deed each day, or else die in agony. Despard commits his crime first thing in the morning and spends the rest of the day doing good, while Ruthven tries to use Insane Troll Logic to claim that 'crimes' such as forging his own will fulfil the obligation.
  • Dying Curse: The curse on the Murgatroyd line was pronounced by a witch whilst being burned at the stake.
  • Either/Or Title: Or, the Witch's Curse.
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: The female chorus is paired off with either the revivified ghosts, or the visiting gentlemen from the city, depending on version. It's kind of set up in Act I, where the women gush over the visiting gentlemen because "The sons of the tillage / Who dwell in this village" ... "Though honest and active, / They're most unattractive".
  • Evil Costume Switch: At the start of the second act (in productions that don't bump it up to the first act curtain), Robin Oakapple reappears in full Dastardly Whiplash costume, often wearing a cape and generally flourishing a riding crop. Old Adam also tends to develop a hunch in some productions.
  • Evil Makes You Ugly: "When in crime one is fully employed, your expression gets warped and destroyed." (Source of that trope's Page Quote.)
  • Evil Sounds Deep: Roderick, Despard, and Ruthven are all played by baritones.
  • Evil Sounds Raspy: Lampshaded in Sir Despard's Villain's Lament.
    Sir Despard: Oh why am I husky and hoarse?
    Chorus: Ah, why?
    Sir Despard: It's the workings of conscience, of course.
    Chorus: Fie, fie!
    Sir Despard: And huskiness stands for remorse.
    Chorus: Oh, my!
    Sir Despard: At least it does so in my case!
  • Flanderization: The original Mad Margaret, Jessie Bond from the 1887 production, was a very sympathetic young woman driven almost but not quite to the point of madness. It wasn't until revivals in the 1920s that she became the raving lunatic she is frequently played as now.
  • Fainting: Happens to Robin Oakapple at the end of Act I.
  • Flowery Elizabethan English: Rose Maybud tends to speak in this style.
  • For Doom the Bell Tolls: Used in Toye's replacement overture, sometimes.
  • Funny Schizophrenia: A lot of the humor surrounding Mad Margaret stems from her insanity.
  • Get Thee to a Nunnery: Ruddigore was considered a very naughty name at the time — "ruddy" and "gore" are two synonyms for "bloody", a cussword that was more offensive even than "dammee," apparently.
  • Ghost Song: "Painted Emblems of a Race" and "When the Night Wind Howls (Sir Roderick's Song)", during which the ghosts get down.
  • Good Hair, Evil Hair: Generally after Robin turns evil, he appears with slicked down hair and occasionally a pair of side-whiskers he didn't wear before. Likewise, Despard's hair will often be more flowing in the second act, and he may drop the mustache. At least one production had Despard physically handing his mustache to Robin/Ruthven at the end of the first act.
  • Greater-Scope Villain: Sir Rupert Murgatroyd, the first Baronet of Ruddigore, caused the entire curse in the first place thanks to his ruthless witch trials and mass torture.
  • Horny Sailors: Rose Maybud has several qualms about her betrothed, the dashing sailor Dick Dauntless, but the one she keeps coming back to is the probability that he has A Girl in Every Port:
    Rose: I shall be left all alone to moan,
    And weep at your cruel deceit, complete;
    While you'll be asserting
    Your freedom by flirting
    With every woman you meet, you cheat!
  • Hypocritical Humor:
    • Roderic orders Robin to carry off a lady, "I don't care what lady, any lady, choose your lady" to satisfy the curse. When said lady turns out to be Dame Hannah, Roderic's former fiancée, he reacts with indignation.
    • "If you wish in the world to advance":
      Now take for example my case. I've a bright intellectual brain.
      In all London city there's no-one so witty, I've thought so again and again.
      I've a highly intelligent face, my features cannot be denied,
      but whatever I try, sir, I fail it and why, sir? I'm modesty personified...
  • The Igor: After Robin Oakapple is transformed into Dastardly Whiplash-type Sir Ruthven, his servant, Adam Goodheart (AKA "Gideon Crawle"), spontaneously acquires a hump.
  • Incessant Chorus: The bridesmaids keep on bursting into their chorus ("Hail the Bridegroom — hail the Bride!") until Robin angrily orders them to leave.
  • The Ingenue: "Sweet" Rose Maybud is a parody of the type, although it turns out she is rather more artful than she lets on.
  • I Have No Son!: Inverted and played for laughs. Robin tries to satisfy the letter of his curse without doing anything genuinely terrible, so one of his "crimes" is to disinherit his only son. There's just one small problem:
    Roderic: But you haven't got a son.
    Robin: No—not yet. I disinherited him in advance, to save time. You see—by this arrangement—he'll be born ready disinherited.
    Roderic: I see. But I don't think you can do that.
  • I Have This Friend: Robin and Rose make use of this trope in the song "I Know a Youth".
  • I Have You Now, My Pretty: Subverted militantly by Dame Hannah, who when Robin is ordered by his ghostly ancestors to carry her off, turns the tables and begins to pursue him with a large dagger.
  • Intentionally Awkward Title: As mentioned above, the title Ruddigore was rather racy for its day— even worse before it was changed from the original, ''Ruddygore''— owing to its similarity to the rude word "bloody."
  • King Bob the Nth: Several of the ancestors are listed only by which number baronet they are.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Incessantly. (See Crowd Song above, for an example)
  • Last-Minute Hookup: Richard, aced out by Robin/Ruthven for Rose's affections just before the closing chorus, immediately and enthusiastically turns to Zorah, head of the professional bridesmaids corps. She accepts him with equal enthusiasm, despite having had no real interaction with him previously. This is typical of the "any partner is better than no partner" attitude that tends to prevail among Gilbert's characters.
  • Logic Bomb: How Ruthven breaks the curse. He'll die if he doesn't commit the crime. So if he does nothing, he's attempting suicide. But attempting suicide is a crime!
  • Lyrical Dissonance: "I shipped d'ye see" is a cheery patriotic naval ballad about fleeing from the French.
  • Melodrama: The conventions of Victorian melodramas are the primary satire/parody target of this operetta.
  • Messy Hair: Mad Margaret, who is "an obvious caricature of theatrical madness."
  • Miles Gloriosus: Richard's song "I shipped, d'ye see," tells how his ship bravely prepared to attack a French merchant ship, only to turn tail and run away when it turned out to be a frigate and fired at them, because, uh, they didn't want to hurt the poor helpless Frenchmen, that was it. Amusingly, a lot of people missed that it was a satire.
  • Minion with an F in Evil: Ruthven.
  • Motormouth: Those who sing the Patter Song.
  • Musical World Hypothesis: Mad Margaret takes it as a sign of the other characters' madness that "they sing choruses in public!" As such the musical presumably exists in the Alternate Universe where everyone really is singing.
  • Mugging the Monster: "I shipped, d'ye see, in a revenue sloop..."
  • Names to Run Away from Really Fast:
    • Sir Despard Murgatroyd, the Designated Villain of Act I.
    • In the original script (and some modern productions), when the curse falls on Robin, his faithful retainer Adam Goodheart changes his name to "Gideon Crawle" to reflect his new commitment to evil. Their duet at the beginning of Act II included a second verse lampshading this, with the chorus: "How providential when you find / The face an index to the mind / And evil men compelled to call / Themselves by names like Gideon Crawle!" Gilbert left Adam as "Adam" in later editions — except in one line where Ruthven, without explanation, says "Gideon Crawle, it won't do...".
  • Names to Trust Immediately: Adam Goodheart (subtly subverted, in that in Victorian British English, "Adam" was accented on the second syllable), Richard Dauntless (subverted in that he's actually a cowardly knave), Rose Maybud, and presumably the Posthumous Character Stephen Trusty (Dame Hannah's father).

    Tropes N-Z 
  • No Man of Woman Born: Robin's stroke of Fridge Logic frees the Murgatroyds from their curse, somehow bringing them all back to life.
  • Offscreen Moment of Awesome: A prominent example, though not quite for the usual we-can't-afford-to-stage-this reason. The climax of the story, our hero Robin having a "Eureka!" Moment that solves everybody's problems, happens offstage while two of the supporting leads fall back in love with each other. It's only after their duet that Robin runs back on, dragging the entire cast with him, to explain what he's figured out.
  • Old Flame:
    • The newly reformed Despard reunites with Margaret, whom he had abandoned after being forced to turn evil, at the end of Act I.
    • Dame Hannah reunites with her long-lost love, Roderic, in Act II.
  • Old Maid: Dame Hannah states that she has pledged herself to an eternal maidenhood after being forced by ethical and moral considerations to stand up her love at the altar many years before.
  • Old Retainer: Old Adam Goodheart.
  • The Ophelia: Parodied with Mad Margaret. The stage directions even specify that she should be "an obvious caricature of theatrical madness."
  • Pair the Spares: After Rose and Robin get together at the end, Richard hooks up with Zorah, who he's had no lines with before then.
  • Patter Song: "My eyes are fully open to my awful situation". The nature of patter songs is lampshaded in the final verse:
    This particularly rapid unintelligible patter
    Isn't generally heard, and if it is it doesn't matter!
  • Poke the Poodle: The crimes of Sir Ruthven (except, of course, when he shot a foxnote . Oh, horror!).
  • Posthumous Character: Though some productions bring him back, Sir Rupert Murgatroyd is usually only employed as a posthumous character, having been the cruel first Baronet who ages ago went around genociding witches.
  • Power of Friendship: Parodied by Robin's claiming he would never speak a word against Richard, even when the latter is stealing his girl – and then loading him with such backhanded compliments that Rose speedily dumps the hapless mariner.
  • Punch-Clock Villain: All the Murgatroyds, but particularly Sir Despard.
  • Quietly Performing Sister Show: It was the team's follow-up to their greatest hit, The Mikado; though it subsequently gained a reputation for being the pair's first "failure," it actually ran for 288 performances, and Gilbert himself remarked, "It ran eight months and, with the sale of the libretto, put £7,000note  into my pocket." He also said, "I could do with a few more such failures."
  • Really Gets Around: Richard Dauntless, according to Robin.
  • Rearrange the Song: For many years, the opera was not performed with its original (rather weak) overture (not by Sullivan himself, but by his assistant Hamilton Clarke), but with a new one composed by Savoy conductor Geoffrey Toye in 1919.
  • Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: The prosperous farmer Robin Oakapple and the poor sailor Richard Dauntless vie for Rose Maybud's hand. Rose prefers Robin, partly because his moral character is superior and partly because she's a Gold Digger, but turns to Richard when Robin's true identity is revealed, which invokes the curse that requires Robin/Ruthven to become a career criminal. When Ruthven breaks the curse with a Logic Bomb at the end of Act II, which allows him to become good again, Rose pivots back to him.
  • Romantic False Lead: Rose chooses Richard when Robin makes an (enforced) Face–Heel Turn in the first act finale, but easily switches back to Robin in the second.
  • Sanity Slippage Song: Despard and Margaret sing a song ("I once was a very abandoned person") all about how crazy and evil they used to be, before they got better. As the song progresses, they start to get a bit caught up in the crazy again, before restraining themselves.
  • Self-Deprecation:
    • In "My eyes are fully open to my awful situation":'
    This particularly rapid unintelligible patter
    Isn't generally heard, and if it is it doesn't matter!
    • And this dialogue:
    Mad Margaret: But see, they come – Sir Despard and his evil crew! Hide, hide – they are all mad – quite mad!
    Rose: What makes you think that?
    Margaret: Hush! They sing choruses in public. That's mad enough, I think.
  • "Shaggy Frog" Story:
    Mad Margaret: You pity me? Then be my mother! The squirrel had a mother, but she drank and the squirrel fled! Hush! They sing a brave song in these parts — it runs somewhat thus: (sings)
    'The cat and the dog and the little puppee
    Sat down in a — down in a — in a —'
    I forget what they sat down in, but so the song goes!
  • Shout-Out To Shakespeare: Robin quotes "Alas, poor ghost!" Also, his faithful servant Adam is named after a similar character in As You Like It.
  • Silly Spook: The ghosts. Most stagings play them as The Comically Serious versions of Ghastly Ghosts.
  • Spooky Painting: The ghosts of the former Bad Baronets emerge from their paintings to torment the current inheritor of the family curse.
  • Suicide is Shameful: The fact that attempted suicide was regarded as a crime turns out to play a crucial role in obtaining a Happy Ending. It Makes Sense in Context.
  • Survival Mantra: Played for laughs; saying the word "Basingstoke"note  always succeeds at bringing Mad Margaret to her senses.
  • Talk About the Weather: Robin Cannot Spit It Out to Rose, so he talks to her about the weather instead.
  • Trapped in Villainy: The curse of the Murgatroyds. The resolution is when Sir Ruthven realizes that refusing to commit a daily crime is tantamount to suicide. And suicide is, itself, a crime. So he fulfills the terms of the curse by refusing to do so.
  • Twice Shy: Rose Maybud and Robin Oakapple.
  • Verbal Tic: Richard's "D'ye see" even recurs in his solo number.
  • Villain Song:
  • Wooden Ships and Iron Men: Parodied without mercy in Richard's song "The Darned Mounseer", which relates how the Royal Navy ship, threatened by a French Mounseer, bravely turned tail and fled the scene so as not to injure the poor inferior French sailors.