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YMMV / The Pirates of Penzance

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  • Alternate Character Interpretation: Ruth's played as a dotty old woman, but she's the only one who knows what's going on at all times. Indeed, she nearly marries young Frederick, knowing he's a lord while he's ignorant of it. Despite being only a nurse, she's there with the pirates every step of the way after Frederick rejects her, and takes a personal hand in both returning him to their fold and in The Reveal that the entire ship is crewed with orphaned lords. Given that the pirates themselves had no idea of this, it's plausible Ruth's the true mastermind behind the film's events.
  • Awesome Music:
    • "With Catlike Tread". Really, when your song involves being as bombastically loud as possible, with the singers hamming it up ludicrously, awesomeness is generally a side effect.
    • There's also "The Pirate King", one of the most infectious songs about Pirates!
    • Ten words; "I am the Very Modern Model of a Modern Major-General".
    • From a purely-musical standpoint, this opera contains two brilliant examples of counterpoint writing—creating separate and quite different melodic lines that nonetheless fit together when played simultaneously—in "How Beautifully Blue the Sky" and "When the Foeman Bares His Steel". The first example is even more impressive in that the lines are in two different time signatures. While he's mostly remembered for accompanying comic operas, Sir Arthur was a talented composer in his own right.
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    • George Rose stopping every show with the all-time greatest version of "I Am The Very Model of a Modern Major General, tongue-twisting like there's no tomorrow. And then he does it ''faster!''
  • Ear Worm: Quite a large number, but by far the most well-known is: "I am the very model of a Modern Major-General..."
  • Fridge Horror: The policemens' fear of having to face the pirates may seem like cowardice and the girls assumption that they will not come home alive like hastily jumping to conclusions. Until you realize that these are English Bobbies, who were not issued firearms and were going after a band of pirates armed with nothing but truncheons.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: At the time of the writing, Britain and the British military were at the height of their renown, with semi-honorary military ranks being awarded to people with little military experience but whom had helped Britain's conquests financially. This led to the Major General's character excelling at everything but anything remotely related to combat. A couple decades later, these dubious leaders were still around, and the Major General no longer quite as funny for a time.
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  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Because, with all our faults, we love our Queen.
  • Memetic Mutation: A few things, such as the Major General Song and "A policeman's lot is not an 'appy one".
    • The Patter Song "My Eyes Are Fuly Open" was added to the show by a production in the 1970s, lampshaded by Ruth's actress mentioning the song's from Ruddigore. The production was so popular it's now expected.
  • Mexicans Love Speedy Gonzales: Because of both this play, and Treasure Island's use of the Cornish accent as the pirate accent, the Cornish as a whole happily and willingly engage in antics that turn them into pirates. This carries to such an extent that there is even A Rugby team called the Cornish Pirates.
  • Older Than They Think:
    • The melody for "Come, Friends Who Plough The Sea" was later appropriated as the song "Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here," not (as you will often see claimed) the other way around. Conversely, this was inverted by Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse-Five, with a reference to people "singing 'Hail, Hail, the Gang's All Here' from The Pirates of Penzance."
    • The policemen predate the Keystone Kops, but are clearly an influence on them.
  • "Seinfeld" Is Unfunny: After Robert Newton's portrayal of Long John Silver in Treasure Island, Cornish has become the default accent for pirates. At the time, Penzance in Cornwall was a sleepy fishing town, and the idea of bloodthirsty pirates appearing there was absurd and part of the comedy.
  • Values Dissonance: Frederick's "slave of duty" mindset will tend to strike modern audiences as merely silly. Englishmen of Gilbert's day, though, would have recognized it as a parody of their own code of conduct.


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