Ruddigore: The Witches Curse
Gilbert and Sullivan
Act I. In the village of Rederring in Cornwall, a group of the world’s only professional corps of bridesmaids are urging the heroine, Rose Maybud to marry, as none of the young men of the village will until she does. They urge Dame Hannah to marry Old Adam Goodheart, the servant of prosperous young farmer Robin Oakapple. However, she reveals that she has sworn to marry no one since finding out years earlier that her true love was one of the Bad Baronets of Ruddigore. He died in agonies, as all the Baronets have since being cursed by a persecuted witch to commit at least one crime a day or die! Disappointed, the maidens leave. Rose arrives, revealing to her aunt that she has feelings for Robin, but that she cannot tell him, since her book of etiquette forbids her to speak until she is spoken to. Dame Hannah departs. Robin enters but is too nervous to ask Rose to marry him. Meanwhile, his foster brother, Richard Dauntless, arrives home from sea. Robin asks him to woo Rose for him, but when Richard sees Rose, he instantly falls in love with her and proposes. Rose, guided by her book of etiquette, accepts; but when Robin reveals that he also loves her and is far more faithful, sober, and wealthier than Richard, Rose changes her mind in favor of Robin. Meanwhile, Mad Margaret, a village maiden driven mad by being loved and cast aside by Sir Despard Murgatroyd, the current Bad Baronet, knowing that his “bad deed for the day” will be to carry off Rose Maybud, arrives. She hurries Rose away as Sir Despard and the Bucks and Blades (townsmen) arrive, greeted by the bridesmaids. Alone, Sir Despard reveals that he loathes the whole business of committing crimes, and longs to get out of it. Richard enters to reveal that Robin Oakapple is really Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd, Despard’s older brother and true Baronet of Ruddigore. Robin, as a “pure and blameless peasant,” cannot deny it. Rose deserts Robin for Despard, but he, as “a virtuous person, now” decides to marry Mad Margaret. Having no other choices, Rose takes Richard.
Act II. Robin, now a Bad Baronet, has been avoiding committing any real crimes by substituting extremely minor offences. Even when Richard and Rose come to ask his consent to marry, he does not seize her, but allows it and dismisses them. Meanwhile, Despard and Margaret arrive to urge him to repent (for the crimes Despard has committed) and Robin agrees. Such behavior does not satisfy his ancestors, who come to life from their picture gallery to demand that he commit a crime straightway! They will inflict on him hideous agonies if he refuses. He consents, and commands Old Adam to “carry off a maiden…any maiden.” Old Adam unwittingly carries off Dame Hannah, who attacks Robin, defending her virtue. This rouses Sir Roderic, who rebukes him for carrying her off. Suddenly, Robin, by a brilliant stroke of logic, realizes that refusing to commit a crime a day is tantamount to suicide, but suicide is itself a crime! That being the case, Sir Roderic should never have died at all, and so comes back to life. He and Hannah are reunited; Robin and Rose are reunited; Despard and Margaret are (still) reunited; and Richard will have to make do with Zorah, the chief bridesmaid. All ends with a happy chorus.