HMS Pinafore or The Lass that Loved a Sailor

Pinafore is among the most popular Gilbert and Sullivan operas, perhaps because of its infectious tunes and generally well-constructed libretto.


Rt. Hon. Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B, First Lord of the Admiralty

Captain Corcoran, Commanding "H.M.S. Pinafore"

Ralph Rackstraw, Able Seaman

Dick Deadeye, Able Seaman

Bill Bobstay, Boatswain

Bob Becket, Boatswain's Mate

Josephine, the Captain's Daughter

Hebe, Sir Joseph's First Cousin

Little Buttercup, a Portsmouth Bumboat Woman

Ship’s Sailors and The First Lord's Sisters, Cousins and Aunts.


The Pinafore, a "saucy" beauty of a ship in Her Majesty's navy is anchored in the harbour at Portsmouth. Its proud sailors are busy scrubbing the decks for the expected arrival of Sir Joseph Porter, K.C.B., Britain's First Lord of the Admiralty. "Little Buttercup", a bumboat woman comes aboard with her basket of goods to sell to the sailors.

A handsome and accomplished sailor, Ralph, is in love with the Captain's daughter, Josephine, but Dick Deadeye reminds the starry-eyed seaman that Captain's daughters don't marry foremast hands! The Captain then arrives to inspect his crew.

Josephine is sought in marriage by Sir Joseph, but it seems that she has no enthusiasm for this because she is secretly in love with Ralph.

Finally, Sir Joseph arrives attended by his many "sisters, cousins and aunts".

He explains that he rose to the top post in the Navy by sticking close to his desk and never going to sea. He presents the crew with a song that he himself has composed to encourage "independence of thought and action in the lower branches" of the Navy. Sir Joseph and the Captain retire below decks to discuss the proposed marriage.

Ralph finds Josephine alone on deck and declares his love for her, but she rejects his proffered love. She is a dutiful daughter and cannot forget the disparity in their ranks, but when Ralph threatens suicide, the lady relents and declares her love for him. The lovers plot to elope that very night.


Captain Corcoran is alone on deck and sings to the moon of his troubles. Little Buttercup comes to him and reveals her affection. He tells her that because of his rank he can never be more to her than a friend; but she hints darkly that a change is in store for him, and "things are seldom what they seem."

Sir Joseph returns, complaining that Josephine does not favour his suit. The Captain comforts him by saying that she is dazzled by his lofty station and suggests that he plead his cause on the ground that "love levels all ranks". When Josephine hears this argument, she considers how eloquently Sir Joseph has stated the justification for her to marry Ralph!

Dick Deadeye reveals the planned elopement and he and the Captain lie in wait for the crew. The plot is foiled but the Captain is so exasperated that he actually swears a foul oath, "Damme!". This is overheard by Sir Joseph Porter who orders the Captain to go to his cabin for this "ill-advised asperity."

Sir Joseph finds out that Ralph and Josephine love one another and orders the "presumptuous" sailor to the dungeon, but affairs are interrupted by Little Buttercup, who discloses her long-concealed secret: As their foster mother, she had exchanged the Captain and Ralph while they were both babies.

Sir Joseph immediately sends for Ralph (who is now Captain) and the Captain (who is now a humble seaman). Since it is "out of the question" for Sir Joseph to marry the daughter of a mere sailor, his Lordship nobly consents to the marriage of Ralph and Josephine. The former Captain is now free to marry dear Little Buttercup, and Sir Joseph agrees to marry his longtime admirer, cousin Hebe. Hip, Hip, Horray!

Trial by Jury








Chorus of Jurymen, Bridesmaids and Members of the Public.

The opening number tells what is about to happen - “For, today, in this arena,

Summoned by a stern subpoena, Edwin - sued by Angelina - shortly will appear.”  This is a trial for a Breach of Promise of Marriage.

The Usher, having marshaled the Jurymen into the Jury-box, advises them to heed the plaintiff "the broken-hearted bride" and not "the ruffianly defendant". Of course, he says, “From bias free, of every kind, this trial must be tried”.

The Defendant appears, asking "Is this the Court of the Exchequer?" and is greeted with scorn - "Monster, dread our damages". He explains that happiness with the Plaintiff having palled, he became "another's love-sick boy". The Jury admit that once they were like that, but now they're respectable and have no sympathy with the defendant. The Usher orders silence, for the Judge approaches "All hail, great Judge!"

The Judge proceeds to tell how he reached his exalted station from being an impecunious lawyer and by devious means is now a Judge and is ready to try this breach of promise case.

The Usher swears in the Jury and summons the Plaintiff, Angelina. A chorus of Bridesmaids enter as her escort and when Angelina sings her graceful air, the judge admits that he never saw "so exquisitely fair a face". The Jurymen, too, profess great admiration for Angelina then address the Defendant as "Monster." The Counsel for the Plaintiff appeals to the Jury telling how the Defendant “Deceived a girl confiding, vows, et cetera, deriding”.

The Plaintiff reels as if to faint and appeals to the jury, but then the Judge encourages her to lean on him instead. Edwin attempts to defend himself from the charge “Of nature the laws I obey, for nature is constantly changing”. He concludes by granting that “If it will appease her sorrow, I'll marry this lady today, and marry the other tomorrow!”

This seems reasonable to the Judge, but the Counsel explains that to marry two wives at a time is a serious offence!

Angelina pleads "I love him" and reminds the jury to remember what she has lost when assessing the damages Edwin must pay!  The Defendant counters by saying that he is a bad lot, given to liquor and sure he would beat her.

The Judge suggests that they make the Defendant "tipsy" and see if his assertions be true. But to this proposition all save the Defendant object. Thereupon, the Judge is in a terrible rage for he is in a hurry to get away and settles the case quickly by declaring that he'll marry Angelina himself!