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Ruddigore is a comic Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in two acts, with music by composer Arthur S. Sullivan and libretto by William S. Gilbert. First performance at the Savoy Theatre, London, in 1887.

As with most Gilbert and Sullivan productions, this show is not as straightforward as it first appears. It uses the form of a comedy melodrama to question what we mean by Good and Evil. The Good characters are all good in rather unpleasant ways or for bad reasons, whereas the Bad Baronet is evil for relatively noble reasons. For instance he uses the results of his evil deeds to support charitable institutions. The following plot summary should be read with these thoughts in mind.


Act I

The chorus of Professional Bridesmaids speculate on what their next opportunity for a wedding will be. Rose Maybud, a pretty young lady never without her book of etiquette, is being wooed by country youth Robin Oakapple. However, he has a rival for her affections, the sailor Richard, Robin's foster-brother. Deciding that etiquette permits it, Rose finally accepts Robin's suit. Richard, following the dictates of his heart, promptly goes to reveal a secret to the local Bad Baronet, Sir Despard Murgatroyd, who labours under a family curse that compels him to commit a crime every day.

Thus, the nuptials of Rose and Robin are rudely interrupted by Sir Despard Murgatroyd, who reveals that Robin Oakapple is none other than his elder brother, Sir Ruthven Murgatroyd. As a result, Robin/Ruthven is the direct inheritor of the family curse, which Despard until now had been forced to carry out by Ruthven's abdication of his duties. Rose cannot marry a Bad Baronet, of course, so defaults to Dick; Ruthven is excoriated out of the town.

Act II

Despard atones for some of his previous evil acts, impelled by the family curse, by marrying the woman he once seduced and abandoned, Mad Margaret. The two together embark on a life of charity. Ruthven, meanwhile, tries to come to grips on being a Bad Baronet, at which he is spectacularly lacking. His weak attempts at crimes stir his ancestral ghosts from their usual haunt of the portrait-gallery. They reveal that they are the enforced enforcers of the curse, and will condemn him to a "slow and lingering demise" if he doesn't get about some proper crimes, such as abducting a lady.

Ruthven, under threat of torture, dispatches Adam to go find a lady to abduct; Adam returns with Robin's nurse, much to the dismay of the leading ghost, who recognizes the nurse as his old sweetheart. Meanwhile, Rose, with Richard accompanying, comes to the castle to attempt to persuade Ruthven to reform; Despard and Margaret assist. Ruthven, bad at being a Bad Baronet, is tempted to agree when his ancestors appear to threaten him again. Inspiration strikes, and Ruthven points out a flaw in the wording of the curse which implies that (a) the curse has no force, and (b) the ancestors should not actually have died as a result after all. Rose is happy to wed the un-cursed Baronet, the former ghosts take up with the Professional Bridesmaids, and revelry ensues.

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