Sunday, April 5, 2009

One final visit with the Modern Major-General (final for now, anyway... I promise!)

[As explained in previous post, there's nothing in today's news I feel compelled to discuss... so I've decided to post several commentaries on the Modern Major-General's song from Gilbert & Sullivan's The Pirates of Penzance. This is the latest and, with any luck, the last in the series.]

The Modern Major-General boasts that he can "... tell you every detail of Caractacus's uniform."

Here's a contemporary illustration of a statue of Caractacus on public display in London in the second half of the 19th century:An illustration of J.H. Foley's statue of Caractacus from The Illustrated London News, 1859.

This is the Caractacus with which Gilbert & his Victorian audience would have been acquainted.

I can't help feeling that Gilbert's lyric is a Victorian inside-joke! “Caractacus’s uniform” was little more than a loin-cloth. Knowing every detail of this uniform is not that much of an achievement!


  1. Does this song try to define what a Renaissance man would be in Victorian England?

  2. subtle read, brother!

    I'd say it was very much the inside joke, at which the likes of Oscar Wilde might have chortled appreciatively...

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