The Yeoman of the Guard



  • A light opera by Gilbert and Sullivan, set in theTower of London in the 16th-century and subtitled The Merrymanand His Maid. It was first produced in 1888 at the Savoy Theatre.Gilbert is said to have taken the idea from a poster of a Beefeateradvertising the Tower Furnishing Company. For his part, Sullivan wrotethe piece during a bout of depression in which he accused himselfof wasting his talents on musical comedies instead of writing grandopera; consequently Yeoman is one of his more serious works.

    The plot concerns the plight of Colonel Fairfax, due to bebeheaded in the Tower on false charges based on the evidence of acousin, who will inherit his estate if he dies unmarried. Accordingly,he persuades Elsie Maynard, a singer, to marry him in return for 100crowns. Meanwhile, Phoebe, the daughter of a Yeoman warder, has fallenin love with Fairfax. She steals the keys to his cell, and Fairfaxassumes the identity of her brother, Leonard. When she discovers thatFairfax has fallen in love with Elsie, Phoebe discloses his true identityto Wilfred Shadbolt, the Head Jailer and Assistant Tormentor. To protectFairfax and escape a treason charge, Elsie now promises to wed Shadbolt"in a year - or two - or three, at the most".