The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper

The Prince and the Pauper

Synopsis

Set in Ranaissance England, The Prince and the Pauper tells the story of Tom Canty, a ragged pauper, and young Edward VI, only son of Henry VIII, who look exactly alike. Almost by accident, the boys exhange places days before Henry's death and Edward's coronation, leaving Tom to the role of future king and Edward to the mercy of the beggars' underworld. A rousing tale of mistaken identity, this annotated edition reveals an optimistic side of Mark Twain seldom seen.

Excerpt

Judith Martin

The sprig of Tudor royalty who was to become Edward VI is "struck dumb with amazement." How could he be impersonated successfully, in his very own court, by an urchin whom he had arbitrarily plucked from the streets only days before? "It did not seem possible that this could be, for surely his manners and speech would betray him if he pretended to be the Prince of Wales," the true prince reflects.

One can understand that this teenager would be stunned at the premise of Mark Twain's switcheroo plot. Having invested his entire childhood in learning and practicing the measured ways of court life, is he to believe that a raw recruit could be transformed into instant royalty, to the evident satisfaction of his own rigid and tireless instructors, and even his notoriously edgy father? "Why did I bother?" one can imagine him asking himself bitterly.

The device that makes this story possible is -- of all things -- an etiquette book. The look-alike pauper, Tom Canty, stranded in the clothes, persona and apartment of the prince, stumbles upon a book "about the etiquette of the English court. This was a prize. He lay down upon a sumptuous divan and proceeded to instruct himself with honest zeal." And arose from it a more or less properly behaved prince. (What he did about his speech patterns and accent, which would have been a lot harder to explain than behavioral lapses that are attributed to fatigue bordering on madness, is not known. Presumably, he also found language tapes to instruct him in the proper vocabulary and pronunciation.) . . .

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