Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Drama, Revised Edition)
A historical play that ends where it begins seems to violate common expectations of plot and character development. That the play succeeds nonetheless is because the audience quickly develops a sympathy for George III that transcends the political reality that the king stands for a long-rejected primacy of monarch over Parliament. What is most important to the audience is that the king embodies basic values of sincerity, kindness, domestic felicity, and fondness for the masses much more than do the elected representatives who appear onstage.
Asked to choose between the father and the son, the audience immediately chooses King George, when, assaulted in the first scene by the crazed petitioner Margaret Nicholson, he commands that she not be hurt. The Prince of Wales, on the other hand, seems more disturbed by her tearing the king’s waistcoat than by any potential harm to his father. In the following conversation with his son, the king asks whether he knows why the people call their ruler “Farmer George.” The prince answers that they are impertinent, but the king corrects him, explaining that it is out of love and admiration. Historically, the appellation also reflects the king’s great interest in agriculture.
The audience knows that a return to normality for the king will be a return to his commitment to his wife, to his country, and to his people. This sense of devotion is contrasted throughout with the Prince of Wales, who is...
(The entire section is 530 words.)
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