Describe the hardship faced by the main character of "The Prisoner of Zenda".

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In answering this question, it's important to determine who exactly the main character is in The Prisoner of Zenda . Some might argue that it's King Rudolf V, the titular prisoner of the story. He has after all been drugged and thrown into a dungeon by his wicked, scheming half-brother...

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In answering this question, it's important to determine who exactly the main character is in The Prisoner of Zenda. Some might argue that it's King Rudolf V, the titular prisoner of the story. He has after all been drugged and thrown into a dungeon by his wicked, scheming half-brother to prevent his ascending the throne that's rightfully his. In that sense, one could say that Rudolf does indeed experience great hardship. Prison life is not very pleasant at the best of times; but it's especially hard if you've lived your whole life in considerable ease and luxury as Rudolf has.

On the other hand, one could say that it's the Ruritanian king's double—and impersonator—Rudolf Rassendyll, who's the most important character. He is, after all, the protagonist. As well as having to deal with the Byzantine complexities of court intrigue and the devious machinations of the king's treacherous enemies, Rudolf is required to mature pretty quickly in his new role. He takes his duties as king very seriously indeed—so seriously, in fact, that he consents to endure the hardship of parting with his beloved Princess Flavia when King Rudolf is finally released from captivity and takes his rightful place on the throne.

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This is a story of mistaken identity. The protagonist Rassendyl is the red-headed sosie of the king of Ruritania (an imaginary Central-Eastern European country) and finds himself in the predicament of occupying the throne and playing the role of 'king' until the real king who has been kidnapped can be restored. To complicate matters, along with the throne there is also a queen. The protagonist falls in love with her (what else?), but by duty and allegience he relinquishes his false 'right' to her and to the kingdom to the true king, finally discovered and released from captivity.

The conflict levels in this cloak-and-dagger story are of course man versus man, but on a psychological level  man versus himself, and this part of the story is the most intriguing.

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