What is the summary of "The Young King" by Oscar Wilde?

In "The Young King," a poor boy discovers he is the king's son. At the palace, he falls in love with beauty and commands a coronation robe of woven gold, a scepter studded with pearls, and a crown filled with rubies. However, he has three dreams before his coronation that show the misery that produced these rich items. He therefore arrives at his coronation dressed humbly, but because of his mercy and compassion, his apparel becomes radiant and beautiful.

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It is the night before the coronation of the Young King, a boy of sixteen who has only recently become aware of his royal birth, having lived most of his life as a simple shepherd before discovering that his mother was a princess. He is enchanted by the beauty of the palace and is particularly delighted by the robes that have been prepared for his coronation.

The king falls asleep and dreams three dreams. In the first, he finds himself in a miserable attic, where poor, underfed, overworked weavers are working a loom. One of them speaks bitterly of his poverty and misery, before revealing that he is weaving a robe of tissued gold for the coronation of the Young King. In the second dream, he is on a galley where men are diving for pearls. One of them dies after securing a particularly beautiful pearl, and the master of the galley declares that the pearl will be used for the scepter of the Young King. In the third dream, he sees the symbolic figures of Death and Avarice fighting over men who are mining rubies for the Young King's crown.

When he awakes, the Young King decides that he will go to his coronation dressed in the simple clothes he wore when he was a shepherd. The courtiers think him mad, as do the crowds who line the streets. A man in the crowd points out that the vice and luxury of the rich provide the livelihood of the poor. At the Cathedral, the Bishop also rebukes him, saying that the troubles of the world are too great for one man to bear. The nobles who have come to see the Young King crowned are offended by his peasants' clothes, but at this point light shines through the windows of the cathedral and makes these humble clothes look like a golden robe. The light covers the Young King with gold and jewels, and the Bishop cries out that "a greater than I hath crowned thee." As he walks back to the palace through the crowd, his face is like the face of an angel.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 20, 2020
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"The Young King" is the story of a poor boy who does not know he is the son of a king. When the king dies, the boy is found and brought to the royal palace. He will be crowned on his sixteenth birthday.

The boy falls in love with beauty and surrounds himself with the richest and most luxurious items he can find. He is determined to have the most splendid crown, scepter, and coronation robes ever and commissions these to be made. The crown is studded with costly rubies, the scepter with pearls, and the robe is of gold tissue.

The young man is looking forward to his magnificent coronation the next day when he has three dreams. Each one shows him the misery that is behind the creation of his robe, scepter, and crown. Poor people, including half-starved children, toil in hunger and misery in a foul-smelling room to make his robe. A young slave must dive over and over past exhaustion to find pearls for her scepter. After Avarice (greed) refuses to give Death even one grain, Death brings a plague. It wipes out the people, so that jackals and dragons must pull the rubies for the king's crown out of the slime.

When he wakes up, the young king is so horrified by the suffering that has produced his beauty that he casts aside his crown, robe, and scepter. He puts a "spray of wild briar" on his head for crown, dons his old leather vest and sheepskin cape, and carries a rough staff.

The noblemen want to kill him for his lack of royal dignity but his clothing, staff, and crown are made luminous and beautiful by a mystical light. He is more a king than ever because of his merciful and compassionate heart, and he awes the people with his angelic face.

This is a didactic tale with a lesson that says that true beauty comes from kindness and compassion, not jewels and riches.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on May 20, 2020
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"The Young King" by Oscar Wilde is part of a collection of short stories and fairy tales published under the name of The House of Pomegranates".  Most of the short stories in this collection have the expected traits of Wildean style in the form of epigrams and paradoxical endings, with an aim to appeal to the senses in a surprising and creative way.

The story "The Young King" is about a prince who is about to be crowned King. Yet, he never lived the life of a price before. This prince is an unclaimed son of the now dead King and, as a rule, he is the heir to the throne. Once he is brought to court, he is given all the rich luxuries of a future king.  Yet, the night before his crowning, the boy has three nightmares involving the evils of Death, Avarice, the Plague, and Fever. In these dreams the young future King is clearly told that a lot of less fortunate people had to work hard at creating his jewels, and many sacrifice their lives so that the king could have all the things he needed on time for his coronation. Hence, the day of his coronation the boy wore the robes of a peasant, a stick instead of a sceptre, and a crown made of twigs. People around him felt ashamed of him and treated him disrespectfully, saying that he is embarrasing the upper classes. Yet, by this sacrifice something seemed to take place: The sun rose, and the boy's meagre clothing seemed to shine witht he colors of the church glass. The stick grew into a beautiful vine, and in all it was as if the sacrifice showed the true beauty of his spirit. Even the bishop noticed this, and gave validity to the goodness of spirit versus the superficiality of riches.  

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