illustration of the prince and the pauper standing back to back with a castle on the prince's side and a low building on the pauper's

The Prince and the Pauper

by Mark Twain
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What are three character traits of Edward Tudor in The Prince and the Pauper?

Three character traits of Edward Tudor include his curiosity, which emerges when he asks the poor Tom Canty many questions about his life, his compassion, which shows when he invites the hungry boy to dinner, and his proud spirit of adventure, which causes him to switch clothes with Tom so he can experience the life of a poor boy and to assert his identity boldly even when he is downtrodden.

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Edward Tudor is a curious prince. When he sees the poor Tom Canty, he wants to know more about what his life is like. The boy, though Edward's age, seems to have led a completely different life, and Edward wants to know all about it. He invites Edward to dinner, and asks him many questions about where he lives and his family, learning about his parents, grandmother, and twin sisters.

Edward Tudor also shows himself as compassionate. For example, he notices from the start that Tom looks "tired and hungry." Edward doesn't just observe this, but responds by inviting him to dine, offering Tom a splendid meal. Edward also has the kindness and sensitivity to send away his servants, so that Tom won't feel embarrassed around them. When Edward learns that Tom's grandmother often beats him, his sense of compassion is raised, and he wants to imprison her. At the end of the novel, after he has experienced what it is like to live without any privileges, the prince turns into a compassionate king. Near the novel's end, the narrator states that "the reign of Edward VI was a singularly merciful one for those harsh times."

The young prince also has a proud and adventurous spirit, his eyes lighting up at some of Tom's stories of street fights, races, and swimming in canals and the river. When Tom describes all the fun the poor children have singing and dancing around the maypole while playing in the mud, the prince says:

Oh, prithee, say no more, 'tis glorious! If that I could but clothe me in raiment like to thine, and strip my feet, and revel in the mud once, just once, with none to rebuke me or forbid, meseemeth I could forego the crown!

It is the prince's desire for adventure and excitement that sets the plot of the novel into motion as he agrees to trade clothes with Tom Canty so that he can experience what life is like for a poor boy. When he is mistaken for Tom because of his clothes and forced to live on the streets, his pride earns him ridicule. For example, people on the street laugh at him for saying he is king, and yet he says proudly to to 'John Hobbes:'

“I am the King,” said Edward, turning toward him, “as thou shalt know to thy cost, in good time. Thou hast confessed a murder—thou shalt swing for it.”

Edward's traits of curiosity, compassion, pride, and adventurousness serve him well during his short reign because they have taught him to understand how the other half lives.

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