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Last Updated on August 30, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 274

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The Prisoner of Zenda is a thrilling tale of espionage, action, and rescue set in the fictional country of Ruritania. Hawkins uses a variety of themes to weave a gripping story of deception and power and create a narrative that has become an archetype for the years to come.


Characters from every arena and walk of life have to be deceitful at points in the novel, and it is the crux of the plot. Initially, the king's half brother, Michael, deceives his brother into believing his loyalty, but he eventually drugs and kidnaps him. Later, Antoinette and Count Rupert have their own deceptions that throw wrenches in the cogs of the plot. On the other side of the aisle, the faithful characters even engage in deception, as the king's advisers plan a deception to have a cousin take the crown so that he can give it back to the rightful king later, and that cousin then has to be deceitful to the country and the woman he begins falling in love with to ensure that the plot continues.

The Right to Rule

Many characters stake claims on the throne throughout the novel, and, honestly, in the convoluted antiquated traditions, they each may have a satisfactory claim on it. We are naturally inclined to believe that Rudolph is the "rightful heir," but there is cause to believe that the others may have their own right and may, in fact, make capable rulers.


Different groups of people are set apart by their loyalties—either to the king or to his brother. The nation divides itself by these loyalties, thus creating the lines of conflict in the story.