The Ruling Class

by Peter Barnes

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Act II Summary

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Act II, scene i
Act II opens in the drawing room, where the latest Gurney is being baptized. The room decor is now Victorian, and the cross is gone. Jack, dressed in a traditional suit and carrying a shotgun and now only ‘‘slightly out of ‘synch’,’’ goes out for a constitutional. A shot is heard outside. Charles hopes Jack has ‘‘done the decent thing at last.’’

Act II, scene ii
Jack has shot a game bird, barely missing Tucker. He has a moment of intimacy with Grace and realizes that he’s ‘‘got to stop talking’’ since the Master of Lunacy is coming to assess Jack’s sanity.

Act II, scene iii
The ‘‘Master,’’ Truscott, denies that he does the actual committing of lunatics, his ‘‘main concern is property and its proper administration.’’ Things look bad for Jack until he begins to sing an old Eton song and Truscott joins in. He pronounces Jack recovered.

Act II, scene iv
In a mad speech, Jack reveals that he has adopted the persona of Jack the Ripper.

Act II, scene v
Mrs. Piggot-Jones and Mrs. Treadwell visit again, and this time the Earl impresses them with the idea that fear is the answer to society’s ills. Once again, they break into dance, then Grace takes them on a tour as Jack symbolically slits envelopes open at his desk.

Act II, scene vi
Claire has stayed behind to keep Jack company— and to attempt to seduce him. The lights dim and the set dissolves to Whitechapel, Jack the Ripper’s haunt. He stabs Claire. When the lights come up, the family discovers the body. Tucker is elated.

Act II, scene vii
Two policemen investigating the murder settle on Tucker as the culprit—opting for the traditional ‘‘the butler did it’’ solution. During their questioning, silverware he’d been hoarding drops out of his pocket, sealing his fate. Jack is cleared of any suspicion as Tucker is taken away.

Act II, scene viii
When he realizes that Jack murdered Claire, Dr. Herder attacks the Earl. The stress turns the tables on the doctor, who himself goes insane.

Act II, scene ix
Jack dons his robes to take his seat in the House of Lords. Charles suddenly ages. Grace gently chides Jack that they were more intimate when he was ‘‘batty,’’ but she voices her conviction that he’ll get around to her.

Act II, scene x
Alone, Jack groans and screams, madly.

Act II, scene xi
Jack rouses the House of Lords—mostly a pack or dummies and nearly dead old men—with a speech about the merits of punishment and order. Sir Charles shouts ‘‘He’s one of us at last!’’

Grace pulls Jack close as the lights fade. Her scream reveals that Jack the Ripper has struck again.

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Act I Summary