The Prince and the Pauper is an adaptation of Mark Twain’s classic novel about a poor boy and a kind young prince. Prince Edward saves young Tom Canty from being beaten by palace guards and invites him to the palace. As they learn about each other’s lives and discuss their uncanny resemblance, the two boys decide to temporarily trade places. The Prince, dressed in the poor boy’s clothing, finds his way to the Canty home and experiences firsthand the difficult life as a pauper. In the palace, Tom quickly realizes that royal life doesn’t suit him. Both boys learn valuable lessons along the way and their lives are changed forever. A classic tale for children of all ages!
Peter Mitsopoulos was born and raised in San Diego, California and still lives there. He has had a few one-acts produced in his local area. In 2015, he self-produced his full-length one-woman play about Joan of Arc entitled I, Joan. He graduated from San Diego State University and served in the US Air Force.
Excerpt from the play:
CAST OF CHARACTERS
NARRATOR – Written as female, but can be male
Tom Canty – Pauper of Pudding Lane
Edward Tudor – Prince of Wales
King Henry VIII
Earl of Hertford
Princess Elizabeth – Edward’s half-sister
Princess Mary – Edward’s half-sister
Lady Jane Grey – Edward’s cousin
Nat – Tom’s sister
Bet – Tom’s sister
NOTE: The casting is quite flexible. For example, the Prince and the Pauper could both be played by girls. So could some of the other male characters.
The bare stage is dark. A SPOT comes up, revealing the NARRATOR at stage right. She reads to us from a book.
We come to tell you a tale of old England in the year 1549. It may be history. It may be only a legend. It may have happened, it may not have happened. (A beat) But it could have happened.
As the GENERAL LIGHTING comes up, TOM CANTY ENTERS from the stage left wings dressed in rags. He holds out his hands to imaginary passersby.
Tuppence, kind sir! Please you, ma’am! Tuppence for a hungry boy!
(Reading) Poor Tom Canty begged for his living, and for his family’s as well. He lived in London in the filth and trash of Pudding lane, and if he came home with no coins in his hands, his father would make him regret it. And today he has begged his way to the very gates of the palace.
EDWARD, PRINCE OF WALES ENTERS from the stage right wings accompanied by two SOLDIERS, one on each side of him. Regal of bearing and afraid of nothing, EDWARD stands with his hands on his hips, looking around confidently.
Of course, my people adore me! I am their prince, am I not?
You are, my lord!
My lord, you are!
And one day I shall be their king!
His Royal Highness Edward Tudor, the Prince of Wales. Son of King Henry the Eighth, and heir to the throne of England. The prince and the pauper. Look they not alike? So they do. And therein lies our tale.
The NARRATOR EXITS into the wings.
Behold, it is the prince himself! I will draw as near as I may that I might see him in all his splendor!
TOM scuttles along on all fours toward EDWARD but is quickly stopped by the SOLDIERS.
Mind thy manners, thou young beggar!
Indeed! Keep thy place!
(To the soldiers) Stay thy hands and harm him not! How darest thou treat a poor lad so! Stand aside and let him draw near. He means me no ill.
The SOLDIERS step aside as TOM crawls over to EDWARD. EDWARD
reaches out and takes both of TOM’S hands, raising him to his feet.
Thou lookest tired and hungry. Thou hast been treated badly. Come with me.
Yes, sir! As you command!
TOM, EDWARD, and the SOLDIERS EXIT stage right.
EDWARD and TOM are alone on the stage. TOM is rubbing his stomach and wiping his mouth with his sleeve.
Was the food to your liking?
Oh, indeed, sir! And many thanks to your royal highness!
Very well. Now tell me. What is thy name, lad?
Tom Canty, sir.
Where dost thou live?
Pudding Lane, sir.
And thy parents? They treat thee ill?
My mother dost love me most fairly, as do my sisters. But my father be much displeased if I bring too little home from my begging.
Thou must live by begging?
Aye, sir. But it shames me not, as I was born for nothing more.
No one in my father’s realm should think themselves born to beg.
But born to it I was, my lord, just as you were born to be a prince…and someday king.
Hmm. It seems there is much in the realm that I have not seen. Tell me more. Thou hast sisters?
Two, sir. Nan and Bet.
I have two sisters as well, Elizabeth and Mary. But my cousin, the Lady Jane, is the sweetest and kindest girl I know. Now speak on. What dost thou when thou art not begging?
My friends and I swim in the river. And then we roll in the mud till it covers us from head to foot.
Oh, that strikes me as jolly good fun! I would that I could wear thy rags and revel in the glorious mud!
And I wish I might dress as you are, in such splendid garments.
Then let it be done!
EDWARD takes off his cloak and hands it to TOM.
For a moment, I shall be the beggar and you the prince.
As you command, my lord. But I prithee only for a moment.
A moment and no more, I warrant thee!
TOM and EDWARD begin to exchange clothing.
NARRATOR ENTERS with her book and reads.
While Tom and the Prince exchange rags for royalty, let us look elsewhere in the palace.
LADY JANE GREY ENTERS from the wings followed by ELIZABETH
and MARY. NARRATOR EXITS.
Hast thou not seen Edward today? Methinks he knows not the king his father grows eager for his company.
Perhaps he cannot find his way to his father’s presence.
Why would that be?