The History Behind a Novel


Even though many people think history is boring, most classic novels take place during a historical time. The Prince and the Pauper takes place during the fifteen thirties of England during the reign of the House of Tudors. Through the use of historical facts Mark Twain demonstrates historical significance of the novel by using the reign of the Tudor family.

Although Elizabeth I, is someone who is very simplistic in The Prince and The Pauper, she brings lots of humor into the plot. Elizabeth I , the second daughter of King Henry VIII and first daughter to Anne Boelyn, Henry’s second wife, was born on September seventh fifteen thirty three. Elizabeth became the queen of England in fifteen thirty eight, after her half sister Mary I, was forced into exhile in fifteen fifty seven. The way that Mark Twain positions Elizabeth into the novel is that she portrays Edward’s half-sister, a sweet, proper teenage girl, although she is always full of joy, shoe dooes not recognize that the boy, Tom Canty who is pretending to be Edward, is not her brother. He says “The details are never made obtrusive, and the “local color” is never laid on with excess: but the spirit of the age preceding that of Elizabeth is maintained with just the proper degree of art to avoid artfulness” (Vogelback 50). She says “We know it, sir,’ said the Princess Elizabeth, taking her ‘brother’s’ hand between her two palms; ‘trouble not thyself as to that. The fault is none of thine, but thhy distemper’s.’” (Twain 37). In the novel, Elizabeth is attempting to tell her brother not to fear about their father’s illness, since he is strong and will get better soon. Twain analyzes Elizabeth as caring, proper, yet extremely naive.

In The Prince and The Pauper, no matter the difficulties they faced, Edward was comforted by eldest half sister Mary I. Mary was born in February during fifteen sixteen, she was the first surviving child to King Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon. After her brother was born, the English parliament declared Elizabeth and Mary unauthorized to the thorne in the future if Henry was to pass away. Twain demonstrates Mary role as Edwards older, supportive sister. He says “The princesses Mary and Elizabeth kindly tried aid their supposed brother, who by that time was too frightened to confess that he was Tom Canty, a beggar dressed in the prince’s clothing.”(Masterplots 3). Although Mary is devastated by the death of her father, she does her best to make sure that Edward has the support to be the next king of England.

Even though King Henry VIII had three children, it did not stop him from marrying Catherine Parr, his sixth and final wife. After the death of her husband John Neville, Lord Latimer, she became betrothed to recent widower King Henry VIII, for he had just witnessed the execution on his late wife Catherine Howard. She changed the lives of Henry’s children for when she suggested that Princess Mary and Elizabeth be put next for the throne. Catherine was a wonderful champion and a nurse, although when news stretched about how Henry’s health was beginning to become fatal, she remained his personal nurse. In The Prince and The Pauper, Twain analyzes Catherine in the novel as Edward’s stepmother, even though that was who Catherine really was during that time. In the novel, Catrherine is doing a duel role being a mother to the children and a nurse to Henry. After the king’s death, Catherine wonders why Edward is acting so strange as the days come closer to the day of his crowning ceremony. While Catherine is determined to find out why Edward is acting so peculiar, yet still focusing on getting Edward ready for his formal procedure as king. Catherine is not Edward’s birth mother, so Catherine does not recognize that Edward is Tom. Catherine says “ ‘O, my child, my darling!’”(Twain 233). This is how Twain identifies Catherine in the novel, and still using the historical background.

The character that is the most historic in The Prince and The Pauper, for not as crucial is King Henry VIII, king of England. Henry changed the countenance of England as though as many times he had been married. Henry’s first marriage to his late brother’s widow Catherine of Aragon was unsuccessful because she was barren and was only able to carry to full term only one healthy child, Mary. Henry believed he was cursed for marrying his brother’s wife he felt that he should find someone younger who could give him a male heir, therefore he fell for the manipulative Anne Boelyn. Anne had no interests in Henry, she wanted the crowne, and Henry to divorce Catherine simply because she refused to become his mistress. In order to be married married to Anne Henry had no choice; incedentially he had to break with the Roman Catholic church. Henry’s marriage was not successful to Anne either because she to gave him another daughter,Elizabeth. Feeling as though god was punishing him, therefore he had Anne Boelyn beheaded and married her lady in waiting Jane Seymour. Jane gave Henry a son, but died shortly after the birth, sooner than he was wedded to Anne of Cleves. The marriage to Anne was not very promising, so Henry had then decided to divorce Anne and marry Catherine Howard. Sooner than six months after their marriage Henry had Catherine beheaded for treason, and proceeded to marrying his final wife Catherine Parr. In The Prince and The Pauper, King Henry’s role is the king, but he is deathly ill. “King Henry issued an edict that no one should discuss the royal lapse of memory.”(Masterplots 5). Although Henry did not notice that Edward (Tom) was not his son, for he still felt hurt when Edward (Tom) did not recognize his own father. He says “‘Dost thou know thy father, child? Break not mine old heart; say thou know’st me. Thou dost know me, dost thou not?’” ( Twain 27). Since before he was worried about not having a male heir, he has nothing to fear because he knows that his son Edward will make a terrific king of England. He says “While he was ill, King Henry VIII had given the great seal of the kingdom to Prince Edward for safe keeping.” (Masterplots 2). This is how Twain analyzes King Henry in the novel;still telling about his fears of dying and the future his country.

The most conspicuous character throughout the The Prince and The Pauper is Edward Tudor, Prince of Wales (also known as Edward VI). Edward VI (Edward Tudor) was born in the year of fifteen thirty seven. He is the first and only son of King Henry VIII, and Jane Seymour, Henry’s third wife. Edward was born into the family that had been ruling England since fourteen eighty five. Edward became the king of England at the age of ten after the death of his father in fifteen forty- two. Twain takes advantage of these facts to make write this novel. In his novel, Edward is nine years old and his tired of being the next ruler to take the throne when his father dies and just wants to be an average kid. Magill says “Edward, if in an obviously comfortable position, lives in the palace, dominated by the dying Henry VIII”(Magill 1965). Although he has access to whatever his heart desires, he would like to catch a glimpse at what life is like beyond the palace walls. Those wishes become true after he meets Tom Canty, a beggar boy who has the same resemblance to Edward. While speaking with Tom, Edward realizes that they both want different things. They realize that Tom wants to see what it is like to live in the palace and Edward wants to see what it is like to be normal. Edward 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 no rebuke me or forbid, misdeemed I could forgo the crown!” (Twain 9). In the novel, as soon as Edward has switched places with Tom Canty, he is ecstatic to be normal. Edward loves to run in the mud, play with the peasant children that are his own age. Masterplots says “The Prince of Wales was still wondering the streets as a homeless waif when King Henry died.” (Masterplots 3). Twain analyzes that most princes want to live beyond the palace walls, yet still ruling their country.

Although Mark Twain is a classic American novelists, and wrote a lot of humorous masterpieces. While using historical facts, Mark Twain was able to get ideas and characters for The Prince and The Pauper. Most classic novels take place during the most historical times in history, and are incorported represented throughout the novel. The novel took place during the fifteen hundreds during the monarch reign of the Tudor family.

Works Cited

Magill, Frank N. Masterplots. Ed. Laurence W. Mazzeno. Pasadena:Salem Press Inc., 1976.

Magill, Frank N. Magill’s Survey of American Literature. Ed. Frank N. Magill. Vol. 6. North Bellmore: Salem Press Inc, 1991.

“The Prince and the Pauper.” Masterplots, Revised Second Edition (1996): Literary Reference Center. EBSCO.Web.2 Nov.2009

Twain, Mark. The Prince and The Pauper. London:Puffin Group, 1983.

Vogelback, Arthur Lawrence “The Prince and the Pauper: A Study in Critical Standards.” American Literature 14.1 (1942): 48. Literary Reference Center.EBSCO. Web. 9 Oct.2009.

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