The Prince and the Pauper: A hilarious tale of look alikes by Mark Twain

Doppelganger, duplicate, carbon copy are some synonyms for lookalike. Do you know that there are 10 types of look alikes in world? May there are 10 people resembling you in this world. Writer Mark Twain took the idea of look alikes in his book – The Prince and The Pauper where fate brings a poor boy and a prince together. They switch their identities to discover a new life. Only confusion ensues. Prince Edward Tudor is royal heir to throne of England while Tom Canty is an unwanted mouth to a ragged family residing in a dirty colony of England.

Despite being pauper, Tom is eager to learn about the royal ways and life. On the other side, Edward Tudor confined to the strict codes of royal life finds himself imprisoned. A fortunate chance brings Tom and Edward Tudor closer. Edward invites the pauper Tom to his palace and treats him with delicious food from royal kitchen. Edward plans to switch identities for a short moment with Tom by exchanging their clothes. To their surprise, they discover that they are similar in physical appearance and voice. When Edward disguises as Tom and leaves the palace, he is mistaken as the pauper and thrown out of the palace. No one is ready to recognize the prince. Even Tom Canty is addressed as Prince Edward due to his physical resemblance to the royal heir. Edward Tudor has to face lots of adversities to prove his identity while Tom Canty starts attending to the royal matters. How Edward and Tom meet again forms the crux of the story. Though the story is simple, the confusion, humor and adventure make it interesting.

Though the events in story are fictional, some of the characters from history are real e.g., Edward Tudor, Henry VIII, Elizabeth. Before Elizabeth became the queen of England, it was Edward Tudor who ruled the empire for a short span. He was the only boy in the history of England who ruled as king till the age of 15. Unfortunately, Edward ascended on the throne at age of 9 years and skillfully handled the kingdom till his untimely death due to illness. Had Edward survived, Elizabeth wouldn’t have become Queen Elizabeth (Do watch Shekhar Kapur’s 1998 movie based on Elizabeth starring Cate Blanchett as the royal monarch)

Though the book is a delightful tale, it also highlights the corruption and injustice happening during the time of King Henry VIII. To know more about Henry VIII and his tyrant rule, I highly recommend reading ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ based on life of Queen Elizabeth’s mother: Anne Boleyn, an ambitious woman who aspired to become queen of England. Even the book was adapted as motion picture starring actress Natalie Portman as Anne Boleyn and Scarlett Johansson as Mary Boleyn.

The book ’The Prince and the Pauper’ ends on a happy note with Edward Tudor coronated as king while Tom Canty gets good post in the kingdom. The book was adapted as movie in Hollywood and Bollywood. Especially the movie – Raja aur Rank is a desi adaption of Mark Twain’s classic. There are dozens of Bollywood movies that are highly inspired by ‘The Prince and The Pauper’. Even Shakespeare’s play – Comedy of errors was centered around pair of twin brothers: master and servant. Alexandre Dumas’ book – The Man in the iron mask revolved around twins, the royal heirs to throne of France.

If you are planning for a short and joyful read, I highly recommend Mark Twain’s classic – The Prince and the Pauper.


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