The Browning Version – Summary

This is an excerpt from a play from Rattigan’s book ‘The Browning Version,’ translated by Robert Browning. The scene is set in a school.

Summary

This play is a story of two school masters and a student named Taplow. Taplow, a boy of 16, comes in to do extra work for Mr. Crocker Harris. Mr. Harris is not there but the other teacher Mr. Frank arrives.

Frank asks Taplow many questions about him. He learns that Taplow is in the lower fifth and is waiting for his ‘remove’ to be announced the next day. Results have been prepared and fate of students has already been decided. Infact most students know whether they have been promoted to the next class or not. He finds that in case Taplow’s ‘remove’ is favourable, he intends to opt for science in the next class. He sees that the boy is a little bitter for having to come for extra work on the last day of school. He likes Taplow’s imitation of Mr. Crocker Harris but does not like to show his feelings to Taplow. On the other hand, he rebukes Taplow and asks him to read his Greek play.

Then, he suggests that Taplow could go back because Mr. Crocker Harris was already late. Seeing that Taplow is shocked at the suggestion, he admits that he feels envious of Mr. Harris for keeping his students scared. He asks Taplow if Mr. Harris beats his students.

Harris Taplow denies and says that Mr. Harris is not a sadist still. Taplow admits that he is more frightening than those teachers who beat. And yet, there is something that Taplow likes about Mr. Harris. He considers Mr. Harris very special as he seems to have no feelings. Unlike other teachers he is not pleased when he is praised or liked. Despite this Taplow loves Crocker.

While they were talking, Millie Crocker Harris comes in. It is a few seconds before the other two noticed her presence. Taplow feels uneasy as he thinks that Millie has perhaps heard him talking ill of her husband. She gives Taplow a medical prescription and asks him to get it made up from the chemist. At first, he is reluctant to go fearing that Mr. Harris might get angry in case he comes in Taplow’s absence. When Millie says that she will take the blame, he goes and the play comes to an end.

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