The King and I: A Fight to Rule ROUGH DRAFT
Rodger and Hammerstein’s The King and I has dazzled audiences for more than fifty years. With elaborate sets and engaging characters, the source of success appears to be evident. However, hidden within Hammerstein’s romantic script lies the true foundation; an eternal historical pattern. The King and I uses vibrant color to mask the chronicle of government intervention and westernization in not only Siam but in many countries. Anna Leonownes, King Mongkut, and Prince Chualongkorn represent a caustic pattern of government intervention throughout history.
In the first scene of The King and I the audience is introduced to Anna, an English teacher traveling to 19th century Siam (currently Thailand). King Mongkut has invited Anna to educate his children on the civilized customs of the western world. As the King struggles to accept Anna’s teachings, his oldest son, Prince Chulalongkorn embraces them. Throughout the script Anna and the King battle for superiority until the King falls ill and dies. From his death bed, the King watches as the Prince ascends the thrown and makes his first proclamation; subjects will not grovel at the king’s feet, instead they will stand straight and proud, like Anna (Galens and Spampinato 141-4).
The Prince signifies a transfer of power from a weaker country to a dominating country; in this case Siam to Imperial England. Initially skeptical of Anna’s teachings, the Prince questions not only the existence of snow, but the miniscule size of Siam in relation to England (Hammerstein). By approaching Anna with a cautious attitude the Prince demonstrates Siam’s distrust of western teachings. The Prince soon discards his reservations and his father’s strict traditional customs. In the final scene the Prince declares, “No bowing like a toad. No crouching. No crawling (Hammerstein).” The Prince denounces the “traditional, groveling bow” of the king and instead opts for an English greeting (Galens and Spampinato 144). Although the Prince was raised in traditional Siam, he replaces his father’s teachings with western concepts, shifting power in Siam to England.
Present day Thailand has a modern transportation system, educational system, and constitutional monarchy (Darling 276). These successes came only after many years of pressured westernization by colonial powers. Under the threat of war, Thailand was forced to give up financial assets in many countries; however Thailand eluded total domination with their adaptation to westernized lifestyles (Collinwood 98). Hammerstein uses the Prince in The King and I to represent Thailand’s struggles to remain a free kingdom with western influence. The Prince is adapting to England’s expectations of citizens just as Thailand adapted to England’s expectations of countries.
In The King and I, Anna represents the dominating country, in this case England. Throughout the plot Anna struggles to maintain superiority as she fails to control the...