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"The Ruling Class" By Peter Barnes.

1026 words - 4 pages

The Ruling Class - Second UnitConsider Barnes' use of surprise and reversals in "The Ruling Class"The Ruling Class is a play about a class that does not rule! Peter Barnes uses the elements of surprise and reversals throughout the play to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.The patriotic start, in the prologue, complete with national anthem, sets the scene with the 13th Earl of Gurney addressing the society of St George. The toast is "-England. This precious stone set in a silver sea." Within moments we have the first surprise and reversal of the play. The Earl undresses with the help of his manservant, only to replace his formal dress and medals with a ballet tutu and a three-cornered cocked hat. This is the first of many hilarious revelations about the aristocratic family. The final sting of the introduction is the death of the Earl caused by him carrying his sexual fantasies to the extreme and hanging himself accidentally on a silken cord off the corner of his four-poster bed.At the reading of the will in the second scene, Tucker, the manservant of the Earl, is transformed from a humble servant, "Yes, my lord." to a high jumping, heel clicking gleeful character at the news that he has inherited a large sum of money in his master's will. "Yippee (Shoots of the chair) Twenty thousand! Twenty thousand smackers! Yawee!" Throughout the rest of the play, Tucker behaves above his station, smoking, drinking and smashing vases in front of the family until he is finally arrested for a murder he didn't commit. The snobbery of the family is shown when Charles makes the comment in Act two scene nine "You simply can't give the working-class money."The next trick that Peter Barnes has in store for the audience is the introduction of the new Earl as a Franciscan monk in scene two, who preaches of God and urges the Bishop to pray. "If the bishop doesn't mind. I think we should pray." This highlights the relationship between Church and State. The shock is further exaggerated by the realisation that he thinks he is God! "...express your desires freely...I know them already." In scene three there are further revelations about the Earl by Dr Herder, the psychiatrist. Not only is it revealed that the Earl is a paranoid schizophrenic, which is possibly containable, but also in scene four we find he's Bolshie! "Pomp and riches, pride and property will have to be lopped off...love makes all equal...the mighty must bow down..." This shows that not only is the family threatened but the whole social order is in jeopardy.Barnes' use of the "chorus line" routine is a clever trick to maintain the element of surprise for the audience. His characters spontaneously burst into song and dance on stage at the most incongruous moments. For example in Act One Scene Six, when the "two solid, middle-aged women in grotesque hats." appear, the Earl greets them with a song. Unable to resist the charm...

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