The Prince and the Pauper

A stage adaptation for performance by schools and youth theatre groups of Mark Twain’s novel The Prince and the Pauper.

This is a play based on the classic novel by the American writer Mark Twain (1835-1910), whose most famous works were of course The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. 

The prince and the pauper
Illustration from the 1881 edition of Mark Twain’s novel; source: Wikimedia Commons

The setting is Tudor England in the year 1547. Two boys, one a prince of the realm, the other a poor boy from the streets of London, meet by chance and decide to swap clothes for the day, giving each boy a chance to see how the “other half” lives.

The story features a host of colourful characters, including several drawn from history, such as King Henry VIII, Archbishop Thomas Cranmer, the young Elizabeth I, Lady Jane Grey and of course Edward VI, who is the “Prince” of the story and becomes King of England when his father dies; other characters are fictional, including Tom Canty himself – the “pauper” from London’s Offal Court – and the swashbuckling Miles Hendon, a soldier recently returned from fighting abroad, who takes Prince Edward under his wing on their journey around Southern England.

This is a full-length two-act play suitable for production by schools (age 11+), youth theatre groups or amateur companies. There are no songs but the story allows for the inclusion of music in appropriate places. The play needs a minimum cast of fourteen (3 boys, 2 girls, 6 men, 3 women). Without doubling of roles the play can be performed by a cast of up to 70.

In 2014/5 the play was performed by the Rudolf Steiner School of Ann Arbor, Michigan, and by Hillside Avenue School, Cranford, New Jersey, part of whose performance can be seen on this youtube clip .

The play is published by Schoolplay Productions, whose website (which includes a read-only copy of the script) can be accessed on School Play Productions – click on “plays” and scroll down.

A sample scene can be read here: Tom’s troubles begin.