Mark Twain’s historical fable explores what happens when the Prince of Wales changes places with a young beggar
Set in sixteenth-century England, The Prince and the Pauper follows two boys with vastly different lives: Tom Canty, the indigent child of an abusive, roustabout thief, and Prince Edward, the son of King Henry VIII and heir to the throne.
One day, daydreaming while wandering near the king’s palace, Canty catches sight of the prince—and nearly catches a brutal beating from the royal guards. Prince Edward commands them to stop and invites the street urchin into his immaculate home. Both fascinated by their strikingly similar appearances, the two boys craft a plot that could unwittingly upend the monarchy: to temporarily switch clothes, thereby swapping lives. Through first-hand experience—and a series of humorous follies—the two discover that neither life is as carefree as they expected.
In The Prince and the Pauper, Twain elevates the classic theme of mistaken identity with his inimitable storytelling to create something uniquely American: a historical fable.
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