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The Browning Version Summary in English by Terence Rattigan
The Browning Version by Terence Rattigan About the Author
|Writer Name||Terence Rattigan|
|Born||10 June 1911, South Kensington, London, United Kingdom|
|Died||30 November 1977, Hamilton, Bermuda|
|Movies||The Browning Version, The Winslow Boy|
|Education||Trinity College, University of Oxford, Harrow School|
|Awards||Cannes Film Festival Award for Best Screenplay, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Foreign Play|
The Browning Version Summary in English
Terence Rattigan’s play, ‘The Browning Version’, was first performed on 8 September 1948 at the Phoenix Theatre, London. The play is about the last few days in the career of Andrew Crocker-Harris, an old Classics teacher at a British public school, where he’s been teaching for eighteen years. The man’s academic life is fading away and he deeply feels he has become obsolete. He is forced to retire prematurely owing to ill- health. Lack of success with his pupils has blighted his youthful ambition and promise, and he faces a future of poverty and disappointment. His talk at the end of the year prize giving is replaced by that of the popular sports master and the school will not give him his pension because of his early retirement, although he was depending on it.
This is an extract from the play. This part of the play underlines the bitter feelings of a student towards his teacher. These are brought out through a conversation between Frank Hunter, a young schoolmaster, and Taplow the student. Taplow has come for his tutoring session with Crocker-Harris, although it is the last day of school, but Crocker-Harris has not yet arrived. Frank, the science teacher, finds Taplow and starts talking to him.
Frank asks Taplow, if they had met earlier. Taplow introduces himself and informs him that he is a student in the lower fifth grade. He feels that he would specialise next term if he got his class. He also tells Frank that Mr Crocker-Harris doesn’t tell the students the results like the other teachers. As a rule, the class results should only be announced by the headmaster on the last day of term, but Taplow feels that none other than Mr Crocker-Harris seems to be so fastidious about the rule. Hence, Taplow would have to wait to know his result.
On Frank’s asking, Taplow tells him if the grades are good he would opt for science. Frank laments sadly that they get all the idlers. Taplow objects saying that he has opted for science because he is extremely interested in science. He feels science is more interesting than studying Classics such as The Agamemnon, which he calls “muck”. Thinking that he has gone too far, he corrects himself saying the plot is good. It is about a wife murdering her husband, he says. But what he did not like was the way it was taught to them. It had a lot of Greek words and Mr Crocker-Harris punished them for not getting them right.
Frank realised that Taplow sounded bitter, and got to know from him that Taplow had been given extra work to do as he had missed a day of school the previous week when he was ill. It was the last day of school and he wished to play golf instead. Taplow continues saying that one would think that Mr Harris had enough to do as he was leaving the next day, instead of calling Taplow for extra work.
Frank consoles him saying that for being a good boy in taking extra work he would get his class the next day. Taplow feels that would be true of other teachers and not of Mr Harris. It was just the previous day that he had told Taplow—he had got what he deserved. Taplow feels that Mr Harris might have given him less marks to make him do extra work. He adds that Mr Harris is “hardly human”. After saying so, he apologises to Frank for talking too much.
Frank pretends to be unhappy but asks Taplow to repeat what Mr Harris had said to him. Taplow imitates him. Frank pretends to look strict and asks him to read Aeschylus and be quiet. He then asks Taplow at what time he was supposed to meet Mr Crocker-Harris. Taplow informs him that he was called at six-thirty. Frank tells Taplow that Mr Crocker-Harris was already ten minutes late. He suggests that Taplow could go off and play golf.
Taplow is shocked and expresses his apprehension if Mr Crocker-Harris should know. He was certain that nobody had ever done that with Mr Crocker-Harris.
Frank envies the effect Mr Crocker-Harris seems to have on the boys in the class; they seem to be scared to death of him. Taplow says that a few teachers, including Mr Crocker-Harris, are sadists, who get pleasure out of giving pain.
Frank asks him about the others. Taplow says that he would not like to name them, as everyone knows who they are. Students understand everything. He compliments Frank saying that he is different and fairly young.
Frank pretends to be outraged. Taplow continues calling Mr Crocker-Harris, the Crock; Taplow says that he is worse than a sadist. If he were a sadist, he wouldn’t be so frightening because in that case, at least, it would show he had some feelings. His inner being, feels Taplow is emotionless and withered like a dried-up nut and he seems to hate people liking him.
Frank tries to instigate Taplow by saying that the boys would have exploited that for their own advantage. Taplow then admits that strangely, despite everything Mr Crocker-Harris does, he still likes him. Taplow says that he has also noticed Mr Crocker-Harris feels uncomfortable about people liking him. To elaborate on this, he recalls an episode when in class Mr Crocker-Harris made one of his classical jokes. Nobody laughed because nobody understood it. However Taplow knew that it was meant to be funny, so he laughed. Mr Crocker-Harris, at once remarked, that he was pleased at the advance in Taplow’s knowledge of Latin since he had without difficulty understood what the rest of them did not. Mr Crocker-Harris then wanted him to explain what he had said to the rest of the class.
Just then the door opens and Millie Crocker-Harris enters. She is a thin woman in her late thirties, and more smartly dressed than the other schoolmasters’ wives. She stands looking at Taplow and Frank a few seconds before they notice her.
Frank is trying to ridicule Mr Crocker-Harris when Millie Crocker-Harris enters. But he seems infinitely relieved at seeing her. Taplow is a little worried. He asks Frank if Millie could have heard their conversation. Frank feels that she had overheard as she has been standing there for quite some time. Taplow is all the more worried about his ‘remove’. But Frank feels his fears are unfounded. Millie asks Taplow if he is waiting for her husband Mr Crocker-Harris. She informs him that he is at the Bursar’s and might be there quite some time. She suggests that he leaves.
Taplow is hesitant at first as Mr Crocker-Harris had asked to meet him. Millie suggests that he goes away for a quarter of an hour and then returns. Taplow asks her what if Mr Crocker-Harris was to arrive before he is back; Millie assures him that she would take the blame. She then takes a prescription out of the basket and asks him to do a job for Mr Crocker-Harris, by going to the chemist. Taplow leaves happily.
The Browning Version Summary Questions and Answers
Where does Taplow meet Frank? What does Taplow feel about being there?
Taplow meets Frank at Mr Crocker-Harris’s office, at school. Taplow had been given extra work to do as he had missed a day of school the previous week when he was ill. It was the last day of school and he wished to play golf instead.
What subjects does Taplow want to opt for and why?
Taplow wishes to opt for science if he manages good grades. He claims to be really interested in science and feels it is more interesting than studying classics such as ‘The Agamemnon’, which he calls “muck”—it had a lot of Greek words, and Mr Crocker-Harris punished them for not getting them right.
Why does Taplow feel that Mr Harris is “hardly human”?
Taplow feels that putting in extra work would make no difference to Mr Harris. He had told Taplow that he had got what he deserved. Taplow suspects he might be awarded with fewer marks to make him do extra work. He feels Mr Harris is unfeeling—worse than a sadist, and thus calls him “hardly human”.
What does Frank suggest to Taplow about waiting for Mr Harris?
When Taplow tells Frank that he was supposed to meet Mr Crocker-Harris at six-thirty, Frank tells Taplow that Mr Crocker-Harris was already ten minutes late. He suggests that Taplow could go and play golf. But Taplow is shocked and expresses his apprehension if Mr Crocker-Harris should know. He was certain that nobody had ever done that with Mr Crocker-Harris.
Why does Taplow feel that Mr Harris has no feelings?
Taplow calls Mr Harris worse than a sadist. One is required to admit to feelings if considered a sadist. Mr Harris’s inside, feels Taplow, is like a nut and he seems to hate people liking him. He did not appreciate Taplow appreciating his jokes and embarrassed him in return.
How did Taplow try to express his liking for Mr Harris? What was the outcome?
Taplow admits to liking Mr Harris and realized he felt uncomfortable about people liking him. He recalls an episode, in class, where Mr Crocker-Harris made one of his jokes to which nobody laughed. Taplow knew that it was meant to be funny, and laughed. To which, Mr Crocker-Harris teased Taplow about his knowledge of Latin and asked him to explain the joke to the class.
Who was Millie Crocker-Harris? What was she like?
Millie Crocker-Harris was the young wife of Mr Crocker-Harris. She was a thin woman in her late thirties, and was more smartly dressed than the other schoolmasters’ wives.
How does Millie Crocker-Harris send Taplow away?
Millie learns from Taplow that he was waiting for her husband and suggests he leaves for quarter of an hour since Mr Harris might be a while. Taplow is hesitant; Millie assures him she would take on the blame if Mr Harris arrives before that. She finally sends Taplow off to the chemist.