The Browning Version
By Terence Rattigan
About the Author
Sir Terence Mervyn Rattigan was a British dramatist. He was one of England’s most popular mid twentieth century dramatists. He was born on 9 June, 1911 in South Kensington, London, United Kingdom. His father was Frank Rattigan CMG, a diplomat. Rattigan was educated at Sandroyd School and Harrow School. He then went to Trinity College, Oxford.
Rattigan was gay with numerous lovers but no long-term partners, a possible exception being his “congenial companion and occasional friend” Michael Franklin.
During the war, Rattigan served in the Royal Air Force as a tail gunner. After the war, Rattigan alternated between comedies and dramas, establishing himself as a major playwright. The most famous of which were The Winslow Boy (1946), The Browning Version (1948), The Deep Blue Sea (1952), and Separate Tables (1954.
Rattigan was knighted in the Queen’s Birthday Honours of June 1971 for services to the theatre. He had been appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in June 1958. He moved back to Britain, where he experienced a minor revival in his reputation before his death. He died in Hamilton, Bermuda, from bone cancer in 1977.
This play highlights the attitude of a teenaged student towards his teacher. His comments are shocking because they are very close to reality. He imitates the voice of Mr. Crocker-Harris. He calls the man almost inhuman. He is mortally afraid of his teacher. His promotion depends on the whim or goodwill of his teacher. But he opens up when the other science teacher encourages him to do so. He hates the Greek play because he does not like the teacher’s method of teaching. Mr. Crocker Harris seems to hate people in order to make them like him. The description of the teacher is damaging. It reflects upon the hopeless quality of teachers.
1. Mr. Crocker Harris – a very strict and disciplined teacher
2. Mr. Mr. Frank – a science teacher
3. Taplow – a student
4. Millie – wife of Mr. Crocker Harris
This play is an extract from Terence Rattigan’s play, The Browning Version. It is the last day at a school. While all other students have left after school time, Taplow has to stay behind. He has been given extra work to do because he had been ill for a day during the week and missed the class. His teacher Mr. Crocker-Harris has told him that he would come at 6.30 and see the work done by him. It is already 6.40 and Mr. Crocker-Harris hasn’t come yet. Another teacher named Frank comes there. He sees Taplow waiting for Mr. Crocker-Harris. He tells Taplow that he should go because Mr. Crocker-Harris hasn’t arrived so far. But Taplow doesn’t dare to do that. Frank feels jealous to see that students hold Mr. Crocker-Harris in such fear. He encourages Taplow to make fun of Mr. Crocker-Harris. In the meantime, Mrs. Crocker-Harris comes there. She says that her husband has gone somewhere and it would take him quite some time to come back. She asks Taplow to go and play until Mr. Crocker- Harris comes. Still Taplow is afraid to go. She says that she will take the blame on herself and sends Taplow to a chemist to get some medicine. Clearly her chief purpose is not to get the medicine but to help the poor boy enjoy freedom for some time at least.
Short Answer Type Questions
Q1. Where did Taplow meet Frank?
Ans. Taplow had been asked to do some extra work by Mr. Crocker Harris. He was waiting for the master in the school. Frank also came there and met Taplow.
Q2. What subjects does Taplow want to opt for? Why?
Ans. Taplow feels if his grades are good, he would opt for science. He feels science is more interesting than the study of classics.
Q3. What does Mr. Frank suggest Taplow to do because Mr. Crocker Harris is ten minutes late?
Ans. Frank asked Taplow not to wait for Mr. Crocker Harris and play golf but Taplow is really shocked and is afraid that Mr. Crocker Harris may follow him home or do something else.
Q4. Why does Mr. Frank envy Mr. Crocker Harris?
Ans. Mr. Frank envies Mr. Crocker Harris for the effect he has on the boys in the class. Mr. Crocker Harris does not tell the results before they are officially announced. And in spite of making students take extra work they still like Mr. Crocker Harris.
Q5. How does Mr. Crocker Harris differ from other masters in his reactions towards others?
Ans. Mr. Crocker Harris did not get pleasure out of giving pain. He was not a sadist. In fact he had no feelings. He was all dry like a nut. He seemed to hate the idea of people liking him.
Q6. Who is a sadist? Why is Taplow afraid of Mr. Crocker Harris even though the latter is not a sadist?
Ans. A sadist is a person who gets pleasure while inflicting pain on others. Taplow says that he would not be so frightened of Mr. Crocker Harris if he were a sadist. He would at least show his feelings. Mr. Crocker Harris was indifferent and was like a nut.
Q7. Which incident does Taplow narrate to prove the fact that Crocker Harris does not like ‘being liked’?
Ans. Taplow narrates the incident about one day when Mr. Crocker Harris made one of his classical jokes in the class which no one understood. Taplow laughed out of politeness. Instead of feeling thankful, Mr. Crocker Harris asked Taplow to explain the joke to the class. This incident proved that Mr. Crocker Harris did not like ‘being liked’.
Q8. What is Taplow’s attitude towards Mr. Crocker Harris?
Ans. Taplow is respectful towards Mr. Crocker Harris and likes him even though he is afraid of him and dare not cut the extra work even on the last day of the term.
Q9. Does Frank seem to encourage Taplow’s comments on Crocker Harris?
Ans. Frank encourages Taplow to comment on Mr. Crocker Harris by cleverly asking Taplow several questions. He appreciated Taplow’s imitation of Mr. Crocker Harris and also asks him to repeat it.
Q. Who was Millie Crocker Harris? What was she like?
Ans. Millie Crocker Harris was the young wife of Mr. Crocker Harris. She was a thin woman in her late 30s. She was more smartly dressed than the other school masters’ wives.
Q10. How does Millie Crocker Harris send Taplow away?
Ans. On seeing Taplow, Millie Crocker Harris points out that her husband was at the Bursar’s so he could go away for a quarter of an hour. But Taplow does not move. Millie assures him that she would take the blame. She takes out a prescription and requests him to bring some medicines from the chemist for her.
Q11. How does Taplow react to Millie’s arrival?
Ans. Taplow is nervous. He is unable to control his emotions and whispers to Frank if he thinks she has heard their conversation. Taplow feels that if she tells Mr. Crocker Harris, he would lose his form.
Q12. What do you gather about Mr. Frank from the play?
Ans. Mr. Frank is a young science teacher. He does not like the subject he teaches. He also admits that he tells the result to the students before it is officially announced by the head master. He feels envious of Crocker Harris because Taplow likes him.
Long Answer Type Questions
Q1. What do you gather about Crocker-Harris from the play?
Ans. Crocker-Harris is a very strict and disciplined teacher. It is his last day at school. He is leaving the school for good. Yet he gives extra work to Taplow who is one of his students. Taplow has missed a day during the week. Crocker wants him to make it up. So he gives him extra work. He tells Taplow that he would come and see his work. Thus we see how strict Crocker is. His students are afraid of him, but they don’t dislike him. Their fear is tinged with respect, not with hatred. He never does any favour or disfavour to a student. He gives what one deserves. He never does anything that goes against the rules of the school. We can say he is an ideal teacher.
Q2. Comment on the attitude shown by Taplow towards Crocker-Harris.
Ans. Taplow is a student of Crocker-Harris. Crocker is a very strict and disciplined teacher. But he has his own principles. He is true to his duty. It is the last day of the term. Crocker is going to leave the school for good. Yet he gives Taplow some extra work to do. He does so because Taplow had missed a day during the week for being ill. Most teachers tell the students about their result before the headmaster declares it. But Crocker never does that. He is a man of principles. Taplow is a little boy. But he understands all this. He has all respect for his teacher. He is afraid of him but he does not dislike him. He loves to go and play but doesn’t dare to leave without Crocker’s permission. His fear is tinged with respect not hatred.
Q3. Does Frank seem to encourage Taplow’s comments on Crocker-Harris?
Ans. Both Frank and Crocker-Harris are teachers in Taplow’s school. Crocker is a very strict and disciplined teacher. He has his own principles. He never does any favour or disfavour to his students. He gives what one deserves. Students are scared of him but they don’t dislike him. They have deep respect for him. Frank feels jealous of Crocker. So he encourages Taplow to say things against Crocker and mock at him. But Taplow does nothing of the kind. His act of imitating Crocker is no sign of disrespect. It is simply an act of mimicry. It is only by way of humour that he does so. There is no disrespect in it. But the way Frank encourages Taplow to do it is not like a teacher. In trying to degrade Crocker-Harris, he degrades himself only.
Q4. Give a brief character-sketch of Taplow.
Ans. Taplow is a student of Mr. Crocker-Harris. He has to stay behind even on the last day of the school. Mr. Crocker-Harris has given him extra work to do because he had been ill for a day during the week and missed the class. It is already very late. Mr. Crocker-Harris has not come yet. But Taplow is afraid of Crocker. He dare not leave the class until Crocker comes. Although he is afraid of Crocker, he doesn’t dislike him. He laughs at Crocker’s poor joke only out of respect. We can say that Taplow is a very obedient student.
Q5. Give a brief character-sketch of Millie.
Ans. Millie is Mr. Crocker-Harris’s wife. She is a thin woman and is in her late thirties. She dresses herself in smart clothes. She sees Taplow imitating her husband’s voice. But she takes it lightly. She finds Taplow waiting for her husband. She can understand very well that Taplow likes to go and play like other boys. She tells him that her husband is at the Bursars. It could take him a lot of time there. Thus she indirecdy hints to Taplow that he could go and play. Even then Taplow dare not go. Then she sends Taplow to a chemist to get some medicine. Her chief purpose is not to get the medicine. She only wants to help the poor boy enjoy his freedom for some time at least. Thus we can say that Millie is a loving and intelligent woman of helping attitude.
Q6. Compare and contrast the characters of Mr. Crocker-Harris and Frank.
Ans. Crocker-Harris and Frank are both teachers in Taplow’s school. But they are poles apart in their characters. Crocker is a very strict teacher. He is a man of discipline. He has his own principles. He is true to his duty. He never does any favour or disfavour to his students. On the other hand Frank is not true to his duty. He teaches science. He himself does not like the subject he teaches, but he calls his students slackers. He is jealous of Crocker. He encourages Taplow to say things against Crocker and mock at him. It does not behave a teacher to encourage a student against another teacher. In trying to degrade Crocker-Harris he degrades himself only.
Q7. Taplow is shown to be a sincere and dedicated student. How far do you agree to it?
Ans. Taplow is a boy of sixteen. He is pure at heart. He is a boy with no whims and fancy of his own. It is his frank nature which make us appreciate him all the more. It is great to watch that even after absenting himself from school for a day, he is ready to wait the next day to meet his teacher. His patience is all the more most attractive feature. Taplow paints before us a picture of a boy with divine nature. Inspite of having many good qualities Taplow is also good at flattery. He is waiting for the teacher because he wants extra marks for the test. Still inspite of follies he behaves in a simple, innocent manner. Infact he has not been touched by modernism and has a pure, serene heart.
Hornbill (English Reader)
1. A Photograph