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A: Terence Rattigan Pf: 1948, London Pb: 1949 G: Drama in 1 act S: Living room of an apartment in an English public school, 1940s C: 5m, 2fAndrew Crocker-Harris, a one-time brilliant classical scholar, now master of the Lower Fifth, is obliged by ill health to move to a lesser post. His fierce manner is loathed by his pupils (later he learns that he is known as ‘the Himmler of the Lower Fifth’). He is also despised by his wife Millie, who is having an affair with a younger master Frank Hunter. The headmaster, who patronizes ‘The Crock’, tells him that he has no pension rights and asks him to give up his privileged spot at the farewell ceremony in favour of a younger and more popular colleague. Crocker-Harris bears all this in silence, but breaks down in grateful tears when a favourite pupil makes him a leaving gift of a copy of Robert Browning's version of Agamemnon. (see Oresteia, The). Millie cruelly tells him that the pupil did this only to ensure good marks. Frank is so dismayed at her heartlessness that he breaks with her and, developing a new respect for the older master, reassures Crocker-Harris about his gift and is appalled when he learns that Millie has paraded her affairs in front of him. Discovering new strength and resolve, Crocker-Harris tells the headmaster that he will after all insist on his right to address the school at the leaving ceremony.

A: Terence Rattigan Pf: 1948, London Pb: 1949 G: Drama in 1 act S: Living room of an apartment in an English public school, 1940s C: 5m, 2f

This long one-act play has offered a rewarding part to major actors both on stage and on screen, and in its deft and tight construction has become a classic of modern English theatre. Hints of Rattigan's homosexuality, which it was impossible at the time to be open about, emerge in the relationship between Crocker-Harris with his pupil and more particularly with Frank. But Rattigan's major achievement is to win the audience's sympathy for an initially not very likeable individual.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights) — Literary Studies (20th Century onwards).


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Terence Rattigan (1911—1977) playwright


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