Summary and Analysis Chapters 4-5



The prince is finally left alone by the rabble that has harried him into London, and he wanders aimlessly about, not knowing where he is until he comes to Christ's Hospital. There, he sees some children dressed as apprentices, playing in the yard. He talks to them and announces his claim that he is Edward, Prince of Wales; his actions at first amuse the boys, but then they begin to mock him. Angry and frustrated, he kicks one of the boys and threatens them all with the gallows, whereupon they beat him and set their dogs on him.

As night comes on, the bruised, battered, and muddied prince is confused and lost. However, he remembers Tom's story and begins to look for Offal Court. He also vows to provide learning for the children of Christ's Hospital, not just bread and shelter. Suddenly, John Canty collars him and drags him home — and again a crowd gathers to jeer as Edward claims to be the prince and demands to be taken immediately to the king. Everyone he has met outside the palace walls believes that he is mad — nothing more than a common beggar who has lost his wits.

Alone in his royal apartment, Tom awaits the prince's return. He admires his new finery in the mirror and practices a regal walk, saluting with his sword as he has seen one of the guards do. As he examines all of the ornaments in the apartment and seats himself in the soft chairs, he wonders what his friends would think of him now. Would they think him mad — or would they believe him? Then he suddenly begins to worry about the real prince's absence. He is also fearful about the terrible things that might happen to him if he is discovered. Might the nobles not, as he has heard, suddenly hang him? His fears rise, especially when the Lady Jane Grey enters, and he confesses that he is only Tom Canty of Offal Court; he begs that he might see the prince and get his rags back. When he continues to beg for mercy, she becomes frightened and flees. Tom then becomes more terrified than ever, and he is sure that the whole court will be upon him soon. However, word spreads throughout the palace that "the prince hath gone mad!" A royal proclamation quickly forbids any mention of this, and all such talk stops immediately.

In the meantime, an entourage of nobles brings Tom to the king. Henry VIII, who is great and gross and sick, questions Tom about what has happened. When Tom realizes that he is standing before the king himself, he falls to his knees, believing that he is completely undone. The king acts as though Tom is Edward, however, and treats him kindly and with concern, thinking all the time that his son has gone mad.

Tom tries to tell the truth about his humble station, but his confessions only distress and confuse all who hear him and convince them that he is absolutely mad. His knowledge of Latin is proof enough for them that he is Edward, Prince of Wales, and this fact suggests the possibility that perhaps he may yet be cured.

Henry VIII orders that Edward be relieved of his studies so that he might have a better chance to recover. In addition, Henry insists that Edward be "installed in his princely dignity in due and ancient form" immediately, so as to forestall any questions about his madness. To achieve this, the king further orders that the Duke of Norfolk be "doomed" by morning. Tom tries to prevent this, but the king refuses to listen and sends Tom away. Tom feels trapped, as trapped as if he were shut up in a cage, and he feels terribly guilty about the impending death of the great Duke of Norfolk. He contrasts the pleasant pleasures of his dreams with the dreariness of this stark, fearful reality.


These chapters, as a unit, present an obvious but rather interesting contrast. Chapter 4, for example, shows the prince dressed as a pauper confronting a cruel world that has no respect for him, and it ends with the prince being considered stark, raving mad. The following chapter presents the contrast of the pauper, Tom, in the role of the prince and, likewise, being considered mad — royally mad!

The prince's troubles in the real world are caused by the mere fact that he considers himself a prince, despite his being dressed as a pauper. The boys whom he approaches at Christ's Hospital treat him, at first, with laughter, until he insists the he is the prince; then he is treated with derision, and the more that he insists that he is the Prince of Wales, the more rude his treatment becomes until, ultimately, he is beaten, and dogs are set on him. The prince is finally discovered by John Canty, who believes the lad to be his own errant son, and even though old John considers his son to be mad, he still subjects him to a beating. Thus the real world that the Prince of Wales dreamed about is not at all like the world he imagined.

In contrast, Tom's dreams have all come true. He has, indeed, become a prince, a prince like the ones he dreamed about, but the reality of his situation is not nearly as pleasant as his dreams of old were. In particular, Tom is frightened that at any moment he will be discovered and punished for wearing the prince's royal clothing. Surprisingly, nothing that he does can convince the royal court that he is not the real prince, for he looks like the prince and he is dressed like the prince. And when the king asks Tom a question in Latin, Tom is able to respond to the question in Latin; this test proves that Tom is indeed the Prince of Wales; no pauper could possibly know Latin! Looking backward, we now see why Mark Twain had Father Andrew teach Tom some Latin. This "mad scene" is emphasized, satirically and ironically, by Twain because the heir to the throne of England is considered mad — and yet, in spite of his being "mad," it is decided that he must be installed as heir apparent immediately. In addition, Tom overhears that in order for him to be installed as heir apparent, the Duke of Norfolk must be put to death immediately. This injustice will soon be corrected, however, for as soon as Tom becomes King of England, his first act will be to countermand the order.

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