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The Prince and the Pauper by Mark Twain

Teacher Guide by Bridget Baudinet

Find this Common Core aligned Teacher Guide and more like it in our Middle School ELA Category!

Student Activities for The Prince and the Pauper Include:

Twain wrote The Prince and the Pauper halfway through his writing of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. A clear break from the American backwoods, The Prince and the Pauper is set in England and uses a dialect more similar to Shakespeare than to Huck Finn. Despite the difference in style, however, Twain’s voice is still evident in the book’s political commentary. The novel tells the story of the historical King Edward VI who switches lives with a young pauper for a few weeks. As Edward experiences the difficulties of life as a commoner, he recognizes the injustices of English law and later works to right them as king. The story is an exciting tale of mistaken identity and a wonderful introduction to sixteenth century English history.

By the end of this lesson your students will create amazing storyboards like the ones below!




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Though The Prince and the Pauper is a work of fiction, it relies on real historical details about the English monarchy for its setting and characters. King Henry VIII, Prince Edward (later King Edward VI), and most of the other nobles were real historical figures. Twain’s details about the royal family were meticulously researched, but additional background may be required to enhance student understanding. Edward’s father, Henry VIII, is perhaps most notorious for his six wives. Henry sought a son to secure a male heir to the Tudor dynasty, and when his first two wives gave birth only to daughters, he went to great lengths to marry again. Making himself head of the Church of England and changing the national religion, Henry divorced his first wife and executed his second. Although his third wife, Jane Seymour, bore him Edward, she died a few days after delivery. Prince Edward, the only son, was duly cherished by the king. Historians describe Edward as intelligent and pious. Unfortunately, his reign was brief. He became king in 1547 at the age of nine and died of tuberculosis at 15. While king, he was too young to truly rule and was largely directed by the Lord Protector the Earl of Hertford, later executed and replaced by the Earl of Warwick.

Twain takes certain liberties with English history, but bases his characters’ actions and personalities on rough historical accounts. Although modern historians portray Hertford in a critical light, in Twain’s time, he was praised as a champion of the common people. He and young Edward were thus viewed as more tender-hearted and fair-minded than their ruling relations. In a letter to a friend, Twain wrote that his goal in The Prince and the Pauper was “to afford a realizing sense of the exceeding severity of the laws of that day by inflicting some of their penalties upon the King himself and allowing him a chance to see the rest of them applied to others—all of which is to account for a certain mildness which distinguished Edward VI’s reign from those that preceded and followed it.” For more information on Edward VI or the history of the Tudors, visit the links below.



Essential Questions for The Prince and the Pauper

  1. What was the role of the king in sixteenth century England?
  2. How do the protagonists’ different upbringings shape their characters?
  3. How is justice achieved throughout the story?
  4. How do stereotypes about different socioeconomic classes affect the way people treat each other?
  5. Given the opportunity, would you like to trade places with someone for one day?

The Prince and the Pauper Lesson Plans, Student Activities and Graphic Organizers

The Prince and the Pauper Plot Diagram


Copy Assignment



A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.

Students can create a storyboard capturing the narrative arc in a work with a six-cell storyboard containing the major parts of the plot diagram. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the story in sequence using: Exposition, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Resolution.



Example The Prince and the Pauper Plot Diagram

Exposition

Young Tom Canty lives with his mother, sisters, and abusive father in Offal Court, a poverty-stricken London neighborhood. Tom faces hunger, cold, and beatings every day, but dreams of life as a prince. Just a few miles away, young Prince Edward Tudor lives in the palace with his father, King Henry VIII. The same age as Tom Canty, Edward’s life is entirely different: he is wealthy, spoiled, and powerful.


Conflict

Prince Edward meets Tom at the palace gates and shows him kindness after a guard beats him. Inside the palace, Tom and Edward trade stories and swap clothes, noticing their identical appearances as they do so. When Edward leaves the palace in Tom’s clothing, the guards do not let him back in, and Tom and Edward get stuck living each other’s lives.


Rising Action

Both boys struggle to adapt to their new lives. Though they each protest that they are not who they appear to be, no one believes them. Gradually, Tom comes to enjoy life as a prince and uses his power to change unjust laws. Edward detests life with John Canty and faces poverty, pain, and death at every turn. He survives his trials only with the help of a kind-hearted noble, Miles Hendon.


Climax

Edward escapes his enemies and appears at Tom’s coronation just in the nick of time. Tom is about to be crowned king in Westminster Abbey when Edward walks up the aisle and declares he is king. When Tom agrees with him, the onlookers and royal representatives are bewildered.


Falling Action

The Lord Protector questions the boys to determine who is the true king. When he asks for the location of the long-missing Great Royal Seal, Edward identifies its location, proving that the boy in rags is the true King Edward VI.


Resolution

Edward is made king and deals mercifully with his subjects. He rewards Miles and Tom for their service and rights the wrongs he noticed while living as a pauper. His time outside the palace opened his eyes to the injustices of the law, and he works to make life less brutal for his subjects.


The Prince and the Pauper Plot Diagram
Create your own at Storyboard That EXPOSITION CONFLICT RISING ACTION CLIMAX FALLING ACTION RESOLUTION Young Tom Canty lives with his mother, sisters, and abusive father in Offal Court, a poverty-stricken London neighborhood. Tom faces hunger, cold, and beatings every day, but dreams of life as a prince. Just a few miles away, young Prince Edward Tudor lives in the palace with his father, King Henry VIII. The same age as Tom Canty, Edward’s life is entirely different: he is wealthy, spoiled, and powerful. Prince Edward meets Tom at the palace gates and shows him kindness after a guard beats him. Inside the palace, Tom and Edward trade stories and swap clothes, noticing their identical appearances as they do so. When Edward leaves the palace in Tom’s clothing, the guards do not let him back in, and Tom and Edward get stuck living each other’s lives. Both boys struggle to adapt to their new lives. Though they each protest that they are not who they appear to be, no one believes them. Gradually, Tom comes to enjoy life as a prince and uses his power to change unjust laws. Edward detests life with John Canty and faces poverty, pain, and death at every turn. He survives his trials only with the help of a kind-hearted noble, Miles Hendon. Edward escapes his enemies and appears at Tom’s coronation just in the nick of time. Tom is about to be crowned king in Westminster Abbey when Edward walks up the aisle and declares he is king. When Tom agrees with him, the onlookers and royal representatives are bewildered. The Lord Protector questions the boys to determine who is the true king. When he asks for the location of the long-missing Great Royal Seal, Edward identifies its location, proving that the boy in rags is the true King Edward VI. Edward is made king and deals mercifully with his subjects. He rewards Miles and Tom for their service and rights the wrongs he noticed while living as a pauper. His time outside the palace opened his eyes to the injustices of the law, and he works to make life less brutal for his subjects. Thou shalt hang for laying thy hand upon me! Be off, thou crazy rubbish! I forbid you to set the crown of England upon that forfeited head. I am the King! ?