"The Ruling Class" by Peter Barnes.

Essay by SminksterHigh School, 12th gradeA+, April 2003

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The Ruling Class - Second Unit

Consider Barnes' use of surprise and reversals in "The Ruling Class"

The Ruling Class is a play about a class that does not rule! Peter Barnes uses the elements of surprise and reversals throughout the play to keep the audience on the edge of their seats.

The patriotic start, in the prologue, complete with national anthem, sets the scene with the 13th Earl of Gurney addressing the society of St George. The toast is "-England. This precious stone set in a silver sea." Within moments we have the first surprise and reversal of the play. The Earl undresses with the help of his manservant, only to replace his formal dress and medals with a ballet tutu and a three-cornered cocked hat. This is the first of many hilarious revelations about the aristocratic family. The final sting of the introduction is the death of the Earl caused by him carrying his sexual fantasies to the extreme and hanging himself accidentally on a silken cord off the corner of his four-poster bed.

At the reading of the will in the second scene, Tucker, the manservant of the Earl, is transformed from a humble servant, "Yes, my lord." to a high jumping, heel clicking gleeful character at the news that he has inherited a large sum of money in his master's will. "Yippee (Shoots of the chair) Twenty thousand! Twenty thousand smackers! Yawee!" Throughout the rest of the play, Tucker behaves above his station, smoking, drinking and smashing vases in front of the family until he is finally arrested for a murder he didn't commit. The snobbery of the family is shown when Charles makes the comment in Act two scene nine "You simply can't give the working-class money."

The next trick that Peter...