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Language in "Our Country's Good" by Timberlake Wertenbaker

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Language in Our Country's Good. Unlike in novels, in plays we do not get a direct insight into the way in which a character behaves, their temperament, their motives, their attitudes to life, their background etc, but instead we interpret all these things through language, making it one of the most key features of any play. It is through language that we as actors establish how best to play characters. Within the play Our Country's Good there are two distinct social groups. The socially higher, more educated officers and the socially lower, less educated convicts. The two groups social statuses are clearly reflected in the language used. The officers ion general posses a far more superior vocabulary to that of the convicts. This is reflected in their longer more complex utterances, for example in Act Two Scene Two. Noticeably here Phillip's language reflects his education, culture and civilised manor. "I want to rule over responsible human beings, not tyrannise over a group of animals." ...read more.


"...the prisoners are here to be punished, and we're here to make sure they get punished."(Act One Scene Six) The most vicious and unreasonable officer is Major Robbie Ross, who has a constant dismissive arrogance about him. He uses incessantly negative language throughout the play and shows no positive emotion toward anything but the punishment and suffering of the convicts, who he refers to as "vice-ridden vermin," "filthy, thieving lying whores" to name a few. This should be shown in performance by intimidating articulate diction, a constantly raised voice, and a venomous and biting tone. This unfeeling manner is not a trait of all officers. Ralph shows an obvious contrast in gentle encouragement he shows to the convicts who are supposedly so beneath him. He tells Wisehammer "I do like it" and praises his actors saying "Excellent Arscott". Though he does become inpatient, "you have no choice" Act Two Scene Seven, it is important that in performance this impatience is not shown to include any malice. ...read more.


He describes them as a "dream who has lost their way", this metaphorical language could also be referring to the convicts who on board, who have lost their way in life. Through the language used in Our County's Good, Timberlake Wertenbaker is attempting to promote the idea of reform. She shows putting on The Recruiting Officer as having a direct effect on the language the convicts use. Liz says to the governor, "I will endeavour to speak Mr Farquhar's lines with the elegance and clarity their own worth commands." The play, kindness shown and bonds formed all seem to have had a miraculous effect on the rude, hard faced, argumentative character Liz was originally portrayed as, through the change in Liz's language we would direct a change in the manor in which the actor would deliver her lines. Though she would not loose her accent, she would speak with gentler tone, to reflect her gentler character, as shown in examples such as her offer to help Duckling in Act Two Scene Eleven. ...read more.

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