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Using an examination of Act One, Scene Three (punishment) as a starting point, explore the varying ways in which Wertenbaker presents different attitudes to punishment in the play as a whole?

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Introduction

Saturday, 14 December 2002 Jad Salfiti A2 English Literature Using an examination of Act One, Scene Three (punishment) as a starting point, explore the varying ways in which Wertenbaker presents different attitudes to punishment in the play as a whole? 'Our Country's Good' is based on events that occurred in the first penal colony to be set up in Australia in 1789. The play deals with the prisoners in the colony, who were imprisoned for minor infractions, while still in Britain. It tells of the abuse they endured at the hands of their officers, in the world's most remote outpost. Some British convicts were dragged over from Britain for petty crimes such as stealing a morsel of food. These harsh laws were imposed in direct response to public opinion. This 'public' wanted severe punishment for those crimes committed against property (i.e. theft), and was less concerned with crimes against the self (i.e. murder). After a horrendously severe voyage at sea, and with rations becoming dangerously low, the Governor of the colony, Captain Arthur Phillip realizes that morale is at an all time low. In an effort to uplift the spirits of the convicts and officers, he suggests a stage play be presented. The convicts would take the parts in this comedy; 'The Recruiting Officer'. In Act One Scene Three, political conflict in shown in attitudes towards punishment: should prison act to rehabilitate or to punish. ...read more.

Middle

Phillip believes that a 'bad' person can reform his or her ways and for that reason Phillip and Ralph would be categorised as a liberal also. Ross refers to the play as "frippery frittering!" he clearly does not sympathise "the theatre leads to threatening theory and you, governor; you have His Majesty's omission..." Ross illustrates his bigoted nature throughout this scene showing how cynical, xenophobic, misogynistic, and plain opinionated he is. Ross thinks the point of prison is to punish and only to punish. Ross' Ideological position is best described as fascist or extreme right-wing. Watkin Tench, on the other hand best represents Hobbes's views. Tench argues that the criminal tendency is innate and definitive, "If you commit a crime, you are a criminal". Tench would be categorised as a Lockeian. Hobbes believed that criminals should enjoy no more rights than a slave; there is no room for redemption. Furthermore Locke had a materialist conception of human nature, and argued that no ideas are innate. Tench is convinced that sin is in the prisoner's "nature", this is parallel to Locke's view. Locke argued that all our thoughts result from impressions we receive through our five senses (and from the ideas we may then synthesize from these original, simple thoughts. Tench argues that the prisoners "have a habit of vice and crime" this shows conservative affiliation. Tench views morality as absolute, that it is, not dependent on society or situation. ...read more.

Conclusion

Ketch is abdicating responsibility for the deaths he has caused. His yearning for acceptance is overt; he has been made a social outcast and is victim of his job, paradoxically another victim of the enforcement of punishment. This scene acts as Ketch's confession, his testimony and evidently releases him for the torment he has received at the hands of the female convicts. Ketch like Harry appears to want Ralph to pardon him "it's the women they're without mercy- not like you and, Sire, men". Ketch wants forgiveness from the women who are constantly reminding him, and wants to be released from the humiliation and hurt in scene eleven 'The First rehearsal' the women all hiss and spit at Ketch. And he is not allowed to forget that he is the one that has hanged all their friends and acquaintances as Dabby points out "So we are Mr. Hangman". Ketch desires female love and affection. There is a curious mixture of the physical and spiritual permeated into Ketch's language, Catholicism is indoctrinated with his language "but it's God's judgment I'm frightened of. And the women's". Punishment emerges as a major theme within the play, the Officers articulate political views and the conflict between left and right wing politics: the usage of corporal and capital punishment. Many other forms of punishment emerge within the play including whether imprisonment should act to rehabilitate or punish convicts. Punishment is seen as a form of ostracism, alienation, polarisation as demonstrated by Ketch. Finally Harry is self-punishing for the death of, he feel he is responsible for the death of his sexual rival. ...read more.

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