Act 1, Scene 4 of Murmuring Judges. Discuss Hares presentation of the prison system in the scene, and in the play as a whole.

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Question 2: Reed Act 1, Scene 4 of Murmuring Judges. Discuss Hare’s  presentation of the prison system in the scene, and in the play as a whole.      

‘The treatment of offenders was demeaning, unsafe and fell below what could be classed as decent.’ This quote has been taken from a 2011 independent HM inspector report of Wandsworth Prison. The aforementioned quote shows that there is little difference between the current prison system and the social context of the 1980’s prison system, which is the backdrop of Hare’s fictional play. Unfortunately, this is a sad in indictment of the present day prison system which has barely changed in the past twenty years.  

In this context, in Act 1, scene 4 we see the character of Gerard’s first impressions of the prison system.  We previously saw the character of Gerard in Act 1, scene 1; when Mc Kinnon, and two other men were convicted of a warehouse robbery. He now faces the first moments of his four year custodial sentence. Hare’s stage directions create the impression that the building is an old, overcrowded, Victorian prison. The playwright evokes that feeling in the act’s opening stage directions: ‘we move into a gloomy, enormous space’ and ‘with a gigantic door discernible at the back.’ By the use of the adjectives, ‘gloomy’ and ‘enormous’, this demonstrates the feeling that the prison is a soulless, cavernous space. This overwhelmingly unwelcoming reception that greeted Gerard creates the intimidating environment that the character is experiencing for the first time.

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 Amidst the chaos and gloom of the prison, Hare shows us a small glimmer of humanity in the character of prison officer Raymond Beckett. Although Beckett is presented as a hard headed prison officer who has dealt with thousands of hardened criminals over the years, after hearing Gerard has not been in prison before he shows him some compassion and sympathy. He gives advice on how to survive his first ‘stretch’ in prison. We see evidence of this when Beckett said: ‘you better learn, I’ve seen people go crazy when it’s their first time…the worst is getting bitter.’  This may ...

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