Mark Twain’s first historical novel, The Prince and the Pauper, is a classic adventure of mistaken identity that champions social justice.
Set in 1547, it tells the story of two young boys who were born on the same day and are identical in appearance: Tom Canty, a pauper who lives with his abusive, alcoholic father in Offal Court off Pudding Lane in London, and Edward VI of England, son of Henry VIII of England.
With his tongue-in-cheek irony, Twain satirizes the power of the monarchy, unjust laws and barbaric punishments, religious intolerance and superstitions. The Prince and Pauper is a classic novel for adults as well, offering critical insight into a people and time period not really all that different from our own.
Through colourful humour, rising tension and visual detail, Twain conjures a moral lesson of equality which is just as pertinent in today’s society as it was for the Tudors.