The Browning Version



  • A one-act play by Terence Rattigan, first performedin 1948 at the Phoenix Theatre, London. It was one of two plays presentedunder the title Playbill, the other being the short comedyHarlequinade (about actors rehearsing Romeo and Julietfor a tour of the provinces). critics gave mixed reviews to Harlequinadebut hailed The Browning Version as a "70-minute masterpiece".

    When Rattigan offered the major role to John Gielgudduring a walk in New York's Central Park, the famous actor replied,"I'll have to be so very careful about what I do now, Terry,my dear. The public have seen me in so much first-class stuff, doyou think they would accept me in anything second-rate?" Rattiganwas shattered at having his work thus described; in the event therole was triumphantly played by Eric Portman.

    The plot concerns Andrew Crocker-Harris, an ill and unsuccessfulschoolmaster, who is asked by the headmaster to step down in favourof a younger man. Crocker-Harris is hated by his students, who callhim 'The Himmler of the Lower Fifth', and by his wife, who is havingan affair with a younger master. One student, however, shows respectand sympathy, presenting him with a copy of Robert Browning's translationof the Agamemnon. Crocker-Harris comes to terms with his failures,ignores his wife's taunts, and tells the headmaster that he will notyield his position.