'The prisoners are here to be punished and we're here to make sure they get punished' Major Ross just wishes to inflict misery on the convicts. Captain Tench then accuses the convicts of recidivism ('criminals seem to have been born that way. It is in their nature'). He says that they are irredeemable and will revert to their old ways. On the contrary, Phillip likes to think that the convicts will 'become members of society again, and help create a new society in this colony. Should we not encourage them now to think in a free and responsible manner?
' He believes in civic virtues and thinks that the convicts are entitled to personal, civilised enjoyment. He tries to persuade the others to see that the theatre is 'an expression of civilisation': 'The convicts will be speaking a refined, literate language and expressing sentiments of a delicacy they are not used to. It will remind them there is more to life than punishment' This is where this particular dramatic piece ceases to be a mere play and becomes a versatile vehicle of entertainment.
After a heated discussion, it is agreed that the play is to go ahead and may even 'do some good'. Collins thinks that it will prove a 'most interesting experiment' which is reminiscent of Higgins' 'experiment in teaching' in Pygmalion. In Act One Scene Eight, we find Liz, Mary and Dabby learning their lines. Mary is 'teaching' Dabby her lines and she is taking pride in learning them. When they speak the lines, they inhabit their roles: that is, they become the characters whom they are portraying, dignified members of the upper class, speaking 'fine language'.
In Act One Scene Ten, 'John Wisehammer and Mary Brenham exchange words', the convicts are beginning to put Governor Phillip's educational theory into practice, as this dialogue shows: MARY What does indulgent mean? WISEHAMMER How is it used? MARY (reads) 'You have been so careful, so indulgent to me' – WISEHAMMER It means ready to overlook faults. Mary is taking joy from learning 'fine language, sentiment' and is refining her sensibility. In this scene, Wertenbaker has chosen well the words for Mary and Wisehammer to discuss, such as 'lonely, loveless', 'abject: a man without hope' and 'injustice…
the ugliest word in the English Language'. These words relate to both the situation and the emotions of the convicts. In Act One Scene Eleven, 'The First Rehearsal', Robert Sideway uses the 'theatrical form of address' and calls Dabby 'Mrs Bryant'. She responds with 'Who's Mrs Bryant? ' because she is not used to being called by a title. When Colonel Pickering calls Eliza 'Miss Doolittle' in Pygmalion, she is delighted and utters her trademark expression 'Aw-ah-ow-oo'. This delight illustrates the redemptive and transforming effect of linguistic courtesy on her sense of self-respect.
When the rehearsal starts, we witness Sideway's self-motivation: 'No need, Mr Clark, I already know it'. He has already learned his lines and has aspired to a higher level of achievement. When a woman is acting, she has to get into character: 'Imagine you're her'. Drama is socially useful; it enables us to see the world from somebody else's point of view and assists social cohesion. Liz Morden has begun to speak the language of the play from her own mouth: 'Thank you, Lucy, I do much appreciate your effort' No quotation-marks indicate how Liz has begun to adapt the language of the Restoration play.
Duckling Smith then complains: 'How will they know I'm here? Why does she get all the lines? Why can't I have some of hers? ' She is jealous. Suddenly, the convict actresses become competitive in the process of self-improvement. In Act Two Scene Two, 'His Excellency exhorts Ralph', Phillip speaks of a 'slave boy' who is the equivalent of the 'flower girl' in Pygmalion. He believes in the 'the innate qualities of human beings'. In the case of John Arscott, who has been given two hundred lashes for trying to escape, Phillip says, 'It will take time for him to see himself as a human being again'.
Governor Phillip can see that the man has been treated like an animal. He is an enlightened humanitarian. His view of Liz Morden, however, is very much to the point: 'Lower than a slave, full of loathing, foul mouthed, desperate'. He wants her to be 'made an example of', but not by hanging, 'by redemption … I am speaking of redeeming her humanity'. Ralph is sceptical of his plan, but Philip tells his lieutenant to 'try a little kindness'. The Governor does not want to rule by tyranny, but by co-operation.
He hopes that his 'colony of wretched souls' can be transformed into 'responsible human beings' by putting on a play. In Act Two Scene Five, 'The Second Rehearsal', we see Liz, Sideway and Caesar begin to show signs of camaraderie when they 'stand together' at the edge of the stage. We see further examples of this togetherness later in the scene when the tyrannical sadists, Ross and Campbell, ritually humiliate Clark's cast. They make Sideway show his lashing scars and Dabby go down 'on all fours' and behave like a dog.
The worst humiliation is of Mary who has a tattoo high up on her leg. They want her to show them her tattoo. As she reluctantly lifts her skirt, the actors come to the rescue: 'Sideway turns to Liz and starts acting boldly'. However, Ross retorts and commands Campbell to 'start Arscott's punishment'. Liz carries on bravely, but loses her lines and the scene ends in silence save for the beating and Arscott's cries. In Act Two Scene Seven, 'The Meaning of Plays', John Wisehammer kisses Mary Brenham. Ralph Clark is angry and jealous because a convict has access to Mary.
Wisehammer defends his kiss by passing literary judgement: ' It's right for the character of Brazen'. The play has educated him. Just as when Mary says: 'I like playing Silvia. She's bold, she breaks the rules out of love for her captain and she is not ashamed'. She sees a role model in Silvia, just as Arscott sees an escape from himself in playing Sergeant Kite: 'When I speak Kite's lines, I don't hate anymore'. In the same scene, when Dabby asks 'Why can't I play Kite? ' we see her great expectations. She wants to better herself, just like Eliza, in her role as an actress, let alone as a human being.
She also examines the role of Melinda ('All she does is marry Sideway, that's not interesting') and in doing so persuades Dabby to look at her own identity. She has decided that she does not like Melinda because she is content to marry a man and sacrifice her identity to become a trophy wife. In Act Two Scene Ten, 'The Question of Liz', we hear Phillip state that 'the play seems to be having a miraculous effect'. He wants Liz to speak up for herself and for 'the good of the colony' against the allegations that she stole food from the colony stores. When she finally speaks, she becomes involved in the process of justice.
It is also in this scene that Liz utters an equivalent to Eliza's 'How do you do? ' in Pygmalion: 'Your Excellency, I will endeavour to speak Mr Farquhar's lines with the elegance and clarity their own worth commands'. Now we can hear that the process of amelioration is complete and that the educational theory of Governor Phillip has been proved in practice. I believe that this is where Higgins went wrong, for central to any educational theory is the giving of 'confidence' and 'encouragement' which the Professor, unlike the Governor, makes no effort to give.