Nuanced, beautiful writing, and character analysis that is ruthless, real and aching with loss. In my view, the play seems to be portraying a character who is the underdog, and yet saying that there is great strength in that; perhaps it takes greater strength to always put the needs of others first, to allow your own feelings to be ignored, and this is certainly what he does in the way that he responds to his wife's needs. It is also detectable that, in his stirring final speech to the school, that he has always put his pupils before him, and yet has interpreted their fearful respect of him as a failure on his part.
The students give him a standing ovation. We are perhaps supposed to think that he has been a 'good' teacher after all. However, being a teacher myself, this moment always leaves me with an uncomfortable feeling: I have found that all students, almost without exception, like Taplow, wish their teachers well. Contrary to popular stereotype, teenagers are without the cynical streak that adults are so often burdened with. I wonder if the students' applause is sympathy rather than true respect, however. They feel for him, but does that mean that he was actually any good, or was he really the monster that he believes himself to be? I like to think that his damning self-evaluation is wrong and that it is in his very lack of complacency, and self-critical outlook, that suggests he was, after all, an inspiring teacher.
In the 1994 adaptation, Albert Finney's performance of this superbly subtle play is stunning. It has me in tears every time. It is my favourite film!The Browning Version [DVD] [1994
]The Browning Version [VHS] [1994
]The Browning Version (Nick Hern Books)The Browning Version (Acting Edition)The Browning Version (Nick Hern Books)