Our Country’s Good

by

Timberlake Wertenbaker

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Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip) Character Analysis

A captain of the Royal Navy who has been brought out of retirement to serve as governor of the penal colony in Australia. Phillip is a kind and empathetic man who is against overt displays of violent punishment. He also believes that anyone can change for the better. Because of these views, he’s often at odds with Captain Tench and Major Ross, both of whom are strong advocates for capital punishment and think that criminals can’t be reformed. Despite this disagreement, Phillip decides to put on a play in the colony, enlisting Lieutenant Ralph Clark to cast and direct the piece. When his colleagues challenge the value of this activity, Phillip asserts that the play will be good for the convicts because it will encourage them to embody a more “refined” way of life. Eventually, Ralph loses heart during the rehearsals, but Phillip inspires him again by helping him see that it’s important to give people opportunities to improve themselves. In addition, the Governor also advocates for Liz Morden when she gets in trouble for supposedly stealing food. Along with Judge Collins and Ralph, he urges her to tell the truth about what happened, suspecting that the only reason she refuses to testify on her own behalf is because she doesn’t think anyone will listen to her. In doing so, he demonstrates his benevolent style of leadership.

Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip) Quotes in Our Country’s Good

The Our Country’s Good quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip) or refer to Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip). For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
).
Act One, Scene Three Quotes

COLLINS. […] You have been made Governor-in-Chief of a paradise of birds, Arthur.

PHILLIP. And I hope not of a human hell, Davey. Don’t shoot yet, Watkin, let’s observe them. Could we not be more humane?

TENCH. Justice and humaneness have never gone hand in hand. The law is not a sentimental comedy.

PHILLIP. I am not suggesting they go without punishment. It is the spectacle of hanging I object to. The convicts will feel nothing has changed and will go back to their old ways.

TENCH. The convicts never left their old ways, Governor, nor do they intend to.

Related Symbols: Public Hangings
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

I commend your endeavour to oppose the baneful influence of vice with the harmonising acts of civilisation, Governor, but I suspect your edifice will collapse without the mortar of fear.

Related Symbols: Public Hangings
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:

TENCH. It’s their favourite form of entertainment, I should say.

PHILLIP. Perhaps because they’ve never been offered anything else.

TENCH. Perhaps we should build an opera house for the convicts.

PHILLIP. We learned to love such things because they were offered to us when we were children or young men. Surely no one is born naturally cultured?

Related Characters: Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip) (speaker), Captain Watkin Tench (speaker)
Related Symbols: Public Hangings
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Act One, Scene Six Quotes

PHILLIP. We are indeed here to supervise the convicts who are already being punished by their long exile. Surely they can also be reformed?

TENCH. We are talking about criminals, often hardened criminals. They have a habit of vice and crime. Habits are difficult to break. And it can be more than habit, an innate tendency. Many criminals seem to have been born that way. It is in their nature.

Related Characters: Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip) (speaker), Captain Watkin Tench (speaker)
Page Number: 26
Explanation and Analysis:

A crime is a crime. You commit a crime or you don’t. If you commit a crime, you are a criminal. Surely that is logical? It’s like the savages here. A savage is a savage because he behaves in a savage manner. To expect anything else is foolish. They can’t even build a proper canoe.

Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

PHILLIP. Some of these men will have finished their sentence in a few years. They 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?

TENCH. I don’t see how a comedy about two lovers will do that, Arthur.

PHILLIP. 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 that there is more to life than crime, punishment. And we, this colony of a few hundred will be watching this together, for a few hours we will no longer be despised prisoners and hated gaolers. We will laugh, we may be moved, we may even think a little.

Related Characters: Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip) (speaker), Captain Watkin Tench (speaker)
Page Number: 29
Explanation and Analysis:

In my own small way, in just a few hours, I have seen something change. I asked some of the convict women to read me some lines, these women who behave often no better than animals. And it seemed to me, as one or two—I’m not saying all of them, not at all—but one or two, saying those well-balanced lines […], they seemed to acquire a dignity, they seemed—they seemed to lose some of their corruption. There was one, Mary Brenham, she read so well, perhaps this play will keep her from selling herself to the first marine who offers her bread—

Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene One Quotes

WISEHAMMER. I am innocent. I didn’t do it and I’ll keep saying I didn’t.

LIZ. It doesn’t matter what you say. If they say you’re a thief, you’re a thief.

WISEHAMMER. I am not a thief. I’ll go back to England to the snuff shop of Rickett and Loads and say, see, I’m back, I’m innocent.

LIZ. They won’t listen.

WISEHAMMER. You can’t live if you think that way.

Page Number: 67
Explanation and Analysis:

MARY. Liz, we’ve come to rehearse the play.

WISEHAMMER. Rehearse the play?

DUCKLING. The Lieutenant has gone to talk to the Governor. Harry said we could come see you.

MARY. The Lieutenant has asked me to stand in his place so we don’t lose time. We’ll start with the first scene between Melinda and Brazen.

WISEHAMMER. How can I play Captain Brazen in chains?

MARY. This is the theatre. We will believe you.

Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene Two Quotes

When he treats the slave boy as a rational human being, the boy becomes one, he loses his fear, and he becomes a competent mathematician. A little more encouragement and he might become an extraordinary mathematician. Who knows? You must see your actors in that light.

Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

PHILLIP. Liz Morden—(He pauses.) I had a reason for asking you to cast her as Melinda. Morden is one of the most difficult women in the colony.

RALPH. She is indeed, Sir.

PHILLIP. Lower than a slave, full of loathing, foul mouthed, desperate.

RALPH. Exactly, Sir. And violent.

PHILLIP. Quite. To be made an example of.

RALPH. By hanging?

PHILLIP. No, Lieutenant, by redemption.

Related Symbols: Public Hangings
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:

What is a statesman’s responsibility? To ensure the rule of law. But the citizens must be taught to obey that law of their own will. I want to rule over responsible human beings, not tyrannise over a group of animals. I want there to be a contract between us, not a whip on my side, terror and hatred on theirs.

Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Act Two, Scene Ten Quotes

COLLINS. My only fear, Your Excellency, is that she may have refused to speak because she no longer believes in the process of justice. If that is so, the courts here will become travesties. I do not want that.

PHILLIP. But if she won’t speak, there is nothing more we can do. You cannot get at the truth through silence.

Page Number: 97
Explanation and Analysis:
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Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip) Character Timeline in Our Country’s Good

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Arthur Phillip (Governor Phillip) appears in Our Country’s Good. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act One, Scene Three
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
On a recreational hunting expedition in Sydney Cove, Governor Arthur Phillip speaks with Judge David Collins, Captain Watkin Tench, and Midshipman Harry Brewer about... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Phillip expresses his desire to rule the colony with a “more humane” attitude, but Captain Tench... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Phillip suggests that lashings should be enough to keep the convicts in line, but Tench and... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Captain Tench makes fun of Phillip for wanting to treat the convicts as civilized humans, but Phillip insists that people have... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Turning his attention to the upcoming hanging, Phillip asks Harry to tell him the names of the convicts sentenced to death. First, Harry... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...Tench says that the hanging should take place as quickly as possible. “It’s their theatre, Governor, you cannot change that,” he says. In response, Phillip says he’d rather the convicts watch... (full context)
Act One, Scene Four
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...mentions that he could easily have ended up like the convicts if it weren’t for Governor Phillip, with whom he’s worked for a long time. (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...Baker stole food, adding that he himself voted to hang him because he didn’t know Phillip would oppose the punishment. (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...of that she says she wouldn’t have cared,” he says. He then points out that Governor Phillip thinks the guards should treat the female prisoners with “kindness,” and Ralph wonders how... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Ralph complains that Phillip never notices him, and Harry tells him the Governor wants to stage a play with... (full context)
Act One, Scene Six
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
While drinking one night, Governor Phillip and a number of his fellow guards debate the pros and cons of staging... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Phillip also suggests that the prisoners can “be reformed” while enduring their punishment in the penal... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
...make “fools of themselves” will have a positive impact. As the group continues to argue, Phillip points out that many of the convicts will soon be finished with their sentences and... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Agreeing with Phillip and trying to convince his peers, Ralph says he has already noted a “change” in... (full context)
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
...Ross erupts, saying that “theatre leads to threatening theory” and that he plans to tell Phillip’s boss about what’s going on. When he storms away, Phillip turns to the rest of... (full context)
Act One, Scene Seven
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...“How is Lieutenant Clark going to manage Liz Morden?” she asks, and Harry says that Governor Phillip specifically asked for her to be cast. Moving on, Duckling remembers how she and... (full context)
Act Two, Scene One
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
...about her difficult life, in which seemingly no one has respected her. “But here, the Governor says, new life,” she says, pondering the idea of a fresh start. However, she notes... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Love, Sex, and Power Theme Icon
...that they’ve come to continue the rehearsal. “The Lieutenant has gone to talk to the Governor,” Duckling says. “Harry said we could come see you.” When Wisehammer asks how they’ll be... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Two
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Ralph goes to Governor Phillip and tells him he wants to stop the play because his peers are against... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governor Phillip tells Ralph that he wanted Liz to do the play because he wanted to... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Phillip talks to Ralph about how he was called out of retirement to become Governor of... (full context)
Act Two, Scene Ten
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
In a meeting about Liz Morden, Judge Collins tells Ralph, Major Ross, Captain Campbell, and Governor Phillip that the convict declined to speak on her own behalf at her trial. This,... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
...in the trial because Liz “wouldn’t confirm what he said.” As this conversation continues, Ralph, Phillip, and Collins insist upon finding out the truth, but Ross disparages them for being too... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
...they’ll be forced to hang her if she doesn’t say anything, he tells her that Governor Phillip can “overrule the court” if he thinks she’s innocent. “Did you steal that food... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Having gotten the truth out of Liz, Governor Phillip asks why she didn’t advocate for her innocence earlier. “Because it wouldn’t have mattered,”... (full context)