Our Country’s Good

by

Timberlake Wertenbaker

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An officer in the penal colony, and one of the primary antagonists of the play. Unlike Governor Phillip, Tench believes that criminals can’t be reformed. In keeping with this, he thinks it’s a waste of time to let the convicts participate in a play, upholding that they should only be exposed to punishment and labor. He also believes that all of the prisoners in the colony deserve to be treated harshly. A strong advocate of capital punishment, he has a hard time understanding why Phillip opposes the spectacle of public executions.

Captain Watkin Tench Quotes in Our Country’s Good

The Our Country’s Good quotes below are all either spoken by Captain Watkin Tench or refer to Captain Watkin Tench. 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 Two Quotes

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:
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Captain Watkin Tench Character Timeline in Our Country’s Good

The timeline below shows where the character Captain Watkin Tench 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
...hunting expedition in Sydney Cove, Governor Arthur Phillip speaks with Judge David Collins, Captain Watkin Tench, and Midshipman Harry Brewer about the nature of punishment. As he wonders aloud why the... (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 asserts that “justice and humaneness have never gone hand in hand.” In response, Phillip clarifies... (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 Collins point out that many of them have already experienced heavy whippings and that—at... (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... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
...he stole a single sheep. Phillip is troubled that Thomas is so young, and when Tench suggests that this proves “the criminal tendency is innate,” he disagrees, insisting that the convict’s... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
Guilt, Regret, and Forgiveness Theme Icon
Wrapping up their discussion, Tench says that the hanging should take place as quickly as possible. “It’s their theatre, Governor,... (full context)
Act One, Scene Six
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
...enduring their punishment in the penal colony. “We are talking about criminals, often hardened criminals,” Tench responds. “They have a habit of vice and crime. Habits are difficult to break. And... (full context)
Punishment and Rehabilitation Theme Icon
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
Governance and Justice Theme Icon
...play could alter the way the colony functions (even in just a small way), but Tench makes fun of him for thinking that letting the convicts make “fools of themselves” will... (full context)
Theater, Liberation, and Unity Theme Icon
...taking a vote regarding who wants to do the play and who’s against the idea. Tench and Ross are the most outspoken critics of the idea, but they’re outnumbered. Furious, Ross... (full context)