The Browning Version

Taplow is one of Andrew’s Classics students. He is the first character to appear in the play, summoned to the Crocker-Harrises’ flat to do extra work due to his absence from a lesson the previous week. Though Taplow is evidently intimidated by Andrew’s stern demeanor, he expresses to Frank a respect and admiration for his departing teacher. Taplow’s actions create the emotional peak of the play. Having been dismissed from Andrew’s flat, Taplow surprises his teacher by returning to wish him goodbye. He gifts Andrew a book bought with his own money: The Agamemnon translated by Robert Browning (“the Browning version”). In it Taplow has inscribed a quote from the play (which he has been studying in Andrew’s class), which translates as “God from afar looks graciously upon a gentle master.” Andrew is deeply moved by the gift, erupting in spasms of emotion. Millie dismisses the present as Taplow’s attempt to gain favor with Andrew, who holds the power to decide if Taplow will get a desired “remove” into Frank Hunter’s science class the following term. Though Rattigan provides no conclusive answer to the question of Taplow’s motives, it seems most likely that Taplow’s actions are sincere and genuinely heartfelt.

John Taplow Quotes in The Browning Version

The The Browning Version quotes below are all either spoken by John Taplow or refer to John Taplow. 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:
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). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Nick Hern Books edition of The Browning Version published in 2008.
The Browning Version Quotes

TAPLOW: (Protestingly.) I’m extremely interested in science, sir.

FRANK: Are you? I’m not. Not at least in the science I have to teach.

TAPLOW: Well, anyway, sir, it’s a good deal more exciting than this muck. (Indicating his book.)

FRANK: What is this muck?

TAPLOW: Aeschylus, sir. The Agamemnon.

FRANK: And your considered view is that the Agamemnon of Aeschylus is muck, is it?

TAPLOW: Well, no, sir. I don’t think the play is muck – exactly. I suppose, in a way, it’s rather a good plot, really, a wife murdering her husband and having a lover and all that. I only meant the way it’s taught to us – just a lot of Greek words strung together and fifty lines if you get them wrong.

Related Characters: John Taplow (speaker), Frank Hunter (speaker), Andrew Crocker-Harris
Related Symbols: The Agamemnon
Page Number: 5
Explanation and Analysis:
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TAPLOW: (Mimicking a very gentle, rather throaty voice) “My dear Taplow, I have given you exactly what you deserve. No less; and certainly no more.” Do you know, sir, I think he may have marked me down, rather than up, for taking extra work. I mean, the man’s barely human. (He breaks off quickly.) Sorry, sir. Have I gone too far?

Related Characters: John Taplow (speaker), Andrew Crocker-Harris, Frank Hunter
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

ANDREW: However diligently I search I can discover no ‘bloody’ – no ‘corpse’– no ‘you have slain’. Simply ‘husband’–

TAPLOW: Yes, sir. That’s right.

ANDREW: Then why do you invent words that simply are not there?

TAPLOW: I thought they sounded better, sir. More exciting. After all she did kill her husband, sir. (With relish.) She’s just been revealed with his dead body and Cassandra’s weltering in gore –

ANDREW: I am delighted at this evidence, Taplow, of your interest in the rather more lurid aspects of dramaturgy, but I feel I must remind you that you are supposed to be construing Greek, not collaborating with Aeschylus.

TAPLOW: (Greatly daring.) Yes, but still, sir, translator’s licence, sir – I didn’t get anything wrong – and after all it is a play and not just a bit of Greek construe.

ANDREW: (Momentarily at a loss.) I seem to detect a note of end of term in your remarks. I am not denying that The Agamemnon is a play. It is perhaps the greatest play ever written –

TAPLOW: (Quickly.) I wonder how many people in the form think that?

Related Characters: John Taplow (speaker), Andrew Crocker-Harris
Related Symbols: The Agamemnon
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

ANDREW: (Murmuring gently, not looking at TAPLOW.) When I was a very young man, only two years older than you are now, Taplow, I wrote, for my own pleasure, a translation of The Agamemnon – a very free translation – I remember – in rhyming couplets.

TAPLOW: The whole Agamemnon – in verse? That must have been hard work, sir.

ANDREW: It was hard work; but I derived great joy from it. The play had so excited and moved me that I wished to communicate, however imperfectly, some of that emotion to others. When I had finished it. I remember, I thought it very beautiful – almost more beautiful than the original.

TAPLOW: Was it ever published, sir?

ANDREW: No. Yesterday I looked for the manuscript while I was packing my papers. I was unable to find it. I fear it is lost – like so many other things. Lost for good.

Related Characters: Andrew Crocker-Harris (speaker), John Taplow (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Agamemnon
Page Number: 18
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

TAPLOW: I didn’t have a chance with the head here. I rather dashed out, I’m afraid. I thought I’d just come back and – and wish you luck, sir.

ANDREW: Thank you, Taplow. That’s good of you.
TAPLOW: I – er – thought this might interest you, sir. (He quickly thrusts a small book into ANDREW’S hand.)

ANDREW: What is it?

TAPLOW: Verse translation of the Agamemnon, sir. The Browning version. It’s not much good. I've been reading it in the Chapel gardens.

ANDREW very deliberately turns over the pages of the book.

ANDREW: Very interesting, Taplow. (He seems to have a little difficulty in speaking. He clears his throat and then goes on in his level, gentle voice.) I know the translation, of course. It has its faults, I agree, but I think you will enjoy it more when you get used to the metre he employs.

He hands it to TAPLOW who brusquely thrusts it back to him.

TAPLOW: It’s for you, sir.

ANDREW: For me?

TAPLOW: Yes, sir. I’ve written in it.

Related Characters: Andrew Crocker-Harris (speaker), John Taplow (speaker)
Related Symbols: The Agamemnon
Page Number: 32
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

ANDREW: […] “God from afar looks graciously upon a gentle master.”

Related Characters: Andrew Crocker-Harris (speaker), John Taplow, Frank Hunter
Related Symbols: The Agamemnon
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
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Pause. MILLIE laughs suddenly.

MILLIE: The artful little beast –

FRANK: (Urgently.) Millie –

ANDREW: Artful? Why artful?

MILLIE looks at FRANK who is staring meaningly at her.

Why artful, Millie?

MILLIE laughs again, quite lightly, and turns from FRANK to ANDREW.

MILLIE: My dear, because I came into this room this afternoon to find him giving an imitation of you to Frank here. Obviously he was scared stiff I was going to tell you, and you’d ditch his remove or something. I don't blame him for trying a few bobs’ worth of appeasement.

Related Characters: Andrew Crocker-Harris (speaker), Millie Crocker-Harris (speaker), Frank Hunter (speaker), John Taplow
Related Symbols: The Agamemnon
Page Number: 35
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

ANDREW: If you think, by this expression of kindness, Hunter, that you can get me to repeat the shameful exhibition of emotion I made to Taplow a moment ago, I must tell you that you have no chance. My hysteria over that book just now was no more than a sort of reflex action of the spirit. The muscular twitchings of a corpse. It can never happen again.

FRANK: A corpse can be revived.

ANDREW: I don’t believe in miracles.

FRANK: Don’t you? Funnily enough, as a scientist, I do.

ANDREW: Your faith would be touching, if I were capable of being touched by it.

Related Characters: Andrew Crocker-Harris (speaker), Frank Hunter (speaker), John Taplow
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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John Taplow Character Timeline in The Browning Version

The timeline below shows where the character John Taplow appears in The Browning Version. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Browning Version
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The door opens and John Taplow, a sixteen-year-old pupil of fairly plain appearance, enters the room, calling for his Classics teacher,... (full context)
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Taplow picks up a walking stick and swings it like a golf club. At this moment,... (full context)
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Frank asks Taplow his name. The boy explains that he is hoping to move to Hunter’s science class... (full context)
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Frank notices that Taplow is carrying a book, which Taplow refers to as “muck”; Frank asks, “what is this... (full context)
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Frank asks why Taplow is in Mr. Crocker-Harris’s apartment on the last day of school. Taplow has extra work,... (full context)
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Taplow tells Frank that he’d asked Mr. Crocker-Harris yesterday whether he had got his “remove.” Taplow... (full context)
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Frank opens a newspaper and asks Taplow to do the impression again; Frank snorts, and then looks suddenly stern. Frank instructs Taplow... (full context)
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Frank asks Taplow why the schoolboys are so scared of Mr. Crocker-Harris: “what does he do—beat you all... (full context)
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Taplow confesses that he can’t help liking Mr. Crocker-Harris, “in spite of everything.” He relates a... (full context)
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Resuming his impression of Mr. Crocker-Harris, Taplow goes on to explain that his teacher had asked him to be “good enough” to... (full context)
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...other. As the latter goes to put down some parcels and take off her hat, Taplow worriedly asks Frank if he thinks she heard his impression of Mr. Crocker-Harris. Frank nods.... (full context)
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...the screen door, because “you can’t see people coming in.” She asks what he and Taplow had been up to before she came in—“making fun of my husband?” (full context)
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Millie says it was “very naughty” of Frank to encourage Taplow’s impression. He agrees, and complains that, having only been at the school for three years,... (full context)
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...and looking generally “neat” and “unruffled.” Frank and Millie quickly compose themselves. Andrew asks whether Taplow is around. Millie explains that she sent Taplow to the chemist for Andrew’s prescription. He... (full context)
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Taplow comes back to the flat, looking out of breath. He hands Andrew’s medicine to Millie.... (full context)
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Andrew sits down at the table and invites Taplow to do the same. They both open up texts of The Agamemnon, and Andrew instructs... (full context)
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Taplow continues, and with “a sudden rush of inspiration” reads out “the bloody corpse of the... (full context)
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Andrew asks Taplow where he has read the words “bloody,” “corpse,” and “you have slain”—they are evidently not... (full context)
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Taplow, knowing he is being “greatly daring,” continues to object that his interpretation is valid as... (full context)
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...at the book, motionless. He slowly raises his head and, not making eye contact with Taplow, begins talking about when he was a young man. Back then, he had attempted—“for my... (full context)
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Taplow asks “was it ever published, sir?” Andrew explains that he had looked for the manuscript... (full context)
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...wearing an apron. She informs Andrew that the headmaster, Dr. Frobisher, is about to arrive. Taplow gets up, thinking that he ought to leave. The headmaster comes in and greets Andrew... (full context)
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...The Agamemnon, pretending to read. Eventually he puts a hand over his eyes. Just then, Taplow knocks at the door and comes in timidly on Andrew’s terse invitation. (full context)
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Andrew asks Taplow sharply what he has come for. Taplow replies that he just wanted to come back... (full context)
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Taplow explains that the book is Robert Browning’s verse translation of The Agamemnon: “The Browning Version.”... (full context)
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Andrew gives the book back to Taplow, who quickly thrusts it back to him. “It’s for you, sir,” says Taplow. Andrew is... (full context)
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Taplow assumes that Andrew already has the Browning version; but Andrew informs him that, though he... (full context)
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Andrew sits down. As soon as Taplow leaves the room, Andrew breaks down and “sobs uncontrollably.” He tries to gather himself, but... (full context)
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...the garden door. Frank Hunter comes in, apologizing for interrupting; he had thought Andrew and Taplow would have been finished by now. Andrew explains that the lesson is long over, but... (full context)
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Andrew tells Frank that he wants him to see the gift Taplow has given him and hands it over. He asks Frank to look at the inscription.... (full context)
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...it’s “very pleasant,” but perhaps not “so very apt.” Andrew turns away from Frank and Taplow, evidently about to be overcome with emotion. Frank gestures to Taplow that Taplow should leave.... (full context)
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...recovers himself a little, expressing “what a fool” he’s made of himself in front of Taplow and Frank. He says he is not a “very emotional person,” but that there was... (full context)
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...cigarette from Frank. He explains that Andrew has just received a “very nice” present from Taplow. Andrew shows her the book, explaining that Taplow bought it with his own money. (full context)
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...As Andrew gently corrects him, Millie lets out a sudden laugh. She says it’s obvious Taplow is being “artful” and has only bought Andrew the gift to secure his place in... (full context)
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...is out of the room, Frank chastises Millie, evidently repulsed by her cold dismissal of Taplow’s gift. She says: “Why should [Andrew] be allowed his comforting little illusions? I’m not.” Frank... (full context)
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...to Frank too; Frank refuses but quickly changes his mind. Frank admits to Andrew that Taplow was imitating him earlier and apologizes for encouraging him. But, adds Frank, Taplow also said... (full context)
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Frank recounts what Taplow said more precisely: “He said: ‘He doesn’t seem to like people to like him—but in... (full context)
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Frank implores Andrew to believe him about Taplow’s intentions. Andrew reassures Frank that he is not “particularly concerned” about his or Taplow’s views.... (full context)
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Frank says that if Taplow “ever breathes a word of that story to anyone” he’ll “murder him.” But, says Frank,... (full context)
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...thinks his kindness will make Andrew “repeat the shameful exhibition of emotion” he made to Taplow he is mistaken. His response to the gift, he says, was “a sort of reflex... (full context)
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...the door. He tells Andrew that he is “off to have a quick word with Taplow.” Frank asks Andrew whether he can tell Taplow if Andrew has approved Taplow’s move into... (full context)