Discuss how Hare presents ideas about class in this scene and at least one other point in the play
Within Hare’s play Murmuring Judges, there almost appears to be two class systems. The first is the standard upper, middle and lower, however, Hare almost separates the prisoners, the police and the lawyers as three separate classes of people, who each look down on the class below them. This allows us to see not only the perceived separations of social classes but also the classes that you are put into according to you profession and the classist attitudes held by those above.
In the focus scene, Hare clearly shows his views about class through implications and connotations used in the lawyers and judges conversations. Immediately as the scene starts, “His Excellency AL Hadji Sulay Ibrahim Dunko” is announced by the toast master. Whereas within the perceived lower class of the police, DC Abdul Khan is referred to as Jimmy, here he is announced with his full name and title, which immediately suggests a difference in class and status between the two men.
This is also clearly shown in the language used by all the characters in this scene, as phrases such as “Grand Days” and “the fishy stuff” in reference to caviar creates a semantic field which suggests the men view themselves and believe they are viewed by others as upper class. Furthermore, the juxtaposition of the Toast Master and Gerard at the opening of Act 2 clearly demonstrates the social classes, as we see the announcement of important men next to a man monologuing within his prison cell.
Hare uses food in the focus scene to reflect the upper class nature of the men. As previously referenced, Cuddeford calls caviar “the fishy stuff”, suggesting his familiarity with highly expensive foods, which subtly exposes his class. Again, the “Roast Venison Baden-Baden” also shows the dinner to be sophisticated and the suggestion that “[the students] have to eat their way through twenty four dinners” reveals the recklessness of the system in terms of man, which clearly suggests there is money to be thrown around.
Hare also uses food in other moments in the play reflect the lower classes of the police and the prisoners. Whereas Gerard is only once offered a cup of tea, Woody’s line “your glass of beer? ” shows Woody to act “like a manservant” which again clearly shows the difference between the two men. However, it could be argued that Sir Peter sees himself as more important than he really is, as he sends Woody to ask Irina to the opera in order to make himself seem too important to come in person, which isn’t reflected anywhere else in the play.
Similarly, Hare uses other running motifs throughout the play which suggest the upper class nature of the lawyers, but also to suggest the lawyer’s ideas about the lower classes. The discussion of Desert Island Disks clearly shows them to be at least middle class, as do Sir Peter’s selections, but the comment “everyone listens to desert island disks” is what exemplifies how out of touch with reality the lawyers are. This unrealistic idea of society is also shown by Sir Peter, “I thought all educated young women loved music”, as this is rather an idea of the past then the present.
Hare uses reading to show the inherent difference between the lawyers and the prisoners especially, as he presents the lawyers as having “no time to read off the job”, whereas Gerard sarcastically states “Thank God for literature” as whilst the lawyers claim to have no time, the cruel irony is that all Gerard has is ‘time’. The lawyers views on those they perceive to be lower than them is never hidden, possibly as the lawyers are largely untouchable due to their position, as shown by the conversation with the Home Secretary, which shows the lawyers to have acquaintances in the government.
Cuddeford openly calls the suspects “common-as-much individuals” which shows the upper classes to think themselves much better than everyone else. This is further shown by “[the prisons] may be called failings of society… which are truly not my concern” show disinterest in the justice of those beneath them, again shown by Sir Peter’s unwillingness to do criminal law as “it involves real people”. On a larger scale, Sir Peter shows not only the suspects but the whole idea of crime to be “trivial”, as he refers to Gerard’s case, which clearly upturns Gerard’s life, as “a silly sort of warehouse robbery”.
Sir Peter further expresses his view on Gerard later, claiming he is “an ordinary, sub-average human being”, demonstrating the barriers he believes exist between them. Gerard is also presented as aware of these separations, as shown through “these men… will go home to wine in fine glasses and the gossip of the bar…and I will go to my gaol”. Gerard’s reference to himself as “the stuff of their profession” suggests that Gerard perhaps also sees himself as below the lawyers, which could be used to argue that class separations are inherent.
This inference is reinforced by “there is a glass screen and our clients live on the other side of it”, which not only suggests a separation but also could be seen as excusing the seemed inability of the legal system to help its clients. Although largely presented as incapable or unwilling to help their clients, the lawyers are clearly shown to cover their own backs. At the time, there was a suggestion of changing laws regarding barristers which would, according to Sir Peter, would be “a threat to justice”.
In response to this, Irina, under instruction, starts a campaign against the new legislation which raises ?1million in four days. This is heavily ironic within the play, as it is often states there is no money to reform the prison, which given the events of the Strangeways riot in April 1990, would presumably be a higher priority. It also shows the extent to which the lawyers are upper class, as the blase attitude of “give or take a few thousand” shows how small an amount of money this is to them, which would be huge to any other characters in the play.
Cuddeford is shown to be clearly aware of this, “play down the million”, which suggests a level of guilt at using the money for this, especially within their profession. In conclusion, Hare uses juxtaposition throughout Murmuring Judges to show the seemingly inherent differences in class between the lawyers and the prisoners in particular. Whilst the prisoners are forced to “slop out” and “throw shit packages”, the lawyers are often presented in luxurious settings, “laid out magnificently four different wine glasses”.
Hare also presents ideas of class mainly from the perspective of the lawyers who seem themselves as more important than they perhaps are, and certainly better than the “common-as-muck” ordinaries. Overall, I think the ideas of class in the play are nicely represented in the line “we were going to abolish this as outdated”, but in the end didn’t, which for me shows the lawyers understanding that the system is incapable or unwilling to work to the best of its ability, but simply would rather not out of tradition.