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The Prisoner of Zenda (1894), by Anthony Hope, is an adventure novel in which the King of Ruritania is drugged on the eve of his coronation and thus is unable to attend the ceremony. Political forces within the realm are such that, in order for the king to retain the crown, his coronation must proceed. Fortuitously, an English gentleman on holiday in Ruritania who resembles the monarch is persuaded to act as his political decoy in an effort to save the unstable political situation of the interregnum.
On the eve of the coronation of King Rudolf V of Ruritania, his younger half-brother Michael, Duke of Strelsau, has him drugged. In a desperate attempt to deny Michael the excuse to claim the throne, Colonel Sapt and Fritz von Tarlenheim, attendants of the king, persuade his distant cousin Rudolf Rassendyll, an English visitor, to impersonate the King at the coronation.
The unconscious king is abducted and imprisoned in a castle in the small town of Zenda. There are complications, plots, and counterplots, among them the schemes of Michael's mistress, Antoinette de Mauban, and those of his dashing but villainous henchman, Count Rupert of Hentzau.
Rassendyll falls in love with Princess Flavia, the King's betrothed, but cannot tell her the truth. He determines to rescue the king and leads an attempt to enter the castle of Zenda. The king is rescued and is restored to his throne, but the lovers, in duty bound, must part.
The Prisoner of Zenda (1895-96) was co-written by Hope and Edward Rose. It opened as a play in New York in 1895 starring E. H. Sothern and the next year on the West End in London starring Evelyn Millard.
Jhinder Bandi (? -'The Prisoner of Jhind') is a Bengali translation by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. The author wrote, 'I admit the source by its name' ( ? ) meaning, he named the fictional province, Jhind in tribute to Zenda in the original novel.
Gwange Wangyidoen namja also known as Masquerade, is a 2012 Korean movie taking place during the Joseon Dynasty that largely parallels the story in Prisoner of Zenda, but may be based on conjecture about a real historical person, King Gwanghaegun of Joseon, and a 15-day period where records are missing from the Annals of the Joseon Dynasty.
Many subsequent fictional works can be linked to The Prisoner of Zenda;[opinion] indeed, this novel spawned the genre known as Ruritanian romance. What follows is a short list of those homages with a clear debt to Anthony Hope's book.
The 1902 short story "Rupert the Resembler" is one of the so-called New Burlesques, a comedy parody by Bret Harte.
E. Phillips Oppenheim's 1920 book The Great Impersonation (filmed in 1921, 1935 and 1942) makes use of the look-alike plot, this time between an English aristocrat and a German spy.
The Mad King, serialized in 1914 and 1915 and published in book form in 1926, was Edgar Rice Burroughs' version of the Ruritanian romance. Set in Europe immediately before and during World War I, his story differs from the Hope books in a number of details, though sharing much of their basic plot. He wrote one other story in the genre, 1919's The Rider, in which a prince and bandit exchange identities.
Dornford Yates acknowledged Hope's influence in his two novels Blood Royal (1929) and Fire Below a.k.a. By Royal Command (1930) which were set in the Ruritania-like Principality of Riechtenburg.
The plot of Dorothy Sayers's Have His Carcase (1932) revolves around an avid reader of Ruritanian romances who believed himself a descendant of Russian royalty.
The 1965 comedy film The Great Race included an extended subplot that parodies Zenda, including a climactic fencing scene between Leslie Gallant (Tony Curtis) and Baron Rolfe von Stuppe (Ross Martin). While Curtis's character performs the heroics, it is Jack Lemmon who plays the dual role as the drunken crown prince and the Professor, his reluctant impersonator.
The Rip Kirby comic strip used the plot as the basis for one story.
Two episodes of the spoof spy television series Get Smart, "The King Lives?" and "To * Sire With Love, Parts 1 and 2", parodied the 1937 movie version, with Don Adams affecting Ronald Colman's accent.
"The Prisoner of Zen" (1979) by Peter Godfrey. Ruritanian farce exploring Zen themes in an occidental context. Produced by The Rational Theatre Company, the play toured the UK in 1979 and 1980.
The Zenda Vendetta (TimeWars Book 4) by Simon Hawke (1985) is a science fiction version, part of a series which pits 27th century terrorists the Timekeepers against the Time Commandos of the US Army Temporal Corps. The Timekeepers kill Rassendyll so that the Time Commando Finn Delaney is sent back to impersonate the impersonator, both to ensure that history follows its true path and to defeat the terrorists. In the finale the Time Commandos assault Zenda Castle with lasers and atomic grenades, both to rescue the king and to destroy the Timekeepers base.
The 1994 role-playing game "Castle Falkenstein" lists The Prisoner of Zenda as inspiration and even includes a character named Tarlenheim.
Coronets and Steel (Dobrenica Book 1, 2010) by Sherwood Smith is a modern fantasy version, which reinterprets the story in the European kingdom of Dobrenica with a young American woman playing double to her distant European cousin. The Flavia character becomes male and is merged with Tarlenheim as one of the instigators of the decoy plot. The remainder of the trilogy gives the star-crossed lovers resolution, without negating the original Zenda ending.
In a popular but very questionable account, a German circus acrobat named Otto Witte claimed he had been briefly mistaken for the new King of Albania at the time of that country's separation from the Ottoman Empire, and that he was crowned and reigned a few days. However, the date of this claim (1913), and the lack of any evidence to back it up, suggest that Witte made up his story after seeing the first film version of the novel.
Author Salman Rushdie cited The Prisoner of Zenda in the epigraph to Haroun and the Sea of Stories, the novel he wrote while living in hiding in the late 1980s. The novel has been part of the syllabus of higher secondary schools in Pakistan for over three decades.
The series of British historical novels, the Flashman Papers, has the cowardly antihero of the roped into a similar plot by Otto von Bismark in the 1970 novel Royal Flash, which was later made into a 1975 film. In the afterward, the character recalls telling of his misadventure to Hope who Flashman claims plagiarized it.