The Prisoner of Zenda

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The Prisoner of Zenda
Hope Prisoner of Zenda cover.jpg
Cover to 2nd edition
AuthorAnthony Hope
CountryUnited Kingdom
Genre Adventure fiction, Ruritanian romance
Publisher J. W. Arrowsmith
Publication date
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
Pages310 (first edition)
OCLC 41674245
823/.8 21
LC Class PR4762.P7 1999
Preceded by The Heart of Princess Osra  
Followed by Rupert of Hentzau  
Frontispiece to the 1898 Macmillan Publishers edition, illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson Zenda1 Gibson.jpg
Frontispiece to the 1898 Macmillan Publishers edition, illustrated by Charles Dana Gibson

The Prisoner of Zenda is an 1894 adventure novel by Anthony Hope, 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.


A sequel, Rupert of Hentzau , was published in 1898 and is included in some editions of The Prisoner of Zenda. The popularity of the novels inspired the Ruritanian romance genre of literature, film, and theatre that features stories set in a fictional country, usually in Central or Eastern Europe, [1] for example Graustark from the novels of George Barr McCutcheon, and the neighbouring countries of Syldavia and Borduria in the Tintin comics.


On the eve of the coronation of King Rudolf V of Ruritania, his younger half-brother Michael, Duke of Strelsau, has him drugged. 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.

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 for the coronation. 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, trapped by duty, must part.


The novel has been adapted many times, mainly for film but also stage, musical, operetta, radio, and television. Probably the best-known version is the 1937 Hollywood film. The charismatic but Machiavellian Rupert of Hentzau has been interpreted by Ramon Novarro (1922), Douglas Fairbanks, Jr. (1937), and James Mason (1952).




  • Jhinder Bandi (ঝিন্দের বন্দী-'The Prisoner of Jhind') is a Bengali translation by Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay. The author wrote 'I admit the source by its name' (নাম দিয়াই বংশপরিচয় স্বীকার করিলাম) meaning, he named the fictional province, Jhind in tribute to Zenda in the original novel.
  • Jhinder Bandi (1961): a Bengali film directed by Tapan Sinha, starring Uttam Kumar as the protagonist Gourishankar Roy (a youth from Kolkata ) and the king Shankar Singh of the fictional Jhind state, Soumitra Chatterjee as the antagonist Moyur-Bahon with Tarun Kumar as Gourishankar's brother Udit, based on the novel by Saradindu Bandyopadhyay of the same title.
  • Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (2015) is a Bollywood film starring Salman Khan and Sonam Kapoor that follows a similar plot. However, in this adaption, Rassendyll is married to Princess Flavia in the end.
  • 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 \historical person, king Gwanghaegun of Joseon, and a 15-day period where records are missing from the annals of the Joseon Dynasty.

Radio and TV

Comic Books


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 shortlist of those homages with a clear debt to Anthony Hope's book.


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. [9]

See also

Related Research Articles

Anthony Hope English novelist (1863-1933)

Sir Anthony Hope Hawkins, better known as Anthony Hope, was a British novelist and playwright. He was a prolific writer, especially of adventure novels but he is remembered predominantly for only two books: The Prisoner of Zenda (1894) and its sequel Rupert of Hentzau (1898). These works, "minor classics" of English literature, are set in the contemporaneous fictional country of Ruritania and spawned the genre known as Ruritanian romance, books set in fictional European locales similar to the novels. Zenda has inspired many adaptations, most notably the 1937 Hollywood movie of the same name and the 1952 version.


A swashbuckler is a genre of European adventure literature that focuses on a heroic protagonist stock character who is skilled in swordplay, acrobatics, guile and chivalrous ideals. A 'swashbuckler' protagonist is heroic, daring, and idealistic: he rescues damsels in distress, protects the downtrodden, and uses duels to defend his honor or that of a lady or avenge a comrade. Swashbucklers would often engage in daring and romantic adventures with bravado or flamboyance. Swashbuckler heroes are gentleman adventurers who dress elegantly and flamboyantly in coats, waistcoats, tight breeches, large feathered hats, and high leather boots, and they are armed with the thin rapiers used by aristocrats.

Ruritania is a fictional country, originally located in central Europe as a setting for novels by Anthony Hope, such as The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). Nowadays the term connotes a quaint minor European country, or is used as a placeholder name for an unspecified country in academic discussions. The first known use of the demonym Ruritanian was in 1896.

<i>Rupert of Hentzau</i> 1898 novel by Anthony Hope

Rupert of Hentzau is a sequel by Anthony Hope to The Prisoner of Zenda, written in 1895 but not published in book form until 1898.

<i>The Heart of Princess Osra</i>

The Heart of Princess Osra is part of Anthony Hope's trilogy of novels set in the fictional country of Ruritania and which spawned the genre of Ruritanian romance. This collection of linked short stories is a prequel: it was written immediately after the success of The Prisoner of Zenda and was published in 1896, but is set in the 1730s, well over a century before the events of Zenda and its sequel, Rupert of Hentzau. The stories deal with the love life of Princess Osra, younger sister of Rudolf III, the shared ancestor of Rudolf Rassendyll, the English gentleman who acts as political decoy in The Prisoner of Zenda, and Rudolph V of the House of Elphberg, the absolute monarch of that Germanic kingdom.

Ruritanian romance Literary genre of fictional royalty

Ruritanian romance is a genre of literature, film and theatre comprising novels, stories, plays and films set in a fictional country, usually in Central or Eastern Europe, such as the "Ruritania" that gave the genre its name.

<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1979 film) 1979 film by Richard Quine

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1979 American comedy film directed by Richard Quine and adapted from the 1894 adventure novel by Anthony Hope. The novel tells the story of a man who has to impersonate a king, whom he closely resembles, when the king is abducted by enemies on the eve of his coronation. An earlier adaptation of the story was made into a film in 1952 starring Deborah Kerr and Stewart Granger, and directed by Richard Thorpe.

<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1937 film) 1937 film by John Cromwell

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1937 American black-and-white adventure film based on Anthony Hope's 1894 novel of the same name and the 1896 play. A lookalike has to step in when his royal distant relative is kidnapped to prevent his coronation. This version is widely considered the best of the many film adaptations of the novel and play.

<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1952 film) 1952 film by Richard Thorpe

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1952 film version of the 1894 novel of the same name by Anthony Hope and a remake of the 1937 film version and the 1922 silent version as well. This version was made by Loew's and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, directed by Richard Thorpe and produced by Pandro S. Berman. It stars Stewart Granger, Deborah Kerr, and James Mason. The screenplay, attributed to Noel Langley, was nearly word-for-word identical to the one used in the 1937 Ronald Colman version, which was by John L. Balderston, adapted by Wells Root, from the Hope novel and the stage play by Edward Rose, with additional dialogue by Donald Ogden Stewart.

<i>Rupert of Hee Haw</i> 1924 film

Rupert of Hee Haw is a 1924 American silent film starring Stan Laurel and drawing on the Ruritanian romance of Rupert of Hentzau, Anthony Hope's sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda.

<i>The Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1922 film) 1922 film directed by Rex Ingram

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1922 American silent adventure film directed by Rex Ingram, one of the many adaptations of Anthony Hope's popular 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda and the subsequent 1896 play by Hope and Edward Rose.

<i>Prisoner of Zenda</i> (1988 film) 1988 Australian film

Prisoner of Zenda is an Australian 49-minute direct-to-video animated film from Burbank Films Australia. It was originally released in 1988. The film is based on Anthony Hope's classic 1894 English novel, The Prisoner of Zenda, and was adapted by Leonard Lee. It was produced by Roz Phillips and featured original music by John Stuart. The copyright in this film is now owned by Pulse Distribution and Entertainment and administered by digital rights management firm NuTech Digital. In the UK, the distributor was by Waterfall Home Entertainment.

<i>Princess Flavia</i> Musical

Princess Flavia is a 1925 operetta in three acts based on Anthony Hope's novel The Prisoner of Zenda, with book and lyrics by Harry B. Smith and music by Sigmund Romberg.

The Prisoner of Zenda, Inc is a 1996 television film starring Jonathan Jackson and William Shatner. It was produced for Showtime Networks under their family division, and first aired September 1996. The film was written by Rodman Gregg and Richard Clark.

Rupert of Hentzau is a 1964 British television series based on the 1898 novel Rupert of Hentzau, which ran for six half-hour episodes. It starred George Baker, Barbara Shelley, Peter Wyngarde, John Phillips, Tristram Jellinek, Sally Home and Derek Blomfield. It was recorded at the BBC Television Centre in Wood Lane, west London. All six episodes are listed as being lost.

<i>Rupert of Hentzau</i> (1915 film) 1915 British film directed by George Loane Tucker

Rupert of Hentzau is a 1915 British adventure film of the silent era. It was directed by George Loane Tucker and starred Henry Ainley, Jane Gail and Gerald Ames. It was based on the 1898 novel Rupert of Hentzau by Anthony Hope, the sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda (1894). It tells the story of the journey of an Englishmen to Ruritania in Eastern Europe where he is forced to impersonate a King to thwart the plans of a villainous aristocrat Rupert of Hentzau.

<i>Jhinder Bondi</i> 1961 Indian film directed by Tapan Sinha

Jhinder Bondi is a 1961 Indian Bengali-language historical drama film directed by Tapan Sinha, starring Uttam Kumar, Soumitra Chatterjee, Arundhati Devi, Tarun Kumar and Radhamohan Bhattacharya in lead roles.

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1913 silent film adaptation of a play by Edward E. Rice, which was in turn based on the 1894 Anthony Hope novel of the same name. It was directed by Edwin S. Porter and Hugh Ford, and starred stage actor James K. Hackett, Beatrice Beckley and David Torrence.

The Prisoner of Zenda is a 1915 British silent adventure film directed by George Loane Tucker and starring Henry Ainley, Jane Gail and Gerald Ames. Shot at Twickenham Studios, it is an adaptation of 1894 novel The Prisoner of Zenda by Anthony Hope. A film based on the 1898 sequel Rupert of Hentzau was released shortly afterwards with the same director and cast.

<i>Rupert of Hentzau</i> (1923 film) 1923 film

Rupert of Hentzau is a 1923 American silent adventure film directed by Victor Heerman and starring Bert Lytell, Elaine Hammerstein, and Lew Cody. It is an adaptation of Anthony Hope's 1898 novel Rupert of Hentzau, the sequel to The Prisoner of Zenda.


  1. John Clute and John Grant, The Encyclopedia of Fantasy , p. 826 ISBN   978-0-312-19869-5
  2. "The London Theatres", The Era , 11 January 1896, p. 9
  3. The Brits in Hollywood Sheridan Morley, Robson Books 2006, p. 161, ISBN   978-1-86105-807-2
  4. VideoHound's Golden Movie Retriever 2008, Visible Ink Press ISBN   978-0-7876-8981-0
  5. Halliwell's Top 1000, John Walker, HarperCollins Entertainment ISBN   978-0-00-726080-5
  6. 1 2 Halliwell's Film Guide 2008, David Gritten, HarperCollins Entertainment ISBN   978-0-00-726080-5
  7. "The Prisoner Of Zenda". Retrieved 18 January 2021.
  8. B-Berry and I Look Back, Dornford Yates, Ward Lock 1958, p. 148
  9. Masroor, Aroosa (28 July 2010). "Recycling textbooks, ad infinitum". The Express Tribune . Karachi . Retrieved 7 March 2018.