Breaker Morant

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The central concern of the play Breaker Morant, written by Kenneth Ross in 1979 are the courts martial of three Australian Army officers of the Bushveldt Carbineers serving in South Africa during the Second Boer War (1899-1902). Lieutenants Harry "Breaker" Morant, Peter Handcock, and George Witton who are accused of the murder of one Boer prisoner and the subsequent murders of six more. In addition, Morant and Handcock are accused of the sniper-style assassination of a German missionary. During the time the play was written, Australian’s had grown to develop their own national identity, a set of proud and courageous values that recognised the essence of being an Australian, which was regarded to be truly unique from the British society and their way of life, thus the necessity for Australia’s independence from the British was becoming increasingly radicalised. As a result the play is based on real life events to raise awareness of Australia’s right for independence. Ross effectively uses the techniques of plot development, characterization and additionally has carefully crafted the courtroom context in order to position the audience to reject the dominant discourse by clearly exposing the non impartiality of the British and miscarriage of justice that occurred during the trial of the three Australians.

The Australian volunteers went to Africa to help their “mother” country; so it’s rather astonishing to the audience that Britain, Australia’s supposed Allies are charging the three Australians with murdering of the enemy. Ross uses the context of the play to highlight the difference in values and attitudes between the Australians and the British. He exploits the Australians disempowered statues to position the audience to feel they are not given a fair trial. The British have employed their most talented lawyer, Major Bolton, “You’re the best Solicitor we have” (Pg.19), whilst the Australians have had no choice but be defended by an inexperienced country lawyer,...
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