The Ugly Duckling (play)

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The Ugly Duckling is a comedy play by A. A. Milne, written c. 1941, which has nothing to do with the Hans Christian Andersen story. In the play, a king and a queen have a hard time marrying their daughter, an ugly princess. "Her beauty is certainly elusive, Your Majesty!" "Yes, it has eluded you, it has eluded me, it has eluded everyone who has met her." They devise a scheme to marry her to a prince from a faraway land. To every suitor they ask a ridiculously easy question, in the hopes they will marry the UGLY princess. But the princess is so ugly that all the princes guess wrong. So, to meet the next suitor, the Princess Camilla disguises herself as her maid Dulcibella, while Dulcibella pretends to be Princess Camilla.

However, Prince Simon has also disguised himself as his servant Carlo, and dressed Carlo up as the prince because he felt he wasn't handsome enough. Both the pretend prince and princess are insanely dull-witted, which just adds to the entertainment. Before the marriage of the two servants dressed as royalty, the real prince meets the real princess and they reveal their identity and begin to understand each other.

Prince Simon tells Princess Camilla that she is very beautiful, although all other princes have found her to be hideously ugly. Then the princess reveals that she was given a gift from her great aunt that would make everyone ignorant of her real beauty, so that she wouldn't grow up vain – until the day she met her one true love. The play ends with the riddle being answered incorrectly, despite the fact that Carlo, the mock-prince, was given the correct answer beforehand. The answer clearly should have been "cat", but Carlo's answer was "dog". Yet with some quick thinking from Prince Simon, Carlo gets all the answer right because Simon claims that what is referred to in this country as "cat" is referred to as "dog" in the mock-prince's country. Because of this, it is seen fit that the two should be married.

At the very end, the king wonders why Princess Camilla is suddenly beautiful when the audience can see that it is because of the blessing–curse coming to fruition—Camilla has found her true love, the first one to whom she appears lovely.

The characters are The Prince, The Princess, The King, Dulcibella, The Queen, Carlo, The Chancellor, and The Voice who has very few lines.

The Fall 2009 issue of the University of San Francisco literary journal Switchback features a story by Charles Haddox, "The Ugly Duckling", about a girl who has her own ugly duckling experience after being chosen to play the role of Princess Camilla in her junior high school's production of the play.