Three Act Structure in
The King's Speech (2010)
The King's Speech doesn't waste time at introducing the main conflict, which can be summarized with one simple sentence: Prince Albert stammers. The movie opens with a strong hook as the prince attempts to give a speech at the closing ceremony of the British Empire Exhibition at Wembley, but his stammering makes the speech an ordeal to the listening public.
The immediate response to the fiasco is trying to find a doctor that can remedy Prince Albert's defects. But this fails at first. It is an Australian-born speech therapists, Lionel Logue, with his controversial methods, who promises the most favorable results, although Prince Albert refuses his help.
However, this changes after a conversation with his father, King George V, who communicates what later becomes the reason to a major challenge for Prince Albert:
The Dialogue During PLOT POINT I
KING GEORGE V: This devilish device [radio] will change everything... In the past, all a King had to do was look respectable in uniform and not fall off his horse. Now we must invade people’s homes and ingratiate ourselves with them. This family is reduced to those lowest, basest of all creatures...we’ve become...actors!
BERTIE: Papa, we're not a family. We are a firm!
KING GEORGE V: Yet any moment some of us may be out of work. Your darling brother... The only wife he appears interested in is invariably the wife of another!
King George V also professes that Prince David, his firstborn, will ruin himself and the kingdom within 12 months after he replaces his father. This is Plot Point 1, for it makes the prince aware that, in this modern age, eloquence is absolutely essential for a ruling monarch.
This revelation establishes the film's storyline: Prince Albert must correct his speech deficiency to succeed as a king.
Devastated by the unknown future, Prince Albert decides to listen to a recording Lionel made of him. In the recording, the prince recites words from Shakespeare's Hamlet. And he does it flawlessly. Finally realizing his potential, he returns to Lionel for more help.
The second act starts in Lionel's office, with the Prince laying out the ground rules for their subsequent encounters. The prince begins being treated, correcting his mechanics, strengthening his tongue and diaphragm.
It is during this act that we're introduced to Prince David, who's a real brat. He claims that he's father is dying just to make things complicated with his mistress. He is so arrogant that he makes his mother's guests wait for him for dinner while he talks with his girlfriend on the telephone. On that same night, King George V dies, leaving his eldest son, Prince David, as the King of England, a title that he mars with a shameful and unscrupulous behavior.
During his grief, Price Albert comes to Lionel for consolation. They bond in a level beyond the patient-doctor realm. The prince confides that he's never spoken to an ordinary Englishman before (even though Lionel is actually Australian). They drink and talk. Price Albert opens his life and reveals some deep secrets, like the fact that his former nanny used to let him starve and that David used to tease him for his stuttering. It is an extremely explanatory scene that reveals much about the prince's backstory, as well as emphasizing the growing friendship between him and Lionel.
The midpoint takes place at a Royal Country Estate, where King Edward VII (formerly Prince David) is throwing a party. When Prince Albert finds out that the king intends to marry his girlfriend, a twice-divorced woman, correcting his speech defects becomes crucial if he's going to replace his brother as the king. When the Prime Minister threatens to resign, Prince Albert decides to finally do it.
Prince Albert becomes King George VI, but his stammering is far from gone. The problem is an internal one, as King George VI still believes that correcting his speech is impossible. Plot Point II happens at Westminster Abbey during the preparations for the coronation ceremony. King George VI, having just discovered that Lionel is not a doctor and that he has no credentials or qualifications, is even more discouraged that Lionel's peculiar methodology will produce results.
King George VI blames Lionel for leaving the nation with a voiceless king. Realizing the king's doubts and uncertainty, Lionel takes on the challenge. From that moment onward, Lionel artfully steers the argument, which climaxes when he sits down in Saint Edward's Chair, and King George VI shouts, “I have a voice!”
The Dialogue During PLOT POINT II
BERTIE: What’re you doing? Get up! You can’t sit there!
LIONEL: Why not? It’s a chair.
BERTIE: No, it’s not, that is Saint Edward’s Chair...
LIONEL: People have carved their initials into it!
BERTIE: That chair is the seat on which every King and Queen-
LIONEL: It’s held in place by a large rock!
BERTIE: That is the Stone of Scone, you are trivialising everything-
LIONEL: I don’t care. I don’t care how many Royal arses have sat in this chair-
BERTIE: Listen to me !
LIONEL: Listen to you?! By what right?
BERTIE: Divine right, if you must! I’m your King!
LIONEL: Noooo you’re not! Told me so yourself. Said you didn’t want it. So why should I waste my time listening to you?
BERTIE: Because I have a right to be heard!
LIONEL: Heard as what?!
BERTIE: A man! I HAVE A VOICE!!!
As they regain their composure, Lionel adds:
LIONEL: Yes you do. You have such perseverance, Bertie, you’re the bravest man I know. And you’ll make a bloody good king.
This scene illustrates the importance of the friendship, which is the film's theme.
Upon convincing that the king has a voice, Lionel propels the movie into Act III.
In the following scene, the Prime Minister resigns. As Germany refuses to withdraw troops from Poland, Britain declares war against Germany.
King George VI summons Lionel to assist him with his first wartime speech. Lionel gives him tips and reviews techniques that he learned.
King George VI delivers a fine speech and is applauded by the nation, family and friends. Lionel is the first one to admit, “That was very good, Bertie.” Then he adds, “You still stammered on the W.”