This play is about how a Bishop brings transformation in a convict. The play is set in the house of the Bishop on a cold winter night. On the mantelpiece are two handsome candlesticks quite out of place with the plain furnishings of the room. Marie, the maidservant, is busy stirring the soup on the fire and Persome, the Bishop’s sister is laying the table and keeping an eye on the soup being cooked by Marie. Persome is worried as it is already past 11’o clock and her brother has not yet returned. She wonders where her brother, the Bishop, was at that late hour. She asks Marie if there is any message. Marie tells her that the Bishop has gone to see her ailing mother. This angers Persome who feels that most people take advantage of her simple brother who is always eager to help the poor and the needy.
While the table is being laid for dinner, Persome asks Marie if she has placed the salt cellars on the table. Marie tells her that the Bishop had sold the salt cellars to pay the house rent of Mere Gringoire who was being troubled by the bailiff. Persome curses the old lady for taking advantage of her brother, lamenting that in this way the Bishop, who has already sold many of his belongings to help others, would sell everything. The bishop enters the cottage and informs Marie that her mother was better. He gives her his comforter and asks her to go home since it was very cold. Persome, who has been crying, gets very angry with the Bishop.
When Marie leaves, she tells him that people lie to him get help from him. The Bishop regrets that there is so much suffering in the world and so little he can do.
To show her anger and resentment over his selling her salt cellars, Persome taunts the Bishop that one day he would sell the candlesticks also. The Bishop assures her that he would never sell the candlesticks, as they were given to him by his dying mother and are a token other memory. However, in the next breath he feels bad to set such store by them.
As it is midnight, Persome goes off to bed and the Bishop sits down to read. Suddenly. a runaway convict with a long knife in his hand enters the room. He threatens to kill the Bishop if he tries to call out, and demands food. The Bishop greets him lovingly and assures him that he shall have food. He called Persome to open the cupboard. Persome is scared to see the convict with the knife in his hand but the Bishop consoles her and takes the keys of the cupboard from her. He then serves the convict cold pie, wine, and bread.
After having his fill, the convict feels relaxed. He tells the Bishop he has lived in Hell for ten years. He narrates the circumstances under which he was imprisoned. Once he, too, had a lovely wife and a home. His wife, Jeanette, was ill and dying and there was no food. He could not get work.
So he stole money to buy food for her. He was caught and sentenced to ten years in prison. The jailor told him that his wife had died the night he was sentenced.
He recounts his sufferings in the prison and says that one day when the jailers forgot to chain him, he escaped. They took away his name and only gave him a number. After his escape from prison, he had been wandering from pillar to post without food and shelter, pursued by the gendarmes.
The Bishop is moved on hearing his story. He consoles the convict and tells him that although he has
Suffered a great deal yet there was hope for him. Then he asks the convict to sleep in his room and assures him that no harm would come to him. Saying this, the Bishop goes inside to bring him a coverlet. The convict happens to see the candlesticks on the mantelpiece. He takes them down and finds that they’re quite heavy and made of pure silver. On his return the Bishop finds the candlesticks in the convict’s hands. He tells the convict that they’re a parting gift from his mother. He bids the convict goodnight and goes to sleep.
‘The convict decides to steal the candlesticks and use them to start a new life. He does think of the Bishop’s kindness but hardens his heart, stuffs the candlesticks in his pocket, and escapes.
Persome wakes up on hearing the noise and rushes downstairs. She finds the candlesticks missing and raises a hue and cry. She wakes up the Bishop and informs him of the theft. The Bishop regrets the loss of the candlesticks but refuses to call in the police, as he doesn’t want the convict to be sent back to the prison once again to suffer.
Just then a sergeant enters the cottage with the convict led by three constables. He tells the Bishop of the circumstances under which he caught the thief. He had been moving along the roads suspiciously. On searching him they found the candlesticks on his person. The sergeant remembered that they belonged to the Bishop so he arrested the thief and bought him there.
The Bishop tells the sergeant that the gentleman he had brought was his good friend and he, himself, had given the candlesticks to him the previous night. The sergeant finds it difficult to accept this explanation. However, he releases the prisoner and goes out;
The convict is now a changed man. He is overwt, elmed with remorse. He begs forgiveness from the Bishop. The Bishop has made him feel that he was a man again and not a beast. He asks his permission to go to Paris. The Bishop gives him the candlesticks saying that they might help him and tells him of a safe route to Paris. As a parting advice, he tells the convict to remember that the body was the Temple of the Living God.
The convict assures him he would remember that all his life.
(i) The Bishop:
The Bishop is a loving and self-sacrificing person. The people in the parish send for him whenever they are in trouble and he rushes to their aid in all kinds of weather unmindful of his personal cornfort. So much so that he has sold all his possessions except for a pair of silver candlesticks given to him by his dying mother to help the poor. His sister Persome says. ‘His estate is sold his savings have gone. His furniture everything. Were it not for my little dot we should starvel’
The Bishop is a caring person and he wraps his comforter around Marie when she is about to go out into the cold night air.
The Bishop’s innocence and naiveté often earns for him the anger of his sister: Persome. But he gently remarks. ‘if people like to me they are poorer not I :
Being a compassionate man the Bishop is heard lamenting. There is so much suffering in the would, and I can do so very little.
He is kind generous towards the convict. The convict enters his house stealthily threatens him with a knife and after receiving food and hospitality from the Bishop. Steals his candlesticks. But when the gendarmes bring him back to the Bishop’s house the Bishop claims he has given the candlesticks to the convict. It is his compassion that changes the convict.
The Bishop is also a deeply religious and pious man. He advises the convict to lead a good life as ‘this poor body is the Temple of the Living God’.
PERSOME THE Bishop’s sister. Is a short-tempered person. She rebukes Marle and calls her a nincompoop. She seems to be hard and unfeeling and is angry when the Bishop puts his cornforter around Marie before she goes out into the cold night.
A haughty woman. Persome is angry with old Mere Gringoire and calls her an old witch. Mere Gringoire, too, is afraid of her temper.
She loves her brother to a fault and is very protective of him. She feels people take advantage of his goodness of heart and abuse his generosity.
She worries about him when he is out late. Most of her faults are born out of her love and concern for her brother.
Being a timid person, Persome is afraid of the convict, but at her brothers bidding she gives him food. Persome is a materialistic person. She is upset with brother for selling the silver salt cellars and as soon as she discovers the candlesticks are missi9ng, she wishes to inform the police.
Read the extracts given below and answer the following questions:
Persome:’Monseigneur the bishop is a ………….. aheml’
- Why does Persome not complete the sentence?
- Why is she angry with the Bishop?
- What is persome’s attitude towards her brother? Why?
Ans. (i) Persome is angry with the Bishop and is about to say something rude and derogatory about him in anger. She then thinks better of it as she does not wish to insult him in his absence in front of Marie. So she checks herself.
(ii) Persome is angry with the Bishop as he, has sold her silver saltcellars without informing her to help poor Mere Gringoire pay her rent. Persome feels that the old woman is taking advantage of the Bishop’s kindness and his trusting nature.
(iii) Persome is protective towards her brother as she feels people take advantage of his generosity and kindness.
‘Oh. Mon Dieul it is hopeless. We shall have nothing left. His’ estate is sold, his savings have gone. His furniture, everything. Were it not for my little dot we should starvel And now my beautiful-beautiful (sod) salt cellars. Ah, it is too much, too much.’
- Who speaks these lines ? Who is she speaking about ?
- Why does the speaker say they will have nothing left ?
- Why has he sold everything ?
- What does ‘dot’ mean ?
Ans. (i) Persome says this about her brother, the Bishop.
(ii) they will have nothing left as the Bishop sells his belongings to give money to anyone who comes to him for help. He has given away his saving and has sold his estate and even his furniture.
(iii) he has sold all he had to help the poor and needy people.
(iv) ‘Dot’ means the dowry that was given to her when she got married.
Bishop : people lie of me they are poorer, not I ;
Persome : ‘But it is ridiculous; you will soon have nothing felt. You give away everything, everything, everything’
Bishop : My dear, there is also much suffering in the world, and I can do little, so very little’.
- Why does Persome feel people lie to her brother ?
- What two questions of the bishop are highlighted here ?
- How does Persome differ from her brother ?
Ans. (i) she feels he is very simple and people take advantage of his goodness. They lie to him that they are in need and take money from him.
(ii) The bishop is kind and generous to the poor and the needy. So much so that they take advantage of the fact. He is easily deceived by the unscrupulous people who even lie to him for getting money from him. He is also forgiving and bears no anger towards those who lie to him.
(iii) Persome is practical and down-to-earth. She can see though the people who would fool her brother with their hard-luck stories.
‘None of that my friend I’m too old a bird to be caught with chaff. You would ask your sister for the keys would you? A likely story! You would rouse the house too. Eh ? He ! A good joke truly. Come where is the food? Want no keys. I have a wolf inside me tearing at my entrails, tearing me,’
- Who is the speaker? Whom he is addressing ?
- What makes him say ‘None of that my friend’?
- Explain ‘I’ m too old a bird to be caught with chaff.
- What does he mean when he says, ’I have a wolf inside me tearing at my entrails’?
‘That was when I was a man a , now I am not a man, I am a number 15729, and I have lived in hell fourteen years.
- When was he a man?
- Give two reasons why the speaker feels he is no longer a man.
Ans.(i) He was a man ten years ago when he lived in a cottage with his wife. Jeanette.
(ii) The speaker was treated like an animal by the gaolers. He was chained up like a wild a wild animal. He was whipped and was not given proper food to eat. He was covered with vermin, like lice, fleas etc. he was made to sleep on hard boards and was not called by his name but by a number.
‘Ah! I am a fool, a child to cry, but somehow you have made me feel that … that is just as if something had come into me … as if were a man again and not a wild beast.’
- Why is the speaker crying?
- What does he mean by ‘as if something had come into me’?
- Who brought about the change in him? How?
Ans. (i) The Bishop had been kind to the convict. He had him and given him a place to stay. But the speaker had stolen from him. Yet when he was ‘caught and taken to the Bishop the letter said he had given the candlesticks to the convict. This makes the convict realize his mistake and he cries.
(ii) The speaker is feeling a change in him because of the Bishop’s kindness. The goodness that had so long lain dormant in him has once again been revived.
(iii) The Bishop, through his goodness and forgiveness brought about the change in him.
…but-but ! I don’t want to sell them. You see, dear, my mother gave them to me on-on her death-bed just after you were born, and–and she asked me to keep them in remembrance of her, so I would like to keep them; but perhaps it is a sin to set such store by them?
- Who speaks these words and to whom?
- Identify ‘them’. Why is the speaker led to talk about ‘them’?
- What is the Bishop’s attitude towards the candlesticks?
Ans. (i) The Bishop speaks these words to his sister, Persome.
(ii) ‘Them’ refers to the silver candlesticks of the Bishop. They are now the only valuable item left in the house. Persome remarks that some day the Bishop would sell them to pay somebody’s rent. The Bishop appreciates persome’s concem for the poor and begins to talk about the candlesticks.
(iii) (a) The Bishop loves them as a token of memory of his mother and would preserve them. He doesn’t want to sell them.
(b) He considers it a sin to be4 so much attached to them.
Ah, you are admiring my candlesticks. I am proud of them. They were a gift from my mother. A little too handsome for this poor cottage perhaps, but all I have to remind me of her. Your bed is ready. Will you lie down now?
- Who speaks these words and to whom?
- Why is the speaker led to utter these words?
- What does the Bishop tell the convict about the candlesticks?
- What does the Bishop do for the convict? What trait of the Bishop’s character does it reveal?
Ans. (i) The Bishop speaker these words to the convict.
(ii) The convict, left alone, sees the candlesticks, finds them made of silver and is tempted. He weighs them in his hand.
(iii) He tells the convict that he is very proud of the candlesticks which were a gift from his mother, They are a token of her memory although they are quite handsome for his poor cottage.
(iv) He makes bed for the convict, supplies him coverings and asks him to lie down. This shows that his heart is full of the milk of kindness.
‘I offered to take her in here for a day or two, but she seemed to think it might distress you.’
- Who speaks these words? Who is he speaking to?
- Who is the person being spoken about?
- Why did he wish to take her in?
- Why did she think her being ‘taken in’ might distress the person being spoken to?
Ans. (i) The Bishop speaks these words. He is speaking to his sister, Persome.
(ii) Mere Gringoire
(iii) He wished to take her in because she was bad-ridden
And have him sent back to prison, (very softly), sent back to Hell. No Persome. It is just punishment for me; I set too great store by them. It was a sin. ‘My punishment is just, but oh ! God, it is hard, it is very hard.
- Who does (him’ refer to? What does the speaker not fevour ?
- What ‘punishment’ is the speaker talking about?
- How does the speaker react to this punishment?
Ans. (i) ‘Him’ refers to the convict. The speaker i.e. the Bishop is against reporting the theft of candlesticks to the police. He does not fevour sending him back to ‘Hell’ i. e. the prison (ii) He is talking about the spiritual punishment he has received on being separated from the candlesticks, which were a symbol of his mother’s memory.
(iii) The Bishop think that he has been punished justly by God since he thought too much of the silver candlesticks, which he being a man of God must not do. However, he finds it very hard to bear the punishment.
yes, my friend. He did me the honour to sup with me to-night, and I-I have given him the candlesticks.
- Who speaks these line and to whom?
- Who ‘is he’ here and how him?
- How does the person spoken to react to this speech?
Ans.(i) The Bishop is speaking to the Sergeant who has brought the convict with him along with the candlesticks.
(ii) ‘He’ here is the convict. The Bishop looks at him as a friend who took supper with him.
(iii) The Sergeant finds it difficult to believe in what the Bishop says.
SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS:
Do you think the Bishop was right in salt-cellars? Why /Why/ Why ?
Ans. Yes, I think the Bishop was right in selling the salt-cellars. He did so for a noble cause. He helped a poor old woman pay her rent. If the Bishop had not done so, she would have been ejected out of the cottage and left with no shelter.
Why does Persome feel the people pretend to be sick?
Ans. Persome feel that people pretend to be sick to get sympathy from the Bishop and force him to visit them, pray for them, comfort and console them and sit with them even on dark chilly nights.
Who was Jeanette? What was the cause for her death?
Ans. Jeanette was the wife of the convict. She was ill. They had no food. Being out of work, the man could not buy food or medicines for Jeanette. He tried to steal to get money to buy her food, but he was caught and sentenced to prison. Jeanette died the same night of starvation, illness, Lack of attention and medicine.
Do you think the punishment given to the convict was justified? Why/Why not? Why is the convict eager to reach Paris?
Ans. No, I don’t thing the punishment given to the convict was at all justified. His crime was a minor one. On the other hand the punishment was to harsh and not all proportionate to the ‘enormity’ of the offence
The convict is eager to reach Paris because he will be lost there in the crowd of the big city. He will not be identified or caught by the police again. He can begin a new life with the money obtained by selling the candlesticks.
Before leaving, the convict asks the Bishop to bless What brought about this change in him?
Ans. The Bishop’s kindness and sympathetic treatment brought this transformation in the convict. The Bishop this transformation in the convict. The Bishop told the sergeant that the man was his friend. He even told a lie to save the convict from being sent to jail again. He said that he had himself given the candlestick to the man. The convict was touched at this kindness of the Bishop. He told the man a short route to Paris and gave him the candlesticks to start his life. The transformation from beast to man is now complete. The convict sobs and seeks the Bishop’s blessings before leaving for Paris.
Why does the convict steal the Bishop’s candlesticks?
Ans. The Bishop serves the convict nicely. He offers him food and a bed to sleep on. Initially, the convict hesitates when he thinks of the kind treatment given by Bishop. But his nature comes to the fore. He is tempted to steal the candlesticks as he feels that would help him to start life in a new manner.
Why does the Bishop not inform the police of the theft of his candlestick?
Ans. The Bishop had heard how the convict had suffered in the hell i.e. the prison. He has seen how the harsh treatment has transformed him into a hardened criminal-a beast. He does not want the criminal to be sent back to Hell again. So he does not inform iii police of the theft of the candlesticks.
How did the Bishop bring a change in the heart of the convict? OR
The Bishop makes the convict a man again. How ?
Ans. The Bishop treats the convict with love, sympathy and kindness. He offers him food. He listens to his story of suffering. He feels pity for him. He saves him from being sent prison again. In the end. He gives him the candlesticks to start a new life. The convicts heart is touched. The Bishop’s goodness makes him a man again.
The convict says, ‘They have made me what I am, they have made me a thief.’ Explain the circumstances that made the convict a thief.
Ans. Ten years ago, the convict lived in a small cottage with his wife. Jeanette. His wife seriously ill. At that time the convict was without a job. Jeanette needed food and medicine. So he stole money to buy her food. He was caught and sent to the prison ships. Here he was treated very badly. He was chained and lashed with whips. He was treated, not as a human being but as an animal. His name and soul were taken away from him. This inhuman treatment changed the man into a beast.
LONG ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS :
DESCRIBE THE FIRST ENCOUNTER BETWEEN THE Bishop and the convict.
Why does the convict enter the Bishop’s house ? How is he treated by the Bishop ?
Ans. It is about mid-night. The Bishop, who is along in his room, sits down to read. Just then a convict enters stealthily. He has a long knife in his hand. He seizes the Bishop from behind and behind and threatens to kill him if he calls out. The Bishop remains calm and asks the man if he can help him. The convict demands food for he hasn’t eaten anything for three days. The kind Bishop takes pity on him and says that he will ask his sister for the keys of the cupboard. Then he will give him food. He gets up to call Persome. The convict stands behind the Bishop with his knife ready. Persome gives him the keys of the cupboard. The Bishop serves the convict bread, cold pie and a bottle of wine.
Write a brief character-sketch of Persome?
Ans. Persome, the Bishop’s sister, is short-tempered, . she rebukes the maid. She is haughty, selfish and abusive. She calls Marie a nincompoop, and Mere Gringoire an ‘old witch’. She seems an unfeeling lady. she does not like it when the Bishop gives his comforter to Marie. She loves her brother deeply and looks after him. She knows that her brother is innocent like a child. She is worried when he stays out at night. She is attached to property and is pained at the loss of costly articles, furniture and estate. She is timid and feels afraid of the convict. Being materialistic she want to inform the police when the candlesticks are stolen. However she obeys the Bishop and remains silent. She serves food to the convict at the Bishop’s order.
What do you think are the situations that can be termed as the turning point in the convict’s life? Write the changes you see in the convict’s attitude.
Ans. The convict is the product of the society he lived in both in terms of the suffering that led to him stealing a loaf of bread and the excessive sentence he received as punishment for his ‘crime’. He went into prison for stealing money to buy food for his sick wife and left it filled with despair, hopelessness: Bitterness, and anger at the injustice of his treatment. He has also become accustomed to doing whatever is necessary to survive and has little thought for dignity and principles…
The Convict goes to Paris, sells the silver candlesticks and starts a business. The business prospers and he starts a reformatory for ex-convicts. He writes a letter to the Bishop telling him of this reformatory and seeks his blessings. As the convict, Mike D’ Souza, write the letter to the Bishop.
Ans. Mike D’ Souza Reformatory
28 February 200X
You must be amazed to receive this letter from an ex-convict. I still remember the cold winter night
when I entered your study with a long knife in my hand and demanded food like a hungry beast. Your nobility, divine forgiveness ands sympathy awakened my lost soul and when I left you, I was a completely transformed person. The meeting with you has proved tuming point in my life. I earned from business to run this reformatory.
I know from my expectance that an ex-convict has to face many problems in getting food, shelter and employment. He can’t even dream of getting social acceptability. I have started many trades in the reformatory so that ex-convict could start with dignity by doing some useful work and earning money by honest means. I’ll always remember your practical example and practice the various human virtues like mercy, pity sympathy, fellow feeling, cooperation and tolerance. We have also arranged sermons by religious / great men on weekends.
Recitals from scriptures are held regularly.
We would be grateful to you if you could honour us with your visit on the reformatory’s annual function on 25 April 200X and bless the inmates. I always seek your blessings.
With abiding gratitude