Two Gentlemen from Verona ..
Q1 .. What are the qualities of a “gentleman”? Work with your partner and complete the following web-chart by listing the qualities of a gentleman.
Answer … In my view, a gentleman ought to be polite, gracious, un-assuming, courteous towards ladies, old and children, and altruistic. Being chivalrous will add to his stature and likeability. He should remain unruffled when facing minor irritants. [Written in my words]
Q2 .. Based on your discussion above, what do you think the story is about?
Answer .. The story is a powerful portrayal of the characters of two destitute children who confront the misery in their lives with remarkable stoicism, dignity, and fortitude. The way they go through the daily grind of life without ever giving up, or resorting to deceit is inspiring and very touching. The two are also worth emulation by others.
Q3 .. What do you understand by the following statements?
(a) “We do many things, sir,” Nicola answered seriously. He glanced at us hopefully.
Answer .. It means that Nicola and his brother, being utterly poor and unskilled, did whatever they could to eke out a living. From picking berries to shoe polishing to chaperoning tourists coming to the town, the boys did sundry jobs cheerfully. Although the money they earned was small, they begrudged no one. They never stooped to criminality or anything immoral. Their sense of dignity stopped them from seeking undue from anyone.
(b) He coloured deeply under his sunburn, then grew pale.
Answer … The narrator, already feeling sympathetic to the two boys, was clueless as to why they dressed so shabbily despite their small but steady income. Out of curiousity, he asked the two urchins what they did with their earnings. It was a question that seemed to pierce Nicola’s heart. The answer was too private to be given to a stranger. Saving money earned through so much hardship for the treatment of their sick elder sister was a secret Nicola wanted to keep to himself. This is why embarrassment and discomfiture made Nicola look pale and uncomfortable.
(c) He smiled uncomfortably. “Just plans, Sir,” he answered in a low voice.
Answer .. When the narrator persisted to know what the duo planned to do with their savings, Nicola was not quite forthcoming. When asked if they wanted to emigrate to the United States, Nicola coyly replied that the America plan was there, no doubt, but was not going happen soon.
(d) Yet in both these boyish faces there was a seriousness which was far beyond their years.
Answer .. The two boys, Nicola (13) and Jocopo (12), battled their odds with remarkable equanimity and grim determination. The rough and tumble of living in the streets had failed to rob them of their sense of self respect and dignity. They had not quite outlived their childhood innocence, and showed the resilience typical of an adult.
6. (a) Why didn’t Luigi, the driver, approve of the two boys?
Answer .. Nicola and Jocopo, in their frayed dirty clothes did not present a healthy sight. They seemed to belong to the ugly dark world of unsavoury elements who had possibly come to fleece the narrator. This fear made the driver to treat the duo scornfully.
6. (b) Why were the narrator and his companion impressed by the two boys?
Answer .. The narrator and his companion’s encounter with the two young boys was as pleasant as it was baffling. The boy’s indomitable spirit to survive in the face of so much adversity was undoubtedly impressive. That they still retained their childhood innocence, and did all the odd jobs so willingly moved the visitors.
6.(c) Why was the author surprised to see Nicola and Jacopo working as shoeshine boys?
Just the day before, the two boys were on the highways selling the berries picked up from the wild. The narrator had bought the fruits from them out of sympathy and curiosity. Now, the same duo was found to be polishing shoes by the wayside. Such a dramatic change in their profession took the narrator by surprise.
6.(d) How were the boys useful to the author?
The boys willingly did anything and everything for the narrator. Their knowledge of the city enabled them to offer the small services the narrator wanted, like buying the American cigarettes, locating a restaurant, getting the tickets from the theatre etc. They proved to be quite efficient guides too. Rendering these services, the duo made their way to the narrator’s heart.
6. (e) Why were the boys in the deserted square at night? What character traits do they exhibit?
The boys sat there under the street light waiting for the last late night bus to come from Padua. They hoped to sell their left-over newspapers to the passengers in the bus. The fact they waited in the desolate dark night to earn a little money underscores their determination, resilience and their spirit of defiance against the hazards of their daily life.
6. (f) The narrator asks the boys, “Must you work so hard? You both look rather tired.”
The boys reply, “We are not complaining, Sir.” What do you learn about the boys from their reply?
For the two hapless boys, the travails of their daily life was routine. With rare grit and equanimity, they went about their task. They did not give up, nor did they lament their fate.
Obviously, the two were warriors who had great sense of duty, dignity and rectitude. They could look straight into danger, and yet remain calm.
(g) When the narrator asks the boys about their plans, they are evasive. Why don’t they disclose their problems?
The two boys were battling great odds to earn little amounts of money. They had an air of modesty around them. Treating their sick sister back to health was their first priority, going to America was a distant second. The duo did not like to divulge these so as not to give an impression that they wanted to kindle sympathy for their plight in others minds. Their self-pride told them not to solicit charity. So, they were very reluctant to disclose their intentions.
7. Discuss the following questions and write the answers in your notebook.
(a) Appearances are deceptive. Discuss with reference to the two boys.
Nothing can be truer than this. The most hideous crooks, rapists, fraudsters, and swindlers on earth dress smartly so as to deceive gullible people with their smart urbane exterior. The revered, pure and godly people seldom wear bespoke dresses, because they don’t need to impress people cosmetically. Gandhi, Jesus Christ and Gautam Buddha did not dress to impress their followers. So, having a beautiful face, white complexion or royal attire does not bestow goodness on people. In the same vein, people who are forced to dress shabbily due to circumstances may turn out to be adorable characters with very pious interiors. The two brothers demonstrated this in ample measure.
(b) Do you think the boys looked after Lucia willingly? Give reasons for your answer.
Undoubtedly, the two brothers took upon the responsibility of the treatment of their ailing sister themselves. There was no compulsion for them to shoulder this responsibility. But, being conscientious brothers, they decided to save the life of their bed-ridden sister. It was an uphill task, but the duo confronted the challenge heroically.
7. (c) How does the story ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ promise hope for society?
Quite clearly, the story portrays two youngsters whom the society will do well to emulate. They demonstrated how not to be cowed down by adversity. Instead, they confronted their misfortune resiliently. Most interestingly, the two boys did not let their soul to be polluted by temptations of the criminal world. Even they refused to be the object of pity. They never sought charity, nor did they do anything to attract sympathy. Hard work was their weapon that they used with such aplomb to push back sorrow and suffering.
Their lives are a lesson to the entire human society. Staying away from immoral ways, enduring hardship without complaining and maintaining dignity are the values we all can imbibe from the two boys.