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The Bishop’s Candlesticks Summary in English by Norman Mckinnell

The Bishop’s Candlesticks Summary in English

The play, which is very popular, is based on the theme that love and kindness can change a man rather than violence.

The play is about a convict who breaks into a Bishop’s house and is clothed and warmed. The benevolence of the Bishop somewhat softens the convict, but, when he sees his silver candlesticks, he steals them. He is captured and brought back. He expects to go back to jail, but the Bishop informs the police that they are a gift. This one kind act of the Bishop reforms the convict to believe in the spirit of God that dwells in the heart of every human being.

The play is set in the house of a 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 a pot of 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, could be 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 has sold the salt-cellars to pay the house rent for Mere Gringoire, who was being troubled by the bailiff. Persome curses the old lady for taking advantage of her brother, lamenting that 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 run home since it is very cold. Persome, who has been crying, gets very angry with the Bishop. When Marie leaves, she tells him that people lie to him to get help from him. The Bishop regrets that there is so much suffering in the world and so little that 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 are a token from his dying mother and encompass her 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 calls Persome to open the cupboard. Persome is scared to see the convict but the Bishop reassures 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 that he has lived in Hell for ten years. He narrates the circumstances under which he was imprisoned. Once upon a time 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 that he was sentenced.

The convict recounts his sufferings in the prison. The jailer took away his name and only gave him a number. One day, they forgot to chain him and he escaped. After his escape from prison, he has been wandering from pillar to post without food and shelter, pursued by the gendarmes.

The Bishop is moved upon hearing his story. He consoles the convict and tells him that although he has suffered a great deal, there is hope for him. He then asks the convict to sleep in his house and assures 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 good night and goes to bed.

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 the Bishop up and informs him about 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, to suffer once again.

Just then a sergeant enters the cottage with the convict, led by three constables. He tells the Bishop about 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 brought 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 that 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 overwhelmed with remorse. He begs forgiveness from the Bishop, who 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 so that they might help him and tells him about a safe route to Paris. As 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.

The Bishop’s Candlesticks Summary Questions and Answers

Question 1.
Copy and complete the following paragraph about the theme of the play in pairs.
The play deals with a convict and a Bishop who is always ready to lend a helping hand to anyone in distress. A convict breaks into the Bishop’s house and is fed and warmed. The benevolence of the Bishop somewhat transforms the convict, but, when he sees the silver candlesticks, he steals them, and runs away. However, he is caught and brought back. He expects to go back to jail, but the Bishop informs the police that they are a gift. The convict is overwhelmed by this kindness of the Bishop and before he leaves he seeks the priest’s blessing.

Question 2.
Answer the following questions briefly.

a. Do you think the Bishop was right in selling the salt-cellars? Why/ Why not?
Encourage the students to come up with their own answers.
Yes, I th
ink the Bishop was right in selling the salt-cellars because he sold them for a good cause. His act of selling the salt-cellars helped somebody to get out of trouble.

No, I don’t think the Bishop did the right thing by selling the salt-cellars because they belonged to Persome too and selling them without Persome’s knowledge was not the right thing to do.

b. Why does Persome feel the people pretend to be sick?
Persome feels that people pretend to be sick so that they can take advantage of the Bishop’s kindness. Persome claims that the people realize that the Bishop will definitely help those in need even at the cost of himself and his family. Hence, they try to take advantage of this fact.

c. Who was Jeanette? What was the cause of her death?
Jeanette was the convict’s deceased wife. She was sick and did not have enough to eat. Hence, she died.

d. The convict says, “/ am too old a bird to be caught with chaff. ” What does he mean by this statement?
The convict believes that the Bishop is trying to call the police rather than Persome and implies that he is too experienced in the life of a runaway prisoner to fall for the trick of calling the police under the pretense of calling someone else.

e. Why was the convict sent to prison? What was the punishment given to him?
The convict was sent to prison for stealing food. His name was taken away from him, as was his humanity. He was treated like an animal, made to sleep on boards with vermin crawling on him. He was not given food and lashed like a hound.

f. Do you think the punishment given to the convict was justified? Why/ Why not?
No, the punishment given to the convict was not justified. Punishment should be proportionate to the crime committed and one should always try to understand the reason behind the crime. The convict stole food to feed his ill wife, after he had been disappointed in the day’s work. His crime was bom out of desperation. He should have been dealt with in a more humane manner. By sentencing him to prison, the judiciary created a criminal, distrustful of the system and vengeful at the world.

g. Why is the convict eager to reach Paris?
The convict is eager to reach Paris because he wants to start a new life there, leaving his old life behind.

h. Before leaving, the convict asked the Bishop to bless him. What brought about this change in him?
The convict asked the Bishop to bless him before leaving because he realized that the Bishop was a great man and was, perhaps, the only person in the world who wanted the best for him. The Bishop’s kindness and love had transformed the hardened convic into a humble and trusting man.

Question 3.
Read the following extract and answer the questions that follow by choosing the correct options.

A. Monseigneur, the Bishop is a … a hem!

a. Why does Persome not complete the sentence?
she did not wish to criticise the Bishop in front of Marie.

b. Why is she angry with the Bishop?
the Bishop has sold her salt-cellars.

B. She sent little Jean to Monseigneur to ask for help.

a. Who sent little Jean to the Bishop?
Mere Gringoire

b. Why did she send Jean to the Bishop?
as she knew that he was a generous person.

C. I offered to take her in here for a day or two, but she seemed to think it might distress you.

a. The Bishop wanted to take Mere Gringoire in because:
She was unable to pay the rent of her house.

b. Persome would be distressed on Mere Gringoire’s being taken in because:
She felt that Mere Gringoire was taking undue advantage of the Bishop.