-A J Cronin

Two Gentlemen of Verona is a touching story of Jacopo and Nicola, two brothers aged 12 and 13, who do odd jobs and live a hard life themselves to sustain and treat their elder sister Lucia, who is suffering from tuberculosis of the spine.

A J Cronin uses the title of William Shakespeare’s famous play, The Two Gentlemen of Verona in an ironic manner. Cronin’s portrayal of these modern “gentlemen” of Verona re-defines the concept of what it means to be a gentleman, Cronin shows us that one may polish boots or sell newspapers, but it is the magnanimity of heart and the nobleness of purpose that actually determines whether one is a true “gentleman”.

The story recounts the hard life chosen by the two young boys so that they could pay for the treatment of their sister afflicted with tuberculosis. The boys exhibit sincerity and devotion to the cause and the maturity they display in their actions gives a new hope for humanity.

The writer and his friend are stopped at the outskirts of Verona by two small boys when they drive through lower hills of the Alps. The boys are brothers Nicola, the elder and Jacopo, the younger one. They were selling wild strawberries. Next time when they meet the boys, they are polishing shoes in the public square. Interacting with them, the writer comes to know that they do various tasks. One mid night, they see the boys resting on the stone of a footpath. Nicola sat tired with a bundle of unsold newspapers. His brother was sleeping by putting his head on Nicola’s shoulder. The narrator asks the boys if they save the money for emigration to America, they deny and say that they have other plans. The writer offers them help for which Jacopo asks him to drop them at Poleta by their car. The writer accepts their request.

The next afternoon, they reach the village located on a hill. The two boys are dropped from the car. After sometime, the writer follows them and finds from the nurse about the two boys and their sister. She tells him that their father, a famous singer died in the war. A bomb had destroyed their home. They had a cultured life, but due to the war, they were left alone on road. Lucia was a good singer, but now she is suffering from tuberculosis and the boys are working hard day and night for the treatment of their sister. Their selfless action, nobility and devotion touch the writer’s heart and show a greater hope for mankind.

Read the following extracts and answer the questions that follow by choosing the option you consider most appropriate:

1) One boy had on a worn jersey and cut-off khaki pants; the other a shortened army tunic gathered in loses folds about his skinny frame. Yet gazing at the two little figures, with their brown skin, tangled hair and earnest eyes, we felt ourselves strangely attracted

(1)One boy had on:
(a) a new jersey
(b) a worn jersey and a khaki pants
(c) a coat and a pant
(d) a sweater and a blue pant .

(2) The other boy had:
(a) a robust body
(b) a swollen head
(c) a stout frame
(d) a skinny frame

(3) The narrator and his companion gazed at:
(a) two shopkeepers
(b) two things
(c) two little figures
(d) two beggarly women

Ans: 1) b) a worn jersey and cut off khaki pant 2)d) a skinny frame3) c) two little figures

Answer the following questions in about 30-40 words.

1) What did the narrator’s companion discover about the boy?
Ans:The narrator’s companion discovered that the boys were real brothers. The elder brother Nicola was 13 years old while the young Jacopo was 12 years old. Their rags and shabby appearance display their acute poverty.

2) How can you say that the boys were willing workers?
Ans: The boys did their independent job. They shined shoes in the scorching heat. They sold strawberries and conducted the tourism round of the town. They sold newspapers in the stormy nights. They changed their work at will. That’s why they can be called willing workers.

3)Why didn’t the narrator go inside?
Ans:The boy’s sister was admitted into the hospital. The boys did not like to share their secret with the narrator. The narrator had no desire to expose them. Moreover he could not bear to intruder upon their happy family meeting .Therefore he preferred to stay out.

4)Why did the boys hate the Germans? How did they react against them?
Ans: The Germans had bombed their city and had destroyed their home. Their father was also killed in the war. The boys and their sister were thrown in the streets. The boys were forced to live in a shelter. Then the Germans became the rulers. Therefore the boys hated the Germans. To show their hateful reaction they joined the resistance movement.


B) Answer the following in 30-40 words each:
1 Why did the driver not approve of their buying fruit from the boys?
2 When did the author’s companion find out that the boys were brothers ?
3. What were the jobs the boys did to earn money?.
4. What attracted the visitors towards the boys ?
5 Where did the author meet the two boys for the first time? What were they doing?
6. Why was the author surprised to see Nicola and Jacopo working as shoe shines?
7. How were the boys useful to the author?
8. Why did the author say that what struck one most was their willingness to work?
9. Why were the boys out in the deserted square at night?
10. Were the boys quite happy to work? Which sentence tells you this?
11.What made the author think that they were earning much?
12.Why did Nicola say “just plans” when the author asked them what their plans were?
13.Who asked the author to drive them to Poleta? Did the other brother approve of the request? Why?
14 Did the boys try to prevent the author from finding out the real purpose of their visit to Poleta? Did they succeed?
15. How did the war affect the boys’ family?
16. How did the boys take care of their sister?
17. Do you think the two boys enjoyed what they were doing? Why do you think so?
18. How does the story of the Two Gentlemen of Verona give promise of greater hope for human society?
19. How can you say that the boys worked quite hard?
20. What did the narrator tell the narrator?
21. How was the life of the boys comfortable and cultured?
22. How did the boys react to the Lucia’s suffering from the tuberculosis of the spine?
23. What happened when the boys rejoined the narrator?

C) Long answer type questions:

1. Write a paragraph on the early life of the two boys.

Fathera widower …. well-known singer ….killed in war … bomb blast destroyed house…boys and sister left to the streets … suffered …horribly … starvation

2. Write a note on the character of Nicola and Jacopo.
The following hints will help you:
motherless …. loss of father …. sufferings …..loss of their house …made their own shelter willing to do any job … their devotion to …their sister …. dedication …. patriotic … proud…did not want sympathy …

2. Narrate the story of Two Gentlemen of Verona beginning with their experience during the war in about 200 words. You may use the following hints for your essay.

Nicola and Jacopo … sons of a well-known singer and widower … only sister Lucia …father killed … house destroyed … children left to the streets …. starved horribly …. a shelter….built by themselves … boys did different jobs. The visitors make friends …. their willingness to work …. one midnight …. deserted square wanted to sell newspapers …. earning money ….request author to take them to the country …Drive to the country … the boys leave the author waiting … he follows … discovers the secret.

3. A J Cronin came to know the story of the two boys from the nurse in the story ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’. Imagine that the boys themselves narrated the story to A.J Cronin.
Write the story in the words of the boys. You may begin like this.

We were living happily in our…………………………….

5.Yet in both these boyish faces there was a seriousness which was far beyond theiryears. Does this sentence signal anything to you?
Now use the following hints:

Boys simple … aged 13 and 12 … sense of responsibility though too young …..doing anything .

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