Two Gentlemen of Verona – A.J. Corbin


Introduction

A.J. Cronin is a novelist, physician, and short storey writer most renowned for the social awareness, realism, and romanticism that he infuses into each of his writings. His writings are replete with descriptions of the Scottish scenery. The story “Two Gentlemen of Verona” investigates people’s preconceptions and challenges, commonly held beliefs about people and events. In the story, the two orphan boys Jacopo and Nicola work tirelessly and tirelessly, shining shoes, selling newspapers, and running errands for the sake of their sister’s treatment. They demonstrate a remarkable dedication to their profession and family, and they set an extraordinary example of love, caring, emotion, and nobility. Cronin demonstrates that while one can polish boots or sell newspapers, it is one’s magnanimity of heart and nobleness of aim that defines whether one is a true “gentleman“.

The story’s title was picked on purpose. It is the title of one of Shakespeare’s early comedies, in which one of two gentlemen friends betrays the other for the love of a woman. The title calls into question the traits that one would expect from a gentleman: honesty, politeness, mildness of spirit, optimism, charity, and nobility of character. The narrator and reader both assume that these are characteristics that one would expect to find in a particular group of people.

Background


Hitler attacked Italy in 1943 for personal and political gain. He desired that it serve as the capital of the resurrected German kingdom in northern Italy. Northern Italy, on the other hand, rejected learning that the Nazis plotted the destruction of Verona. Germans did not fall into the enemy’s clutches as a result of Verona’s resistance. They kept a large amount of explosives at a limestone quarry north of Verona, past the settlement of Avesa. The explosion wreaked havoc on the city of Verona. Several persons died in the explosion.

Summary of Two Gentlemen of Verona

The author and his companion were travelling towards Verona when they were stopped by two small boys who were shabbily dressed and selling strawberries. The author’s driver advised him not to buy the fruits. The boys were incredibly slender, yet their eyes were genuine and drew attention. The author fell in love with these boys right away and ended up buying their largest basket of strawberries.

The next morning, the author spotted the two boys shining people’s shoes. The boys smiled and told the author that they did a variety of different occupations, such as escorting tourists around the city.

Impressed, the author snatched up the boys right away. Because of their intimate relationship, the author realised that the boys were quite nice and innocent. He could see seriousness beneath their cheery smiles, a tinge of grief that belied their age. The author did not regret his decision because the boys proved to be resourceful. The author was impressed by their enthusiasm to work. The author was struck by their desperation to perform more and more labour, yet he was startled to see that they still wore ragged clothes and ate little.


The author’s journey was coming to an end. He inquired if he could do anything for them before departing. Nikola, the elder, refused, but the younger begged that the author drive them to Poleta, 30 kilometres distant, the next day. As a final show of goodwill, he offered to drive the boys himself.

They all travelled to the tiny settlement beside a hill the next afternoon. The author was astonished to come to a standstill next to a villa. Before he could ask an inquiry, the boys jumped out and asked the author to pick them up from the same location in an hour. The author could not help but be intrigued. He entered and was greeted by a nurse, and through a glass partition, the author observed the boys seated near a hospital bed, with a girl around 20, who appeared to be their sister. Because he did not want to disrupt a joyous family reunion, the author refused to be led inside. When the author inquired, the nurse stated that the children’s father had been killed in a battle, and that a bomb had destroyed their home, leaving them homeless. Since the Germans occupied the city for many years, the children suffered greatly, and their sister, Lucia, who aspired to be a singer, could not handle the cold and malnutrition and contracted TB of the spine. The boys brought Lucia there, and every week they brought enough money for her care.

The boys reunited with the author and drove back to the city. The boys kept silent, and the author chose to do the same since he respected their privacy. The author went overwhelmed with admiration for the fortitude and unwavering determination of two young boys who remained committed despite the war’s defeats.

Analysis of Two Gentlemen of Verona summary

Two Gentlemen of Verona is a touching story about human connections and familial bonds. In the story, set in Italy during World War II, two gentlemen from Verona, brothers Nicola and Jacopo, look after their sister Lucia, who is suffering from tuberculosis. The boys are impoverished and dress shabbily. Their father was a well-known vocalist and a diligent worker who perished during the war. In the absence of their father, the boys gladly accept the task of providing for their unwell sister.

The narrator was stopped by two small boys selling wild strawberries while travelling through the foothills of the Alps to Verona. The boys were clothed shabbily in outgrown clothing. The two were dark-skinned and frail, with tangled hair and serious-looking black eyes. Though their chauffeur attempted to dissuade them, the narrator and his companion purchased the largest basket the boys had for sale due to their attraction to them. The boys were siblings. Nicola, the elder, was 13 years old, while Jacopo, the younger, was about 12. The following morning, the narrator discovered the two brothers shining their shoes in front of their hotel. The boys informed him that in addition to fruit picking and shoe shining, the two boys worked as tour guides.

As the boys showed the narrator and his buddy around town, the narrator remarked how childlike and innocent the boys were. However, despite the fact that Jacopo was animated and Nicola had a wonderful smile, both boys appeared to be quite serious.

Throughout the week the narrator and his partner were in Verona, they frequently encountered the boys who were always willing to assist the two men with chores.

They were shocked one night to see the boys resting on the stone pavement beneath the lights in the windy and desolate square. It was nearly late, and Nicola sat straight, despite his seeming exhaustion, while Jacopo slept, his head resting on his brother’s shoulder. They were awaiting the final bus from Padua in order to sell newspapers.

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The narrator was taken aback by how hard the boys worked, and when he confronted Nicola about it the following morning, he appeared embarrassed and speechless. The narrator assumed the boys worked so hard and spent so sparingly in order to save money for their emigration to America. Nicola expressed a wish to visit the United States but stated that they currently had plans in Italy.

The narrator then offered assistance before to his Monday departure for the United States. Nicola denied the offer, but Jacopo immediately accepted and asked if they might take the narrator’s car to Poleta, 30 kilometres from Verona. The narrator quickly volunteered to personally transport the boys there. He promised Nicola, who appeared to be enraged with his brother, that doing so would be effortless.

They travelled to the tiny settlement perched high on a hillside the following afternoon. Jacopo directed him to a magnificent red-roofed home encircled by a high stone wall in Poleta. As soon as the car came to a stop, the two boys leapt out and entered the villa, informing the narrator they would return in an hour.

The narrator followed the boys inside after a few moments. When he rang the bell, the door was opened by a nurse. He enquired as to the whereabouts of the two boys. She escorted the narrator around the hospital, eventually coming to a halt near the door of a small cubicle. The narrator spotted the boys seated close to a female of about twenty who sat propped up on pillows, her eyes gentle and sympathetic, listening to their discussion through the glass divider. He immediately recognised her as their sister due to their resemblance to another.

The nurse informed him that the children who had lost their mother earlier in the conflict had also lost their father. He was a well-known performer. Soon later, their home was damaged by a bomb. As a result, the three children were evicted and left homeless. The youngsters, who had always known a luxurious and sophisticated existence, suffered from hunger and exposure to the elements. They spent months living in a shelter they constructed out of wreckage. The city was then ruled by the Germans for three years. The boys developed an aversion to Germans. They were among the first to join the resistance effort when it began in secret. When the conflict ended and peace was restored, they returned to their loving sister. Lucia, who had previously trained as a vocalist, acquired spinal TB.

The boys were not defeated. They whisked her away to the hospital. Lucia had been in the hospital for a year and was doing well. She would eventually walk and sing again. Meanwhile, the boys fought mightily to pay for her therapy.

The narrator returned outside and waited for the boys to emerge. Then he returned them to the city. He did not reveal to them that he was aware of their secret, despite his admiration for their dedication. Their spirit had not been broken by war. Their unselfish actions instilled a new dignity in human existence and raised the prospect of a more hopeful future for human society.

The narrator is perplexed about the boys at the start of the story because they have not met yet. He is moved by their genuineness and remains friends with them. The narrator notices that they do not even spend their hard-earned money on proper food. When questioned, Nicola simply responds that they have plans but does not share any of the difficulties they encountered. The lads put up a brave face for the rest of the world and devote their energies to earning money. The narrator agrees to drive the boys back to their hometown in order to honour the boys’ determination and Jacopo’s nice request.

He thinks he is doing the boys a favour by driving down. When he befriends the destitute street urchins, the narrator considers himself to be a true gentleman since he has climbed above the concept of class difference. He considers himself to be a gentleman by not interfering in their concerns and instead demonstrating concern for their well-being. When he chivalrously offers to drive them by himself, he believes he is being a true gentleman.

The narrator is taken aback when he sees the boys visiting a villa in their hometown. When he enters the villa and discovers that it is a hospital, he is surprised. When he discovers the guys visiting a little girl who is a patient at the hospital, he is taken aback. His interaction with the nurse, on the other hand, demonstrates that he is no gentleman at all, but simply another male with all the assumptions and prejudices that come with the territory. He sees enough beyond their ragged attire to know they are not like other urchins, but he does not thought to go deeper into who they truly are. He is seen enough of their work to know that there is a reason for it, but he assumes it is to provide a better future for them. He has determined that their home will be modest, so he does not bother to inquire about their previous residences.

The story’s true gentlemen are revealed to be the boys. Their father’s death has not broken them, but rather emphasised their inherent strength. Despite their youth, they have created a refuge for themselves. Their sufferings throughout the war and the German occupation have not soured them. They have not wallowed in self-pity, but have instead risen to fight as true Americans by joining the resistance. When they arrived home, they discovered that their sister was gravely ill. This neither frightens nor discourages them. They simply do what is necessary to save their sister. Their sincerity, honesty, and readiness to labour have made them model young men who have lived up to the code of chivalry, which has demanded the sacrifice of personal comfort for the sake of the well-being of others. The fact that they do everything without complaint or a sense of responsibility is the most admirable of their gentlemanly attributes.

Questions and Answers


Question No 1. Based on your reading of the story answer the following questions by ticking the correct options.



a. The driver did not approve of the narrator buying fruit from the two boys because
(i) the boys were untidy and poorly dressed
(ii) the strawberries were not fresh
(iii) they were asking for a heavy price
(iv) the driver did not approve of small boys who worked
Answer:
(i) the boys were untidy and poorly dressed

b. The narrator was most impressed by the boys
(i) desire to earn money
(ii) willingness to work
(iii) ability to perform many tasks
(iv) sense of fun
Answer:
(ii) willingness to work

c. Nicola was not pleased when Jacopo asked the narrator to drive them to Poleta as he
(i) did not want a stranger to become involved with their plans
(ii) preferred going to Poleta by train so that he could enjoy the scenery
(iii) did not want to ask anyone for favours
(iv) did not want to take help from someone he did not know Well
Answer:
(iii) did not want to ask anyone for favours

d. The narrator did not go inside Lucia’s room as
(i) he did not want to intrude into their privacy
(ii) he thought that the boys would object
(iii) Lucia would not welcome a stranger
(iv) the boys would feel he was spying on them
Answer:
(i) he did not want to intrude into their privacy

(e) The boys were the first to join the resistance movement against the Germans because
(i) the Germans had hurt their sister (ii) the Germans ruled the city
(iii) the Germans had ruined their family
(iv) the Germans had destroyed their home

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Answer:
(iv) the Germans had destroyed their home

Answer the following questions in one or two sentences.



Q. Who did the narrator meet at the outskirts of Verona? 
Ans. The narrator met two small boys at the outskirts of Verona.

Q. Why did the driver not approve of the narrator buying fruit from the boys? 
Ans. The driver did not approve of the narrator buying fruit from the boys, because of the boys’ shabby appearance.

Q. The boys did not spend much on clothes and food. Why? 
Ans. The boys did not spend much on clothes and food because they had saved the money for their sister’s treatment. 

Q. Were the boys saving money to go to the States? How do you know? 
Ans. No, the boys were not saving money to go to the States. They told the narrator that they had some other plans. 

Q. Why did the author avoid going to Lucia’s room? 
Ans. The author did not want to interfere with their happy family party. So he avoided going to Lucia’s room.

Q. What was Lucia suffering from? 
Ans. Lucia was suffering from tuberculosis of the spine. 

Q. What made the boys join the resistance movement against the Germans?
Ans. The hate for Germans made the boys join the resistance movement against the Germans.

Q. What made the boys work so hard? 
Ans. The money needed for their sister’s treatment made the boys work so hard.

Q. Why didn’t the boys disclose their problem to the author? 
Ans. The boys didn’t disclose their problem to the narrator, because they did not want anybody’s sympathy or charity. They accepted their responsibilities in life. They were determined to work hard to earn their living and for her sister’s treatment. 


2. Answer the following questions in three or four sentences each. 



Q. Describe the appearance of Nicola and Jacopo. 
Ans. Nicola dressed down in a dirty jersey and cut-off khaki pants. Jacopo was dressed in a shorter army tunic that was gathered in loose folds over his slim body. They had a brown complexion, tangled hair, and deep, serious eyes.

Q. What were the various jobs undertaken by the little boys? 
Ans. They shined shoes, sold fruit, hawked newspapers, conducted tourists around the town, and ran errands. These were the various jobs undertaken by the little boys.

Q. How did the narrator help the boys on Sunday? 
Ans. The boys usually make a visit to the country,  Poleta, every Sunday. Jacopo asked the narrator to drop them there in his car. Since the driver had the Sunday off, the author himself took them in his car.

Q. Who took the author to the cubicle? 
Ans. A pleasant-looking woman dressed in the white uniform with steel-rimmed spectacles took the author to the cubicle.  She seemed to be a trained nurse.

Q. Describe the girl with whom the boys were talking to in the cubicle. 
Ans. The girl, the boys were conversing with in the cubicle was their sister. She was roughly 20 years old at the time. She was propped up on cushions and dressed in a lovely lace jacket. Her eyes were gentle and lovely. She was patterned after her brothers. In addition, she has TB of the spine.

Q. Recount the untold sufferings undergone by the siblings after they were rendered homeless. 
Ans. The siblings had gone hungry after being evicted from their home. They were exposed to the harsh winter weather. They had taken refuge in a makeshift shelter amidst the ruins. They took part in the war against the Germans. Their sister was suffering from spinal tuberculosis. They put in a lot of effort for her.

Q. The narrator did not utter a word and preferred to keep the secret to himself. Why? Substantiate the statement with reference to the story. 
Ans. The boys did not want to tell the narrator about their problem. He realised the boys did not seek anyone’s charity. He did not want to get involved in their problem. As a result, he said nothing and opted to keep the secret to himself. It exemplified his generosity.


Paragraph Questions



Q. Answer the following in a paragraph of 100–150 words each. 

Ans. What was the driving force that made the boys do various jobs?
Ans. On the outskirts of Verona, the narrator meets two small boys. Nicola and Jacopo were their names. The boys’ widower father had been slain in the battle. A bomb had destroyed their home during the war. They had suffered from malnutrition. They were exposed to the harsh winter weather. They had taken refuge in a makeshift shelter amidst the ruins. They joined the anti-German resistance organisation. They took part in the war against the Germans. When they returned from the war, they discovered that their sister Lucia had TB of the spine. They had to pay for her treatment every week. It made the boys work extremely hard. They polished shoes, sold fruit, handed out newspapers, drove tourists around town, and ran errands for money. As a result, the war damaged their prospects, and their sister’s illness forced them to work in numerous occupations.

Q. How was the family affected by the war? 
Ans. The narrator met two small boys on the outskirts of Verona. They were Nicola and Jacopo. The boys’ father, a widower, had been killed in the war. During the war, a bomb demolished their home. They had been starved. They were exposed to the harsh winter. They had stayed in a makeshift refuge amidst the ruins. They joined the resistance struggle against the Germans. They fought in the fight against the Germans. When they returned from the war, they discovered that their sister Lucia had spinal TB. Every week, they had to pay for her care. It made the boys work so hard. The conflict had not broken their spirit. As a result of the battle, the two boys’ family was destroyed.

Q. Write a character sketch of Nicola and Jacopo.
Ans. The boys in the story, Nicola and Jacopo, were the ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona.’ Nicola, Jacopo’s older brother, was 13 years old. Both of the siblings were truthful and selfless. They fought tirelessly to help their sister Lucia recover from tuberculosis. They had a difficult life. They did a variety of odd tasks. They polished shoes, sold fruit, handed out newspapers, drove tourists around town, and ran errands for money. They did not spend much money on clothes or food. Because they had put money aside for their sister’s treatment. They preserved their dignity, however. They do not want to talk about their family situation and prefer to keep it private. The boys did not tell the narrator about their predicament because they did not want anyone’s compassion or charity. They embraced their life’s obligations. They were determined to work hard in order to earn a living and pay for her sister’s care. Despite the fact that they had suffered greatly as a result of the conflict, it had not crushed their spirit. As a result of their unselfish actions, human life gains a new nobility. It holds forward the prospect of better hope for human society.

Q. What message is conveyed through the story ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’? 
Ans. The ‘Two gentlemen of Verona’ were Nicola and Jacopo, the story’s boys. Nicola, 13, was Jacopo’s elder brother. Both siblings were extremely truthful and selfless. They fought tooth and nail to save their sister Lucia from illness. They had a difficult existence. They took on a variety of odd jobs. They polished shoes, sold fruit, delivered newspapers, escorted tourists around town, and performed menial tasks for money. They were frugal with their clothing and food purchases. Since they had set aside funds for their sister’s treatment. However, they retained their dignity. They have no intention of discussing their family situation and wish to keep it private. The boys did not divulge their predicament to the narrator since they did not seek compassion or assistance from anyone. They embraced their life’s obligations. They were adamant about working hard to earn a living and contribute to her sister’s treatment. Though they had suffered greatly during the battle, their spirits had not been broken. Thus, their unselfish deeds endow human life with a new dignity. It holds forth the prospect of a more hopeful future for human society. This is the underlying meaning of the storey ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’.

Q. Justify the title of the story ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’. 
Ans. The ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ were Nicola and Jacopo. Nicola, 13, was Jacopo’s older brother. They were both sincere and selfless. They battled tuberculosis for their sister Lucia. They had it tough. They did odd jobs. It was a time when women did everything from shining shoes to selling fruit to guide tourists around town. They were cheap on clothes and food. They had saved plenty for their sister’s treatment. But they kept their dignity. They do not want to discuss about their family issues. The boys did not tell the narrator because they did not want compassion or money. They embraced life’s duties. They were resolved to earn a living and help her sister. The war had harmed them, but not their spirit. Thus, their altruistic effort elevates human life. It promises a brighter future for humanity. The boys are indeed ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’.


Q. Adversity brings out the best as well as the worst in people. Elucidate this statement with reference to the story. 
Ans. The story’s Nicola and Jacopo were the two gentlemen of Verona. The boys’ widowed father had been killed in battle. A bomb destroyed their home during the war. They had been hungry. They were exposed to the winter. They had taken refuge among the ruins. So they despise Germans. Children’s suffering led them to join the anti-German resistance movement. It was their sole bad decision. After the battle, they discovered their sister Lucia had spinal tuberculosis. Every week they had to pay for her care. It made the boys work hard. They polished shoes, sold fruit, delivered newspapers, showed tourists around town, and ran errands for money. Despite their hardships, the two brothers remained unbreakable. They worked hard for their sister’s care. Despite their pain, their unselfish gesture imparted a new dignity to human life. It promised a brighter future for humanity. So adversity brought out the best in them.

Q. Which character do you like the most in the story and why?
Ans. I really enjoy the narrator of this story. He is a really generous, kind, and helpful individual. Despite his driver’s warning, he wants to purchase fruits from the boys in order to assist them. He recognises the boys’ honesty and sincerity despite their shabbily clad and nearly famished state. He also transports the boys to the hospital, where their sister is being treated. He does not convey to the boys that he is aware of their family crisis. He understands they would prefer to believe they have safely preserved their secret. But their love has left an indelible impression on him. He discovers that battle does not break their spirit. Their selfless effort instils a new nobility in human life and promises a brighter future for human society. The storey emphasises the narrator’s sympathies and helping nature.

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(OR)

I absolutely love the two boys, who are the true heroes of this story. They have been through a lot in their lives. But they never abandon their sense of responsibility or self-respect. The boys’ widower father was killed in the early stages of the war. They are made homeless. They have been malnourished. They join the resistance movement and fight against the Germans. Their spirit has not been broken by the war. Lucia, their sister, has TB of the spine. They must pay for her care on a weekly basis. As a result, they shine shoes, sell fruits, distribute newspapers, drive tourists around town, and run errands for money. They do not want the narrator to know about their dilemma. They are not looking for pity or charity. They embrace their life’s duties. They are determined to put in the effort. However, they appear content and maintain their self-esteem. Their unselfish actions lend a new value to human life and provide hope for human society.

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