Class 9 – English Literature Reader – Bishops Candlesticks

About The Play

“The Bishop’s Candlesticks” brings home the idea that no one is a born criminal. It shows how a good and humane treatment can bring out hidden goodness in a hardened criminal. The convict who enters the Bishop’s house demands food at the point of his knife. The Bishop remains calm and composed. He calls him son and readily offers him food and wine and then a bed to sleep. In his conversation, the convict tells him how he stole out of a dire need to save his ailing and starving wife. He was sent to jail where ill-treatment made him a beast. When the Bishop leaves him to rest for the night, he decamps with the Bishop’s silver candlesticks. He is, however, caught and brought back to the Bishop. The Bishop gets him released by telling a lie to the police. He says that the candlesticks were his gift to his friend. When the police leaves, he actually gifts the candlesticks to the convict and shows him the way to Paris where he can start a new life. The convict falls on his knees and promises to become a good man again.

Characters

(i) The Bishop
In the play, the Bishop is an embodiment of all noble qualities. He is selfless and charitable. He often helps the poor and the needy. He sells his salt-cellars to enable an old, poor lady to pay off her rent. He is loving and affectionate, kind and generous. The convict tries to intimate him and demands food. He readily provides him food and shelter. The convict steals his silver candlesticks. The Bishop saves him by saying that he himself gave the candlesticks to him. He wins the heart of the convict by actually gifting the candlesticks to him. Thus, he proves to be an ideal priest.
(ii) The Convict
The convict in the play was once a normal human being. He fell on bad days and stole. He was sent to jail. In the jail he was treated so badly that he became a beast. When he escaped from jail, he had become inhuman. He has no faith in man’s goodness. He has no respect for society, religion or state.
However, he is essentially human. He has innate goodness which circumstances have concealed. The Bishop’s love and kindness over whelns him. He regains his faith. The Bishop’s generosity reforms him totally and sets him on the right path. He is ready to lead a normal life of a good man.