DION BOUCICAULT QUESTIONS FOR E335 VICTORIAN LITERATURE
Assigned: Dion Boucicault. London Assurance. (Stierstorfer 77-143).
London Assurance, Act 1
1. Describe Sir Harcourt Courtly's current circumstances, social outlook, and personal characteristics. What principles and desires seem to animate him? Why does he seem to have such an investment in believing that his son is an almost saintly young man?
2. What is Harcourt's son, Charles Courtly, really like? In what sense is he like his father, and in what ways, if any, does he differ from old Sir Harcourt?
3. What is Dazzle's status in the first act? Under what circumstances has he met Charles, and how does he exploit his opportunities once he is in the social circle of Charles, Max Harkaway and Sir Harcourt?
4. In this comedy, Max Harkaway represents a contrast with the views and mores of Sir Harcourt Courtly. What contrast, then, does he offer?
London Assurance, Act 2
5. What is Grace Harkaway's outlook on marriage, men, and life more generally? To what extent do her pronouncements about these things seem either sincere or affected, deeply rooted or perfunctory? Or need we make such a distinction?
6. How does the plot develop in this act along the lines of assumed identity and deception? What complications arise with regard to Charles Courtly and his father Sir Harcourt?
7. What is Meddle up to in this act and elsewhere? What is his role in the play, and why all the mockery of lawyers? Is there any organic connection between this treatment of Meddle and other thematic concerns?
London Assurance, Act 3
8. Lady Gay Spanker (Max's daughter) and her husband Adolphus ("Dolly") enter. What model of marriage do they represent in this act (and in the fourth act, if you are presenting on this question)? What role does Dazzle induce Lady Gay to play with regard to Charles and Grace's developing courtship? Why does she agree?
9. What seems to draw Charles (i.e. "Augustus Hamilton") and Grace to each other -- what affinities do they have? In what manner does their courtship progress? In what style does he court her?
10. As for Sir Harcourt, what is it about Lady Gay Spanker that he finds so attractive, and in what manner does he pursue her?
London Assurance, Act 4
11. What device does Charles employ to find out whether Grace is really in love with him? How do things play out between Charles and Grace once he puts this stratagem into effect? How much power does the play grant her in the courtship game?
12. Sir Harcourt throws himself at the feet of Lady Gay Spanker. Why does he suppose himself such a brilliant success in his attempt to win over this young woman? How does Lady Gay handle his suit? As with Grace, how much power does the play grant her in the courtship game?
London Assurance, Act 5
13. In this final act, what comic resolutions are effected, and by what means? On the whole, what values and priorities are affirmed thereby?
14. What is to be made of Dazzle? In what sense is he a "loose end" in this play, and what significance might be derived from this confusion over Dazzle's place or status?
Edition: Stierstorfer, Klaus, ed. London Assurance and other Victorian Comedies. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2001. ISBN-13: 978-0192832962. Pp. 3-73.