How does Mr. Solicitor-General try to discredit John Barsad's testimony?

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Lori Steinbach | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Chapter 3 of Book I in A Tale of Two Cities  recounts the trial of Charles Darnay for treason.  The Attorney-General sets out the case against Darnay, painting him as a traitor against England.  He outlines act after act which, if true, would certainly condemn Darnay to his death.  The first witness he calls to the stand is John Barsad. Barsad is led through his paces by the prosecuting attorney, and Barsad conveniently repeats nearly every word and accusation which has already been spoken. 

When the Solicitor-General cross-examines Barsad, though, some interesting things about his character come to light.  Through a series of seemingly innocuous questions, we discover he has spent time in debtor's prison, he has cheated at dice and been kicked down the stairs for it, and he owes money to a fellow prisoner.  Each question ledto the next, until each of these confessions were made.  The result, of course, was to discredit Barsad as a witness.