Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 537
Part 2, Act 1 The second half of the play begins with a brief summary through narration of the events of part I and introduces a new plot line: a love interest for Nicholas. First, however, Kate briefly holds a position as a lady's companion and once again has to...
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Part 2, Act 1
The second half of the play begins with a brief summary through narration of the events of part I and introduces a new plot line: a love interest for Nicholas. First, however, Kate briefly holds a position as a lady's companion and once again has to fight off the unwelcome advances of Hawk, as she accompanies her mistress to the opera. When Kate takes her complaint to her uncle, he asks her to endure the advances a little longer, until they find ‘‘another entertainment,’’ in order not to spoil his relationship with them. She is horrified, but Noggs gives her the empathy she needs and sends for Nicholas. Nicholas heads for London the moment he gets the news, bringing Smike. Coincidentally, the pair arrives in a London coffeehouse only to overhear Hawk and Verisopht talking about Kate. A fight ensues, and Nicholas nearly kills Hawk with a horsewhip. The next day, Nicholas meets the charitable Mr. Charles and Mr. Ned Cheeryble, who enlist Nicholas to help a young, destitute girl, Madeline Bray, whose ailing father has squandered the family fortune. Nicholas has already met her when he goes to confront Nickleby for mistreating his sister, and he is in love. In the meantime, Smike has been caught by Squeers, while wandering around London. Squeers locks him up, but John Browdie, in town on his wedding trip, frees the hapless boy.
Part 2, Act 2
In a coffee room, Nicholas thanks Browdie for saving Smike and meets the Cheeryble's amiable nephew, Frank Cheeryble, who will fall in love with Kate. Nicholas then visits the Kenwigs, whose latest child has arrived. Nicholas breaks the"good'' news that Uncle Lillyvick has married an actress, which prompts resentment from Mr. Kenwigs for his ‘‘defrauded, swindled infants.’’ Nicholas tells Noggs of his love for Madeline Bray, and Noggs very soon discovers a way to help both Nicholas and Madeline, when he overhears Ralph Nickleby plotting with Arthur Gride, an avaricious old moneylender, to forgive Bray's debts if he gives up his daughter to marry Gride. Nickleby stands to profit in the transaction because Gride has promised to leave his inheritance to Ralph. Noggs urges Nicholas to marry Madeline quickly, to save her from this fate, and Nicholas manages to do so, in the typical boy-gets-girl subplot, with an eleventh-hour appearance at her wedding. Things are looking up for everyone, as Kate and Frank fall in love and the Kenwigs welcome Uncle Lillyvick back to the fold, his erstwhile wife having eloped once again, this time with an itinerant actor. Everyone's fortune seems secure now, although Smike dies, seemingly of his unrequited love for Kate, in a heart-wrenching reprise of his apothecary scene. The bad guys get their due, too, for Squeers is arrested, Hawk shoots his former friend Verisopht and runs off to France, and Ralph commits suicide after learning that Smike is the son he thought he had sent away to the country years ago. Everyone is celebrating Christmas in the usual Dickens fashion, but Edgar adds a somber note to the story in the form of a new Smike, who shivers outside of their warm circle. As the curtain falls, Nicholas picks up and holds the boy in his arms.