Study Guide

The Mayor of Casterbridge Chapter 11

By Thomas Hardy

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Chapter 11

  • The Casterbridge Ring, as people call the old Roman coliseum, is at the edge of town just off the main road.
  • It's a good place for secret meetings, since it's close to town but the tall walls of the amphitheater block the view from the road.
  • Secret lovers don't usually meet there, though, because of its sad history: it used to be the place of public execution.
  • Henchard and Susan meet there after dark.
  • The first thing he tells her is that he doesn't drink, and hasn't since that night.
  • It's his way of apologizing to her.
  • He says he looked everywhere for her and asks why she never tried to contact him.
  • She says she thought she owed Newson the faithfulness of a wife after he'd paid for her and everything. She thought it was a binding arrangement.
  • She says she only came to find Henchard since Newson had died. She considers herself Newson's widow.
  • Henchard doesn't know what to do about Elizabeth-Jane, though – neither he nor Susan wants to tell the girl everything; they're afraid she would hate them.
  • Henchard is also afraid of losing his position in town if he goes public with the story.
  • So he comes up with the idea of giving Susan enough money to rent a cottage in town and call herself the widow Mrs. Newson.
  • Henchard will pretend to fall in love and propose to her, and then they'll be able to get married again and live together as a family.
  • Elizabeth-Jane will think of Henchard as a stepfather, but that's the price you pay.
  • Susan agrees to the plan and they both walk home.

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