The Golden Bowl is a 1904 novel by Henry James. Set in England, this complex, intense study of marriage and adultery completes what some critics have called the ”major phase” of James’ career. The Golden Bowl explores the tangle of interrelationships between a father and daughter and their respective spouses. The novel focuses deeply and almost exclusively on the consciousness of the central characters, with sometimes obsessive detail but also with powerful insight. The title is a quotation from Ecclesiastes 12:6, ”…or the golden bowl be broken, …then shall the dust return to the earth as it was”. Prince Amerigo, an impoverished but charismatic Italian nobleman, is in London for his marriage to Maggie Verver, only child of the widower Adam Verver, the fabulously wealthy American financier and art collector. While there, he re-encounters Charlotte Stant, another young American and a former mistress from his days in Rome; they met in Mrs. Assingham’s drawing room. Charlotte is not wealthy, which is one reason they did not marry. Maggie and Charlotte have been dear friends since childhood, although Maggie doesn’t know of Charlotte and Amerigo’s past relationship. Charlotte and Amerigo go shopping together for a wedding present for Maggie. They find a curiosity shop where the shopkeeper offers them an antique gilded crystal bowl. The Prince declines to purchase it, as he suspects it contains a hidden flaw.
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