To get information in Spanish place the arrow of your mouse on the highlighted words without clicking.
Para obtener información en español acerca la flecha de tu ratón a las palabras o frases resaltadas.


Oscar Wilde - Retold by Kieran McGovern

A rich young man
living in London
in the 1890s,
Dorian Gray
had many friends
who liked him for his good
looks and intelligent mind.


One of Dorian's friends, Basil Hallward, was a famous artist. He painted a beautiful portrait of Dorian. Later Dorian made a wish that he could stay as beautiful as his portrait and never grow old. His wish was answered. But from then on, no-one ever saw the portrait. Then, one day, Basil Hallward came to Dorian's house and asked to see the picture he had painted so many years before.

A cry of fear came from the painter's lips when he saw the face in the portrait. It was Dorian Gray's face he was looking at, and it still had some of that wonderful beauty. But now there were terrible signs of age and corruption. But who had done it? He held the lamp up to the picture. In the left hand corner was his name, painted in red.

What had happened? He had never done that. Still, it was his own picture. He knew it, and it made his blood turn to ice. His own picture! What did it mean? Why had it changed? He turned, and looked at Dorian Gray with the eyes of a sick man.

The young man was standing near the wall, watching him. He had taken the flower out of his coat, and was smelling it.

"What does this mean?" cried Hallward, at last. His own voice sounded high and strange.
"Years ago, when I was a boy," said Dorian Gray, closing his hand on the flower, "you met me and flattered me. You taught me to love my beauty. One day you introduced me to a friend of yours. He explained to me how wonderful it was to be young. You finished a portrait of me that showed me how wonderful it was to be beautiful. In a mad moment I made a wish."
"I remember it! Oh, how well I remember it! No! The thing is impossible. There is something wrong with the paint. I tell you the thing is impossible."
"Is anything really impossible?" said the young man, going over to the window.
"You told me you had destroyed it."
"I was wrong. It has destroyed me."
"I don't believe it is my picture. There was nothing bad in it, nothing shameful. You were perfect to me. This is a face from hell."
"It is the face of my soul. Each of us has Heaven and Hell in him, Basil," cried Dorian wildly.

Hallward turned again to the portrait, and stared at it. "My God! Is this true?" he cried. "Is this what you have done with your life? You must be even worse than people say!"

Hallward threw himself into the chair by the table and put his face in his hands. The lamp fell to the floor and went out.

"Good God, Dorian! What an awful lesson! What an awful lesson!" There was no answer, but he could hear the young man crying at the window. "We must ask God for forgiveness. I worshipped you too much. I am punished for it. You worshipped yourself too much. We are both punished."
Dorian Gray turned slowly around and looked at him. There were tears in his eyes. "It is too late, Basil," he said.
"But don't you see that hellish thing staring at us?"

Dorian Gray looked at the picture. Suddenly he felt that he hated Basil Hallward. He hated the man sitting at the table more than he hated anything in his life.

He looked wildly around. Something shone on top of the painted cupboard that faced him. It was a knife he had left there some days before. He moved slowly towards it, passing Hallward as he did so. He took the knife in his hand and turned around. Hallward moved in his chair. He rushed at him, and stuck the knife into his neck again and again...

Dorian continued to live as though nothing had happened. But, underneath, he was tormented by what he had done.

Was it really true that one could never change? There had been a time when he had been good and innocent. He had corrupted himself, and become a terrible influence on others. He had even got pleasure from this corruption. Yet his soul had once been the purest of all. Was all that gone? Was there no hope for him?

In one terrible moment of passion, he had asked to stay young for all time. All his failure had been because of that. He had not been punished, but perhaps punishment was what he had needed. Punishment cleaned the soul.

The mirror that Lord Henry had given to him, so many years ago now, was standing on the table. He picked it up, remembering that horrible night when he had first noticed the change in the picture. Once, someone who had loved him passionately had written him a mad letter. It had ended with these words: "The world is changed because you are made of gold." He repeated them to himself and suddenly realized that he hated his own beauty. Throwing the mirror on the floor, he broke the glass into little pieces with his foot. It was his beauty that had spoiled him.

It was better not to think of the past. Nothing could change that. He had to think of his future. Alan Campbell had shot himself one night, and his terrible secret had died with him. The interest in Basil Hallward's disappearance would soon pass away. He was perfectly safe there.

What worried him was the death of his own soul. Basil had painted the portrait that had done everything. The murder had just been the madness of the moment. As for Alan Campbell, he had killed himself. It was nothing to do with Dorian Gray.

A new life! That was what he wanted. That was what he was waiting for. Perhaps it had begun already. He would never again spoil innocence. He would be good.

He began to wonder if the portrait in the locked room had changed. Was it still as horrible as it had been? Perhaps if his life became pure, the face in the portrait would become beautiful again. He would go and look.

He took the lamp from the table and went upstairs. As he opened the door, a smile of happiness passed across his young face. Yes, he would be good, and the ugly thing he had locked away would not frighten him any more. He felt happier already.

He went in quietly, locking the door behind him. Walking straight over to the portrait, he took off the purple curtain that was covering it. An angry cry of pain came from him. He could see no change. The thing was still hateful - more hateful, even, than before. The red mark on the hand seemed brighter and more like new blood. And why was the red mark larger than it had been? It was all over the fingers now. There was blood on the painted feet, and blood on the hand that had not held the knife.

What did it all mean? That he should go to the police? That he should tell the whole story and be put to death? He laughed. He felt the idea was absurd. If he did tell them now, who would believe him? There was nothing left of the murdered man anywhere. He had destroyed everything belonging to Basil Hallward. He himself had burned the bag and the coat. They would simply say he was mad.

Was this murder to follow him all his life? Was he always going to suffer because of his past? Yet what could he do? Go to the police? Never.

There was only one thing they could use against him and that was the picture itself. He would destroy it. Why had he kept it so long? Once it had given him pleasure to watch it changing and growing old. Recently he had felt no such pleasure. It had kept him awake at night. When he had been away, he had been frightened that another person would see it. Just the memory of it spoiled many moments of happiness. He would destroy it.

He looked around and saw the knife that had killed Basil Hallward. He had cleaned it many times until there was no mark left on it. It was bright, and it shone. It had killed the painter. Now it would kill the painter's work, and all that it meant. It would kill the past. When that was dead he would be free. He picked up the knife and pushed it into the picture.

There was a cry, and a crash. The cry was so horrible that frightened servants woke and came out of their rooms. Two gentlemen, who were passing in the Square below, stopped, and looked up at the great house. They hurried on until they met a policeman, and brought him back. The policeman rang the bell several times, but there was no answer. Except for a light in one of the top windows, the house was all dark. After a time, he went away and stood in the garden of the next house and watched.

"Whose house is that?" asked the older of the two gentlemen.
"Mr Dorian Gray's, sir," answered the policeman.
They looked at each other as they walked away, and laughed cruelly. They knew who Dorian Gray was.

Inside the house the servants were talking in low whispers to each other. Old Mrs Leaf was crying. Francis was as white as death.

After about a quarter of an hour, they went fearfully upstairs. They knocked, but there was no reply. They called out. Everything was still. They tried the door. It was locked. Finally, they got on the roof and came into the room through the window.

When they entered the room they found a portrait hanging on the wall. It showed Mr Dorian Gray as they had last seen him, young and beautiful. Lying on the floor was a dead man in evening dress. He had a knife in his heart. He was old and horribly ugly. It was not until they saw his rings that they recognized who the man was.

Source: New English Digest - Retold by Kieran McGovern
Mr. Kieran McGovern is a freelance author and teacher, specialising in reading materials for students of English. We recommend to visit his interesting website THE EFL READING LIBRARY where you can find free graded materials for both students and teachers.     


(no answers are provided for this activity)

1. How can people today stay looking young?
2. Do you think that in the future scientists will invent a way of helping
    people stay young? How?
3. What are the disadvantages of staying young through artificial means?

4. Why was Dorian Gray so young and handsome?
5. Who is Basil Hallward, and what does Dorian Gray think about him?
6. What does Basil Hallward think about Dorian Gray?
7. Why does Dorian Gray want to destroy the portrait?
8. How does Dorian Gray destroy the portrait?
9. Who hears the horrible cry that comes from the top of the house?
10. How did the servants get into Dorian Gray's room?
11. What did the servants see inside the room?
12. Was the ending of the story satisfactory?
13. Did Dorian Gray deserve to die?



never grow old: never become old (no envejecer jamás)
from then on
: from that moment to the future (de allí en más)
still: (in this context) however (sin embargo)
it made his blood turn to ice: it paralyzed him (le hizo congelar la sangre)
flattered me: praised me (me adulaste)
mad: crazy (alocado, de locura)
destroyed: ruined, broken (destruido)
: scandalous (escandaloso)
from hell: from inferno (infernal, del infierno)
soul: the immaterial part of a person (alma)
stared at it: looked at it with fixed eyes (la observó fijamente)
went out
: extinguished (se apagó)
: terrible (terrible, desagradable)
forgiveness: pardon, the act of excusing a mistake or offense (perdón)
I worshipped you
: I adored you (te adoré, te veneré)

punished: penalized (castigado)
hellish: very unpleasant
he picked it up
: he took it (lo levantó)
hated: detested, disliked intensely (odiaba)
would soon pass away
: will soon disappear (pronto desaparecería)
it was nothing to do
: it was irrelevant (no tenía nada que ver)
locked room
: a room secured against opening (habitación bajo llave)
he had locked away
: he had kept far from watching (que había ocultado bajo llave
went in: entered (entró, ingresó
locking the door: closing the door with a key (cerrando con llave la puerta
so long: for such a long time (tanto tiempo
shone: was bright (brillaba, resplandecía
low whispers
: speaking softly, in a low voice (en susurros)
as white as death: absolutely pale white (pálida como la muerte)