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The Two Gentlemen of Verona

by William Shakespeare

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,668238,682 (3.31)102
"I feel that I have spent half my career with one or another Pelican Shakespeare in my back pocket. Convenience, however, is the least important aspect of the new Pelican Shakespeare series. Here is an elegant and clear text for either the study or the rehearsal room, notes where you need them and the distinguished scholarship of the general editors, Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller who understand that these are plays for performance as well as great texts for contemplation." (Patrick Stewart) The distinguished Pelican Shakespeare series, which has sold more than four million copies, is now completely revised and repackaged. Each volume features: * Authoritative, reliable texts * High quality introductions and notes * New, more readable trade trim size * An essay on the theatrical world of Shakespeare and essays on Shakespeare's life and the selection of texts… (more)

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4. The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Oxford Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare
editor: Roger Warren
published: 1591? (Introduction 2008)
format: 183-page Oxford World Classic paperback
acquired: September read: Dec 17, 2021, Jan 1 – Feb, 6, 2022 time reading: 12:41, 4.2 mpp
rating: 4?
genre/style: Classic Drama theme Shakespeare
locations: A Verona and Milan connected by sea travel??
about the author: April 23, 1564 – April 23, 1616

In her program note for The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Stratford-upon-Avon in I970, [[Hilary Spurling]] described the play's world as one of:

"“knights errant, distracted lovers, and as preposterous a band of brigands as ever strode a stage. This is an Italy of true romance, where Milan is reached from Verona by sea. Proteus abandons Julia, betrays Valentine, abducts Silvia, and when his career of complicated treachery is finally unmasked, apologizes as casually as though he had just sneezed. Whereupon our hero, Valentine, is so overcome that he promptly offers to hand over his beloved to the man who, not three minutes before, had meant to rape her."

Acts 1-4 were really entertaining, delightfully so. Funny, clever, disturbing, there's even a dog. It‘s terrific fun Shakespeare. A pre-Juliet-like Julia tears up a lover's a letter, and then when alone secretly tries to put them back together again. Silvia is wooed by three men, in open and discrete competition, involving musicians and great spiteful spurning on her part. Valentine has a servant cleverer than he, if less charismatic, and Proteus's servant has the dog and the two chat in a way mocking those they serve. But what to make of act 5? Up-till-then Valentine is likable. But he not only forgives Proteus for attempting to rape his lover Silvia, but then offers her to him. And this is presented as a happy ending. It really seems to spoil this play. (and maybe that‘s why parts were recycled into [Romeo and Juliet], [The Merchant of Venice], [Loves Labour Lost], and several other plays.)

Because of the ending, mainly only recommended to completists. But I wouldn't suggest at all hesitating to see a performance.

https://www.librarything.com/topic/337810#7753825 ( )
  dchaikin | Feb 8, 2022 |

Securely placed in the Shakespeare cannon being the second play included in the first folio of 1623 this comedy was probably written early in the playwrights career probably before the closure of the theatres in January 1593. The theatres were closed due to an outbreak of the plague in London and would not be re-opened until spring 1594: (any similarities between those years and the Covid-19 virus today when many of us have restrictions is purely coincidental). The Two Gentlemen of Verona is considered by many critiques and readers to be an inferior play because it is thought to be an immature work. Admittedly it has no great drama and does not grapple with "life meaning" issues as some of the later plays do, but it is one of the most consistently funny of the Bards plays and never fails to entertain, it also contains Shakespeares most celebrated song (thanks to Schubert amongst others). I read the Arden Shakespeare edition with its copious notes and modern English spelling, but it is not a difficult play to follow and might serve as a gentle introduction to Shakespeare's oeuvre.

Although the play contains some of the Elizabethan tropes expected of comedies: disguise, trickery and banter between masters and servants, its main feature is the ludicrous natures of some of the characters. One would probably never meet a bunch of outlaws so ridiculous or a central character (Proteus) who changes his attitudes on the turn of a pin (not once but twice) or male characters who are so easily deceived. The females are much more resolute, but the reason for much of this behaviour is of course love sickness or one could say lust.

The story: Proteus and Valentine are very close friends, but it is time for them to seek their place in the world. Proteus is in love with Julia and they exchange rings just before he leaves Verona to go to the big city of Milan. Valentine has made the same journey some time before. Proteus is joined by his servant Lance and his dog Crab. At the court of Milan he discovers that his friend Valentine has fallen in love with Sylvia and as soon as Proteus meets SyIvia he becomes love stricken as well. He stitches up his lifelong friend Valentine with the Duke; Silvia's father causing Valentine to be banished, so he has a chance to woo Sylvia. Meanwhile Julia missing Proteus disguises herself as a man (Sebastian) so that she can travel to Milan in safety to find her beloved. Proteus is making no headway with Sylvia and is not helped when the dog Crab whom he gives as a present to Sylvia pisses all over her petticoats. Valentine is captured by outlaws who are so impressed with his demeanour they make him their general. Proteus does not recognise Julia disguised as Sebastian and employs her to act as a go between with Sylvia. Sylvia now engages Sir Eglamour to go with her to find her true love Valentine. The Duke and Proteus are in pursuit and they all meet up in the woods with Valentine and the outlaws. Proteus attempts to take Sylvia by force, but is prevented by Valentine, Proteus immediately realises he has been acting foolishly and asks to be forgiven. Julia still in disguise faints and when she comes to throws off her disguise and once again claims Proteus. The outlaws are all pardoned by the Duke and a wedding day is arranged for the two couples.

My usual method of approaching a Shakespeare play especially one that is new to me, is to read the play through first, before reading any criticism, so that I can gain my own first impression. The introduction to the Arden edition written by William C Carroll concentrates on Shakespeares dramatic strategies and its links with previous sixteenth century drama and also recent critical and theoretical work on the early modern theatre. There is a discussion of male friendship which is undoubtedly a feature of the play. The question it poses is can a male friendship be more important than love between a woman and a man and there are plenty of examples from the text, especially the controversial ending to the play where some interpretations of Valentines reconciliation speech with Proteus see him offering to share Sylvia with him. This supposed offer comes a very short time after Proteus has attempted to rape Sylvia, however I think that the offer of sharing Sylvia is a misinterpretation of the text and it is surprising that Carrol's introduction makes so much of it. The links backwards to the plays of John Lily and further back to Ovid as sources for the ideas of friendship in previous drama are explored. Another theme explored at some length is that of the prodigal son. Both Proteus and Valentine are away from their home in Verona, but we never see them return to their families. There is also a section on women disguised as men (this could have been the first time that Shakespeare used this trope) and how it would look to an audience who would see men playing all the female roles and then see them playing females disguised as males. This sounds very complicated to an audience today who might have trouble getting their heads around the fact that there were no female actors in Shakespeare's companies.

Reading this scholarly introduction seemed like it was avoiding the elephant in the room. The play is a comedy, throughout the play there are comic interludes, nearly all the characters indulge in word play, there are malapropisms galore and plenty of good jokes and there is Lance and his dog Crab. In my opinion much could have been gained by writing more on the tradition of comedy rather than giving an impression that the play was essentially a serious examination of renaissance themes. The comedy is mainly verbal, there is no slapstick, we are only told about Crabs indiscretions in Julias house. Speed is the name given to Valentine's page and he is well named for his quick repartee whether it is outperforming Valentino or making fun of Lance. There is also plenty of wit and repartee between Julia and her waiting maid Lucetta and then there is Lance with his hilarious soliloquies with his dog Crab. Even at the plays most dramatic moments there is time for some comedy, for example when Julia is disguising herself as a man there is the question of the codpiece:

Lucetta says:

A round hose, madam, now's not worth a pin
Unless you have a codpiece to stick pins on.

Then Julia makes a speech about Proteus who at that moment is betraying her love in order to woo Sylvia:

Base men that use them to so base effect!
But truer stars did govern Proteus' birth;
His words are bonds, his oaths are oracles,
His love sincere, his thoughts immaculate,
His tears pure messengers sent from his heart,
His heart as far from fraud as heaven from earth.

I could imagine an Elizabethan audience laughing out loud through much of this play and waiting for the next joke to come along.

There are other scenes that could be played to garner laughs: for example when the Duke accosts Valentine who is about to elope with his daughter and is hiding a ladder under his cloak; the Duke asks him for his advice on how to gain access to a lady who lives in an upstairs apartment. I agree with William Rossky who maintains that the play is first and foremost a burlesque and should be judged on those terms. He goes on to say;

"If it is myopic to read Shakespeare only in terms of our own time and convenience, it is just as blind to read him as inevitably illustrating any single Renaissance convention. The result of unscrutinised assumptions about Elizabethan acceptance of a particular idea or convention has sometimes been to make Shakespeare appear inaccessible to our time and to dehumanise the drama"

Although the idea of a burlesque is never far away, the second half of the play has enough dialogue to enable the actors to move the audience as the lovers stories unfold. Julia and Sylvia have some particularly touching scenes. There are very few long speeches, but plenty of one liners. Proteus gets the longest speech in a scene all to himself when he convinces himself that his love for Sylvia is worth forsaking Julia and his friend Valentine. The speech contains some word play, but it is straight forward with no imagery. Why waste time on metaphors and similes when you are going all out to make people laugh, however be it in a more sophisticated non physical way. I enjoyed reading the versification which flows well and I enjoyed figuring out the puns. I am sure I did not get them all. Looking forward to seeing a production of the play - hope it makes me laugh.

The BBC film of the play shown in 1983 certainly did make me laugh and I thought the two main stage settings: The court in Milan and the Forest of Mantua were brilliantly set up. The first half of the play with all its wit and repartee had an innocence about it, especially as the actors were mainly young people. It was frothy, light and just right. The second part of the play which has all the drama of the lovers betrayals was darker, but still with some lighter touches, there was a lovely setting of the song "Who is Sylvia" Overall a very good film of the play and proof positive that it can be made to work and to entertain.

The play has been performed sporadically during the last century, but the Royal Shakespeare company has three productions to its credit, the last in 2014. Any production must come to terms with the comedy elements, how much of the play should be played to amuse the audience, to keep it laughing, without stopping the drama unfolding of the lovers betrayals and eventual conciliation. At the end of the day it is a fantasy, a lovers fantasy and a play that can make its audience laugh and cry - 4 stars. ( )
2 vote baswood | Nov 11, 2020 |
This is one of Shakespeare’s early comedies and you can tell. It hits a lot of the notes that he comes back to again and again—witty banter, impassioned proclamations of and insightful musings on love, women dressing as men, largely inexplicable plot developments, servants who are absolutely terrible at their jobs—but they never feel as coherent or deep as in his later plays. It felt like Shakespeare was still finding his feet, learning what worked and what played well, and that’s pretty much exactly the case. There are several scenes where the banter and puns just keep on g o i n g or stuff happens that I’m sure either a) played really well to a late-1500s audience or b) was Shakespeare desperately writing himself out of a corner. It also doesn’t help that he couldn’t keep his cities straight and that the period sexism is … pretty present.

That said, it delivered about what I wanted it to, which was romantic shenanigans with a side order of horrendous punnery, and a few hours’ worth of entertainment. It was pretty easy to follow too (see: early play), and despite the sexism, the women still had opinions and agency, Sylvia especially. She seems cool and I wish she’d been in a better story.

Mostly, I’m glad I read this because it gave me a glimpse at Shakespeare growing into himself. And the punning was pretty great.


To bear in mind: Renaissance ideas about love and women, I guess? ( )
  NinjaMuse | Jul 26, 2020 |
I really enjoyed this one. The servants’ monologues weren’t as enjoyable to me, but the scenes between the four main characters were a lot of fun.

(And no, it wasn't deep. And no, the characters weren't anyone to look up to or aspire to be like. But it was a fun read.) ( )
  ca.bookwyrm | May 18, 2020 |
This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission

Title: Two Gentlemen of Verona
Series: ----------
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Pages: 84
Words: 24K


Two young friends, Valentine and Proteus, go their separate ways as Valentine wants adventure and Proteus wants to woo a local girl, Julia. Valentine heads to Milan.

Proteus father sends him to Milan as well, as he's afraid of Proteus becoming a namby-pamby wuss. Proteus and Julia vow undying love for each other and Proteus gives Julia a ring as his troth.

Valentine and Proteus are united in Milan. Valentine, who excoriated Proteus for falling in love and allowing his love for Julia to keep him home, has fallen in love with Silvia, the Duke of Milan's daughter. The Duke has other plans for her though, ie, to marry her to Thurio, a rich man from another city state. Valentine tells Proteus that he and Silvia will steal away and secretly get married. Proteus has himself fallen in love with Silvia and betrays Valentine to the duke.

Valentine is banished and ends up becoming King of the Outlaws, a noble group of men who have been unjustly banished and rob the rich from Milan.

Proteus, under the cover of pretending to help Thurio, woos Silvia himself. She scorns him as a base man who betrayed not only his friend but his lover Julia and also his vows to her. Meanwhile Julia has secretly left Verona to find Proteus and becomes his squire, dressed as a page. She see's Proteus infidelity and vows to get him back.

Silvia runs away rather than marry Thurio and gets captured by the Noble Outlaws and taken to Valentine. Everyone else is chasing her and also get captured by the Outlaws. Valentine challenges Thurio to a duel for Silvia and Thurio declines, as he has no love for Siliva. The Duke is disgusted, gives his blessing to Valentine and Silvia's nuptials. Julia faints and Valentine discovers who she is. He and Proteus make up, as Proteus realizes his behavior has been abominable and repents. Valentine then reveals that his page is Julia. The Duke pardons everyone and they all head off for a double wedding in Milan.

My Thoughts:

Part way through this play I turned to Mrs B (as is our wont, we were sitting on our couch side by side reading) and said “I just don't like Shakespeare's plays. She nodded and agreed. The low-brow humor that Shakespeare uses just doesn't appeal to either of us.

That being said, I have no intention of stopping. These plays are foundational to Literature as we know it and yes, that is Literature with a Capital L. I don't plan on becoming a Shakespeare expert by any means, but I do want to have a passing familiarity with them.

One of the things that has bothered me about these plays is how characters can change at the drop of a hat. For example, in this play Proteus proclaims undying love for Julia and then wham, suddenly he's destroying his own and his friend's life for another woman. Then at the end of the play suddenly he reverts back to loving Julia. I'm beginning to realize that that is simply how a play operates. It isn't a book with all the time that a book has. It is a play and many of the things that we expect from a book simply aren't possible in a play. I don't like it but I am beginning to be able to accept it. For me, that is a big step forward.

★★★☆☆ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Feb 5, 2020 |
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» Add other authors (177 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
William Shakespeareprimary authorall editionscalculated
Brissaud, PierreIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brooke, C. F. TuckerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craft, KinukoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cross, Wilbur L.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Evans, BertrandEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Harrison, G. B.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Masten, JeffreyCriticismsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mowat, Barbara A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Warren, RogerEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Werstine, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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First words
Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus;
Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits;
Were't not affection chains thy tender days
To the sweet glances of thy honour'd love, I rather would entreat thy company
To see the wonders of the world abroad,
Than, living dully sluggardiz'd at home,
Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness.
Valentine. Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus:
Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.
Were it not affection chains your tender days
To the sweet glances of your honored love,
I rather would entreat your company
To see the wonders of the world abroad,
Than, living dully sluggardized at home,
Wear out your youth with shapeless idleness.
But since you love, love still, and thrive therein,
Even as I would, when I to love begin.
O, how this spring of love resembleth
The uncertain glory of an April day!
That man that hath a tongue, I say, is no man,
If with his tongue he cannot win a woman.
Come not within the measure of my wrath.
Last words
(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
Disambiguation notice
This work is for the complete The Two Gentlemen of Verona only. Do not combine this work with abridgements, adaptations or "simplifications" (such as "Shakespeare Made Easy"), Cliffs Notes or similar study guides, or anything else that does not contain the full text. Do not include any video recordings. Additionally, do not combine this with other plays.
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"I feel that I have spent half my career with one or another Pelican Shakespeare in my back pocket. Convenience, however, is the least important aspect of the new Pelican Shakespeare series. Here is an elegant and clear text for either the study or the rehearsal room, notes where you need them and the distinguished scholarship of the general editors, Stephen Orgel and A. R. Braunmuller who understand that these are plays for performance as well as great texts for contemplation." (Patrick Stewart) The distinguished Pelican Shakespeare series, which has sold more than four million copies, is now completely revised and repackaged. Each volume features: * Authoritative, reliable texts * High quality introductions and notes * New, more readable trade trim size * An essay on the theatrical world of Shakespeare and essays on Shakespeare's life and the selection of texts

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Book description
Haiku summary
Love trumps friendship but
true love tested wins out
over treachery
(Sasha Newborn)

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0140714618, 0141016620


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