The work is considered by some to be Shakespeare's 1st play, and is often seen as his early tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and tropes with which he would later deal in more detail; for example, it is the first of his plays in which a heroine dresses as a boy. The play also deals with the themes of friendship and infidelity, the conflict between friendship and love, and the foolish behaviour of people in love. The highlight of the play is considered by some to be Launce, the clownish servant of Proteus, and his dog Crab, to whom "the most scene-stealing non-speaking role in the canon" has been attributed.
Two Gentlemen has the smallest cast of any play by Shakespeare and has traditionally been seen as one of his weakest plays.
Valentine is preparing to leave Verona to visit Milan so as to broaden his horizons. He begs his best friend, Proteus, to come with him, but Proteus is in love with a girl named Julia, and refuses to leave. Valentine bids Proteus farewell and goes on alone. Meanwhile, Julia is discussing Proteus with her maid, Lucetta. Lucetta tells Julia she thinks Proteus is fond of her, but Julia acts coyly, embarrassed to admit she likes him. Lucetta then produces a letter. She will not say who gave it to her, but teases Julia that it was Valentine's servant, Speed, who brought it from Proteus. Julia, still unwilling to reveal her love in front of Lucetta, angrily tears up the letter, and then, having sent Lucetta away, kisses the fragments, and tries to piece them together.
Meanwhile, Proteus' father, Antonio, has decided that like Valentine, Proteus should also travel, and has thus decided to send him to Milan to join Valentine. Antonio informs the dismayed Proteus that he must leave the next day, prompting a tearful farewell with Julia, to whom Proteus swears eternal love. The two exchange rings and vows and Proteus promises to return as soon as he can.
As soon as he arrives in Milan, Proteus finds Valentine in love with Silvia, the daughter of the Duke. Despite his love for Julia, Proteus falls instantly in love with Silvia and vows to do everything he can to win her, even to the point of betraying Valentine. Unaware of Proteus' feelings, Valentine takes him into his confidence, explaining to him that the Duke wants Silvia to marry the foppish but wealthy Thurio, against her wishes. To ensure that Silvia and Valentine cannot be together, the Duke has locked her in a tower. Valentine however, plans to go free her, and together they plan to flee Milan. Proteus immediately goes to the Duke, telling him that his daughter and Valentine plan to elope. The Duke catches and banishes Valentine. While wandering outside Milan, Valentine runs afoul of a band of outlaws. They tell him that they, too, were once gentlemen and were banished from the city. Valentine lies to them, saying he was banished because he killed a man in a fair fight, and the outlaws elect him their leader.
Meanwhile, in Verona, Julia decides to join her lover in Milan. She convinces Lucetta to dress her in boy's clothes and help her fix her hair so she will not be harmed on the journey. Once in Milan, Julia quickly discovers Proteus' love for Silvia, watching him attempt to serenade her. She contrives to become his page - a youth named Sebastian - until she can decide upon a course of action. Proteus sends Sebastian to Silvia with a gift of the same ring that Julia gave to him before he left Verona, but Julia discovers that Silvia scorns Proteus' affections and is disgusted that he would forget about his love back home, i.e. Julia herself. Silvia deeply mourns the loss of Valentine, whom Proteus has told her is rumoured dead.
Not persuaded of Valentine's death, Silvia determines to flee the city with the help of Eglamour, a former suitor to Julia. They escape into the forest where they are confronted by the outlaws. Eglamour flees while Silvia is taken captive. The outlaws head to their leader (Valentine), but on the way, they encounter Proteus and Julia (still disguised as Sebastian). Proteus rescues Silvia, and then pursues her deeper into the forest. Secretly observed by Valentine, Proteus attempts to persuade Silvia that he loves her, but she rejects his advances. Furious and mad with desire, Proteus insinuates that he will rape her ("I'll force thee yield to my desire").
At this point, Valentine intervenes and denounces Proteus. Horrified at what has developed, Proteus avows that the hate Valentine feels for him is nothing compared to the hate he feels for himself. Convinced that Proteus' repentance is genuine, Valentine forgives him and seems to offer Silvia to him. At this point, overwhelmed, Julia faints, revealing her true identity. Upon seeing her, Proteus suddenly remembers his love for her and vows fidelity to her once again. The Duke and Thurio arrive, and Thurio reminds Valentine that Silvia is his. Valentine warns Thurio that if he makes one move toward her, he will kill him. Terrified, Thurio denounces Silvia. The Duke, impressed by Valentine's actions, approves his and Silvia's love, and consents to their marriage. The two couples are happily united, and the Duke pardons the outlaws, telling them they may return to Milan.
In writing The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare drew on the Spanish prose romance Diana Enamorada by the Portuguese writer Jorge de Montemayor. In the 2nd book of Diana, Don Felix, who is in love with Felismena, sends her a letter explaining his feelings. Like Julia, Felismena pretends to reject the letter, and to be annoyed with her maid for delivering it. Like Proteus, Felix is sent away by his father, and is followed by Felismena, who, disguised as a boy, becomes his page, only to subsequently learn that Felix has fallen in love with Celia. Felismena is then employed by Felix to act as his messenger in all communications with Celia, who scorns his love. Instead, Celia falls in love with the page (i.e. Felismena in disguise). Eventually, after a combat in a wood, Felix and Felismena are reunited. Upon Felismena revealing herself however, Celia, having no counterpart to Valentine, dies of grief.
Diana was published in Spanish in 1542, translated into French in 1578, and published in English in 1598, although the translation by Nicholas Collin was made some years earlier, probably in 1582. It is believed that Shakespeare could have read the story in French, or in an unpublished English version, or he could have learned of it from an anonymous English play, The History of Felix and Philiomena, which may have been based on Diana, and which was performed for the court at Greenwich Palace by the Queen's Men on 3 January 1585. The History of Felix and Philiomena is now lost.
Another major influence on Shakespeare was the story of the intimate friendship of Titus and Gisippus as told in Thomas Elyot's The Boke named the Governour in 1531 (the same story is told in The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, but verbal similarities between The Two Gentlemen and The Governor suggest it was Elyot's work Shakespeare used as his primary source, not Boccaccio's). In this story, Titus and Gisippus are inseparable until Gisippus falls in love. He introduces the woman to Titus, but Titus is overcome with jealousy, and vows to seduce her. Upon hearing of Titus' plan, Gisippus arranges for them to change places on the wedding night, thus placing their friendship above his love for the woman.
Also important to Shakespeare in the composition of the play was John Lyly's Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit, published in 1578. Like The Governor, Euphues presents two close friends who are inseparable until a woman comes between them, and, like both The Governor and Two Gentlemen, the story concludes with one friend sacrificing the woman so as to save the friendship. However, as Geoffrey Bullough argues "Shakespeare's debt to Lyly was probably one of technique more than matter." Lyly's Midas may also have influenced the scene where Launce and Speed run through the milkmaid's virtues and defects, as it contains a very similar scene between Lucio and Petulus.
Other minor sources include Arthur Brooke's narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. Obviously Shakespeare's source for Romeo and Juliet, it features a character called Friar Laurence, as does Two Gentlemen, and a scene where a young man attempts to outwit his lover's father by means of a corded ladder (as Valentine does in Two Gentlemen). Philip Sidney's The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia may also have influenced Shakespeare insofar as it contains a character who follows her betrothed, dressed as his page, and later on, one of the main characters becomes captain of a group of Helots.
Date and textEdit
The exact date of the creation of The Two Gentlemen of Verona is unknown, but it is generally believed to have been one of Shakespeare's earliest works. The first evidence of its existence is in a list of Shakespeare's plays in Francis Meres's Palladis Tamia, published in 1598, but it is thought to have been written in the early 1590s. Norman Sanders (1968), for example, suggests 1590-1594; Clifford Leech (1969) argues for 1591; The Riverside Shakespeare (1974 and 1996) places the date at 1590-1593; The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (1986 and 2005) suggests 1589-1591; Kurt Schlueter (1990) posits 1593; The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Shakespeare (1997 and 2008) suggests 1591; Mary Beth Rose (2000) suggests 1590; William C. Carroll (2004) posits 1590-1593; Roger Warren (2008) tentatively suggests 1587, but acknowledges 1590/1591 as more likely.
It has been argued that Two Gentlemen may have been Shakespeare's first work for the stage. This theory was first suggested by Edmond Malone in 1778, at which time the dominant theory was that the Henry VI trilogy had been Shakespeare's first work. More recently, the play was placed first in both The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works of 1986, and again in the 2nd edition of 2005, and in The Norton Shakespeare of 1997, and again in the 2nd edition of 2008.
A large part of the theory that this may be Shakespeare's first play is the quality of the work itself. Writing in 1968, Norman Sanders argued "All are agreed on the play's immaturity". The argument is that the play betrays a lack of practical theatrical experience on Shakespeare's part, and as such, it must have come extremely early in his career. Stanley Wells, for example, has written that any scenes involving more than, at most, four characters, "betray an uncertainty of technique suggestive of inexperience." This uncertainty can be seen in how Shakespeare handles the distribution of dialogue in such scenes. Whenever there are more than three characters on stage, at least one of those characters tends to fall silent. For example, Speed is silent for almost all of Act 2, Scene 4, as is Thurio, Silvia and Julia for most of the last half of the final scene. It has also been suggested that the handling of this final scene in general, in which the faithful lover seemingly offers his beloved to the man who has just attempted to rape her as a token of his forgiveness, is a sign of Shakespeare's lack of maturity as a dramatist.
In his 2008 edition of the play for the Oxford Shakespeare, Roger Warren argues that the play is the oldest surviving piece of Shakespearean literature, suggesting a date of composition as somewhere between 1587 and 1591. He hypothesises that the play was perhaps written before Shakespeare came to London, with an idea towards using the famous comic actor Richard Tarlton in the role of Launce (this theory stems from the fact that Tarlton had performed several extremely popular and well known scenes with dogs). However, Tarlton died in September 1588, and Warren notes several passages in Two Gentlemen which seem to borrow from John Lyly's Midas, which wasn't written until at least late-1589. As such, Warren acknowledges that 1590/1591 is most likely the correct date of composition.
The play was not printed until 1623, when it appeared in the First Folio of Shakespeare's plays.
Criticism and analysisEdit
Critical history Edit
Perhaps the most critically discussed issue in the play is the sequence, bizarre by modern Western European standards, in Act 5, Scene 4 in which Valentine seems to 'give' Silvia to Proteus as a sign of his friendship. For many years, the general critical consensus on this issue was that the incident revealed an inherent misogyny in the text. For example, Hilary Spurling wrote in 1970, "Valentine is so overcome [by Proteus' apology] that he promptly offers to hand over his beloved to the man who, not three minutes before, had meant to rape her". Modern scholarship however is much more divided about Valentine's actions at the end of the play, with some critics arguing that he does not give Silvia to Proteus at all. The ambiguity lies in the line "All that was mine in Silvia I give to thee" (5.4.83). Many critics (such as Stanley Wells for example) interpret this to mean that Valentine is indeed handing Silvia over to her would-be rapist, but another school of thought suggests that Valentine simply means "I will love you [Proteus] with as much love as I love Silvia," thus reconciling the dichotomy of friendship and love as depicted elsewhere in the play. This is certainly how Jeffrey Masten, for example, sees it, arguing that the play as a whole "reveals not the opposition of male friendship and Petrarchan love but rather their interdependence." As such, the final scene "stages the play's ultimate collaboration of male friendship and its incorporation of the plot we would label "heterosexual"."
This is also how Roger Warren interprets the final scene. Warren cites a number of productions of the play as evidence for this argument, including Robin Phillips' Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) production at the Aldwych Theatre in 1970, where Valentine kisses Silvia, makes his offer and then kisses Proteus. Another production cited by Warren is Edward Hall's in 1998, at the Swan Theatre. In Hall's version of the scene, after Valentine says the controversial line, Silvia approaches him and takes him by the hand. They remain holding hands for the rest of the play, clearly suggesting that Valentine has not 'given' her away. Warren also mentions Leon Rubin's 1984 Ontario production (where the controversial line was altered to "All my love to Silvia I also give to thee"), David Thacker's 1991 Swan Theatre production, and the 1983 BBC Shakespeare television adaptation as supporting the theory that Valentine is not giving Silvia away, but is simply promising to love Proteus as much as he loves Silvia.
There are other theories regarding this final scene however. For example, in his 1990 edition of the play for the New Cambridge Shakespeare, Kurt Schlueter suggests that Valentine is indeed handing Silvia over to Proteus, but the audience is not supposed to take it literally; the incident is farcical, and should be interpreted as such. Schlueter argues that the play provides possible evidence it was written to be performed and viewed primarily by a young audience, and as such, to be staged at university theatres, as opposed to public playhouses. Such an audience would be more predisposed to accepting the farcical nature of the scene, and more likely to find humorous the absurdity of Valentine's gift. As such, in Schlueter's theory, the scene does represent what it appears to represent, Valentine does give Silvia to her would-be rapist, but it is done purely for comic effect.
Another theory is provided by William C. Carroll in his 2004 edition for the Arden Shakespeare, 3rd Series. Carroll argues, like Schlueter, that Valentine is indeed giving Silvia to Proteus, but unlike Schlueter, Carroll detects no sense of farce. Instead, he sees the action as a perfectly logical one in terms of the notions of friendship which were prevalent at the time; "the idealisation of male friendship as superior to male-female love (which was considered not romantic or compassionate but merely lustful, hence inferior) performs a project of cultural nostalgia, a stepping back from potentially more threatening social arrangements to a world of order, a world based on a 'gift' economy of personal relations among male social equals rather than one based on a newer, less stable economy of emotional and economic risk. The offer of the woman from one male friend to another would therefore be the highest expression of friendship from one point of view, a low point of psycho-sexual regression from another." As in Schlueter, Carroll here interprets Valentine's actions as a gift to Proteus, but unlike Schlueter, and more in line with traditional criticism of the play, Carroll also argues that such a gift, as ridiculous as it is, is perfectly understandable when one considers the cultural and social milieu of the play itself.
Language is of primary importance in the play insofar as Valentine and Proteus speak in blank verse, but Launce and Speed speak (for the most part) in prose. More specifically, the actual content of many of the speeches serve to illustrate the pompousness of Valentine and Proteus' exalted outlook, and the more realistic and practical outlook of the servants. This is most apparent in Act 3, Scene 1. Valentine has just given a lengthy speech lamenting his banishment and musing on how he can possibly survive without Silvia; "Except I be by Silvia in the night/There is no music in the nightingale./Unless I look on Silvia in the day/There is no day for me to look upon" (ll.178-181). However, when Launce enters only a few lines later, he announces that he too is in love, and proceeds to outline, along with Speed, all of his betrothed's positives; "She brews good ale"; "She can knit"; "She can wash and scour", and negatives; "She hath a sweet mouth"; "She doth talk in her sleep"; "She is slow in words". After weighing his options, Launce decides that the woman's most important quality is that "she hath more hair than wit, and more faults than hairs, and more wealth than faults" (ll.343-344). He announces that her wealth "makes the faults gracious" (l.356), and chooses for that reason to wed her. This purely materialistic reasoning, as revealed in the form of language, is in stark contrast to the more spiritual and idealised love espoused by Valentine earlier in the scene.
One of the dominant theories as regards the value or importance of Two Gentlemen is that thematically, it represents a 'trial run' of sorts, in which Shakespeare deals briefly with themes which he would examine in more detail in later works. E.K. Chambers, for example, argued that the play represents something of a gestation of Shakespeare's great thematic concerns. In 1905, he wrote that Two Gentlemen "was Shakespeare's first essay at originality, at fashioning for himself the outlines of that romantic or tragicomic formula in which so many of his most characteristic dramas were afterwards to be cast. Something which is neither quite tragedy nor quite comedy, something which touches the heights and depths of sentiment and reveals the dark places of the human heart without lingering long enough there to crystallise the painful impression, a love story broken for a moment into passionate chords by absence and inconstancy and intrigue, and then reunited to the music of wedding bells". As such, the play's primary interest for critics has tended to lie in relation to what it reveals about Shakespeare's conception of certain themes before he became an accomplished playwright. A.C. Swinburne, for example, wrote "here is the first dawn of that higher and more tender humour that was never given in such perfection to any man as ultimately to Shakespeare." Similarly, Warwick R. Bond writes "Shakespeare first opens the vein he worked so richly afterwards - the vein of crossed love, of flight and exile under the escort of the generous sentiments; of disguised heroines, and sufferings endured and virtues exhibited under their disguise; and of the Providence, kinder than life, that annuls the errors and forgives the sin."
Other critics have been less kind however, arguing that if the later plays show a skilled and confident writer exploring issues of the human heart, Two Gentlemen represents the initial, primarily unsuccessful attempt to do likewise. H.B. Charlton, for example, writing in 1938, argues that "clearly, Shakespeare's first attempt to make romantic comedy had only succeeded so far as it had unexpectedly and inadvertenly made romance comic." Another such argument is provided by Norman Sanders; "because the play reveals a relatively unsure dramatist and many effects managed with a tiro's lack of expertise, it offers us an opportunity to see more clearly than anywhere else in the canon what were to become characteristic techniques. It stands as an 'anatomie' or show-through version, as it were, of Shakespeare's comic art." Not all critics agree with this however, arguing that the play does stand on its own, that it deals successfully with its themes, and that it possesses its own unique merits, irrespective of what it tells us about Shakespeare's artistic development.
Love and friendshipEdit
Norman Sanders calls the play "almost a complete anthology of the practices of the doctrine of romantic love which inspired the poetic and prose Romances of the period". At the very centre of this is the contest between love and friendship; "an essential part of the comicality of The Two Gentlemen of Verona is created by the necessary conflict between highly stylised concepts of love and friendship" This is manifested in the question of whether the relationship between two male friends is more important than that between lovers, encapsulated by Proteus' rhetorical question at 5.4.54; "In love/Who respects friend?". This question "exposes the raw nerve at the heart of the central relationships, the dark reality lurking beneath the wit and lyricism with which the play has in general presented lovers' behaviour". In the program notes for John Barton's 1981 RSC production at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Anne Barton, his wife, wrote that the central theme of the play was "how to bring love and friendship into a constructive and mutually enhancing relationship." This is a common theme in Renaissance literature, since some aspects of the culture of the time celebrated friendship as the more important relationship (because it is pure and unconcerned with sexual attraction), and contended that they could not co-exist. As actor Alex Avery argues, "The love between two men is a greater love for some reason. There seems to be a sense that the function of a male/female relationship is purely for the family and to procreate, to have a family. But a love between two men is something that you choose. You have arranged marriages, [but] a friendship between two men is created by the desires and wills of those two men, whereas a relationship between a man and a girl is actually constructed completely peripheral to whatever the feelings of the said boy and girl are."
William C. Carroll sees this societal belief as vital in interpreting the final scene of the play, arguing that Valentine does give Silvia to Proteus, and in so doing, he is merely acting in accordance with the practices of the day. However, if one accepts that Valentine does not give Silvia to Proteus, as critics such as Roger Warren argue, but instead offers to love Proteus as much as he loves Silvia, then the conclusion of the play can be read as a final triumphant reconciliation between friendship and love; Valentine intends to love his friend as much as he does his betrothed. Love and friendship are shown to be co-existent, not exclusive.
Foolishness of loversEdit
Another major theme is the foolishness of lovers, what Roger Warren refers to as "mockery of the absurdity of conventional lovers' behaviour". Valentine for example, is introduced into the play mocking the excesses of love; "To be in love, where scorn is bought with groans/Coy looks with heart-sore sighs, one fading moment's mirth/With twenty watchful, weary, tedious nights" (1.1.29-31). Later, however, he becomes as much a prisoner of love as Proteus, exclaiming, "For in revenge of my contempt for love/Love hath chased sleep from my enthrall'd eyes/And made them watchers of my own heart's sorrow" (2.4.131-133).
The majority of the cynicism as regards conventional lovers however comes from Launce and Speed, who serve as foils for Proteus and Valentine and "supply a mundane view of the idealistic flights of fancy indulged in by Proteus and Valentine." Several times in the play, after either Valentine or Proteus has made a grandiose speech about love, Shakespeare introduces either Launce or Speed (or sometimes both), whose speeches undercut what has just been heard, exposing Proteus and Valentine to mockery. A good example is found in Act 2, Scene 1. As Valentine and Silvia engage in a game of flirtation, hinting at their love for one another, Speed provides constant asides which serve to directly mock the couple. For example,
Peace, here she comes.
O excellent motion! O exceeding puppet! Now he will interpret her.
Madame and mistress, a thousand good-morrows.
O, give ye good e'en. Here's a million of manners.
Sir Valentine and servant, to you two thousand.
He should give her interest, and she gives it him
A third major theme is inconstancy, particularly as manifested in Proteus, whose very name hints at his changeable mind (in Ovid's Metamorphoses, Proteus is a sea-god forever changing its shape). At the start of the play, Proteus has only eyes for Julia. However upon meeting Silvia, he immediately falls in love with her (although he has no idea why). He then finds himself drawn to the page Sebastian (Julia in disguise) whilst still trying to woo Silvia, and at the end of the play, he announces that Silvia is no better than Julia and vows he now loves Julia again. As Silvia says of Proteus, "O heaven, were man/But constant, he were perfect. That one error/Fills him with faults, makes him run through all th'sins;/Inconstancy falls off ere it begins" (5.4.109-112).
There is no record of a performance in Shakespeare's era, down to the closing of the theatres in 1642, although due to its inclusion in Francis Meres's Palladis Tamia in 1598, we know it was certainly performed during Shakespeare's lifetime. The earliest known performance occurred at the Theatre Royal, Drury Lane in 1762. However, this production was of a version of the play rewritten by Benjamin Victor. The earliest known performance of the straight Shakespearean text was at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in 1784, advertised as "Shaxespeare's with alterations." Although the play was supposed to run for several weeks, it closed after the first night.
From the middle of the eighteenth century, even if staging Shakespeare's original play (as opposed to Victor's rewrite) it was common for directors to cut the lines in the final scene where Valentine seems to offer Silvia to Proteus, who has just attempted to rape her, as a sign of his forgiveness and friendship. This practice prevailed until William Macready reintroduced the lines in 1841 in a production at Drury Lane, although they were still being removed as late as 1952, in Denis Carey's production at the Bristol Old Vic. Other eighteenth century performances include Charles Kean's in 1848 at the Haymarket Theatre, Samuel Phelps' in 1857 at the Sadler's Wells Theatre and William Poel's in 1892 and 1896.
During the twentieth century, the play has been produced sporadically, often with little success, in the English-speaking world; although it has proved more popular in Europe. Indeed, there have been only a handful of major English speaking productions worth noting. Little is known, for example, about Harley Granville-Barker's 1904 production at the Royal Court Theatre, F.R. Benson's at the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre in 1910, Robert Atkins' 1926 production at the Apollo Theatre, starring John Gielgud, or Ben Iden Payne's 1938 production at Stratford-upon-Avon. Indeed, most critics now agree that the first major 20th century production didn't take place until 1956, at the Old Vic, directed by Michael Langham and starring Keith Mitchell as Proteus and Barbara Jefford as Julia. In this production, set in late nineteenth century Italy and grounded very much in high Romanticism, Proteus threatens to kill himself with a pistol at the end of the play, prompting Valentine's hasty offer of Silvia.
Perhaps the most notable 20th century production was Peter Hall's 1960 presentation at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford, starring Denholm Elliott as Valentine, Derek Godfrey as Proteus, Susan Maryott as Silvia, Frances Cuka as Julia, and featuring a much lauded performance by Patrick Wymark as Launce. Hall had only recently been appointed as Artistic Director of the RSC, and, somewhat unexpectedly, he chose Two Gentlemen as his inaugural production, relocating the play to a late medieval milieu.
Ten years later, in 1970, Robin Phillips' RSC production at the Aldwych Theatre, starred Peter Egan as Valentine, Ian Richardson as Proteus, Helen Mirren as Julia, Estelle Kohler as Silvia, and Patrick Stewart as Launce. This production concentrated on the issues of friendship and treachery, and set the play in a decadent world of social elitism. Valentine and Proteus were presented as aristocratic students, the Duke was a Don, and Eglamour an old scout master. On the other hand, the poverty stricken outlaws were dressed in animal skins.
The RSC again staged the play at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in 1981, under the direction of John Barton, with Peter Land as Proteus, Peter Chelsom as Valentine, Julia Swift as Julia and Diana Hardcastle as Silvia. This production saw the actors not involved in the current on-stage scene sit at the front of the stage and watch the performance. Leon Rubin directed another major performance at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival in Ontario, Canada in 1984, where the actors were dressed in modern clothes and contemporary pop music was featured within the play (for example, the outlaws are portrayed as an anarchic rock group).
A 1991 RSC production at the Swan Theatre saw director David Thacker use an on-stage live band for the duration of the play, playing music from the 1930s, such as Cole Porter and George Gershwin. Thacker's production featured Barry Lynch as Proteus, Richard Bonneville as Valentine, Clare Holman as Julia and Saskia Reeves as Silvia. In 1992, Thacker's production moved to the Barbican Centre in London, and in 1993 went on regional tour. In 1996, Jack Shepherd directed a modern dress version at the Globe Theatre starring Lenny James as Valentine, Mark Rylance as Proteus, Stephanie Roth Haberle as Julia and Anastasia Hille as Silvia. Another RSC production took place at the Swan in 1998, under the direction of Edward Hall, and starring Tom Goodman-Hill as Valentine, Dominic Rowan as Proteus, Lesley Vickerage as Julia and Poppy Miller as Silvia. This production set the play in a grimy unnamed contemporary city where material obsession was all-encompassing. Another performance took place in 1999 at the Cottesloe Theatre, directed by Julie Anne Robinson.
In 2001, Douglas C. Wager directed a version of the play set in the 1950s and featuring the music of Bill Haley and Connie Francis, with Gregory Wooddell as Valentine, Paul Whitthorne as Proteus, Julia Dion as Julia and Louise Zachry as Silvia. In 2004, Fiona Buffini directed a regional touring production for the RSC. Premiering at the Swan, the production starred Alex Avery as Valentine, Laurence Mitchell as Proteus, Vanessa Ackerman as Julia and Rachel Pickup as Silvia, and was performed under the title The Two Gents. Buffini set the play in a swinging 1930s milieu, and featuring numerous dance numbers. Additionally, London and New York replaced Verona and Milan; initially, Valentine and Proteus are shown as living in the English countryside, in a rural paradise devoid of any real vitality, the sons of wealthy families who have retired from the city. When Valentine leaves, he heads to New York to pursue the American Dream and falls in love with Silvia, the famous actress daughter of a powerful media magnate. Another change to the play was that the roles of the outlaws (represented here as a group of paparazzi) were increased considerably. Scenes added to the play show them arriving in New York and going about their daily business, although none of the new scenes featured any dialogue.
Another performance worth noting occurred at the Courtyard Theatre in Stratford in 2006. A non-professional acting company from Brazil, named Nós do Morro ('We of the hillside'), in collaboration with a Gallery 37 group from Birmingham, gave a single performance of the play during the RSC's presentation of the Complete Works, directed by Guti Fraga. This production was spoken in Portuguese, with the original English text projected as surtitles onto the back of the stage. It also featured two 17 years olds in the roles of Valentine and Proteus (usually, actors in their 20s are cast), and Crab was played not by a dog, but by a human actor. In 2009, Joe Dowling directed the play at the Guthrie Theater as a 1955 live television production, with large black-and-white monitors set on either side of the stage, and cameras feeding the action to them. Additionally, period advertisements appeared both before the show and during the intermission. The actors spoke the original dialogue, but wore 1950s clothing and used 1950s-era sets. Rock and roll music and dance sequences were occasionally mixed with the action.
Taken together, these various productions, with their frequent use of music, their geographical and temporal relocations, and their general modifications of the original serve to lend credence to Stanley Wells' claim that the play "has succeeded best when subjected to adaptation, increasing its musical content, adjusting the emphasis of the last scene so as to reduce the shock of Valentine's donation of Silvia to Proteus, and updating the setting."
Benjamin Victor rewrote the play some time prior to 1762, when it was performed at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Directed by David Garrick, and starring Richard Yates as Launce, and his wife, Mary Anne Yates as Julia, Victor brought all the Verona scenes together, removed Valentine's 'gift' of Silvia to Proteus and increased the roles of Launce and Crab (especially during the outlaw scenes, where both characters are intimately involved in the action). He also switched the emphasis of the play away from the love-friendship divide and instead focused on the issues of fidelity, with the last line of the play altered to, "Lovers must be faithful to be bless'd." This necessitated rewriting Valentine as a near flawless protagonist who represents such faithfulness, and Proteus as a traditional villain, who doesn't care for such notions. The two are not presented as old friends, but simply as acquaintances. Thurio was also rewritten as a harmless, but lovable fool, not unlike Launce and Speed. Although not a major success (the play initially ran for only six performances), it was still being performed as late as 1895. In 1790, John Philip Kemble staged his own production of the play at Drury Lane, maintaining many of Victor's alterations, and again at Covent Garden in 1808. In the 1808 production, Kemble, who was fifty years old at the time, played Valentine.
Frederic Reynolds staged an operatic version in 1821 at Covent Garden as part of his series of adaptations of the works of Shakespeare. Reynolds wrote the lyrics, and Henry Bishop wrote the music. The production ran for twenty-nine performances, and included some of Shakespeare's sonnets set to music. Augustin Daly revived the opera in 1895 at Daly's Theatre, in a production which George Bernard Shaw argued was much better than Shakespeare's original text.
In 1971, Galt MacDermot, John Guare and Mel Shapiro adapted the show into a rock musical under the same name as the play. Guare and Shapiro wrote the book, Guare the lyrics, and MacDermot the music. Opening at the St. James Theatre on 1 December 1971, with Shapiro directing and Jean Erdman as choreographer, it ran for 614 performances, closing on 20 May 1973. During its initial run, the play won two Tony Awards; Best Musical and Best Book. The original cast included Clifton Davis as Valentine, Raúl Juliá as Proteus, Jonelle Allen as Silvia and Diana Dávila as Julia. The play moved to the West End in 1973, playing at the Phoenix Theatre from 26 April, and running for 237 performances. It was revived in 1996 at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, directed by Robert Duke, and again in 2005, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall as part of the Shakespeare in the Park festival. Marshall's production was performed at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, and starred Norm Lewis as Valentine, Oscar Isaac as Proteus, Renee Elise Goldsberry as Silvia and Rosario Dawson as Julia
Stuart Draper adapted the play into a gay version called Two Gentlemen of Verona which played at the Greenwich Playhouse in New York City from 20 April to 18 May 2004. In this version of the play, Valentine is in love with Proteus, but Proteus' father would rather see him marry the wealthy Julia. Valentine leaves to seek his fortune in Milan, where he meets and falls in love with Silvia, daughter of the Duke. Leaving Julia behind, Proteus follows Valentine to Milan determined to win him over. Proteus is in turn followed by Julia (disguised as a boy), determined to woo him away from Valentine.
The only cinematic adaptation of the play is Yī jiǎn méi (more commonly known by its English title A Spray of Plum Blossoms), a 1931 silent film from China, directed by Bu Wancang and written by Huang Yicuo. A loose adaptation of the play, the film tells the story of Bai Lede (Wang Chilong) and Hu Luting (Jin Yan), two military cadets who have been friends since they were children. After graduating, Hu, a playboy uninterested in love, is appointed as a captain in Guangdong and leaves his home town in Shanghai. Bai however, deeply in love with Hu's sister, Hu Zhuli (Ruan Lingyu) stays behind. At Guangdong, Hu falls in love with the local general's daughter, Shi Luohua (Lam Cho-Cho), although the general, Shi (Wang Guilin), is unaware of the relationship, and instead wants his daughter to marry the foolish Liao Di'ao (Kao Chien Fei). Meanwhile, Bai's father uses his influence to get Bai posted to Guangdong, and after a sorrowful farewell between himself and Zhuli, he arrives at his new post and instantly falls in love with Luohua. In an effort to have her for himself, Bai betrays his friend, by informing General Shi of his daughter's plans to elope with Hu, leading to Shi dishonourably discharging Hu. Bai tries to win Luohua over, but she is uninterested, only concerned with lamenting the loss of Hu. In the meantime, Hu encounters a group of bandits who ask him to be their leader, to which he agrees, planning on returning for Luohua at some point in the future. Some time passes, and one day, as Luohua, Bai and Liao are passing through the forest, they are attacked. Luohua manages to flee, and Bai pursues her into the forest. They engage in an argument, but just as Bai seems about to lose his temper, Hu intervenes, and he and Luohua are reunited. General Shi arrives in time to see Liao flee the scene, and he now realises that he was wrong to get in the way of the relationship between Hu and his daughter. Hu then forgives Bai his betrayal, and Bai reveals that he has discovered that his only true love is in fact Zhuli back in Shanghai.
The film is notable for being one of many Chinese films of the period which, although performed in Mandarin when filming, used English intertitles upon its original release. In the English intertitles and credits, the characters are named after their counterparts in the play; Hu is Valentine, Bai is Proteus, Zhuli is Julia and Luohua is Silvia. Liao is named Tiburio rather than Thurio.
The first television adaptation was in 1952, when BBC One broadcast Act 1 of the play live from the Bristol Old Vic. Directed by Denis Carey, the production starred John Neville as Valentine, Laurence Payne as Proteus, Gudrun Ure as Silvia and Pamela Ann as Julia.
In 1956, the entire play was broadcast on German TV channel Das Erste from a performance at the Munich Kammerspiele, under the title Zwei herren aus Verona. The theatrical production was directed by Hans Schalla, with the TV adaptation directed by Ernst Markwardt. The cast included Rolf Schult as Valentine, Hannes Riesenberger as Proteus, Helga Siemers as Julia and Isolde Chlapek as Silvia.
In 1964, the play was made into a TV movie in Germany, under the title Die zwei herren aus Verona, directed by Hans Dieter Schwarze and starring Norbert Hansing as Valentine, Rolf Becker as Proteus, Katinka Hoffman as Julia and Heidelinde Weis as Silvia.
The play was adapted for the BBC Shakespeare series in 1983. Directed by Don Taylor, it starred Tyler Butterworth as Proteus, John Hudson as Valentine, Tessa Peake-Jones as Julia and Joanne Pearce as Silvia. For the most part, the BBC Shakespeare adaptation is word-for-word taken from the First Folio, with only some very minor and inconsequential differences. For example, omitted lines include the Duke's "Knowing that tender youth is soon suggested" (3.1.34), and Julia's "Her eyes are grey as glass, and so are mine" (4.4.189). Other differences include a slightly different opening scene to that indicated in the text. Whereas the play seems to open with Valentine and Proteus in mid-conversation, the adaptation begins with Mercatio and Eglamour attempting to formally woo Julia; Mercatio by showing her a coffer overflowing with gold coins, Eglamour by displaying a parchment detailing his family history. However, there is no dialogue in this scene, and the first words spoken are the same as in the text ("Cease to persuade my loving Proteus"). Eglamour is also present in the final scene, albeit once again without any dialogue, and, additionally, the capture of Silvia and the flight of Eglamour is seen, as opposed to merely being described.
In 1995, a production of the play aired on Polish TV channel TVP1 under the title Dwaj panowie z Werony, directed by Roland Rowinski and starring Marek Bukowski as Proteus and Rafal Krolikowski as Valentine.
In 2000, a Season 4 episode of Dawson's Creek entitled "Two Gentlemen of Capeside" loosely adapted the plot of the play. Written by Chris Levinson and directed by Sandy Smolan, the episode depicted how Dawson and Pacey, formally best friends, have been driven apart over their love for the same woman. The play is referenced early in the episode as the characters are reading it for their English class.
In 1923, extracts from the play were broadcast on BBC Radio 1, performed by the Cardiff Station Repertory Company as the first episode of a series of programs showcasing Shakespeare's plays, entitled Shakespeare Night. In 1924, the entire play was broadcast by the BBC, directed by Joyce Tremayne and R.E. Jeffrey. Treymane played Silvia and Jeffrey played Valentine, along with G.R. Harvey as Proteus and Daisy Moncur as Julia. In 1927, the scenes between Julia and Lucetta were broadcast on BBC Radio 1 as part of the Echoes from Greenwich Theatre series. Betty Rayner played Julia and Joan Rayner played Lucetta. BBC National Programme broadcast the full play in 1934, adapted for radio by Barbara Burnham and produced by Lance Sieveking. Ion Swinley played Valentine, Robert Craven was Proteus, Helen Horsey was Silvia and Lydia Sherwood played Julia.
In 1958, the entire play was broadcast on BBC Third Programme. Produced and directed for radio by Raymond Raikes, the play starred John Westbrook as Valentine, Charles Hodgson as Proteus, Caroline Leigh as Silvia and Perlita Neilson as Julia. It also featured Frankie Howerd as Launce.
BBC Third Programme aired another full production of the play in 1968, produced and directed by R.D. Smith and starring Denys Hawthorne as Valentine, Michael N. Harbour as Proteus and Judi Dench as Julia.
In 2007, producer Roger Elsgood and director Willi Richards adapted the play into a radio play called The Two Gentlemen of Valasna, setting it in two fictional Indian princely states called Malpur and Valasna, in the weeks leading up to the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The play was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 29 July 2007. It was recorded on location in Maharashtra, India earlier in 2007 with a cast drawn from Bollywood, Indian television and the Mumbai English-speaking theatre traditions; actors included Nadir Khan as Vishvadev (i.e. Valentine), Arghya Lahiri as Parminder (Proteus), Anu Menon as Syoni (Silvia), Avantika Akerkar as Jumaana/Servi (Julia/Sebastian), Sohrab Ardishir as The Maharaja (Duke of Milan) and Zafar Karachiwala as Thaqib (Thurio). Besides the new character names, some other substitutions suitable to the new setting (e.g. "by Ran" for "by Jove", "Vishnu's shrine for "the north gate", "the mighty gods' wrath's appeased" for "the Eternal's wrath's appeas'd", sahiba for lady, sahib for sir, and sari for robe), and the addition of some Indian dialogue, the production used Shakespeare's text.
All references to The Two Gentlemen of Verona, unless otherwise specified, are taken from the Oxford Shakespeare (Warren), based on the First Folio text of 1623. Under its referencing system, 2.3.14 means act 2, scene 3, line 14.
- ↑ It is placed first in both The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (1986 and 2005) and The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Shakespeare (1997 and 2008); see also Leech (1969: xxx), Wells et al. (1987: 3), Carroll (2004: 130) and Warren (2008: 26-27)
- ↑ Wells et al. (1986: 4)
- ↑ Carroll (2004: 110)
- ↑ Most modern editors of the play tend to rename this character 'Lance', on the basis that 'Lance' represents a modernisation of 'Launce'. See, for example, Kurt Schlueter (Cambridge Shakespeare - 1990), William C. Carroll (Arden Shakespeare - 2004) and Roger Warren (Oxford Shakespeare - 2008)
- ↑ Schlueter (1990: 1)
- ↑ Greenblatt et al (1997: 80)
- ↑ Warren (2008: 15-16)
- ↑ Bullough (1975: 204)
- ↑ Edmund Malone, Plays and Poems, (1821), 7
- ↑ Sanders (1968: 7)
- ↑ Wells et al. (1986: 3)
- ↑ Greenblatt et al (1997: 79)
- ↑ Warren (2008: 26-27)
- ↑ Program notes for 1970 RSC production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona
- ↑ Masten (1997: 41, 46-47)
- ↑ Schlueter (1990: 3)
- ↑ Carroll (2004: 15-16)
- ↑ E.K. Chambers, Introduction to The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Red Letter Shakespeare, 1905
- ↑ Quoted in Carroll (2004: 115)
- ↑ Bond (1906: xxxiv)
- ↑ H.B. Charlton, Shakesperean Comedy (London: Routledge, 1938), 43
- ↑ Sanders (1968: 15)
- ↑ See, for example, Schlueter (1990), Carroll (2004) and Warren (2008)
- ↑ Sanders (1968: 8)
- ↑ Schlueter (1990: 17)
- ↑ Warren (2008: 53)
- ↑ The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide
- ↑ Warren (2008: 44)
- ↑ Sanders (1968: 10)
- ↑ Schlueter (1990: 23)
- ↑ Greenblatt et al (1997: 79)
- ↑ Carroll (2004: 85)
- ↑ Halliday (1964: 506)
- ↑ The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide
- ↑ Wells et al. (1986: 3)
- ↑ Schlueter (1990: 23-25)
- ↑ The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide
- ↑ Green (1980: 350)
- ↑ Two Gentlemen of Verona homepage
- ↑ Unless otherwise noted, all information in this section comes from the British Universities Film and Video Council
- ↑ BBC - Radio 3 - Drama on 3
Editions of The Two Gentlemen of VeronaEdit
- Bate, Jonathan and Rasmussen, Eric (eds.) The RSC Shakespeare: The Complete Works (London: Macmillan, 2007)
- Bond, R. Warwick (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Arden Shakespeare, 1st Series; London: Arden, 1906)
- Carroll, William C. (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Arden Shakespeare, 3rd Series; London: Arden, 2004)
- Evans, Bertrand (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Signet Classic Shakespeare; New York: Signet, 1964; revised edition, 1988; 2nd revised edition 2007)
- Evans, G. Blakemore (ed.) The Riverside Shakespeare (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974; 2nd edn., 1997)
- Greenblatt, Stephen; Cohen, Walter; Howard, Jean E. and Maus, Katharine Eisaman (eds.) The Norton Shakespeare: Based on the Oxford Shakespeare (London: Norton, 1997; 2nd edn., 2008)
- Jackson, Berners A.W. The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Pelican Shakespeare; London: Penguin, 1964; revised edition 1980)
- Jackson, Russell (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The New Penguin Shakespeare 2nd edition; London: Penguin, 2005)
- Leech, Clifford (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Arden Shakespeare, 2nd Series; London: Arden, 1969)
- Quiller-Couch, Arthur and Wilson, John Dover (eds.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The New Shakespeare; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1921; 2nd edn. edited by only Dover Wilson, 1955)
- Rose, Mary Beth (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Pelican Shakespeare, 2nd edition; London: Penguin, 2000)
- Sanders, Norman (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The New Penguin Shakespeare; London: Penguin, 1968; revised edition 1997)
- Schlueter, Kurt (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The New Cambridge Shakespeare; Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)
- Warren, Roger (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (The Oxford Shakespeare; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008)
- Wells, Stanley; Taylor, Gary; Jowett, John and Montgomery, William (eds.) The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1986; 2nd edn., 2005)
- Werstine, Paul and Mowat, Barbara A. (eds.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona (Folger Shakespeare Library; Washington: Simon & Schuster, 1999)
- Bullough, Geoffrey. Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare (Volume 1): Early Comedies, Poems, Romeo and Juliet (Columbia: Columbia University Press, 1957)
- Carlisle, Carol J. and Derrick, Patty S. "The Two Gentlemen of Verona on Stage: Protean Problems and Protean Solutions" in M.J. Collins (editor), Shakespeare's Sweet Thunder: Essays on the Early Comedies (Newark: Associated University Presses, 1997), 126-154
- Duthie, G.I. Shakespeare (London: Hutchinson, 1951)
- Ewbank, Inga-Stina. ""Were man but constant, he were perfect": Constancy and Consistency in The Two Gentlemen of Verona", Stratford-Upon-Avon Studies, 14 (1972), 31-57
- Godshalk, William L. "The Structural Unity of The Two Gentlemen of Verona", Studies in Philology 66 (1969), 168-181
- Green, Stanley. The World of Musical Comedy (San Diego: Da Capo Press, 1974; 4th edn., 1980)
- Halliday, F.E. A Shakespeare Companion, 1564-1964 (Baltimore: Penguin, 1964)
- Holmberg, Arthur. "The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Shakesperean Comedy as a Rite of Passage", Queen's Quarterly, 90:1 (Spring, 1983), 33-44
- Masten, Jeffrey. Textual Intercourse: Collaboration, Authorship and Sexualities in Renaissance Drama (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997)
- Morozov, Mikhail M. Shakespeare on the Soviet Stage (London: Open Library, 1947)
- Morse, Ruth. "Two Gentlemen and the Cult of Friendship", Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, 84:2 (Summer, 1983), 214-224
- Muir, Kenneth. The Sources of Shakespeare's Plays (London: Routledge, 1977; rpt 2005)
- Onions, C.T. A Shakespeare Glossary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1953; 2nd edn. edited by Robert D. Eagleson, 1986)
- Rackin, Phyllis. Shakespeare and Women (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005)
- Schlueter, June (ed.) The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Critical Essays (New York: Routledge, 1996)
- Speaight, Robert. Shakespeare on the Stage: An Illustrated History of Shakespearean Performance (London: Collins, 1973)
- Tillyard, E.M.W. Shakespeare's Early Comedies (London: The Athlone Press, 1965; rpt. 1992)
- Wells, Stanley. "The Failure of The Two Gentlemen of Verona", Shakespeare Jahrbüch West, 99 (1963), 161-173
- Wells, Stanley; Taylor, Gary; Jowett, John and Montgomery, William. William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987)
- Williams, Gordon. A Glossary of Shakespeare's Sexual Language (London: The Athlone Press, 1997)
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona – plain vanilla text from Project Gutenberg.
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona – searchable, indexed e-text.
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona – scene-indexed, searchable version of the play.
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona – HTML version, with original First Folio spelling.
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona Home Page at Internet Shakespeare Editions.
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona at Shakespeare Illustrated
- "Shakespeare and the Invention of the Heterosexual", by Stephen Guy-Bray; Early Modern Literary Studies, 13:2 (October 2007), 1-28.
- The Two Gentlemen of Verona at the Internet Movie Database (BBC Television Shakespeare Version).
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