Two Gentlemen of Verona

Two Gentlemen of Verona - Angelica Kauffman

The Play’s the Thing: Valentine and Proteus are two best friends from Verona. Valentine is headed off to the court of the Duke of Milan to distinguish himself while Proteus stays in Verona to continue pursuing the girl he loves, Julia. Valentine is convinced this whole love thing is idiotic and ribs Proteus about it before leaving. Proteus’ father, Antonio, convinced his son isn’t doing anything useful in Verona (because he’s in the dark about Proteus’ love for Julia), ships him off to the Duke of Milan’s court to hang with Valentine and distinguish himself as well. Julia gives Proteus her ring as a token to remind him of her love and he heads off. Meanwhile, Valentine has been forced to eat his words as he has fallen in love with Silvia, the Duke’s daughter. He’s very glad to see Proteus again and lets him in on the plot Valentine has to steal Silvia away in the night so that they can elope. However, after seeing Silvia, Proteus forgets all about Julia and falls madly in love with Silvia too. In an effort to shove Valentine out of the way, he reveals the eloping plot to the Duke who is furious because he wants Silvia to marry Thurio, who mostly serves as the butt of everyone’s jokes but has a lot of money. The Duke banishes Valentine from Milan and he heads off to the wilds of Mantua where he joins a group of outlaws and lives out a Robin Hood fantasy. Meanwhile, Julia misses Proteus something fierce and decides to travel to Milan to see him, but in order to avoid all those evil men in the world, decides to cross-dress. Proteus is having no luck wooing Silvia who thinks he’s a first-class jerk for forgetting Julia and stabbing his best friend in the back. Julia, disguised as her new alter-ego Sebastian, sees Proteus trying to court Silvia and is upset but ends up working for him. Silvia enlists the help of Sir Eglamour to help her track down Valentine in the wilds of Mantua and runs away only to encounter the merry band of outlaws. Proteus and Julia rescue Silvia and Proteus attempts to force his love on Silvia only to be stopped by Valentine. Julia faints and there’s a bunch of stuff with rings that results in her true identity being revealed. Valentine forgives Proteus, gets the Duke’s permission to marry Silvia, and Proteus wises up and goes back to loving Julia. Valentine also secures a pardon for the band of outlaws because apparently they’ve reformed. A double wedding for Valentine, Silvia, Proteus, and Julia looms in the near future.

Heroes and Villains: My favourite character award goes to Silvia who is full of wit and banter when she interacts with Valentine, is totally faithful, and calls Proteus on his truly asinine behaviour. Julia would be a close contender except for the fact that she takes Proteus back after he proves to be such an ass.

Wordsmith:

  • wonders of the world (I.i)
  • love is blind (II.i)
  • bitter pills (II.iv)
  • hot lover (II.v)

Insults with Style: whoreson ass (II.v)

Speech You Must Know: Julia makes the following speech about love to her maid, Lucetta, before heading off on her cross-dressing adventure.

The more thou damm’st it up, the more it burns;
The current that with gentle murmur glides,
Thou know’st, being stopp’d, impatiently doth rage;
But when his fair course is not hindered,
He makes sweet music with the enamell’d stones,
Giving a gentle kiss to every sedge
He overtaketh in his pilgrimage;
And so by many winding nooks he strays,
With willing sport, to the wild ocean.
Then let me go, and hinder not my course:
I’ll be as patient as a gentle stream
And make a pastime of each weary step,
Till the last step have brought me to my love;
And there I’ll rest as, after much turmoil,
A blessed soul doth in Elysium. (II.vii)

View from the Pit: Two Gentlemen of Verona isn’t going to be winning any prizes as my favourite Shakespearean comedy. While there’s a fair share of punny exchanges between several of the servants and a few jokes about jerkins and codpieces, the relationships between the two main couples aren’t as sparkling as in some of the other comedies. While Silvia sends a few barbs Valentine’s way, there’s not a lot of sparkage or sweet romance between them. While Proteus and Julia do have their fair share of romantic speeches, Proteus actually gets a lot of hatred from me. Ditching the girl you’ve professed to love forever after just seeing another woman is bad but he gets a massive loads of contempt for threatening to rape Silvia. That is never ok. And to have that moment come so closely to the closing moments of the play really taints it for me. Especially because shortly after that unfortunate moment Julia then takes Proteus back. Girlfriend needs a reality check. And that’s what bugs me about the happy ending. Valentine and Silvia should definitely be getting married but Proteus ending up with the very lovely Julia seems wrong.

As proof that this isn’t one of the more sparkling of Shakespeare’s comedies, the only  film adaptation I could track down is from 1983. Look forward to that review on Wednesday.

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