The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Content Group

The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Valentine and Proteus

This play is usually dismissed by critics as insignificant, but it is perfectly adapted for successful performance and we have found it can entertain even with youthful and inexperienced actors matching the stereotypical roles. Lively Julia (see Constance Benson in the role) is a prototype to provide the amusing ambiguities of a girl disguised as as boy to which Shakespeare is so addicted in his later comedies. Her humorous maid Lucetta is the classic sceptical companion, like Nerissa and Celia. Poised Sylvia is the iconic beloved. Valentine's naive virtue is the perfect foil to Proteus with his provocative shiftiness, which provides the play's drive and psychological provocation. Most of the other characters are traditional: the Duke of Milan is the classic heavy father: the obtuse wooer Thurio anticipates Clothen in Cymbeline; the sly servants Speed and Launce are straight out of the commedia dell'arte (plus a cute dog; see him in these productions from 1785 and 1895). The convenient outlaws and Sir Eglamour are merely ridiculous in an inoffensive way. But within these familiar conventions Shakespeare strings together a neat series of classic set pieces which succeed readily on stage, however critics sneer. The usual point of maximum censure is Valentine's offer of his mistress to the supposedly repentant Proteus after he has attempted to rape her in the forest, but in our experience in staging the play this aberration passes as a mere momentary youthful eccentricity when the action is sped to its conclusion.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Royal Shakespeare Company, 1960
The Two Gentlemen of Verona, New Shakespeare Company, 1969
Two Gentlemen of Verona: Constance Benson as Julia
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Valentine and Proteus
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Disguised Juliet and Sylvia
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Launce
The Two Gentlemen of Verona: James Lewis as Launce and his dog Crab

Betken, William T., ed. The Other Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Rhinebeck, NY: Bardavon Books, 1982.

Child, Harold. "The Stage History of The Two Gentlemen of Verona." In The Two Gentlemen of Verona, edited by Arthur Quiller-Couch ,105-6. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1954.

Clayton, Thomas. "The Climax of The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Text and Performance at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1991." Shakespeare Bulletin 9, no. 4 (1991): 17-19.

Coulter, Todd. "Putting in the Putti: Jane Page and The Two Gentlemen of Verona." On-Stage Studies 24 (2001): 71-76.

Holmberg, Arthur. "Two Gentlemen of Verona: Shakespearean Comedy as a Rite of Passage." Queen's Quarterly 90 (Spring 1983): 33-44.

Leech, Clifford, ed. The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Arden Series. Walton-on-Thames:  Thomas Nelson, 1969.

Mather, Christine. "The Means to Justify the End: John Dennis' Production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona." On Stage Studies 18 (1995): 125-33.

Ostwald, David F. "Two Gentlemen of Verona: An Interpretation." On Stage Studies 6 (1982): 123-33.

Pearson, D'Orsay W. Two Gentlemen of Verona: An Annotated Bibliography. New York and London: Garland, 1988.

Speaight, Robert. William Poel and the Elizabethan Revival. London: William Heinemann, 1954. [See pp.73, 119-22, 280-83; includes a photograph]

Two Gentelmen of Verona at Talkin' Broadway.

Except where otherwise specified, all written commentary is © 2016, Hugh Macrae Richmond