Shakespeare's Staging
The Two Gentlemen of Verona
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Friday, 22 April 2005 06:18

Two Gentlemen of Verona at UC Berkeley, 1986. Valentine and Proteus are still on good terms here. They dress and behave just like their Veronese peers in Romeo and Juliet. UCB Shakespeare Program Collection; Velma Bourgeois Richmond, photographer.


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 (3.3.28) 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: 2.4.32, 2.4.33). 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. ©HMR


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

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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.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona, II.v: Launce and Speed, 1888. By Gebbie & Co. Furness Image Collection.

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