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Two Gentlemen of Verona

silvia, shakespeares, comedy and plot

TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA, The. 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' would seem to be Shakespeare's earliest attempt at romantic comedy of the popular Italian sort. The play is mentioned in Meres's list in 1598, but was not printed before the folio of 1623, and appears to have been little acted either in Shakespeare's time or since. No evidence for a very early date exists except the logical im probability that this comedy could have been written by Shakespeare as late as 'A Midsum mer Night's Dream,' 'The Merchant of Venice) and other works which show much higher mastery in the same line. As 'Love's Labor's Lost' is particularly a study in language and 'The Comedy of Errors' in plot construc tion, 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' is pri marily a study in characterization— crude as yet but interesting in its foreshadowing of what Shakespeare was later to do. We are reminded of 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' in the interlocking fates of the contrasted pairs of lovers; of 'The Merchant of Venice' in Julia's talk to Lucetta of her suitors and in the servant-clowns; of 'Twelfth Night) in Julia's disguise; of 'Romeo and Juliet,) finally, in Valentine's device of the rope-ladder, in the rendezvous of Silvia and Eglamour at Friar Patrick's cell, and in the passing mention of Friar Laurence (IV, ii, 37). 'The Two Gentle

men of Verona' is notably deficient in ability toportray real feeling. The plot proceeds by the help of conventional tricks and artificial dia logue. The representation of the awakening of love in Julia (I, ii) and in Silvia (II, i) is quite insincere, while the indifference with which Proteus's perfidy is treated and the essential weakness of Valentine chill the reader. There are, however, three elements of promise: the breath of deeper sympathy in the play's best scene (IV, where Julia and the Host look on while Proteus woos Silvia; the fine song, one of Shakespeare's best, in this same scene is Silvia, What is She)) and the melan choly Launce with his dog Crab. The story of Valentine was perhaps invented by the drama tist, but the part of the plot which concerns the fickle Proteus and the true-hearted Julia is apparently an adaptation of the tale of Felismena, one of the episodes in Montemayor's long pastoral novel, 'Diana Enamorada.' An English translation of this Spanish work was not printed till 1598, but several versions seem to have been current earlier in manuscript, and the outline of the tale was otherwise available.