The Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare

cms_visual_1023647.jpgFiction — print. Washington Square Press, 2005. Originally published 1623. 304 pgs. Received from PaperBackSwap.

I saw a production of “The Two Gentlemen of Verona” when we arrived in Montana that was set during the nineteenth century and unfortunately was lost in translation. I picked up my copy of the play because I wanted to flesh out something of the things that were confusing — scene changes that didn’t happen, voices that where muddled due to a lack of microphones — and give this comedy of errors a second chance.

Two friends, Valentine and Proteus, begin this tale with a farewell in Verona; Valentine is off to improve himself, while Proteus stays home with his love, Julia. However, Proteus’ father decides to also send his son off to Milan, and an unhappy Julia and Proteus confess their undying love for one another.

Upon arrival in Milan, Proteus immediately falls in love with Silvia, whom Valentine plans to elope with, and plots to do anything he can to steal her from Valentine. He tells the Duke, Silvia’s father, of Valentine’s plan, which earns Valentine a banishment from court. And so with Valentine gone, Proteus immediately sets into a motion a plan to win Silvia’s affection, not realizing that his former love, Julia, has disguised herself as a man and indentured herself into his service.

I liked the play — especially because of the character of Launce and his poorly trained dog, Crab — until Valentine, Proteus, Silvia, and Julia are all lost in forest. Up until then the play felt very real, but once the characters wind up in the forest the whole things turns into junk.

The storyline is wrapped up very quickly with the characters all forgiving one another with no hard feelings, despite the fact that there was betrayal, broken hearts, and even an attempted rape. Valentine, the wronged man, especially takes a turn for the worse when he saves his love, Silvia, from being forced by Proteus but then turns around and gives Silvia to Proteus in the name of friendship. Definitely not one of Shakespeare’s best.

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