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Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespear - Audio book

2021.10.17



Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1589 and 1593. It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play,[a] and is often seen as showing his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and motifs with which he would later deal in more detail; for example, it is the first of his plays in which a heroine dresses as a boy. The play deals with the themes of friendship and infidelity, the conflict between friendship and love, and the foolish behaviour of people in love. The highlight of the play is considered by some to be Launce, the clownish servant of Proteus, and his dog Crab, to whom "the most scene-stealing non-speaking role in the canon" has been attributed.


As the play begins, Valentine is preparing to leave Verona for Milan so as to broaden his horizons. He begs his best friend, Proteus, to come with him, but Proteus is in love with Julia, and refuses to leave. Disappointed, Valentine bids Proteus farewell and goes on alone. Meanwhile, Julia is discussing Proteus with her maid, Lucetta, who tells Julia that she thinks Proteus is fond of her. Julia, however, acts coyly, embarrassed to admit that she likes him. Lucetta then produces a letter; she will not say who gave it to her, but teases Julia that it was Valentine's servant, Speed, who brought it from Proteus. Julia, still unwilling to reveal her love in front of Lucetta, angrily tears up the letter. She sends Lucetta away, but then, realising her own rashness, she picks up the fragments of the letter and kisses them, trying to piece them back together.


Meanwhile, Proteus' father has decided that Proteus should travel to Milan and join Valentine. He orders that Proteus must leave the next day, prompting a tearful farewell with Julia, to whom Proteus swears eternal love. The two exchange rings and vows and Proteus promises to return as soon as he can.


In Milan, Proteus finds Valentine in love with the Duke's daughter, Silvia. Despite being in love with Julia, Proteus falls instantly in love with Silvia and vows to win her. Unaware of Proteus' feelings, Valentine tells him the Duke wants Silvia to marry the foppish but wealthy Thurio, against her wishes. Because the Duke suspects that his daughter and Valentine are in love, he locks her nightly in a tower, to which he keeps the only key. However, Valentine tells Proteus that he plans to free her by means of a corded ladder, and together, they will elope. Proteus immediately informs the Duke, who subsequently captures and banishes Valentine. While wandering outside Milan, Valentine runs afoul of a band of outlaws, who claim they are also exiled gentlemen. Valentine lies, saying he was banished for killing a man in a fair fight, and the outlaws elect him their leader.



Valentine Rescuing Silvia from Proteus by William Holman Hunt (1851).

Meanwhile, in Verona, Julia decides to join her lover in Milan. She convinces Lucetta to dress her in boy's clothes and help her fix her hair so she will not be harmed on the journey. Once in Milan, Julia quickly discovers Proteus' love for Silvia, watching him attempt to serenade her. She contrives to become his page boy – Sebastian – until she can decide upon a course of action. Proteus sends Sebastian to Silvia with a gift of the ring that Julia gave to him before he left Verona, but Julia learns that Silvia scorns Proteus' affections and is disgusted he would forget his love back home, i.e. Julia herself. Silvia deeply mourns the loss of Valentine, who Proteus has told her is rumoured dead.


Not persuaded of Valentine's death, Silvia determines to flee the city with the help of Sir Eglamour. They escape into the forest but when they are confronted by the outlaws, Eglamour flees and Silvia is taken captive. The outlaws head to their leader (Valentine), but on the way, they encounter Proteus and Julia (still disguised as Sebastian). Proteus rescues Silvia, and then pursues her deeper into the forest. Secretly observed by Valentine, Proteus attempts to persuade Silvia that he loves her, but she rejects his advances.


Proteus insinuates that he will rape her ("I'll force thee yield to my desire"), but at this point, Valentine intervenes and denounces Proteus. Horrified at what has happened, Proteus vows that the hate Valentine feels for him is nothing compared to the hate he feels for himself. Convinced that Proteus' repentance is genuine, Valentine forgives him and seems to offer Silvia to him. At this point, overwhelmed, Julia faints, revealing her true identity. Upon seeing her, Proteus suddenly remembers his love for her and vows fidelity to her once again. The Duke and Thurio are brought as prisoners by the outlaws. Seeing Silvia, Thurio claims her as his, but Valentine warns Thurio that if he makes one move toward her, he will kill him. Terrified, Thurio renounces Silvia. The Duke, disgusted with Thurio's cowardice and impressed by Valentine's actions, approves his and Silvia's love, and consents to their marriage. The two couples are happily united, and the Duke pardons the outlaws, telling them they may return to Milan.


In writing The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Shakespeare drew on the Spanish prose romance Los Siete Libros de la Diana (The Seven Books of the Diana) by the Portuguese writer Jorge de Montemayor. In the second book of Diana, Don Felix, who is in love with Felismena, sends her a letter explaining his feelings. Like Julia, Felismena pretends to reject the letter, and be annoyed with her maid for delivering it. Like Proteus, Felix is sent away by his father, and is followed by Felismena, who, disguised as a boy, becomes his page, only to subsequently learn that Felix has fallen in love with Celia. Felismena is then employed by Felix to act as his messenger in all communications with Celia, who scorns his love. Instead, Celia falls in love with the page (i.e. Felismena in disguise). Eventually, after a combat in a wood, Felix and Felismena are reunited. Upon Felismena revealing herself however, Celia, having no counterpart to Valentine, dies of grief.[4]


Diana was published in Spanish in 1559 and translated into French by Nicholas Collin in 1578.[5] An English translation was made by Bartholomew Young and published in 1598, though Young claims in his preface to have finished the translation sixteen years earlier (c. 1582). Shakespeare could have read a manuscript of Young's English translation, or encountered the story in French, or learned of it from an anonymous English play, The History of Felix and Philomena, which may have been based on Diana, and which was performed for the court at Greenwich Palace by the Queen's Men on 3 January 1585.[6] The History of Felix and Philiomena is now lost.[5]



A 1587 printing of John Lyly's Euphues, The Anatomy of Wit.

Another major influence on Shakespeare was the story of the intimate friendship of Titus and Gisippus as told in Thomas Elyot's The Boke Named the Governour in 1531 (the same story is told in The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio, but verbal similarities between The Two Gentlemen and The Governor suggest it was Elyot's work Shakespeare used as his primary source, not Boccaccio's).[7] In this story, Titus and Gisippus are inseparable until Gisippus falls in love with Sophronia. He introduces her to Titus, but Titus is overcome with jealousy and vows to seduce her. Upon hearing of Titus' plan, Gisippus arranges for them to change places on the wedding night, thus placing their friendship above his love.[8]


Also important to Shakespeare in the composition of the play was John Lyly's Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit, published in 1578. Like The Governor, Euphues presents two close friends who are inseparable until a woman comes between them, and, like both The Governor and Two Gentlemen, the story concludes with one friend sacrificing the woman so as to save the friendship.[9] However, as Geoffrey Bullough argues "Shakespeare's debt to Lyly was probably one of technique more than matter."[10] Lyly's Midas may also have influenced the scene where Launce and Speed run through the milkmaid's virtues and defects, as it contains a very similar scene between Lucio and Petulus.[11]


Other minor sources include Arthur Brooke's narrative poem The Tragical History of Romeus and Juliet. Obviously Shakespeare's source for Romeo and Juliet, it features a character called Friar Laurence, as does Two Gentlemen, and a scene where a young man attempts to outwit his lover's father by means of a corded ladder (as Valentine does in Two Gentlemen).[12] Philip Sidney's The Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia may also have influenced Shakespeare insofar as it contains a character who follows her betrothed, dressed as his page, and later on, one of the main characters becomes captain of a group of Helots

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