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24) The Two Gentlemen of Verona, by William Shakespeare

I had almost literally no expectations of The Two Gentlemen of Verona. All I knew about it was from rather peculiar on-line debates about what, if anything, the references to tides at Milan and Saint Gregory's Well reveal about Shakespeare's knowledge of Italian geography.

It is a better play than I expected. The main plot line, Proteus betraying both his love, Julia, and the other eponymous gentleman, Valentine, for the Duke of Milan's daughter Sylvia, is pretty compelling, though the wrapping up of the plot in the last scene is abrupt. There are some great comic parts, such as Launce and his dog, and Sylvia's ineffective suitor Thurio. The plot zings back and forth between Verona, Milan, and the outlaws' lair in the forest; and we have Shakespeare's first cross-dressing as Julia disguises herself as a pageboy to find out what Proteus is really up to. None of the lines is especially memorable, but I'm still surprised that it is not better known.

I'm sorry to say that for once I felt that the Arkangel audio production did not match the quality of the text. Part of this is unavoidable; I guess this is a play where visuals will make a big difference, especially in rounding off the corners of the last scene, and with Launce and his dog. But the jazz-style background music seemed to me totally misplaced; and though the acting was generally good - Lucy Robinson as Julia excellent - it somehow didn't quite add up to the sum of its parts. (One nice touch though was giving the outlaws Ulster accents, even if one of them couldn't manage it at all and the other two both slipped noticeably during the longer speeches.)

In summary, one to look for on stage rather than listen to on tape.

Henry VI, Part I | Henry VI, Part II | Henry VI, Part III | Richard III | Comedy of Errors | Titus Andronicus | Taming of the Shrew | Two Gentlemen of Verona | Love's Labour's Lost | Romeo and Juliet | Richard II | A Midsummer Night's Dream | King John | The Merchant of Venice | Henry IV, Part I | Henry IV, Part II | Henry V | Julius Caesar | Much Ado About Nothing | As You Like It | Merry Wives of Windsor | Hamlet | Twelfth Night | Troilus and Cressida | All's Well That Ends Well | Measure for Measure | Othello | King Lear | Macbeth | Antony and Cleopatra | Coriolanus | Timon of Athens | Pericles | Cymbeline | The Winter's Tale | The Tempest | Henry VIII | The Two Noble Kinsmen | Edward III | Sir Thomas More (fragment)


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 30th, 2008 10:35 am (UTC)
but I'm still surprised that it is not better known.

Agreed, I love this play. I enjoyed it when I read it, but it's definitely one that needs to be seen rather than heard/read. I was on a research trip in Stratford-Upon-Avon late last year and watched a recorded production of the play in the RSC video archive. The quality wasn't great, because it had been filmed from the back of the theatre, but it really brought everything to life, and it remains one of the best Shakespearean productions I've ever seen.
Sep. 30th, 2008 11:01 am (UTC)
Just a quick note - I'm finding these write-ups very interesting indeed. Thanks for them.

Edited at 2008-09-30 11:02 am (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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