Wow, this is embarrassing. I did not expect to fall behind schedule quite so dramatically. Having made the first few steps toward becoming more organised though, I finally got round to reading Two Gentlemen of Verona. Not quite what I was expecting, I will admit.
Plotwise, Two Gentlemen of Verona was a lot sillier than I had initially assumed. It starts with two friends, Proteus and Valentine; the former begins the play in the process of proclaiming his undying love to the fair maiden Julia, a sentiment that the latter finds utterly ludicrous. Valentine sees no value in courting love, instead choosing to move into the court of the Duke of Milan to see and experience more of the world. As if God were just waiting for the most ironic moment, Valentine soon falls in love with the Duke’s daughter, Silvia. All seems to be going well until Proteus finds himself inadvertently sent to the same court, so that he might benefit in similar ways to Valentine, where he too falls in love with Silvia. Literally the scene after he has sworn undying love with Julia. This was the point where I realised that this might be a tad on the ludicrous side. Not as rife with unbelievable coincidences as Comedy of Errors was, but still firmly on the silly side. I can very much get behind a play that looks at the conflict between what you want in relationships with different people: Proteus’ betrayal of his friend to further his own suit with Silvia could be a really interesting and in-depth character study of a deeply conflicted person. The thing that makes it feel silly is the pacing: while the right dramatic beats are there, they feel shallow at best. Maybe this is something that would work for me better if I saw a production of it, but having only read it, it feels like Shakespeare was racing through these scenes as quickly as he possibly could. As a result, nothing really seems to go beyond the surface and that was a bit disappointing.
The comic relief could have been better. I realise that Proteus’ idiot servant, Launce, was just a dramatic means for the main actors to have time to change between scenes, I just wish his monologues could have been more entertaining. As it is, they seem more like confused ramblings than anything actually funny. Though that may well be the Elizabethan sense of humour being lost in translation. Or maybe it’s funnier on-stage. Either way, my loss, I’m sure.
Overall, a pretty harmless play. It’s restored my faith in Shakespeare somewhat after the disaster that was Comedy of Errors. It would be nice to have something a little more involved next time though. 3/5
Next review: White Cat by Holly Black