Musing on Shakespeare: Two Gentlemen of Verona

I’ve started to read the Complete Works of William Shakespeare, and instead of writing one book report at the end, since this could take years, I’ve decided to post my thoughts on each play as I finish it. Of course, it will still only count as one book on my annual reading count in 2020 because I’m silly that way.

This play is the second in the compendium I have, and reading it, I can see how heavily Shakespeare and Ben Jonson influenced my play The Courtship of Barbara Holt. I see similar structure and situations in the development of the plot in each, but not so much Middle English in mine.

At any rate, the title gentlemen are Proteus and Valentine. Valentine is going off to Milan, but Proteus wants to stay in Verona and moon over his girl Julia. His father, though, decides to send him to Milan anyway. In Milan, Valentine is in love with Silvia, the daughter of the Duke. The Duke kind of wants Silvia to marry Thurio, but Silvia is set on Valentine. When Proteus gets to Milan, he is smitten with Silvia himself and proceeds to stab Valentine in the back by ratting out an elopement attempt. So Proteus tries to pitch woo to Silvia, who’s having none of it. Julia comes to Milan disguised as a boy, and when she is heartbroken that Proteus has forgotten her, tries to help Proteus woo Silvia because she wants him to be happy. Valentine, banished from Milan, falls in and becomes leader of a band of outlaws.

It’s a great bunch of setup, but we get to Act V, and it suddenly resolves too quickly. Silvia runs away from Milan to find Valentine, and is captured by outlaws. The Duke and his men follow Silvia out into the woods, and they get captured by outlaws. In the very last scene, Valentine, the king of the outlaws, brings everyone together and discovers Proteus’s treachery; Proteus asks for (and receives) forgiveness from Valentine and Julia; the Duke forgives Valentine and allows him to marry his daughter; and allows the banished outlaws to return to Milan.

As such, it ends very abruptly. It has a lot going on, good and interesting developments fraught with dramatic and comedic potential, and then Proteus asks forgiveness, and all is forgiven. The end.

This might have been Shakespeare’s first play, and as such, it’s a pretty good outing but for the quick end.

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