The Shakespeare Project: Two Gentlemen of Verona

Two gentlemen is close to being great Shakespeare, but it doesn’t quite there. Some of the dialogue is fantastic, as you would expect, particularly the wordplay of Launch.. What unravels it, as sometimes happens with the Bard, is the ending, which tries too hard to tie everything up neatly and get everyone married. Proteus never gets the comeuppance he so richly earns and the characters seem almost casual in whom they end up with. Scholars tell us Shakespeare had some hidden meaning in this. I think it’s just the limitations of trying to shoehorn the play into the genre of “comedy”.

It’s an interesting look, however, at an artist stretching his arms before he upends everything. I’m reminded somewhat of Beethoven’s first and second symphonies, which occupy an odd niche of respecting classical tradition but giving hints of the greatness that was to come. Given the organization of the First Folio, however, it will be a while before I get there.

Side Note: Cracked and I are on a wavelength (warning: gruesome Shakespeariness). I am really not looking forward to Titus Andronicus. Woody Allen once said that the end of the universe and the extinguishing of all human achievement might be acceptable if it got rid of Titus.

2 Responses to “The Shakespeare Project: Two Gentlemen of Verona”

  1. DonnaK says:

    I’m not as much of a Two Gentlemen fan as I am a Tempest fan. For once I actually prefer Chaucer to his imitators and feel the “The Knight’s Tale” in the Tales of Canterbury is vastly superior to Shakespeare’s version here. I don’t think Shakespeare nailed down his characters as thoroughly as he needed to to get this play to work as it really should have. I myself never really felt compelled by any of the play’s characters and thus had no emotional stake in the plot of the play. I’ll say this – I read this in my senior seminar class and the entire class tried to guess which passages were Shakespeare’s and which weren’t. None of us ever got it right, which just goes to show how seamlessly the authors worked together.

    Don’t be afraid of Titus – it’s an absolutely marvelous, tremendous work. Do be warned that it is FAR more gruesome, gory and just plain evil than anything you would even think of as Shakespeare. The level of violence in it is truly disturbing on so many levels – the first time I read it I was completely floored by what I was reading. However, if you can get past the utter shock value of the plot, what you’ll find is a truly amazing play. The title character of Titus is one of his fullest and most developed. Anthony Hopkins did a absolutely brilliant job of nailing down the multiple levels of Titus’ madness in the Julie Taybor movie version which I most highly recommend. I put Titus’ madness up against that of Lear or Macbeth any day and assert Titus is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s richest characters. The language is brilliant throughout and the interplay of the family dynamics, especially when racing to the very disturbing end, is second to none. There’s a reason this was Shakespeare’s most successful play in his lifetime and it’s not just about the gore. It truly is an amazing work. I never did agree with much that Woody Allen said – it seems that trend continues. ;)

  2. Mike says:

    Was it Two Gentlemen or Two Noble Kinsmen that was based on the Knight’s Tale (or maybe both). It’s been a long time since I read Chaucer so I’d have to read it again to check the parallels. My college class was done in the original middle english, which was disorienting. I remember a number of the tales but the Knight’s — one of the longest as I recall – is dim.

    My clearest memory of the class, actually, is a discussion over the Prioress’ Tale. The class was insisting that Chaucer was mocking anti-semitism and I was arguing that it was no big deal if Chaucer was anti-semitic since (a) it’s not like he invented anti-semitism; (b) the man had been dead for 600 years; and (c) even if he was, it doesn’t make the writing less brilliant.