Carol J. Carlisle, University of South Carolina
Patty S. Derrick, University of Pittsburgh
In the theater, as in the study, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, possibly Shakespeare's earliest comedy, has traditionally been one of his least popular plays. By our present count, there have been just twenty-four productions of it on the London stage since Shakespeare's time, and seven of these were first seen elsewhere.1 At Stratford-upon-Avon there have been only ten since the annual Festivals began there in 1879. Most of the productions in these two major centers have been in the twentieth century, the greater number in the second half. The play has also been produced three times by the BBC, twice on radio and once on television. In New York, as one would expect, Two Gentlemen has had a much slighter stage history than in London,2 and at the "other Stratford" in Ontario it has had just four productions in a forty-year history. Curiously enough, however, a surprising number of British provincial theaters and American regional or festival companies have been willing, at least once or twice, to tackle the problems of this "flawed but endearing play."3
Two Gentlemen does have its charms, but they are largely offset by its peculiar weaknesses. To evoke its magic, a production must overcome these weaknesses or somehow turn them to advantage. Although the same basic problems have confronted producers of the play in all post-Shakespearean periods, some have loomed larger at one time than at another because of differing social and theatrical conventions, and the solutions that actors and directors have found for them have therefore varied considerably. Since such solutions (or attempted solutions) have influenced interpretation of the play, not singly but in varying combinations, it is best to consider them within the contexts of particular productions. Accordingly, we shall discuss here some salient productions from each period in toto, giving our fullest attention to seminal ones and occasionally mentioning others to illustrate trends.
First, the problems. For the average reader, Two Gentlemen, with its formula-ridden plot, outdated conventions, sketchily drawn characters, and absurd conclusion, is probably too simplistic and too incredible to be very interesting; at the same time, it may have an oddly disturbing effect since the apparent simplicities prove, on examination, too slippery to catch hold of with assurance. This combination of characteristics is not a hopeful one for effective stage production.
The dramatic action of Two Gentlemen is largely illus trative of either faithfulness or disloyalty to the potentially conflicting ideals of heroic friendship and courtly love—impossibly rarefied ideals for everyday human life, as the action demonstrates, yet far better than none at all.4 The concept of ideal friendship, grounded in a medieval blend of classical and scholastic ideas with the lore of blood brotherhood, was prominent in Elizabethan retellings and dramatizations of old tales like Titus and Gisippus, glorifying two men of equal endowments and mutual interests who were so united in love that each became the other's alter ego—a relation that could transcend love between the sexes.5 The ideals and conventions of courtly love, a Renaissance descendant of medieval literature portraying love as an all-consuming power and the lover as humble "servant" to a religiously worshipped lady, were found in the Petrarchan lyrics and the romances of the Renaissance, including Jorge de Montemayor's Diana, the source (direct or indirect) of Shakespeare's Julia-Proteus plot.6 Although love and friendship are ageless, these particular concepts had lost their familiarity before any post-Shakespearean revival of Two Gentlemen; thus, the heroes' language and actions might well seem a little strange to later audiences. But, even within the context of their own world, Valentine and Proteus are hard to take seriously as romantic heroes.
The naive Valentine is (or becomes) a devotee of both ideals. He exalts Proteus's merits (2.4.62-74), identifies his friend with himself (2.4.62), and feels Proteus's treachery as if his own right hand had turned against his heart (5.4.67-68). Originally he scorns love as an underminer of manly accomplishments, but, once he meets Silvia, he becomes the conventional courtly lover: he recounts the sufferings inflicted by the "mightly lord" Love (2.4.128-42); he resorts to outrageous hyperbole in praising Silvia (2.4.151-53, 156-63) and shows his veneration of her in terms like "heavenly saint," "divine," and "sacred" (2.4.145, 147; 3.1.212); he calls her "myself and says that without her, his "essence," he will "cease to be" (3.1.172, 182-84). In the courtly game of Milan's aristocratic society, a lady may have publicly acknowledged "servants," whose chivalrous devotion need not be—though it can be—erotically inspired. Valentine becomes Silvia's "servant" in both senses. Though fleetingly aware that Silvia has usurped Proteus in his thoughts (2.4.172-73), he never questions that each of them is his very "self or wonders what would happen if love and friendship should collide. He persuades Silvia to accept his friend as a "servant" socially, never suspecting that he will make an amorous claim as well.
Proteus, though less idealistic than his friend, is obviously attached to Valentine at first, and he is passionately in love with Julia. He knows all along, however, that his emotions are in conflict: thus he simultaneously approves and rejects his father's command to join Valentine in Milan, since he must leave Julia to do so (1.3.90-91). When he falls in love with Silvia, Valentine's lady, he notes the loss of "zeal" toward his friend as well as toward Julia; he adopts an amusingly pragmatic attitude, promising to master his new passion if he can, but vowing to win Silvia for himself if he cannot (2.4.192-214). His sophistry in rationalizing infidelity to both friend and love (2.6.1-32) is almost disarmingly juvenile, but with self-love as guide, he plunges into ever-increasing treachery. His villainy causes little concern, however. He cuts a poor figure in wooing "holy" Silvia, and he is plainly enmeshing himself in a tightening net.
The crux of the play occurs when the demands of love and friendship finally clash, and Valentine, after his long absorption in love, chooses friendship without the blink of an eye—without, in fact, showing any recognition that he is making a choice. Faced with the shocking evidence of Proteus's treachery, quickly followed by a brief speech of repentance, he instantly pardons his friend, and to demonstrate the restoration of his affection, surrenders to Proteus his own claim to Silvia's love (5.4.77-83). The only response to this astonishing offer is Julia's swoon, and the disclosure of her real identity is sufficient to restore the heroes to their abandoned true-loves. Conflict has not been resolved, just ignored.
Some scholars defend Valentine's offer by associating it with the noble self-sacrifices of the friendship tradition or the "courtly virtue of Magnanimity."7 But if Shakespeare means the audience to sympathize and admire, he does little to elicit this reaction. He hints at no motive for Valentine, no sense of regret over losing his "essence," no sign of consideration for Silvia herself. Even worse, dramatically speaking, he gives Silvia no response when her ideally constant lover proposes to turn her over to her would-be ravisher (indeed no speech at all for the rest of the play). To treat her as a passive "prize," aside from giving the actress a thankless task and (in modern times) offending feminist sensibilities, would contradict the effect of her previous speeches and actions—defying her father's will about Thurio, going after Valentine, denouncing Proteus. Muriel Bradbrook, once a "prize" adherent, later suggested a different interpretation: Valentine, holding Silvia by one hand, "invites" the kneeling Proteus to kiss the other, as he offers him "all that was [not is] mine in Silvia." What he offers is not Silvia herself, but reinstatement as her courtly servant, a position which he and Proteus had formerly shared but from which he has now risen to be Silvia's betrothed.8 Although the interpretation of Valentine's words seems too subtle for the theater, the suggestion is appealing. Another "Elizabethan" interpretation—one which has actually been tried on the stage—construes Valentine's offer as a "courteous gesture that will give Proteus a chance to be his best self by declining it. To implement this, Valentine must signal his real purpose somehow, most easily by exchanging meaningful looks with an approving Silvia.9
Read and played without sophistication, however, the climactic scene seems to cast ridicule on all three members of the love triangle: on Valentine, whose mechanical adherence to one code makes him an unwitting traitor to another or (for spectators unacquainted with these codes) whose sudden shift in attitude suggests a more-than-Protean instability; on Proteus, whose clever scheming has led only to disgraceful exposure; and even on Silvia, the paragon for whom three men have striven, who finds herself forsaken by the winner. Only Julia, who loves not an ideal but a particular man, who loves him steadfastly, if foolishly, despite his wellknown flaws, escapes absurdity.
These effects are partly the result of unskillful plot development, but there are hints that the two gentlemen at least—idealist as much as villain—were meant to appear comic. One hint is the comic exposure of Valentine himself in an earlier scene, caught by the Duke with a rope ladder under his cloak. Another is the incongruous behavior of that other idealist, Sir Eglamour, whose valor, wisdom, and compassion are praised by Silvia (4.3.11-13), but who takes to his heels when confronted by the outlaws, leaving Silvia unprotected (5.3.6-7). Most notable is Shakespeare's use of the comic servants to comment on or reflect their masters' behavior: Speed satirizes Valentine's romantic excesses (2.1.18-32, 42-78), and Launce unwittingly parodies the aristocrats' behavior in several passages—for example, his account of the family farewell (2.3.1-32), which exaggerates to absurdity the pathos of Proteus and Julia's parting.
It has been suggested that Two Gentlemen, which presents many problems as romantic comedy, makes perfect sense when considered as burlesque.10 There are burlesque elements, certainly; but, although Shakespeare sometimes ridicules his young friends and lovers, he does not ridicule friendship or love. To turn the whole romance into burlesque is to lose some of the play's qualities that can be particularly attractive in performance: the lyricism, the passion (often moving, despite the exaggeration), and the youthful spirit, which makes the adolescent lovers appealing without obscuring their follies and vices. Shakespeare's method, so notable in later comedies, of balancing romance with deflating humor yet without destroying its charm, seems to have been attempted in this early play, though less firmly and skillfully: it is hence more puzzling in its effect and more difficult to translate into theatrical terms.
In addition to major problems in interpretation and tone, there are minor ones in simple "factual" matters due to confusing or inconsistent references: to "Verona" and "Padua" in passages seemingly related to Milan: to an Emperor who turns out to be a Duke; to two different Sir Eglamours, only one of whom actually appears on the stage; and so on. These are comparatively easy to deal with, but the mere listing of an Eglamour among Julia's suitors has occasionally colored the representation of the one we see, a sworn celibate who befriends Silvia. There are also failures in dramatic technique, such as an undue reliance on monologue and duologue, the latter even when a number of characters are on the stage." Casual readers may overlook such lapses until the end, when they are suddenly shocked by Silvia's silence; in the theater, however, even the minor awkwardnesses must be dealt with in some way.
The three earliest productions of Two Gentlemen that can be described with any confidence tried to cure the play's ills by radical textual revisions; the third used, in addition, a more potent medicine. Being closely related, they can be discussed together: (1) David Garrick's production at Drury Lane, using an adapted text by Benjamin Victor, introduced on 22 December 1762—the first production of the play now known, though there had probably been one in the 1590s; (2) John Philip Kemble's production at Covent Garden, using his own version (based on Victor's but with alterations), first seen on 20 April 1808; and (3) an "operatic" production at Covent Garden, opening on 21 November 1821, with libretto by Frederick Reynolds and music by Henry Bishop—the text evidently based on Kemble's but with extensive cuts to make way for the interpolated songs and for new passages of dialogue to justify them.12 (Two other London productions of this period, seen just four times in all, may have had texts closer to Shakespeare's, but the evidence is sparse.)13
Some of the changes that Victor made and Kemble adopted were typical of that period's theatrical editing of Shakespeare: cuts (mainly in out-of-date wordplay and some indecorous references) and rearrangement of scenes to tighten structure and suit the convenience of the scenic stage. But their other alterations were more drastic. In addition to numerous verbal substitutions, there were many new passages, some to clarify motives left obscure by Shakespeare, others to fill gaps in his action, to strengthen or modernize characterization, to give greater prominence to the comic roles, or to bolster a new interpretation. The rearrangements and amplifications of scenes did give the play a greater sense of coherence and drive, but at the sacrifice of Shakespeare's subtler dramatic effects: for instance Launce's monologue about his family's farewell was no longer paired with Julia and Proteus's parting, and Julia's decision to follow Proteus, now placed immediately after his departure, was no longer in ironic juxtaposition with Proteus's determination to win Silvia. Among Victor's additions were two scenes for the comic players; Kemble retained (with a softening touch) the first one, in which a badly frightened Launce and a phlegmatic Crab are captured by outlaws, but not the second, in which a disguised Speed plays a callous joke on Launce. Reynolds evidently followed Kemble's lead.
The characters most affected by Victor's additions were Lucetta and Thurio, each of which was economically but effectively remodeled into a contemporary stage type. Shakespeare's Lucetta, a lively but sketchily drawn waiting woman of the Nerissa type, became a pert, intriguing chambermaid, who vowed that Julia shouldn't "think .. . to carry on even an honourable intrigue" without her (Victor, 9); Jane Pope, known for her saucy and hoydenish roles, was Garrick's Lucetta. Kemble returned to the original version of this character, but he followed Victor in giving a new personality to Thurio—that of an affected devotee of the arts, absurdly vain of his ability to write sonnets, set them to music, and sing them himself. In one passage, Thurio, instead of joining the search for Silvia, lingers to practice his new song; when he hears that Proteus has already galloped off, he promises to "gallop after him—fal, fal, fal": he exits singing and, one imagines, "galloping" mincingly (48). On the stage this character may have become progressively more ridiculous: Garrick's Thurio, Joseph Vernon, a gifted singer as well as an actor of some comic parts, is depicted in a contemporary engraving as an elegant figure gracefully posing with a lute (he sang "Who is Silvia?" himself); in Kemble's production, John Liston, famous for his "vain, rich, cowardly, stupid" characters, probably repeated his parodies of the corps de ballet's dancing, which he had recently used successfully as Caper in a farce by J. T. Allingham; William Farren, in the Reynolds-Bishop production, reportedly made Thurio a "sportive coxcomb," and a drawing of him in the character, wearing an elaborate, finicky costume and holding a looking-glass, suggests that he did heavily emphasize Thurio's vanity and foppishness.14 One character that Victor left as he found it was Eglamour. Kemble, however, smoothed out the Shakespearean wrinkles: to avoid confusion, he substituted "Altamont" for "Eglamour" in Julia's list of suitors, and to redeem Silvia's friend Eglamour from the ironic inconsistency between reputation and deed, he had him fight manfully and, after being struck down and left for dead, revive in time for the denouement.
The most important changes, however, affected the interpretation of the whole play. Evidently the adaptors saw nothing comic in Valentine's worship of Silvia but found his climactic offer to Proteus incredible; accordingly they concentrated upon the love story, elaborating the relationship of Valentine and Silvia by additional passages (for example, mutual declarations of love in Act 2 and a tender reunion after Silvia's rescue from Proteus). They completely reformed the climactic scene: Valentine, instead of forgiving Proteus immediately, threatened him with death; this precipitated Julia's swoon and, ultimately, the revelation of her identity; Silvia, not Valentine, joined the hands of Proteus and Julia, then persuaded Valentine to be reconciled to his friend. Victor ended the play by having the reformed Proteus speak a moralizing couplet, which Kemble expanded into seven lines, ending with "A lover must be constant to be bless'd." The love interest must have suffered when stately, fifty-year-old Kemble played Valentine: he was heroic and, in his best scene (the last) very energetic, but, according to the Morning Chronicle (22 April 1808), "cold and unimpressive" where love was the "immediate impulse."
The operatic production went well beyond its predecessors in expedients for popularizing Two Gentlemen: its revised and much-cut text was embellished with a great deal of music and spectacle. In addition to a newly-set "Who Is Silvia?", there were an overture and eleven elaborately-arranged vocal pieces—solos, duets, glees, choruses, and a grand finale. The words for the new songs were based, with considerable freedom, on passages from other Shakespearean works, mostly sonnets and other poems, but also four plays. The music was obviously more important than the drama, though Maria Tree, a good Shakespearean actress as well as a fine mezzo-soprano, seems to have given an effective portrayal of Julia despite the slender text. None of the male characters except the outlaws had singing parts, and none except John Liston as Launce got much attention from reviewers. Most of the praise went to the two heroines and a young singer who played the interpolated role of Julia's page. The staging was extravagant, with "wonders of scenery and machinery." Especially "gorgeous" was the final scene of Act 4, set in the Great Square of Milan, with grotesque groups of dancers and merrymakers celebrating Carnival. It featured a series of spectacles, notably a huge model of Cleopatra's galley and "an artificial mountain transformed into the Temple of Apollo, by the singular process of conflagration." This "noble pageant," half an hour long, would seem irrelevant to the play, but apparently the distractions of Carnival enabled Silvia and Eglamour to leave Milan unnoticed.15
This was the first popular production of Two Gentlemen: Garrick's had been seen only six times, Kemble's only three, but the operatic version had twenty-nine performances in its first season and six in its second—an excellent record at that time. Audiences obviously preferred less of the play (even in revised form) and more of the embellishments. As the Examiner explained, the passages omitted for the sake of music and spectacle were not "dramatically beautiful," and there was nothing a modern audience appreciated less than mere blank-verse recitation.
The first documented production of Two Gentlemen that restored Shakespeare's text was William Charles Macready's, which premiered at Drury Lane on 29 December 1841.16 "Restoring," of course, did not mean returning to Shakespeare's complete text or strictly adhering to his arrangement of scenes. Macready took the usual liberties in both respects. In fact, he cut more lines than either Victor or Kemble, his most noticeable omissions being the whole of 3.2, in which Proteus hypocritically advises Thurio how to woo Silvia (though he transferred seven of its lines, with some verbal changes, to 4.2), and the most vulgar passages of Launce's monologue about Crab's misbehavior. In making structural changes, however, he was more sensitive to the dramatic consequences than the adaptors had been. For example, he preserved the ironic relationship between Julia's plan to join Proteus and the latter's defection to Silvia.
Textual restoration, as Macready understood it, consisted of purifying the original text from "the gross interpolations that disfigure it": in this case, ridding it of all the adaptor's additions and refraining from making any new ones.17 In preparing his version of Two Gentlemen, he came close to this ideal: he cut out all previous accretions to Shakespeare's text; he made far fewer verbal changes within the lines than his predecessors had done; and he added only one full line of his own. But he not only purged the text, he also restored the long-abandoned lines in which Valentine forgives Proteus and offers him "all that was mine in Silvia" (5.4.83). This revived emphasis on friendship reflected a current interest of Macready's: later in the same season he produced Gerald Griffin's Titus and Gisippus, a blank-verse dramatization of the old story.
Macready's comparatively slight changes in characterization were made through cuts rather than additions: for example, he made Eglamour seem more consistent by omitting Silvia's praise of his valor rather than by making his behavior conform to it. Several cuts made the two heroes appear in a somewhat better light, but performance, more than textual changes, revealed his interpretation of these roles.
As Valentine, Macready was a noble hero—frank, kindly, warm-hearted. (At forty-eight he was too old for Shakespeare's inexperienced, slightly ridiculous idealist, but he would have rejected that interpretation anyway.) He and James R. Anderson, a "gallant" Proteus, "more picturesque than villainous," played well together; they were better, according to one critic, in their "manly cordiality" as friends than in their "boisterous ardor" as lovers. Another critic found fault with Macready, however, for his "overly-fervid" demonstration of friendship when bidding farewell to Proteus; his "perilous sighs" seemed too emotional for male friends in England's "'cauld clime.'" Young Miss Fortescue, as Julia, was the center of the audience's sympathetic attention, charming them with her warmth, passion, and pathos. Robert Keeley, a fine comedian, played Launce effectively despite his missing vulgarities. Thurio, though now deprived of a chance to sing and caper, was by tradition a fop; Compton created a new identity by combining "foppishness" with "surliness."18
The difficult climactic scene was played like this: As Proteus advanced on Silvia, threatening rape, Valentine rushed forward, sword in hand, commanding him to "let go." Proteus drew his own sword and was about to attack, but when he recognized his opponent, he dropped it and staggered back in horror. The actors froze in their positions, creating the effect of a "fixed group" by an artist or sculptor, before Proteus fell to his knees and begged for forgiveness. The applause was "tumultuous." Proteus's horror-struck attitude, which epitomized his shocked self-conviction, seemed to one critic "worth a life's repentance." Idealizing the encounter as a work of art gave the moment of first remorse a symbolic importance, countering, as much as possible, the commonplace demands of probability. Valentine's rebuke was "delivered with manly grace, which was enhanced by the generosity of his forgiveness." Not everyone was reconciled to his offer of Silvia, but critics made surprisingly little objection—perhaps because Miss Ellis's dignified but cold Silvia aroused little sympathy. What did she do? We have only a negative clue: the remark that she had not yet mastered "the mystery of by-play."19
Among the most effective features of this production were the artistic scenes of characters in Renaissance dress moving against carefully-detailed, authentic-looking Italian backgrounds. Macready had chosen the year 1500 as the approximate time of the story and had consulted the antiquarian authority Colonel Hamilton Smith about the costumes. He had new scenery painted (less common for legitimate plays than for opera at that time) with emphasis on specific, identifiable places. For example, the opening scene, in which Valentine parts from Proteus, was located not simply on "A Street in Verona" (as in Kemble's promptbook), but before the "Tombs of the Scaligeri," and there were several views of the Duke's place, with differing Milanese landmarks in the distance—the Duomo in one, the City Gate in another, and so on.20 Reviewers approved the "attention to the local scenery and uses of the period," and they praised the "succession of beautiful and animated pictures," noting that the decor, rather than "overlay[ing] the drama," was "in fine keeping with [its] effects."21
Audiences and critics were enthusiastic. The latter praised not only the production but (equally complimentary to it) the play itself. The Argus, which called Two Gentlemen "charming," said that it was "so admirably got up and so deliciously acted" that it produced "a quiet and continual succession of pleasurable sensations." For the Times critic, the atmosphere of "Southern warmth" evidently turned what were usually-considered flaws into part of the play's charm: excessive use of conceits became the "freshness and recklessness" with which concetti are "sprinkle[d]" over everything, and the lack of strong characterization hardly mattered with this "company of graceful sonneteers." Such reviews were a pleasant change from some earlier ones, which had condemned the play as dull and not worth reviving.22 The new appreciation seemingly reflected not only the appeal of the Italian Renaissance decor and the fine acting, but also—for the Morning Chronicle's critic, at least—the liberating effect of the rediscovered Shakespearean text. Macready's revival, he wrote, was "in the simple form" intended by Shakespeare, something that had been previously misunderstood by adaptors and managers. Neither an elaborate work of art nor "a collection of . . . stage effects," it is a "careless, graceful, romantic piece" from Shakespeare's earliest years. Treated that way, "what beauty, what inimitable grace, what freshness and buoyancy" it had! The audience could laugh, sigh, and sympathize with the characters without bothering very much about "character": they need not even feel unhappy about Proteus's perfidy, for it was "clear from the first that everything must come right in the end."
Macready's production had thirteen performances—as many as all preceding ones put together, except for those of the "opera." Unimpressive as the number sounds, it was a very good showing for a minor Shakespearean play at that time. For Two Gentlemen without textual or musical embellishments it was remarkable. This production, whose promptbook was used again by Charles Kean (New York, 1846; London, 1848), established the theatrical use of Shakespeare's text with few, if any, additions and often, though not always, with Valentine's offer intact. Stage versions of later years would vary in the amount of liberty taken with the original text (Augustin Daly's in 1895, for example, was heavily edited), but they would, on the whole, conform more closely to it, not less so, than Macready's did.
The next productions of particular interest were William Poel's, important for radical innovations in staging. Unlike the other directors in this study, Poel gave his attention not to making the play more stageworthy, but to revealing its own qualities, which were currently obscured by elaborate sets, artificial breaks in the action, and slow, overly-emphatic speech. His search for "some means of acting Shakespeare naturally and appealingly from a full text"23 led him back to the original staging as he envisioned it—continuous action on a thrust platform and rapid speech accented only on key words. His involvement with the New Shakespere Society was an early example of cooperation between stage and study. Although Poel was at first ridiculed, his influence and that of more flexible followers revolutionized Shakespearean production.
Not counting a dramatic reading in 1892, Poel directed two London productions of Two Gentlemen, both for the Elizabethan Stage Society: at the Merchant Taylors Hall on 28 November 1896 and at His Majesty's Theatre on 20 April 1910 during Beerbohm-Tree's annual Shakespeare Festival. (Each was repeated at other locations). For both he used a conservative text, with no changes except occasional cuts (the only notable ones being the references to Eglamour's running away), and he tried to create the theatrical conditions of Shakespeare's day.24 The costumes were authentically Elizabethan, if not always appropriate to character and situation: the women wore ruffs and farthingales, the gentlemen's clothes were based on some sixteenth-century frescoes in the Hall of the Carpenters' Company, and the outlaws' on a costume design for a halberdier in the Fishmongers' Pageant of 1609. (A semi-military group, the outlaws marched with banner and trumpeter.)
The first production was not successful, largely because the "stage," an open space at the upper end of a large hall, was too flat to allow good visibility and the amateur actors had difficulty making themselves heard. The second one, however, though seen only once in London, was, in Robert Speaight's opinion, one of Poel's "most important contributions to the Elizabethan Revival." Poel had an apron built out over the orchestra pit of Tree's theater, thus gaining something like a platform stage. The acting seems to have been generally good. Critics approved the distinct enunciation and the use of the old pronunciation when the verse required it; they also noticed some "Elizabethan" gesture. One of Poel's eccentricities, occasionally casting women in men's parts (a reverse reminder of the boy-actress), was used successfully in this production: Valentine and Panthino were reportedly played well by actresses, though Valentine (Winifred Rae) was chided by her director for lack of "virility." Individual performances were less impressive, however, than the mood or atmosphere created by the whole group. Thus Speaight recalled the "innkeeper nodding over his lantern," not as an example of the actor's art, but as one of the production's "beauties which lingered in the memory," and the Times mentioned the "'right' Shakespearian" fooling of the "two clowns" without naming the actors or noting any details of performance. In this production, declared the latter, the "puerile complications and improbabilities" of the plot, which would have been "more glaring" in a realistic setting, "became of little account," and the play's best qualities were clearly brought out—the "verve of its dialogue, the lyric beauty of many of its passages," and "the atmosphere of warm, romantic amorism."
During virtually the next half-century, productions of Two Gentlemen, in both London and Stratford, generally used Elizabethan costumes, or something like them, though at least one used medieval Italian decor; the settings varied from pictorial to simplified and suggestive. But on 22 January 1957 Michael Langham broke the trend with a production at the Old Vic set in the early nineteenth century, the first Two Gentlemen at either major center in a period later than Shakespeare's.25 The acting text was Shakespearean except for a good many cuts, occasional brief changes in wording, and some (not many) additional lines. Valentine's famous offer in the last act was retained. Changes in interpretation were effected mainly through innovative decor and greatly amplified stage business.26
A vaguely Italian permanent set, suggestive of a garden in neo-Gothic style, had flower-entwined pillars, ivy-covered ruin, and, in the foreground, a small, ornate structure, from whose high window Silvia looked down in the serenade scene; different backcloths indicated changes of location. The "mock-Regency" costumes pleased both eye and fancy with their romantic flair—the gentlemen in brightly-colored jackets, closefitting trousers, caped coats, and velour top hats, the ladies in full-skirted dresses with lace parasols. Valentine and Proteus, "attractively posturing juveniles," looked like Byron and Shelley. The outlaws (stretching chronology) resembled the Pirates of Penzance.27 The Romantic period, closer to the present than the Renaissance, yet remote enough to evoke a "make-believe" atmosphere, seemed to most critics an inspired choice: it sorted well with the play's sighings and swoonings, its poetic fervor and idealism, and its Byronic philandering. Turning the two gentlemen into "a couple of bucks" heightened the absurdities of the plot and, at the same time, "almost conjured away" one's impatience with them. Reviewers disagreed about the amount of burlesque Langham used, but most thought he managed it delicately (at least, until the climax): as one of them remarked, his production succeeded because the play's "naively young but passionate poetry . . . survive[d] the drastic treatment."28
The acting created the effect of irony balanced with sympathy. Robert Gale, a Valentine of "dashing 'true-blue' simplicity," was both lovelorn and valorously spirited. Keith Micheli as the Byronic Proteus was "so fiercely driven by passion" as to be "unaware that he was turning into a knave"; at times he seemed "astonished at his own behavior," his attitude varying from humorous ruefulness to "Keatsian melancholy." Barbara Jefford's "shiningly sincere" Julia was praised for "genuine fire and eloquence." Ingrid Hafner's Silvia, though comparatively colorless, was a lovelylooking, nobly-bred heroine. Dudley Jones gave a "brisk" performance of the word-mongering Speed. Robert Helpmann, with comic precision and "ingratiating audience-contact," portrayed Launce as a squeaky-voiced, vacant-looking, but likable Cockney, "funny with pathos." A clever yellow Labrador named Duff was "engagingly miscast" as that dirty dog Crab: he "shook hands," carried parcels, and behaved so decorously as to belie his master's vulgar account of him (all its vulgarities intact).29
The most notable aspect of Langham's production was its constant and ingenious use of stage business which, though not implied by Shakespeare's text, seemed to grow naturally out of it. It endowed the most archaic verbal conceits with a modern spirit, and it often won laughs with the ironic touches it gave to the speaker's words. Since the actors rarely said anything without doing something too, they gave the illusion of a fuller, faster-moving plot than the play actually has. Among other embellishments were an artist painting Silvia's portrait, archery practice, and dancing in the candlelit palace garden. Stage business, combined with distinctive costumes, was also used to "develop" minor characters: Antonio, apparently a country squire, came in with bag and gun, fresh from hunting; Thurio, vain as ever but now a "superannuated rake," was shown being shaved; the Duke, wearing a splendid uniform with epaulettes, strode about, smoking cigars and seeming "always on the edge of sending a gunboat to subdue rebellious tribesmen." Eglamour was uniquely reinterpreted: the "two Eglamours" were combined into one, an ineffectual but dapper old beau, who first courted Julia in Verona, then turned up at Milan, paying his addresses to Silvia. (Chaste devotion to a dead lady was not mentioned.) Stage business, added to scenes where Eglamour did not originally appear, carried out the new interpretation; at one point he was visually paired with Thurio—two silly old fops together.30 The portrayal, as the Guardian suavely remarked, was "not quite perhaps what Shakespeare meant," but it "fitted well in this 'Vanity Fair' treatment of the tale."
The most striking use of stage business, however, was in the climactic scene, where it gave a new explanation of Valentine's notorious offer. Proteus's rescue of Silvia was heard offstage (not merely referred to, as in Shakespeare), with Proteus demanding Silvia's release and, when an outlaw refused, threatening force. The outlaws having fled, Silvia hurried on stage, closely pursued by Proteus, armed with a pistol and followed in turn by Julia-as-Sebastian. Silvia, trying to escape from Proteus, who had gained hold of her, succeeded in taking the pistol from his pocket and, presumably pointing it at him, broke loose and backed away from him, down the shallow steps. He wheeled down after her, took the pistol away, and threatened to force her; he then swung her to him, laying the pistol down for freer action. When Valentine advanced from behind a rock, ordering, "Villain, let go . . . ," Proteus released her, exclaiming, "Valentine!" Silvia fell in a faint, and Valentine and Julia knelt to help her. Julia stayed with her as Valentine confronted Proteus and denounced him. At one point Proteus put his hand on his old friend's shoulder, but Valentine ignored this overture. Proteus, after begging forgiveness, picked up the pistol; Silvia, who had revived, took cover behind a pillar, Julia (drawn toward Proteus?) behind Valentine. Proteus, however, was bent on suicide, not murder. Valentine hastily forgave him, then, taking the pistol from him, made his offer of Silvia "on the spur of an emotional moment."
Critics joined in the audience's merriment over the transformation of Shakespeare's puzzling finale into nineteenth-century melodrama—"a sort of abridged version of... 'The Corsican Brothers.'" Nothing could "finally disguise" Valentine's lunatic forbearance, wrote one, "but the players' confidence survived the inevitable laughter"; another said that the mask of light romance, which had been kept in place until now, dropped under the strain of this scene, and "the repressed burlesque [burst] out." The tongue-in-cheek response was, no doubt, exactly what Langham wished. His "brilliant" solution to the problem of Valentine's offer was praised as the best example of his inventive talent.31
Langham's successful treatment of the play influenced both critical attitudes and some later productions. Its springlike gaiety was remembered and favorably contrasted with the autumnal mood of Peter Hall's production (Stratford-upon-Avon, 1960), with its decor in the deep, rich tones of an Italian Old Master. And its long-lived influence was felt in Richard Digby Day's productions (Open Air Theatre, Regent's Park, London, summers of 1968 and 1969) with their nineteenth-century costumes, their light-hearted lyricism, and their sharply-defined minor characters (including some anachronistic ones—outlaws in Robin Hood suits and Sir Eglamour in cobwebbed armor like an ancient Quixote).32
Among the most interesting of other productions with latter-day settings was Robin Phillips's contemporary Two Gentlemen at the Royal Shakespeare Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 23 July 1970 (revived in December for a brief run at the Aldwych in London). Its permanent set, which served for both Verona and Milan (and for the forest, with the help of dangling ropes and dappled light), depicted a scene at an Italian resort, featuring a miniature swimming pool with real water; the lovers were wealthy, golden-tanned adolescents, wearing trendy leisure clothes and huge sunglasses. Antonio, a cigar-smoking tycoon, or perhaps a Mafia boss, doffed his monogrammed beachrobe for a quick swim; the Duke, who sometimes appeared in an academic gown, looked like a vice chancellor of a university. The outlaws were hippies, and Eglamour was an aging scoutmaster, dressed in bare-kneed uniform, who arrived on a bicycle, brought along his camping gear and ordnance map, and laid a bridge across the pool for Silvia to escape on. Launce (Patrick Stewart) was a dour, North-Country workman, dressed in black, who stood apart, a grave, unmoved observer of the others' follies.
The production reflected the current emphasis on a search for identity—it began and ended with an echosong "Who is Silvia? Who is Valentine? Who is Proteus? Who is Julia?"—and also a modern concern with psychological motivation. Proteus, more cerebral than the handsome, athletic Valentine but relatively puny physically, seemed to be moved to treachery by envious admiration and a sense of his own inadequacy. Simply as interesting characters, the lovers were well played: Peter Egan's Valentine, sincere and naive, a little conceited but maturing under the influence of love and its troubles; Ian Richardson's Proteus, "coldly impassioned," subtle, and self-aware; Helen Mirren's Julia, "delightfully spirited and endearing," at times a "tigress" or "whirlwind," at times an agonized adolescent, sucking her thumb for comfort; Estelle Kohler's Silvia, a graceful socialite, but capable of taking the initiative and acting with spirit. The reconciliation scene was effectively played: as he wound up his expression of forgiveness, Valentine kissed Silvia; then, crossing to Proteus, he ended "And that my love may appear plain and free" (5.4.82) by kissing him. The crucial line that followed ("All that was mine in Silvia I give thee") evidently meant, "The love I have given to Silvia I also give to you." Even so, the play ended on an uncertain note, as Valentine spoke its final line with a doubtful pause before the last word, "One feast, one house, one mutual—happiness." The sound of a cuckoo underlined the ambiguity.
Some critics deplored the effects of the modernization: "incongruities," substitution of irony for lyricism, loss of the lovers' innocence, sacrifice of serious Shakespearean themes. (Once again the Langham production of 1957 was wistfully recalled as the contrasting ideal.) Others insisted that the play had gained by the contemporary treatment of timeless truths. Most reviewers, however, like most audiences, simply enjoyed the production.33
An unusual amount of experimentation with Two Gentlemen has taken place in North American regional and festival theaters: the play has had settings, for example, in Little Italy of 1900; on a 1920s campus of "Milien University," where Valentine had an athletic scholarship; and in a farcical Wild West, with Silvia doubling as a teasing Mae West and the disguised Julia wearing a ten-gallon hat over her enormous beehive hairdo. It has been given in the style of circus, commedia dell'arte, vaudeville, and a combination of all these.34 In 1984 the American Repertory in New York even revived Kemble's 1808 adaptation.
Among other experiments have been several musical ones. The most famous was the award-winning "rock musical" (which also used other popular rhythms like jazz and Latin American dance), directed by Mel Shapiro from his and John Guare's text, Guare's lyrics and Galt MacDermot's music. It was produced in the summer of 1971 for Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival in Central Park, had a successful run at the St. James, Broadway, in 1971-72, and was revived (with a different cast) at the Phoenix, London, in 1973. This Two Gentlemen was much more, and much less, than an adaptation. Fewer than 450 Shakespearean lines survived, some of them from sonnets and other plays, and a good many new lines were added, besides those of the numerous songs (nearly forty, finally). Some striking character changes produced a pregnant Julia, a lusty Silvia who hated to be idealized, a tough-looking Duke in dark glasses who was a sleazy politician as well as a tyrant, an Eglamour (Silvia's old boyfriend) who had been drafted into the army, a Lucetta who paired off with Thurio, and metadramatic servants (Launce and Speed) who bemoaned the plight of the working man with no time for love and wished to be a "hot lover. . . like the kids in the play." There were references to contemporary concerns—war, abortion, the environment. A racially mixed cast made the point of brotherhood. But the chief emphasis was on the songs, the dances, the mood of lively abandon—and the theme of love, love, love. It was a long way from Shakespeare, but it had some of the same youthfulness, vitality, and, in its own way, innocence.35
Some modern directors have attacked the problem of antifeminism in Two Gentlemen, usually by reinterpreting Valentine's offer so as to remove its callousness toward Silvia. As we have seen, Robin Phillips tried this solution, yet a critic of his production remarked that this play could "provoke a demonstration by the Women's Liberation Movement." Some North American productions have simply made the offer ridiculous, for example by using double-takes or having the men walk off together and then turn to see with comic dismay the women leaving in the other direction. The most effective expedient, however, has been to involve Silvia in the forgiveness of Proteus.36
The Two Gentlemen that best illustrates this method—the Royal Shakespeare Company's latest production of the play—also offers examples of other strategies for bringing audience and play together. Directed by David Thacker, it opened at the Swan Theatre in Stratford-upon-Avon on 6 April 1991, transferred to the Pit at the Barbican in October 1992, and later went on tour with a largely different cast, finally closing at the Haymarket Theatre in London in January 1994.37 Its most obvious features, the choice of period and the related use of music, proved interpretive as well as entertaining. The play was set in the 1930s, when "Coward dressing gowns . . . Lonsdale evening dress and Wodehouse tennis gear" were fashionable—a period whose combination of elegance and shallowness revealingly reflected the same qualities in the play's characters. The atmosphere was established during the quarter-hour before the play began: a palm-court orchestra, ensconced in a bandstand, played hit-parade songs by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, and others, while couples in evening wear danced downstage. Between the scenes of the play, a blonde chanteuse crooned songs like "Blue Moon," "Night and Day," and "Love Is the Sweetest Thing"—all "cunningly chosen to point and counter-point the action." The evocation of a past distinctly different from today, yet familiar as Bertie Wooster on TV, brought the audience into tune with the play. As Benedict Nightingale explained in the Times: "When lovers appear in doublet and hose, we expect them to behave in conventionally romantic ways. Transpose them to places we more easily associate with youthful skittishness and folly, and they can seem perfectly plausible." The actors never mocked or patronized their characters, but their innocent yet artificial world was one whose adolescent passions might well be the subject of fun. The tone was close to Shakespeare's own. Interestingly, a critic who disapproved of the chosen setting—an unusual response—admitted that a post-Shakespearean period makes sense but preferred the early nineteenth century, with a Byronic Proteus. Langham's production and its imitators were hard to forget.38
Another notable feature of the production was its success in giving Shakespeare's sketchily drawn characters some sense of development or depth. Valentine (Richard Bonneville), though never profound, progressed from "an awkwardly ingratiating lover" to "an impressively bold one." Even Thurio (Henry Guy) was no mere fop or "silly-ass wooer," but "a stilted prig desperately trying to hide his intellectual and emotional limitations"; unlike the Thurios with literary pretensions, he was depressed by Proteus's suggestions that he woo Silvia with poetry. As usual in modern productions, however, the chief interest was in Proteus (Barry Lynch) and the motivation for his treachery. Here the use of potentially symbolic stage business was striking, though the interpretation depended on the spectator's own bent. The introductory scene showed the two friends in adolescent horseplay, wrestling on the floor, which, for some viewers, would inevitably connote latent sexuality. Paul Nelsen, who was struck by the strange mixture of devotion and rivalry he saw here, has described Lynch's Proteus in some detail, emphasizing the actor's "subtext." For Nelsen, this Proteus was "sullen . . . and Iago-like," and his treacherous actions stemmed from ambiguous feelings toward Valentine rather than erotic desire for Silvia. This dark interpretation was not widely shared, however. Some critics, indeed, saw a boyish charm in Lynch's Proteus: they found him "likeable and inexperienced," even "more naive and impressionable" than Valentine, before he became obsessed with Silvia. And one critic noticed a "curious sense of baffled innocence" (much in line, we think, with Shakespeare's text) even as he argued his way into treachery. Yet there was also something in the actor's manner—a "nervous intensity," a slight instability, a "disturbing little flicker of a smile"—that suggested, even to sympathetic viewers, introversion and suppressed emotion. Lynch's psychological suggestiveness obviously did not clarify Proteus's motivation, but it did result in an intriguing portrayal.
The other roles were acted well, but there was nothing unusual about them psychologically. Julia (Clare Holman) had a "jaunty boyishness" as Sebastian but also a touching pathos; Silvia (Saskia Reeves) was cool, elegant, but determined. Richard Moore's shuffling, bowler-hatted Launce, with his "hangdog dignity" and deftly executed "takes," was, with his lugubrious-looking lurcher, Woolly, among the memorable pleasures of the production. Small parts were given sharp or colorful touches: the wisecracking Speed (Sean Murray) in his cheap suit had the personality of a traveling salesman; the Duke (Terence Wilton), an amateur cook, zestfully dismembered a lobster.39
The use of symbolic stage pictures was most effective in the climactic scene of the final act: Valentine stopped Proteus from raping Silvia by wrestling him to the ground, "echoing, now in desperate earnest, the playful rough-housing of act one." The parallel visually marked the change that had occurred in the relationship, with perhaps a suggestion that the comradely closeness had always included some potential hostility.40 The actual violence might be interpreted as cathartic. When the change from conflict to reconciliation occurred, the pictorial elements remained strong. After Valentine's denunciation, spoken with "a moving sense of heartfelt grief," there was a lengthy pause before Proteus bowed his head, knelt, and made his short speech of confession. Critics were generally impressed by the poignancy of Lynch's acting here: he "[caught] very well the conflicting emotions of Proteus's final onset of guilt," "flesh[ing] out the character's woefully underscripted moment of shame most realistically." (Nelsen, however, questioned Proteus's sincerity, and indeed, as Smallwood has explained, Lynch's interpretation varied from one performance to another, according to whether he let "that enigmatic flicker of a smile" appear.) The most difficult part of the scene—and the most illuminating example of pictorial acting—followed. As Proteus begged forgiveness, Silvia stood beside him, facing Valentine, and silently but eloquently seconded the plea by her attitude and expression; as Valentine pardoned his friend, she crossed over and stood with him while he offered Proteus "all that was mine in Silvia"—meaning, perhaps, a share in "the mutual love and trust" between himself and Silvia. The exact interpretation of the words was not important; what mattered was Silvia's participation in the forgiveness and the gift of restored love.
Response to this production was joyously enthusiastic. A number of critics, both journalists and scholars, praised Thacker's handling of the difficult climax: his approach made "such perfect sense" that the "'crux' was not evident," and the "near-impossible" scene became both "riveting" and "plausible." But even critics who still found the ending either "risible" or "outrageous" applauded the production. As for the audiences, in Smallwood's euphoric words, "Shakespeare's so-called failure, his apprentice work, his unplayable flop, became the hit of the season."41
Reviewing these theatrical attempts to popularize Two Gentlemen, one sees some salient trends. Rewriting the text to improve it, never successful, has long since been abandoned, though using it as a framework for new creations has occasionally resulted in popular productions (opera, rock musical). In every age non-verbal elements have been determining factors in making the play's simplicities attractive or, alternatively, in creating the impression of additional depth and development. Extra music has been used, not just in outright musicals, but in a good many regular productions. Decor and style of performance have often been important, especially when a new look has revealed certain aspects of the play more clearly than before—for example, Macready's meticulous Italian sets at a time when stock scenery often sufficed for Shakespeare, Poel's return to simple Elizabethan staging for an audience accustomed to visual illusion, and Langham's evocation of the Byronic period when Elizabethan productions had become the norm. The search for novelty has led to a variety of unusual and inventive treatments. It seems, indeed, that some directors have been willing to undertake this play largely because its reputation for unpopularity serves as a license to experiment without giving much offense. Other things being equal, however, the most effective productions have been those whose staging had some special affinity with the youthful mixture of passion, artifice, lyricism, and folly in the play itself.
In all periods there has been a noticeable attempt to give life and color to Shakespeare's minor characters. In early productions certain roles were transformed into contemporary stage types by textual additions, and even after the adaptations had been discarded, some influence from the memory of previous portrayals probably remained, at least for Thurio. About the middle of the present century, directors began, through inventive use of decor and stage business, to give more distinctive personalities to other mainly functional characters. The types of roles assigned to them have, of course, been suitable to the chosen setting, but they have also reflected the interests and concerns of the period when the production occurred. Eglamour's transformations are particularly interesting in this respect: he has moved from Kemble's perfect knight, to Macready's coward, to Poel's representative of spiritualized love, to modern portrayals as a figure of fun—an elderly beau, an anachronistic Don Quixote, a childish dogooder. Directors have never quite known what to do with Eglamour, but their different ways of dealing with this absurd but poignant figure reveal him as a touchstone for a production and its time.
Some interesting analogies are found in the climactic scene as staged in otherwise dissimilar productions, widely separated in time. In the earliest ones, using adapted texts with a heavily revised climax, Silvia persuaded a formidably reluctant Valentine to forgive her would-be ravisher; in the latest one (Thacker's), using Shakespeare's version with a more amenable Valentine, she silently did the same. A closer parallel links Macready's production, using a restored text, with Thacker's: in both, Proteus froze for a long moment after Valentine's denunciation, his attitude and facial expression suggesting the emotions he felt at the sudden disclosure of his treachery; in both, the stage picture helped to fill in what was lacking in the short repentance speech.
One aspect of the play noticed by modern scholars, the satirical and parodic function of Launce and Speed, has often been overlooked in the theater. Indeed, some reviewers have remarked that Launce, entertaining as he is, has nothing to do with the main part of the play.42 The Phillips production called attention to his metadramatic function with a Launce silently brooding over the antics of his social superiors, but although one critic was impressed by this conception of the play's "dark angel," another thought it was merely pretentious. Less blatant was the extra stage business in Thacker's production that showed Launce making clownish use of facilities designed for more elegant purposes (like putting dogfood in the Duke's fruitbowl); thus, as Robert Smallwood observed, "mov[ing] in the hinterland between the audience and the fiction." 43 While less scholarly reviewers, writing to deadlines, did not notice the implications, that hardly matters. Provided Launce is not allowed to overwhelm the romance completely, it is just as well simply to laugh at him, responding unconsciously to his subversive ironies and leaving anything more to afterthoughts.
A notable recent change is the increasing interest in the two gentlemen themselves. In 1808, Leigh Hunt wrote that they came and went, talked or were silent, without exciting sympathy for the one or contempt for the other; in 1842, reviewers commended Macready for taking such a slight role as Valentine in the interests of art.44 Proteus has always been condemned, of course, though he has frequently seemed less villainous on the stage than in the study; in more recent times Valentine, too, has been denigrated. But some stage productions, in dealing with the problems of Proteus's motivation and Valentine's callousness, have so developed these characters that their central importance in the play goes unquestioned. While the friends' relationship has not reflected the alter ego conception (indeed, quite the opposite), Shakespeare himself shows a reality that does not conform to Valentine's ideal.
Again and again over the years some reviewer of a successful production has asked why Two Gentlemen has been so neglected; then it has been neglected again for awhile. Today, however, the play is becoming better known in the theater. With Thacker's production to brighten its reputation, with revivals by regional companies to test its wilder possibilities, and with the BBC's stylized work of television art to be viewed on demand, this trend will probably continue. Two Gentlemen will always be a special challenge, though. All dramatic productions are collaborations between author and theater—director, actors, designers, and so on. In productions of this play, Shakespeare's collaborators are more than usually responsible for a significant part of the "text."
1 This does not include any with amateur actors, except for William Poel's—too important to leave out.
2 Even counting a rock musical, we know of only five full-length productions (one of which had a single performance) in New York; three of these were later seen in London. Short entertainments based on Two Gentlemen included two skits (one with black minstrels) and a farce. See George C. D. Odell, Annals of the New York Stage, 15 vols. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1927-49), 8:219; 11:549; 12:104, 312.
3 Charles Spencer's phrase, in his review of David Thacker's production, The Daily Telegraph, 19 April 1991.
4 Other concerns (education, the courtly code of behavior, the qualities essential to a gentlemen), though important, do not impress a spectator as driving impulses of speech and action for the major characters. Kurt Schlueter, in the introduction to his edition, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The New Cambridge Shakespeare (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 2-6, gives a good, condensed discussion of the play's themes. In addition to the scholarly articles he cites, see Ann Jennalie Cook, "Shakespeare's Gentlemen," Shakespeare Jahrbuch (West) (1985): 9-27.
5 Gervase Mathew, "Ideals of Friendship," Patterns of Love and Courtesy: Essays in Memory of C. S. Lewis, ed. John Lawlor (Evanston: Northwestern University Press, 1966), 46-50; Laurens J. Mills, One Soul in Bodies Twain: Friendship in Tudor Literature and Stuart Drama (Bloomington, Indiana: Principia Press, 1937), 259 et passim; Geoffrey Bullough, ed. Narrative and Dramatic Sources of Shakespeare, 8 vols. (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957-75), 1: 204.
6 Bernard O'Donoghue gives a good review of courtly love's various features and its influence on English Renaissance literature, in The Courtly Love Tradition, Literature in Context (Manchester: Manchester University Press; Totowa, New Jersey: Barnes and Noble, 1982), 5-6, 15. He defends the term "courtly love" against modern attacks (14).
7 See Mills, 258; Muriel C. Bradbrook, Shakespeare and Elizabethan Poetry: A Study of His Earlier Work in Relation to the Poetry of the Time (New York: Oxford University Press, 1952), 151.
8 Bradbrook speculates that the play was written for a private performance by boy actors. See "Love and Constancy in The Two Gentlemen of Verona," Shakespeare in His Context: The Constellated Globe. The Collected Papers of Muriel Bradbrook, vol. 4 (Totowa, N.J.: Barnes and Noble, 1989), 47-49, 55. In Shakespeare and Elizabethan Poetry (152) she had declared that Silvia "should not react at all. She is the prize, for the purpose of argument, and must not call attention to herself. . . ."
9 Camille Wells Slights, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona and the Courtesy Book Tradition," Shakespeare Studies 16 (1983): 27. A 1974 production had already used a similar interpretation. See note 36.
10 See, for example, William Rossky, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona as Burlesque," English Literary Renaissance 12 (1982): 210-19.
11 For the "minor oddities" in the play, see Clifford Leech's introduction to his edition, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, The Arden Edition of the Works of William Shakespeare (London: Methuen, 1969; University Paperback, 1986), xv-xxi. For a discussion of its technical failures, see Stanley Wells, "The Failure of The Two Gentlemen of Verona," Shakespeare Jahrbuch 99 (1963): 162-66.
12 Discussion of the Victor and Kemble versions will be based on these published texts: (1) [Benjamin Victor, adaptor], The Two Gentlemen of Verona. A Comedy Written by William Shakespeare. With Alterations and Additions. As it is performed at the Theatre-Royal in Drury Lane (1763; London: Corn-market, 1969); and (2) John Philip Kemble, John Philip Kemble's Promptbook of William Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona. Revised by J. P. Kemble. In Vol. 9 of John Philip Kemble's Promptbooks, ed. Charles H. Shattuck, 11 vols. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, for the Folger Shakespeare Library, 1974). Reynolds's dramatic text has not been preserved, but words of the interpolated songs, along with Bishop's music, are available in a rare volume: Henry R. Bishop, The Overture, Songs, Duetts, Glees & Chorusses. In Shakespeare 's Play of the The Two Gentlemen of Verona. as Performed at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden. The Words Selected entirely from Shakespeare's Plays, Poems & Sonnets. The Music Composed (with exception of Two Melodies) . . . by Henry R. Bishop . . . (London, ). The songs, together with reviews, give a good idea of the operatic production. For Reynolds's probable use of Kemble, see Schlueter, 31-33.
13 These were a single performance at Covent Garden, 1784, and a first attempt by Kemble, at Drury Lane, 1790. Although stage historians have said that these used the original text, or the original with slight alterations, Schlueter argues persuasively (22, 24, 25) that the alterations were probably more substantial than previously supposed.
14 Vernon: Engraving by J. Roberts, published for Bell's Edition of Shakespeare, 7 March 1776 (copy in the Folger Shakespeare Library; also reproduced by Schlueter, 20). Liston: Jim Davis, John Liston, Comedian (London: Society for Theatre Research, 1985), 104; 16-18. Leigh Hunt, in Examiner, 24 April 1808: 266-67, accused Liston of turning Thurio into Caper. Farren: Morning Herald 30 November 1821; contemporary drawing published by J. Smart, London, 29 January 1822 (copy in the Folger Shakespeare Library).
15 Reviews used in discussing music and spectacle: Times, 30 November 1821 ("noble pageant"); Morning Post, 30 November; Morning Herald, 30 November ("artificial mountain"); Examiner, 2 December. Relevance of spectacle: Kemble's version, the basis for Reynolds's, ended Act 4 with Silvia and Eglamour preparing to flee.
16 Discussion of Macready's production is based on his promptbook (Folger Shakespeare Library PROMPT Two Gent. 11) and the following reviews: Morning Chronicle, 30 December 1841; Morning Herald, 30 December; Morning Post, 30 December; Theatrical Observer, 30 December; Times, 30 December; Spectator, 1 January 1842: 9-10; Argus, 1 January; Athenaeum, 1 January: 19; Theatrical Journal, 8 January: -10; The Age, 9 January: 5-6.
17The Diaries of William Charles Macready, ed. William Toynbee, 2 vols. (London: Chapman and Hall, 1912) 2: 18-19.
18Athenaeum ("gallant"); Morning Chronicle ("more picturesque"); Spectator ("manly cordiality"); Morning Herald ("overly fervid"); Times ("foppishness and surliness").
19 CONFRONTATION: Promptbook, 254 and opp.; Times ("fixed group" and applause); Morning Chronicle ("a life's repentance"); Theatrical Observer (rebuke and forgiveness). NOT RECONCILED: Times. SILVIA: Spectator (dignified); Times and Theatrical Journal (cold); Morning Herald (lack of byplay).
20 Details of scenery are based on a printed flyer that was handed out at the theater, a copy of which is bound with Macready's promptbook in the Folger Library. Apparently the Reynolds-Bishop production had also used some localized Italian scenes, but with less correctness in both place and detail. See Schlueter, 33.
21 Quoted phrases are, in sequential order, from Theatrical Observer, Athenaeum, Times, and Morning Chronicle. The only dissenting voice, as far as we know, was from John Bull, 10 January 1842, which praised the scenery but said the costumes were "in some particulars almost grotesque, and as a whole apparently hardly in unison." "Historically accurate" costumes did sometimes strike viewers as strange, but the appropriateness and harmony attributed to Macready's decor by other critics were characteristics generally associated with his productions. See Alan Downer, The Eminent Tragedian (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1966), 225-26; 252.
22 See, for example, Morning Chronicle 22 April 1808 and Examiner 24 April 1808: 266-67.
23 Quoted by Robert Speaight, in William Poel and the Elizabethan Revival (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1954), 90.
24 See Poel's promptbook for The Two Gentlemen of Verona, now in the Theatre Museum, London. Though obviously made for the 1896 production, it was almost certainly used for both. For descriptions of the first production see reviews in the Times, 30 November 1896, and Sunday Times, 29 November; also George Bernard Shaw, Our Theatres in the Nineties, 3 vols. (1932: London: Constable, 1948), 2: 284; and Speaight, 119-20 (note his quotation from a favorable article by the French director Lugné-Poe). Our description of the second production is based mainly on Speaight, 120-22, and Times, 21 April 1910: 12, but see also Sunday Times, 24 April 1910: 6.
25 A production using modern dress had been seen much earlier in the provinces, at the People's Theatre, Newcastle, on 17 May 1930. See Observer (London), 18 May, and Shields Daily News, 19 May 1930.
26 Discussion of Langham's production is based on his promptbook, now in the University of Bristol Theatre Collection, and the following reviews, clippings of which are found in the Shakespeare Library, Birmingham Reference Library: Stephen Williams, Evening News, 23 January 1957; Times 23 January; J. C. T. [Trewin], Birmingham Post, 23 January; Anthony Carthew, Daily Herald, 23 January; Alan Dent, News Chronicle, 23 January; Patrick Gibbs, Daily Telegraph, 24 January; D. H., Bristol Evening Post, 24 January; Philip Hope-Wallace, Manchester Guardian, 24 January; A. M., Stage, 24 January; Patrick Keatley, Montreal Star, 26 January; Western Independent, 27 January; W. G. McS., Scotsman, 28 January; Daily Worker, 29 January; Punch, 30 January; Derek Grainger, Financial Times, 23 January; George Scott, Truth, 1 February; P. R., Kensington News, 1 February. See also Richard David, "Actors and Scholars: A View of Shakespeare in the Modern Theatre," Shakespeare Survey 12 (1959): 76-87.
27 SETTING: Times, Punch, Western Independent, Daily Telegraph. COSTUMES: Men—Montreal Star, Times, Western Independent; Women—Financial Times; Byron and Shelley—News Chronicle. Outlaws: Birmingham Post.
28 QUOTED PHRASES: News Chronicle ("make-believe"); Scotsman ("bucks," etc.); Daily Worker (the rest). AMOUNT OF BURLESQUE: Daily Herald (much); Birmingham Post ("shiver[ed] on the knife edge"); Stage (resisted the temptation); Daily Worker (just the right touch). RESERVATIONS ABOUT THE REGENCY TREATMENT: Stage; Richard David, 85.
29 VALENTINE: Kensington News. See also Times and Punch. PROTEUS: Times, Punch, Financial Times, Kensington News. JULIA: Times, Evening News. (Kensington News deplored her boisterousness, but Financial Times said she later muted it.) SILVIA: Stage, Truth (colorless); Bristol Evening Post (lovely); Kensington News (nobly-bred). SPEED: Times; see also Kensington News. LAUNCE: Financial Times ("comic precision," "squeaky"), Stage ("audience-contact," vacant expression), Evening News (Cockney), Punch ("funny with pathos"). CRAB: Bristol Evening Post ("engagingly miscast"), Daily Herald ("shook hands").
30 EXTRA STAGE BUSINESS: Daily Worker (reinterprets archaic conceits, passion survives treatment); Times (ironic touches); Financial Times (action always accompanies speech; archery, artist, dancing); Stage (many realistic touches). ANTONIO: prompt-book, 14, 16. THURIO: quoted phrase from Daily Telegraph; shaving scene, promptbook, 92. DUKE: Punch. See also Kensington News and Daily Telegraph. EGLAMOUR: see descriptive phrases in Daily Worker and Manchester Guardian; stage directions in promptbook, especially in 1.2 (8) and in 2.4 (30, 32, 34—Eglamour and Thurio retire upstage together when Proteus arrives).
31 ACTING OF CLIMAX: See stage directions in the promptbook, pp. 95-100. One vital stage direction is lacking—Proteus' actually pointing the pistol at himself,—but the implications of the stage directions, together with Patrick Gibbs's reference to Proteus's suicide attempt (Daily Telegraph review), leave no doubt about the performance. The quoted phrase is from Gibbs. CRITICS' RESPONSE: Manchester Guardian; Financial Times; Bristol Evening Post; Daily Telegraph; Truth.
32 HALL: Education, 15 April 1960. DIGBY DAY: Times, 18 July 1968; Daily Mail, 18 July 1968; Birmingham Post, 20 July 1968 and 4 June 1969 (Eglamour). Putting Eglamour in armor might have been inspired by the bearded and helmeted Eglamour of Hall's production.
33 This discussion is based on the promptbook, in the Shakespeare Centre Library, Stratford-upon-Avon (see stage directions, opp. 123 for climactic scene), and on the following reviews, many from the Two Gentlemen clippings, Birmingham (see note 26): Irving Wardle, Times, 24 July 1970 (decor, Antonio, Eglamour, Proteus, some disapproval), but see more positive review in Times, 25 December 1970; B. A. Young, Financial Times, 24 July (Julia, Silvia); Pearson Phillips, Daily Mail, 24 July (Julia, Valentine); Evening Standard, 24 July (Julia); J. C. Trewin, Birmingham Post, 24 July (decor, deplores Eglamour); Harold Hobson, Sunday Times, 26 July (Launce [enthusiastic], Proteus, production shows ancient truths); Wendy Monk, Stage and Television, 30 July 1970 (decor, Eglamour, Silvia, loss of innocence, preference for Langham): J. A. P., Warwick Advertiser, 31 July (Eglamour, Julia, approves modern treatment); W. T., Nottingham Evening Post, 24 July (Eglamour, outlaws, loss of innocence); Oxford Mail, 25 July (incongruities, Launce [negative]); Neville Miller, South Wales Evening Argus, 25-26 July (Valentine, Silvia, approves "fable on the uncertainties of adolescence"); Eric Shorter, Daily Telegraph, 23 December 1970 (serious content "jettisoned") Glasgow Herald, 28 December 1970 (theme subtly underlined); Peter Thomson, "A Necessary Theatre: The Royal Shakespeare Season 1970," Shakespeare Survey 24 (1971): 120-21 (decor, Antonio, Eglamour, Launce [dubious], psychological analysis, Proteus, Silvia).
34 These settings were, in the order of their mention, for productions at the Champlain Shakespeare Festival, 1977, at the Pittsburgh Public Theater, 1981, and by the Acting Company on tour, 1990-91. A circus setting and style were combined with Byronic romanticism by the San Diego National Shakespeare Repertory in 1980; the commedia style was used at the Odessa Globe Shakespeare Festival (Texas) in 1977, the Utah Shakespeare Festival in 1983 (for some scenes and characters), and the Kentucky Shakespeare Festival in 1988 (in adapted and modernized form); a combination of vaudeville with other styles was used for the heavily burlesqued production of the Acting Company in 1990-91.
35 John Guare and Mel Shapiro, The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Adapted from the Shakespeare Play . . . Lyrics by John Guare, Music by Galt MacDermot (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1973). For details of both American and British productions, see reviews by Walter Kerr in New York Times, 12 December 1971, Foster Hirsch in Educational Theatre Journal 24 (1971): 194, and Irving Wardle in Times, 27 April 1973.
36 PHILLIPS: Milton Shulman, Evening Standard, 23 December 1970. DOUBLE TAKES: Alabama Shakespeare Festival, 1991. MEN GOING OFF TOGETHER: started to do so, Folger Theatre Group, 1977; did so, Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival, 1978. SILVIA'S APPROVAL: At the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 1974, the offer was made as a ruse, conceived by Valentine and Silvia. In the BBC television production, 1983-84, although the camera focused solely on Valentine and Proteus during the offer, Silvia had silently shown approval of forgiveness before that. For varying interpretations of the BBC scene, see Patty S. Derrick, "Two Gents: A Critical Moment," Shakespeare on Film Newsletter (December 1991): 1, 4.
37 The promptbook for this production was lost after the provincial tour had ended; if it is found, it will be housed in the Shakespeare Centre Library, Stratford-upon-Avon. Reviews used in discussing the production are: Benedict Nightingale, Times, 19 April 1991 and 15 October 1992; John Peter, Sunday Times, 21 April; Michael Billington, Guardian 19 April; Rex Gibson, Times Educational Supplement, 3 May: 25; Paul Nelsen, Shakespeare Bulletin 9, no. 4 (Fall 1991): 15-17; Thomas Clayton, "The Climax of The Two Gentlemen of Verona: Text and performance at the Swan Theatre, Stratford-upon-Avon, 1991," Shakespeare Bulletin 9, no. 4 (Fall 1991): 17-19; Robert Smallwood, "Shakespeare at Stratford-upon-Avon, 1991," Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (1992): 350-53. Also passages from the following, as quoted by Clayton from the London Theatre Record, 9-22 April 1991: Paul Taylor, Independent, 19 April; Claire Armistead, Financial Times, 19 April; Carole Waddis, What's On, 19 April; Charles Spencer, Daily Telegraph, 19 April; Rod Dungate, Tribune 3 May.
38 SETTING AND MUSIC: Times, 19 Apr. ("Coward dressing gowns," "cunningly chosen,"); Smallwood, 351, and Sunday Times (appositeness of period to play); Nelsen, 15 (prelude of music, etc., reference to Masterpiece Theatre); Times Educational Supplement (musical interludes); Guardian (dislikes interludes, prefers nineteenth-century setting).
39 VALENTINE: Times, 1992. Thurio: Times, 1992; Smallwood, 351-52. PROTEUS: Clayton ("likeable"); Financial Times ("naive"); Smallwood, 351 ("puzzled innocence," "disturbing . . . smile"); Times, 1991 and 1992 (intensity, secrecy, passion); Independent ("nervous intensity"); Sunday Times (slightly unstable). JULIA AND SILVIA: Smallwood, 351; Guardian (Julia, "jaunty"); Sunday Times (considers both women warm, lively); Nelsen, 16 (emphasizes "deconstruction"). LAUNCE: Smallwood, 352 (detailed description); Sunday Times ("hangdog dignity"). SPEED: Smallwood, 352. DUKE: Sunday Times; Times, 1991; Nelsen, 17. Note that the second Times review was for the revival at the Barbican; descriptions of Valentine, Proteus, and Thurio are similar to those in the original review but fuller, possibly reflecting further development in the acting.
40 A similar parallel had been used the previous year in the Acting Company's touring production (U.S.A.), but, in our opinion, the unrestrained burlesque of the production as a whole canceled out (at least for the average spectator) any serious effect beyond a momentary shock. See, however, Jean Peterson's interesting review in Shakespeare Bulletin, 9, no. 1 (Winter, 1991): 33-34.
41 CLIMAX AND ENDING: Nelsen, 16 ("echoing . . . act one," "outrageous"—he still considered the women victims); What's On ("great poignancy"); Guardian ("conflicting emotions"); Independent ("flesh[ing] out"); Clayton, 18 (description of Silvia's actions, abstruse interpretation of Valentine's offer, "crux" not evident); Smallwood, 352-53 (description of scene, Lynch's smile, simple interpretation of offer—the one we accept); Tribune ("near-impossible," "riveting," "plausible"); Sunday Times (previous skeptic persuaded by actors); Daily Telegraph ("risible"); HIT OF THE SEASON: The popularity continued next season at the Barbican in London. By the end of the tour, however, the production had evidently lost its sparkle. See Jeremy Kingston, Times, 16 December 1993.
42Manchester Evening News, 20 April 1938; Times, 3 April 1958; Peter Lewis, Daily Mail, 18 July 1968.
43 PHILLIPS: Harold Hobson, Sunday Times, 26 July 1970 (approves "dark angel"); Oxford Mail, 25 July 1970 (pretentious). THACKER: Smallwood, Shakespeare Quarterly 43 (1992): 352.
44 HUNT: Examiner, 24 April 1808: 266. ABOUT MACREADY: Argus, 1 January 1842: 10; Theatrical Journal, 8 January 1842: .
Source: "The Two Gentlemen of Verona on Stage: Protean Problems and Protean Solutions," in Shakespeare's Sweet Thunder: Essays on the Early Comedies, edited by Michael J. Collins, University of Delaware Press, 1997, pp. 126-54.