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Title: Two Gentlemen of Verona
Author: William Shakespeare
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: Play, Comedy
Two young friends, Valentine and Proteus, go their separate ways as Valentine wants adventure and Proteus wants to woo a local girl, Julia. Valentine heads to Milan.
Proteus father sends him to Milan as well, as he’s afraid of Proteus becoming a namby-pamby wuss. Proteus and Julia vow undying love for each other and Proteus gives Julia a ring as his troth.
Valentine and Proteus are united in Milan. Valentine, who excoriated Proteus for falling in love and allowing his love for Julia to keep him home, has fallen in love with Silvia, the Duke of Milan’s daughter. The Duke has other plans for her though, ie, to marry her to Thurio, a rich man from another city state. Valentine tells Proteus that he and Silvia will steal away and secretly get married. Proteus has himself fallen in love with Silvia and betrays Valentine to the duke.
Valentine is banished and ends up becoming King of the Outlaws, a noble group of men who have been unjustly banished and rob the rich from Milan.
Proteus, under the cover of pretending to help Thurio, woos Silvia himself. She scorns him as a base man who betrayed not only his friend but his lover Julia and also his vows to her. Meanwhile Julia has secretly left Verona to find Proteus and becomes his squire, dressed as a page. She see’s Proteus infidelity and vows to get him back.
Silvia runs away rather than marry Thurio and gets captured by the Noble Outlaws and taken to Valentine. Everyone else is chasing her and also get captured by the Outlaws. Valentine challenges Thurio to a duel for Silvia and Thurio declines, as he has no love for Siliva. The Duke is disgusted, gives his blessing to Valentine and Silvia’s nuptials. Julia faints and Valentine discovers who she is. He and Proteus make up, as Proteus realizes his behavior has been abominable and repents. Valentine then reveals that his page is Julia. The Duke pardons everyone and they all head off for a double wedding in Milan.
Part way through this play I turned to Mrs B (as is our wont, we were sitting on our couch side by side reading) and said “I just don’t like Shakespeare’s plays. She nodded and agreed. The low-brow humor that Shakespeare uses just doesn’t appeal to either of us.
That being said, I have no intention of stopping. These plays are foundational to Literature as we know it and yes, that is Literature with a Capital L. I don’t plan on becoming a Shakespeare expert by any means, but I do want to have a passing familiarity with them.
One of the things that has bothered me about these plays is how characters can change at the drop of a hat. For example, in this play Proteus proclaims undying love for Julia and then wham, suddenly he’s destroying his own and his friend’s life for another woman. Then at the end of the play suddenly he reverts back to loving Julia. I’m beginning to realize that that is simply how a play operates. It isn’t a book with all the time that a book has. It is a play and many of the things that we expect from a book simply aren’t possible in a play. I don’t like it but I am beginning to be able to accept it. For me, that is a big step forward.