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'The Two GENTLEMEN OF VERONA' was first | Spanish was pretty widely diffused in Engprinted in the folio collection of Shakspere's land in Shakspere's youth; and we must not plays, edited by John Heminge and Henry too readily fall in with the notion that such Condell, and published in 1623, seven years a book could not be accessible to him withafter his death. The text is singularly cor- out a translation. rect. There are not more than half a dozen Pope calls the style of The Two Gentlepassages of any real importance upon which men of Verona' “ simple and unaffected.” a doubt can be entertained, if printed ac- It was opposed to Shakspere's later style, cording to the original. It is, in all proba- which is teeming with allusion upon allubility, a play written very early in Shak- sion. With the exception of the few obsospere's life.
lete words, and the unfamiliar application of The scene of this play is, in the first act, words still in use, this comedy has a very at Verona, and afterwards chiefly at Milan. modern air. The thoughts are natural and The action is not founded upon any histori- obvious, the images familiar and general. cal event. The one historical fact men. The most celebrated passages have a chationed in this play is that of the emperor racter of grace rather than of beauty; the holding his court at Milan, which was under elegance of a youthful poet aiming to be the government of a duke, who was a vassal correct. Johnson considered this comedy to of the empire. Assuming that this fact be wanting in “diversity of character.” The prescribes a limit to the period of the ac- action, it must be observed, is mainly sustion, we must necessarily place that period tained by Proteus and Valentine, and by at least half a century before the date of the Julia and Silvia; and the conduct of the composition of this drama.
plot is relieved by the familiar scenes in The incident of Julia following her lover which Speed and Launce appear. The other in the disguise of a page, and her subsequent actors are very subordinate, and we scarcely knowledge of his faithlessness, is common demand any great diversity of character enough in the old Italian and Spanish no- amongst them; but it appears to us, with vels. In the ‘Diana' of Montemayor, a regard to Proteus and Valentine, Julia and Spanish romance, which was translated in Silvia, Speed and Launce, that the charac1598, we find this resemblance to some ters are exhibited, as it were, in pairs, upon scenes of the Two Gentlemen of Verona.' a principle of very defined though delicate Indeed, in some turns of expression the contrast. dialogue is similar. The knowledge of
Act V. sc. 2; sc. 4.
VALENTINE. Appears, Act I. sc. 1. Act II. sc. 1; sc. 4. Act III. sc. 1.
Act IV. sc. 1. Act V. sc. 4.
PROTEUS. Appears, Act I. sc. 1; sc. 3. Act II. sc. 2; sc. 4; sc. 6. Act III. sc. 1; sc. 2. Act IV. sc. 2; sc. 4.
Act V. sc. 2; sc. 4.
Act V. sc. 2; sc. 4.
Act III. sc. 1. Act IV. sc. 1.
Act V. sc. 1; sc. 3; sc. 4.
SCENE-IN VERONA, IN MILAN, AND ON THE FRONTIERS OF MANTUA.
In the original edition of 1623 the Persons Represented are thus described :
VAL. Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus";
Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits ;
Even as I would, when I to love begin.
Think on thy Proteus, when thou, haply, seest
• In the original this proper name name is invariably spelt Protheus.
Val. And on a love-book pray for my success ?
How young Leander cross'd the Hellespont.
For he was more than over shoes in love.
And yet you never swom the Hellespont.
Coy looks with heart-sore sighs'; one fading moment's mirth
Or else a wit by folly vanquished.
And he that is so yoked by a fool,
Methinks should not be chronicled for wise. Pro. Yet writers say, as in the sweetest bud
The eating canker dwells", so eating love
Inhabits in the finest wits of all.
Is eaten by the canker ere it blow,
Expects my coming, there to see me shipp'd.
To Milan let me hear from thee by letters,
" However—in whatsoever way, “ haply won,” or “ lost.”
Circumstance. The word is used by the two speakers in different senses. Proteus employs it in the meaning of circumstantial deduction ;-Valentine in that of position.
To Milan. Let me hear from thee by letters, addressed to Milan.
Betideth here in absence of thy friend;
And I likewise will visit thee with mine.
He leaves his friends to dignify them more ;
SPEED. Sir Proteus, save you: Saw you my master ?
And I have play'd the sheep in losing him.
An if the shepherd be a while away. SPEED. You conclude that my master is a shepherd then, and I a sheep? PRO. I do. SPEED. Why then my horns are his horns, whether I wake or sleep. Pro. A silly answer, and fitting well a sheep. SPEED. This proves me still a sheep. PRO. True; and thy master a shepherd. SPEED. Nay, that I can deny by a circumstance. Pro. It shall go hard but I 'll prove it by another. SPEED. The shepherd seeks the sheep, and not the sheep the shepherd; but I
seek my master, and my master seeks not me: therefore, I am no sheep. Pro. The sheep for fodder follow the shepherd, the shepherd for food follows
not the sheep; thou for wages followest thy master, thy master for wages
follows not thee: therefore, thou art a sheep. SPEED. Such another proof will make me cry baa. Pro. But dost thou hear? gav'st thou my letter to Julia ? SPEED. Ay, sir; I, a lost mutton, gave your letter to her, a laced muttono;
and she, a laced mutton, gave me, a lost mutton, nothing for my labour ! Pro. Here's too small a pasture for such store of muttons.
The original copy reads, “I love myself.” The present reading was introduced by Pope.
Sheep is pronounced ship in many English counties; hence Speed's small jest. Mr. Collier observes that in writings of the time “ Sheep-street, in Stratford-upon-Avon, is often spelt Shipstreet."
* A laced mutton. The commentators have much doubtful learning on this passage. They maintain that the epithet “laced” was a very uncomplimentary epithet of Shakspere's time; and that the words taken together apply to a female of loose character. This is probable; but then the insolent application, by Speed, of the term to Julia is received by Proteus very patiently. The jest would scarcely cover the coarseness, provided the slang term were of general acceptation.