On Saturday I attended and read Two Gentlemen of Verona at Shakespeare Allowed in the Nashville downtown library.One of the most fun parts of reading a play in a group like this is when everyone reacts at the same time to the humor or irony or sentiment in a line. This one is a shorter play, and full of delightful jokes, especially with the servants Launce and Steel. The group enjoyed their puns and verbal battles. When the dialog is rapid-fire like that, it goes around the circle quickly, and no one has the anxiety of turning the page to see you’re going to be the one reading the longest, most complex speech in the play.
I think somehow I missed reading this one in my education, because it felt new and fresh, and I was wondering what happened next. Two best friends, Proteus and Valentine, are in love with two lovely ladies, Julia and Silvia. Valentine leaves to go to the emperor’s court, where he’s wooing Silvia, his daughter, and Proteus follows him, leaving Julia behind with a ring and many promises. Proteus falls in love with Silvia when he meets her, and sabotages his friend’s courtship, getting him banished. Silvia resists Proteus, though, because she doesn’t like that he’s so disloyal to his first girl, Julia. Julia hears about the whole thing, and goes to the emperor’s court herself, dressed like a boy, of course. Of course, it all works out in the end, and they all end up with the right person.
We were stunned at the end when Valentine forgives Proteus so quickly and easily for ruining his relationship and going after his girl. But hey, it was the last pages of a comedy, so what do you expect. Of course the grooms need to be getting along if we’re going to have a nice double wedding. Julia, though, must be the bigger fool for taking Proteus back. If a little distance made him disloyal, what kind of husband will he be? (As half of a couple that survived 2+ years of long distance with never a temptation of infidelity on either side, I have little sympathy for those who can’t handle a little time apart.) Does Julia plan on keeping him with her every minute, so that he doesn’t fall in love with another friend’s girlfriend next year? Proteus really does live up to his name: changeable.