The Two Gentlemen of Verona



Benjamin Victor rewrote the play for performance in 1762 (the earliest recorded performance we have of the play), at the Theatre Royal in Drury Lane. Starring Richard Yates as Launce, his wife, Mary Ann Yates as Julia and Elizabeth Pope as Silvia, Victor brought all of the Verona scenes together, removed Valentine's 'gift' of Silvia to Proteus and increased the roles of Launce and Crab (especially during the outlaw scenes, where both characters are intimately involved in the action). He also switched the emphasis of the play away from the love-friendship dichotomy and instead focused on the issues of fidelity, with the last line of the play altered to, "Lovers must be faithful to be bless'd." This necessitated rewriting Valentine as a near flawless protagonist who represents such faithfulness, and Proteus as a traditional villain, who doesn't care for such notions. The two are not presented as old friends, but simply as acquaintances. Thurio was also rewritten as a harmless, but lovable fool, not unlike Launce and Speed. Although not a major success (the play initially ran for only six performances), it was still being staged as late as 1895.[86][87][88]

In 1790, John Philip Kemble staged his own production of the play at Drury Lane, maintaining many of Victor's alterations whilst also adding many of his own. The production starred Richard Wroughton as Proteus and Elizabeth Satchell as Silvia. The play was again staged at Covent Garden in 1808, with Kemble, who was fifty years old at the time, playing Valentine.[89]


Frederic Reynolds staged an operatic version in 1821 at Covent Garden as part of his series of adaptations of the works of Shakespeare. Reynolds wrote the lyrics, with Henry Bishop writing the music. The production ran for twenty-nine performances, and included some of Shakespeare's sonnets set to music.[90] Augustin Daly revived the opera in 1895 at Daly's Theatre, in an elaborate production starring Ada Rehan as Julia.[91][92]

In 1826, Franz Schubert set a German translation by Eduard von Bauernfeld of Proteus' serenade to Silvia ("Who is Silvia? What is she,/That all our swains commend her?") to music. This song is usually known in English as "Who is Sylvia?," but in German it is known as "An Sylvia" ("Vier Lieder", opus 106, number 4, D. 891).[93] In 1942, Gerald Finzi included a setting of "Who Is Silvia?" in his song cycle on Shakespearean texts Let Us Garlands Bring; the title of the work is the last line of the song.[94]

In 1971, Galt MacDermot, John Guare and Mel Shapiro adapted the show into a rock musical under the same name as the play. Guare and Shapiro wrote the book, Guare the lyrics, and MacDermot the music. Opening at the St. James Theatre on 1 December 1971, with Shapiro directing and Jean Erdman as choreographer, it ran for 614 performances, closing on 20 May 1973.[95] During its initial run, the play won two Tony Awards; Best Musical and Best Book.[96] The original cast included Clifton Davis as Valentine, Raúl Juliá as Proteus, Jonelle Allen as Silvia and Diana Dávila as Julia. The play moved to the West End in 1973, playing at the Phoenix Theatre from 26 April, and running for 237 performances.[97] It was revived in 1996 at the New Jersey Shakespeare Festival, directed by Robert Duke,[98] and again in 2005, directed and choreographed by Kathleen Marshall as part of the Shakespeare in the Park festival. Marshall's production was performed at the Delacorte Theater in Central Park, and starred Norm Lewis as Valentine, Oscar Isaac as Proteus, Renée Elise Goldsberry as Silvia and Rosario Dawson as Julia.[99]


The only cinematic adaptation of the play is Yī jiǎn méi (more commonly known by its English title A Spray of Plum Blossoms), a 1931 silent film from China, directed by Bu Wancang and written by Huang Yicuo. A loose adaptation of the play, the film tells the story of Bai Lede (Wang Chilong) and Hu Luting (Jin Yan), two military cadets who have been friends since they were children. After graduating, Hu, a playboy uninterested in love, is appointed as a captain in Guangdong and leaves his home town in Shanghai. Bai however, deeply in love with Hu's sister, Hu Zhuli (Ruan Lingyu) stays behind. At Guangdong, Hu falls in love with the local general's daughter, Shi Luohua (Lam Cho-Cho), although the general, Shi (Wang Guilin), is unaware of the relationship, and instead wants his daughter to marry the foolish Liao Di'ao (Kao Chien Fei). Meanwhile, Bai's father uses his influence to get Bai posted to Guangdong, and after a sorrowful farewell between himself and Zhuli, he arrives at his new post and instantly falls in love with Luohua. In an effort to have her for himself, Bai betrays his friend, by informing General Shi of his daughter's plans to elope with Hu, leading to Shi dishonourably discharging Hu. Bai tries to win Luohua over, but she is uninterested, only concerned with lamenting the loss of Hu. In the meantime, Hu encounters a group of bandits who ask him to be their leader, to which he agrees, planning on returning for Luohua at some point in the future. Some time passes, and one day, as Luohua, Bai and Liao are passing through the forest, they are attacked. Luohua manages to flee, and Bai pursues her into the forest. They engage in an argument, but just as Bai seems about to lose his temper, Hu intervenes, and he and Luohua are reunited. General Shi arrives in time to see Liao flee the scene, and he now realises that he was wrong to get in the way of the relationship between Hu and his daughter. Hu then forgives Bai his betrayal, and Bai reveals that he has discovered that his only true love is in fact Zhuli back in Shanghai. The film is notable for being one of many Chinese films of the period which, although performed in Mandarin when filming, used English intertitles upon its original release. In the English intertitles and credits, the characters are named after their counterparts in the play; Hu is Valentine, Bai is Proteus, Zhuli is Julia and Luohua is Silvia. Liao is named Tiburio rather than Thurio.[100][101]

Two Gentlemen is also featured in Shakespeare in Love (1999). Directed by John Madden and written by Marc Norman and Tom Stoppard, the film tells the fictional story of William Shakespeare's (Joseph Fiennes) composition of Romeo and Juliet. Early in the film, Queen Elizabeth (Judi Dench) attends a production of Two Gentlemen, greatly enjoying William Kempe (Patrick Barlow) being thoroughly outperformed by Crab, and then falling asleep during Henry Condell's (Nicholas Boulton) recitation of Proteus' soliloquy from Act 2, Scene 1. Later, after reading the first draft of Romeo and Ethel, theatre manager Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush) suggests that Shakespeare add a dog to liven the play up.[102]


The first television adaptation was in 1952, when BBC Television Service broadcast Act 1 of the play live from the Bristol Old Vic. Directed by Denis Carey, the production starred John Neville as Valentine, Laurence Payne as Proteus, Gudrun Ure as Silvia and Pamela Ann as Julia.[103]

In 1956, the entire play was broadcast on West German TV channel Das Erste from a performance at the Munich Kammerspiele, under the title Zwei herren aus Verona. The theatrical production was directed by Hans Schalla, with the TV adaptation directed by Ernst Markwardt. The cast included Rolf Schult as Valentine, Hannes Riesenberger as Proteus, Helga Siemers as Julia and Isolde Chlapek as Silvia.[104] In 1964, the play was made into a TV movie in West Germany, again using the title Zwei herren aus Verona. Screened on ZDF, it was directed by Hans Dieter Schwarze and starred Norbert Hansing as Valentine, Rolf Becker as Proteus, Katinka Hoffman as Julia and Heidelinde Weis as Silvia.[105] Another West German TV movie, under the title Die zwei herren aus Verona, was screened on Das Erste in 1966. Directed by Harald Benesch, it starred Jürgen Kloth as Valentine, Lothar Berg as Proteus, Anne-Marie Lermon as Julia and Carola Regnier as Silvia.[106] In 1969, the entire play was broadcast on Austrian TV channel ORF eins from a performance at the Theater in der Josefstadt, under the title Zwei aus Verona. The theatrical production was directed by Edwin Zbonek, with the TV adaptation directed by Wolfgang Lesowsky. The cast included Klaus Maria Brandauer as Valentine, Albert Rueprecht as Proteus, Kitty Speiser as Julia and Brigitte Neumeister as Silvia.[107]

In 1983, the play was adapted for the BBC Television Shakespeare series, as the fourth episode of the sixth season. Directed by Don Taylor, it starred Tyler Butterworth as Proteus, John Hudson as Valentine, Tessa Peake-Jones as Julia and Joanne Pearce as Silvia. For the most part, the adaptation is taken verbatim from the First Folio, with some very minor differences. For example, omitted lines include the Duke's "Knowing that tender youth is soon suggested" (3.1.34), and Julia's "Her eyes are grey as glass, and so are mine" (4.4.189). Other differences include a slightly different opening scene to that indicated in the text. Whereas the play seems to open with Valentine and Proteus in mid-conversation, the adaptation begins with Mercatio and Eglamour attempting to formally woo Julia; Mercatio by showing her a coffer overflowing with gold coins, Eglamour by displaying a parchment detailing his ancestry. Neither Eglamour nor Mercatio appear in the text. However, there is no dialogue in this scene, and the first words spoken are the same as in the text ("Cease to persuade my loving Proteus"). Eglamour is also present in the final scene, albeit once again without any dialogue, and, additionally, the capture of Silvia and the flight of Eglamour is seen, as opposed to merely being described. The music for the episode was created by Anthony Rooley, who wrote new arrangements of works from Shakespeare's own time, such as John Dowland's "Lachrimae". Performed by The Consort of Musicke, other musicians whose music was used include William Byrd, Thomas Campion, Anthony Holborne, John Johnson, Thomas Morley and Orazio Vecchi.[108]

Taylor initially planned a representational setting for the film; Verona, Milan and the forest were all to be realistic. However, he changed his mind early in preproduction and had production designer Barbara Gosnold go in the opposite direction – a stylised setting. To this end, the forest is composed of metal poles with bits of green tinsel and brown sticks stuck to them (the cast and crew referred to the set as "Christmas at Selfridges"). Whilst the set for Verona remained relatively realistic, that for Milan featured young actors dressed like cherubs as extras. This was to convey the idea that the characters lived in a 'Garden of Courtly Love', which was slightly divorced from the everyday reality represented by Verona.[109] Working in tandem with this idea, upon Proteus' arrival in Milan, after meeting Silvia, he is left alone on screen, and the weather suddenly changes from calm and sunny to cloudy and windy, accompanied by a thunderclap. The implication being that Proteus has brought a darkness within him into the garden of courtly delights previously experienced by Silvia.[110] Although the production is edited in a fairly conventional manner, much of it was shot in extremely long takes, and then edited into sections, rather than actually shooting in sections. Director Don Taylor would shoot most of the scenes in single takes, as he felt this enhanced performances and allowed actors to discover aspects which they never would were everything broken up into pieces.[111][112]

In 1995, a production of the play aired on Polish TV channel TVP1 under the title Dwaj panowie z Werony, directed by Roland Rowiński and starring Rafal Krolikowski as Proteus, Marek Bukowski as Valentine, Agnieszka Krukówna as Julia and Edyta Jungowska as Sylvia.[113]

In 2000, episode three of season four of Dawson's Creek, "Two Gentlemen of Capeside" loosely adapted the plot of the play. Written by Chris Levinson and Jeffrey Stepakoff, and directed by Sandy Smolan, the episode depicts how Dawson Leery (James Van Der Beek) and Pacey Witter (Joshua Jackson), formally best friends, have been driven apart over their love for the same woman. The play is referenced early in the episode as the characters are reading it for their English class.[114]


In 1923, extracts from the play were broadcast on BBC Radio, performed by the Cardiff Station Repertory Company as the first episode of a series of programs showcasing Shakespeare's plays, entitled Shakespeare Night.[115] In 1924, the entire play was broadcast by 2BD, directed by Joyce Tremayne and R.E. Jeffrey, with Treymane playing Silvia and Jeffrey playing Valentine, alongside G.R. Harvey as Proteus and Daisy Moncur as Julia.[116] In 1927, the scenes between Julia and Lucetta were broadcast on BBC Radio as part of the Echoes from Greenwich Theatre series. Betty Rayner played Julia and Joan Rayner played Lucetta.[117] BBC National Programme broadcast the full play in 1934, adapted for radio by Barbara Burnham and produced by Lance Sieveking. Ion Swinley played Valentine, Robert Craven was Proteus, Helen Horsey was Silvia and Lydia Sherwood played Julia.[118]

In 1958, the entire play was broadcast on BBC Third Programme. Produced and directed by Raymond Raikes, it starred John Westbrook as Valentine, Charles Hodgson as Proteus, Caroline Leigh as Silvia, Perlita Neilson as Julia, and Frankie Howerd as Launce.[119] BBC Third Programme aired another full production of the play in 1968, produced and directed by R.D. Smith and starring Denys Hawthorne as Valentine, Michael N. Harbour as Proteus, Judi Dench as Julia and Kate Coleridge as Silvia.[120]

In 2007, producer Roger Elsgood and director Willi Richards adapted the play into a radio drama called The Two Gentlemen of Valasna. Set in two fictional Indian states called Malpur and Valasna in the weeks leading up to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the play was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 29 July 2007.[121] It was recorded on location in Maharashtra, India earlier in 2007 with a cast drawn from Bollywood, Indian television and the Mumbai English-speaking theatre traditions; actors included Nadir Khan as Vishvadev (i.e. Valentine), Arghya Lahiri as Parminder (Proteus), Anuradha Menon as Syoni (Silvia), Avantika Akerkar as Jumaana/Servi (Julia/Sebastian), Sohrab Ardishir as The Maharaja (Duke of Milan) and Zafar Karachiwala as Thaqib (Thurio).[122]

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