Gary Taylor, John Jowett, Terri Bourus, and Gabriel Egan (eds), The New Oxford Shakespeare: Modern Critical Edition

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Whatever the dog does is real, and whatever the dog does is right. But Crab's power over the audience depends largely on the audience's knowledge that what the dog does, or may be about to do, may well diverge significantly from his director's wishes.

Brett Gamboa, 2013

Crab did not want a prompter, for he bow-wow'd behind the Scenes, as well as before the audience.

Newspaper review, 1762

As a character, Crab exists to enable other characters, most often Lance, to draw parallels and contrasts between human behaviour and animal behaviour … He has split Crab into an impossible ideal of canine behaviour and an everyday failure to live up to that ideal. The characterological parallel for Lance's fidelity to his disappointing dog is Julia's fidelity to her disappointing lover Proteus, and it is to make this point about humans' expectations of one another that Shakespeare has Lance split Crab into idealized and ordinary beings.

Gabriel Egan, 2015

such scene-stealing can be a welcome relief from a main plot sadly over-determined by the fantastic and etiolated conventions of fin amour and the friendship cult—if nothing else, every Crab can be guaranteed to yawn at some point in the proceedings.

Richard Beadle, 1994

1 Only one of Shakespeare's plays requires an animal actor. Lance (Michael Simpson) and Crab (Winter) stole the show in a 1992 Stratford Shakespeare Festival production (Canada) of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, dir. Marti Maraden.

1 Only one of Shakespeare's plays requires an animal actor. Lance (Michael Simpson) and Crab (Winter) stole the show in a 1992 Stratford Shakespeare Festival production (Canada) of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, dir. Marti Maraden.

'Ay,' says the Lady, 'and the dog hath made his master an ass!' But Tarleton [England's most famous clown until his death in 1588] would never trust to his dog's tricks more.

Tarleton's Jests, c.1600

Shakespeare seems to have scripted specific exchanges in clown parts so as to make improvisation a potential, an opportunity to be grasped or not depending upon the mood of the moment.

Simon Palfrey and Tiffany Stern, 2007

The stage history of The Two Gentlemen of Verona prior to the eighteenth century is a blank. Accordingly, very little can be gathered about the reasons for its non-publication during Shakespeare's lifetime.

Lukas Erne, 2003

Shakespeare, from his very first experiment in the genre, conceived of the love comedy—the romantic comedy—as of something typically Italian, and for this reason he favoured the choice of Italian names for the main characters and, at least in the earliest examples, of Italian locations for the action.

Giorgio Melchiori, 1993

For Shakespeare, Italy provided a securely remote, yet conveniently close, dramatic locus whose token reality, between realism and fable, suited his art of theatrical parable.

Leo Salingar, 1993

One could not write Richard III, say, without setting it in pre-Reformation England. Two Gentlemen of Verona, on the other hand, could as easily have been Two Gentlemen of Uttoxeter. The plot does not require an Italian setting, and in this case not even the source stipulates it … The world of the play is marked as unmistakably Catholic, but what seems to me noteworthy is not that this is charged with meaning but that it isn't.

David Scott Kastan, 2014

Flux and confusion [of the kind in Two Gentlemen] resulting from adaptation, abridgement, revision (or failure to revise) are the normal conditions of Renaissance playtexts… If contradictions, anomalies, and loose ends in Renaissance playtexts are a problem, they are primarily a twentieth-century problem.

Laurie E. Maguire, 1996

It is the general opinion that this comedy abounds with weeds, and there is no one, I think, will deny, who peruses pg 60it with attention, that it is adorned with several poetical flowers such as the hand of Shakespeare alone could raise.

Benjamin Victor, 1762

This play everywhere abounds with the most ridiculous absurdities in the plot and conduct of the incidents, as well as with the greatest improprieties in the manners and sentiments of the persons.

Charlotte Lennox, 1754

If it is the first of our Bard's writing, it is not the last in merit. Though it may not have the interest of his other comedies, it has more delicacy and correctness in language than some.

Newspaper review, 1790

Last night The Two Gentlemen of Verona were revived; why, we know not.

Newspaper review, 1790

There is some poor writing towards the end of the play … which is also bad in sentiment. But the badness is not necessarily un-Shakespearean.

E. K. Chambers, 1930

The basic technical failure of the play, I suggest, arises from the fact that Shakespeare is still a tyro in dramatic craftsmanship: he has not yet learned how to manipulate more than a few characters at once.

Stanley Wells, 1963

[The play dramatizes] the traumatic experience of the mimetic double bind, the simultaneous discovery by Valentine and Proteus that, in addition to the usual imperative of friendship: imitate me, another imperative has mysteriously appeared: do not imitate me.… Valentine and Proteus can be friends only by desiring alike and, if they do, they are enemies. Neither one can sacrifice friendship to love or love to friendship without sacrificing what he wants to retain and retaining what he wants to sacrifice. The conflict between friendship and love is a verbal swindle that falsely unravels the inextricable mimetic entanglement of the two.

René Girard, 1989

2 Julia reading Proteus' letter (Act 1, scene 2). drawn by Augustus Egg, and engraved for a volume of portraits celebrating The Heroines of Shakespeare (1849).

2 Julia reading Proteus' letter (Act 1, scene 2). drawn by Augustus Egg, and engraved for a volume of portraits celebrating The Heroines of Shakespeare (1849).

[Proteus'] little enigmatic flicker of a smile seemed to be discernable before he began to speak. When it was, the repentance was clearly a pure sham … when it was not, we had genuine penitence and thus the possibility of a comic ending: extraordinary that half a millimeter flicker of the lip muscles should change a dramatic genre.

Robert Smallwood, 1992

[The play] will never be a favourite, even among Shakespeare's greatest fans, but it is at least explicable as one in a series of restless experiments with comedy's capacity to rescue its characters from the potential disaster of their own humanity.

Lawrence Danson, 2000

In The Two Gentlemen of Verona Shakespeare presents letters and sexual roles or identities as working in much the same way. What is more, the similarity between letters and sexualities also lies in the fact that each is a system in which roles and directions are always changing, in contrast to pg 61the common contemporary perception of sexuality as fixed … intense relations with men and intense relations with women were not thought to be incompatible.

Stephen Guy-Bray, 2009

When Lucetta first presents a letter to Julia in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Julia immediately wants to know who the letter-bearer was: 'Say, say—who gave it thee?' Lucetta's answer—'Sir Valentinus' page, and sent, I think, from Proteus'—should alert us from the start to a problem with Proteus's courtship: the letter is coming through the wrong channels.

Alan Stewart, 2008

In both [The Merry Wives of Windsor and Two Gentlemen of Verona] characters identify themselves as Robin Hoods … more strikingly, in these plays the thieves tap into Robin Hood's rougher history as a violent outlaw who challenges prevailing social codes.

Jeffery Theis, 2009

[Augustin Daly's adaptation] is something more old-fashioned … to wit, a vaudeville. And let me hasten to admit that it makes a very pleasant entertainment for those who know no better. Even I, who know a great deal better, as I shall presently demonstrate rather severely, enjoyed myself tolerably.

George Bernard Shaw, 1895

Another notable cinematic rewriting of Shakespeare from the silent-film era is A Spray of Plum Blossom (Yi jian mei, 1931), directed by Bu Wancang. Also known as The Amorous Bandit, the 110-minute silent film turned Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona into a chivalric romance about two self-determined modern women traveling from Shanghai to Canton (Guangzhou).

Alexa Huang, 2009

[In Aristotle], a woman is simply an immature, not fully developed, more primitive form of man … the wit of Shakespeare's comic women, of Rosalind or Julia, played by boy actors, resembles the wit of Shakespeare's comic [male] pages, played by the same boy actors. Both kinds of character deal in the precious and the precocious; like the child stars of modern film and television, they amuse audiences by displaying an impertinent intelligence, a witty insubordination, even at times a talent for sexual innuendo, not expected from and deliciously incongruous in such mouths. Shakespeare's clever women are clever boys in drag.

Gary Taylor, 1990

Thus while the play seems to privilege female choice in the earlier acts—in the scene of catechetical ritual between Julia and Lucetta and in Julia's decision to undertake a solitary journey with a new-fashioned identity—the whole of the play suggests that female choice gives way inevitably to male choice.

Lori Schroeder Haslem, 1994

By taking the name Sebastian for her male disguise, Julia associates herself with a prototypic martyr of the church, converting her pilgrimage into a Catholic exercise of mortifying service redemptive for another fallen mortal—her beloved Proteus … playgoers, regardless of denominational loyalty, would have regarded Julia's pilgrim experience as a generally Catholic phenomenon.

Maurice Hunt, 2002

The print of Griselda is to be found on Shakespeare's long-suffering female characters…At the moment at which they shift into patient resignation and waiting, while the injustices done to them by their menfolk are painstakingly resolved, they fall naturally into the postures expected of them; they become patient Griseldas.

Lisa Jardine, 1983

'All that was mine in Silvia I give thee'—one's impulse, upon this declaration, is to remark that there are, by this time, no gentlemen in Verona.

Arthur Quiller-Couch, 1921

After dinner read Two Gentlemen of Verona and some of the Sonnets. That play disgusted me more than ever in the final scene where Valentine on Proteus' mere begging pardon where he has no longer any hope of gaining his ends, says: 'All that was mine in Silvia I give thee'!—Silvia standing by.

George Eliot, 1855

It has been pretty well agreed that this scene is morally and dramatically monstrous: that a proposal to hand over a girl to the man who has just proposed to rape her revolts our pg 62moral sense and that the perfunctory speed with which these staggering events are recounted can only provoke our laughter.

E. M. W. Tillyard, 1965

How [the offer] is played can imply profoundly different conceptions of Valentine's character, of the homosocial relation between Proteus and Valentine and of Silvia's silence … How then should the attempted rape, as important and controversial as the offer, be staged?

William C. Carroll, 2004

Remedies to the problem of Valentine's gift of Silvia to the rapist Protheus demonstrate the extent to which interpretation of the scene has become wrapped up in, on the one hand, anachronistic notions of sexuality, and, on the other, anachronistic conceptions of collaboration ('authors' versus 'botchers'). Envisioned as a negative textual practice to be deployed only in extremis, collaboration works as a canonic prophylactic, protecting Shakespeare from charges of insufficiently defending the primacy of (modern) sexuality.

Jeffrey Masten, 1997

Silvia stands by silently as she is swapped from Valentine to Proteus, who has just tried to rape her (indeed, she never speaks after the rape attempt); and Julia is not permitted to notice, or to care, that her man is a would-be rapist. The sacrifice of the autonomy of these hitherto sensible characters suggests the extent to which the deepest concern of the play is with the male bond.

Janet Adelman, 1985

This interest in the psychology of the perfidious man, who knows what he should do, yet runs contrary to his own conscience—and in the process condemns himself—forms a major preoccupation of Shakespeare from the start of his career … each man knows the code, the ideal, which he is breaking, yet succumbs to the power of desire or impulse.

Ralph M. Sargent, 1950

In this play, Shakespeare makes his first bold, characteristic, important moral assumption: that perhaps you can give away your cake and eat it too.

Donald Stauffer, 1949

How does one sell a production of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, one of the lesser-known plays in the canon, with a notoriously problematic ending? How about setting it in a 1950s television studio and remaking it as a live sitcom, with the tag line, 'What's a girl between friends'?

Katherine Scheil, 2009

Instead of Julia saying 'O me unhappy!' (5.2.85) and fainting, both Julia and Silvia fainted. All was confusion, and when Proteus fainted a moment later as Julia revealed her identity, the audiences did laugh. They also laughed when Julia started pounding Proteus with her cowboy hat.

Christine Mather, 1995

Oh cool! A contemporary take on Shakespeare's troublesome comedy in which women who have been battered about and nearly raped suddenly and dramatically assert their independence from men who just might prefer their own company anyway.

Michael W. Shurgot, 2010

In this play there is a strange mixture of knowledge and ignorance, of care and negligence. The versification is often excellent, the allusions are learned and just; but …, if we may credit the old copies, he has by mistaking places, left his scenery inextricable. The reason of all this confusion seems to be, that he took his story from a novel which he sometimes followed, and sometimes forsook, sometimes remembered, and sometimes forgot.

Samuel Johnson, 1765

Should one ask more of this play, or are we entitled to believe that the youthful author's intention was to poke some good-humoured fun, prettily spiced with light irony, at certain fashionable attitudes then current in life and literature, in order to divert?

Muriel St Clare Byrne, 1957

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