Friends and Lovers: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

  • Kristian Smidt


The Two Gentlemen of Verona is notable for some highly successful comic scenes, which show Shakespeare already outstripping his contemporaries in the handling of humorous speech and portraiture. Nevertheless it is a play which has been much abused as well as energetically defended, and even the authorship has often in the past been in doubt.1 As a whole it suffers from numerous and serious unconformities. There is little novelty in making this assertion: in his Introduction to the Arden edition, Clifford Leech has two long lists of puzzles and inconsistencies, most of which have long been recognised. On the basis of these he conjectures four stages in the play’s composition,2 and whether or not his conjecture is correct there can be little doubt that the comedy underwent changes in planning and execution before and possibly after its initial completion.


Royal Court True Love Passionate Love Early Play Initial Completion 
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  1. 1.
    Among the defenders of the play are T. W. Baldwin, who finds it skilfully constructed according to the five-act formula derived from Terence’s Andria, Clifford Leech, who supports Baldwin with regard to construction and finds an attractive blend of irony and engagement, and Ralph Berry, who sees it as one great ‘send-up’ of romantic conventions. See Baldwin, Shakspere’s Five-Act Structure (1947) pp. 719–27; Leech (Arden ed.) pp. lxvii–lxxv;Google Scholar
  2. Berry, Shakespeare’s Comedies (1972) pp. 40–53. Negative responses in the past have to a large extent exempted Shakespeare from responsibility by insisting on divided authorship — see Leech’s brief account in the Arden ed. pp. xxiv–xxv.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Wells, ‘The Failure of The Two Gentlemen of Verona’, Shakespeare Jahrbuch 99 (1963), [161]–173.Google Scholar
  4. 14.
    Bradbrook, Shakespeare and Elizabethan Poetry (1951) pp. 147–53. The passage in Bradbrook is discussed by Leech in the Arden ed., pp. liv–lvi.Google Scholar
  5. 24.
    In Lyly’s Euphues the Emperor holds court at Naples, and it has been thought that Shakespeare’s introduction of the Emperor was influenced by Lyly — see Arden, p. xvi. In Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus the Emperor is Charles V, who was crowned at Aachen in 1520. He ruled over a huge European empire, including Italy, and colonies in the New World, and played a leading part in opposing the Reformation of Martin Luther. He abdicated in 1555 to the world’s astonishment, and Shakespeare may have remembered this in King Lear. Elizabethans would be likely to know that Charles was the nephew of Katherine of Arragon and was at one time in alliance with Henry VIII. See also G. P. V. Akrigg, Shakespeare and the Earl of Southampton (1968) pp. 50, 225, for references to the Emperor Rudolph of Shakespeare’s own day. Shakespeare found no use for an emperor as a separate person in TGV but needed a ruler to banish Valentine.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kristian Smidt 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kristian Smidt
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OsloNorway

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