Summer Shakespeare III

Bruce A. McMenomy, Ph.D. for Scholars Online
2023: Wednesdays, 1:00-3:00 p.m. Eastern Time
June 14 - Aug. 16

June 14:
Troilus and Cressida

June 21:
Titus Andronicus

June 28:
Pericles, Prince of Tyre
Fantasy and Allegory

July 5

July 12:
King John
Outlying Histories

July 19:
Timon of Athens

July 26:
Two Gentlemen of Verona
Villainy and Purity

Aug 2:
Prejudice and Metaphor

August 9:
King Henry VIII
Contemporary Politics

August 16:
Pastoral and Romance

Two Gentlemen of Verona

This is one of the least well-known of Shakespeare’s plays, and many of those who know it dislike it with a rare intensity. It has a fantastically convoluted and artificial set-up, and a solution that is, by most readers’s standards, grotesque. Almost no age has found the final resolution really appealing. And yet there are a few emotionally resonant scenes at its heart, especially in the fourth act, and a number of thematic connections that remain interesting in spite of all its shortcomings.

Things to consider while reading Two Gentlemen of Verona

Do you find the central emotional unmasking in the third and fourth acts compelling in themselves? Many find that, despite everything else, the unfolding generosity and pathos of “Sebastian” (Julia in disguise) rises to a powerful emotional level.

It’s probably almost a joke since the movie Shakespeare in Love, but here arguably the “bit with a dog” rises to an uncommonly high level. What does it do for the play overall? What are we to make of the relationship of Lance with “man’s best friend”? Does it have some thematic connection to the larger issues of the play?

Despite the fact that this is not among Shakespeare’s best-loved plays, it had a following through the years, both in English and in translation. Schubert wrote a rather popular (German) setting of the song from Act IV (An Sylvia, D. 891).

Two Gentlemen of Verona and what has come before

Shakespeare’s Sources

Themes that emerge in the play (only a few of the many)

Symmetries in the play

Problems in the play