Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Down to business.

Janus is the God of doorways - and if Wells et al are right,

'The Two Gentlemen of Verona'

is the first play He wrote - in other words, my entrance into the Complete Works.

It is certainly a play which looks forward - there are countless points when reading and watching when you go - ah, that's in Romeo and Juliet, that's in A Midsummer Nights Dream, didn't that happen in The Merchant of Venice, or Othello ... that reminds me a little of the scene in Twelfth Night, or, surely that is a little like Hamlet's ....

But it's more than just action and incident, word and phrase - there is a usage of language and a usage of theatre that makes this a very Shakespearean play.

This is already Shakespeare the poet (in Brook's sense) - the resonance and reference looking back into experience and encounters.

This is Shakespeare digging into the works of other stage professionals - there is a strong link, I think, to Lyly - I couldn't stop thinking of the 'courtly' actions and the word play found in the older man's work and attempts to satisfy for Elizabeth's taste.

There is Greene, in the character and spirit of these two young men.

But it is not the 'borrowed clothes' plagiarism of A Groatsworth of Wit, which would suggest an insecurity - for this is quite a confident play - it is an early exploration of the power of the theatre to self reference - and to deepen and even create meaning through such reference. It is a shorthand - why waste time going over the same ground already covered. It is a playing with the audience - spot the quote (remember, education was mainly about quoting the right authority when you are debate).

Curiously enough - it is a play about leaving a woman you love to go to another city - and, to commit the sin of implied biography, I can't help linking this to the earlier sonnet (1 aka 145).

It is also very much a genre play, with a set of conventions to guide both the performance and the watching - and I suspect part of its unpopularity is due much more to the genre being out of fashion than with any quality of the play itself.

This is a play of wit - and therein lies another difficulty: Wit frequently requires a knowledge of and easy flexibility with language - and we are just too distant to take the 'set-piece' exchanges without a degree of study beforehand.

Above all else, this is an entertaining play - something doubted at times: I enjoyed watching it, I enjoyed reading it through.

Whether it is a play to be 'studied' is a different question - but then, I very much doubt whether any of the plays should really be studied - death by academia.

Technorati Tags: , ,

No comments: