Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two (not 3, or 1) Gentlemen ...

Some insights flash upon one as in the Road to Damascus - others have a slow dawning... this is an example of the latter: Silly really, considering I posted on the importance of titles a couple of months ago.

Twoiness (or two-i-ness, or two-y-ness?) is quite noticeable in

The Two Gentleman of Verona.

Let me make it plain from the start - not just obvious (i.e. you see it) but noticeable ... in performance.

some things you get when you read over the text - very


(and for a development of that I refer you to Brook, not me).

When watching the BBC production - Spaniels hit me twice ... and Chameleons. I thought it odd at the time, was Shakey being a bit 'shakey'? Was he repeating himself like a school child who gets an idea and can't let go? Then I realised, a couple of days later - I noticed those words and ended up posting on them ... erm, interesting.

Then another dawning - I mentioned Speed's 'swinging' when I reviewed the production - and he actually gets two of them in the play.

Walking to work through the park another development of the two-y-ness (settle for that I think - pun on the 'y') : Two men, two women to go with the men, two servants, two suitors, too many twos to be accidental?

And that led on to thinking about the idea of pairs and two-ness (don't want it to sound like chewiness this time).

What first popped out of the cogitation was, of course, the 'famous' pair play - The Comedy of Errors. And what struck me was the difference.

There the pairs are twins - here they are not. You get the pair of a master and a servant, a man and a woman, a man and a dog ... united in a difference.

In fact it is the differences that make the two 'individuals'. So what unites them as a pair?

Love and duty.

'To love, honour and obey'

Is this a play about the break needed for marriage - a play about sorting out the difference between the play friend and the partner for life?

If so, there is a very strong religious vein running through the play which, although treated lightly by the text, is implicit - and obvious to an Elizabethan audience in a way it isn't to us.

Take the two servants - Speed is a boy - an intelligent, lively, beer drinking boy who gets treated like a boy. He is the model of youth who stays just that throughout the play.

Lance is on a threshold - he is contemplating marriage - and a move out of one type of service into another? His 'lament' over leaving the family, and the excessive emotions, reflect not just the parting of a servant to go with his master - they suggest a ritualised weeping: Was this typical of Elizabethan marriages? I have seen weddings where the leaving of the girl from the mother's home is in fact linked to such wailing.

I am not suggesting this as fact - it is speculation ... and that is what thinking about the play after viewing does - makes one think and speculate.

Which brings me to the final scene - and A Midsummer Nights Dream has the quotes that help ...

"Begin these wood birds but to couple now?"

The first word is begin ... Two Gentlemen shows the ending of one phase, and the beginning of the next - but there is a touch of reality here ( in what can be seen as a very unreal play):

"The course of true love never did run smooth."

None of the participants in this scene is going to 'happy-ever-after-dom' ... it is marriage they head for.

Technorati Tags: , ,


Craig said...

Hum. It seems to me that the thesis in Gentlemen is that romantic and marital relationships are strictly secondary in quality to idealized male-male friendship. That's where Valentine puts his chips in Act V.

Anyway, I enjoyed your reading of Gents very much, though I can't say I've come around to a point where I actually like the play! I'm eager to see you get to the early Shakespeare that really speaks to me: 3 Henry 6, Titus, and so on.

Alan K.Farrar said...

It's because you keep reading!

Stop it - go watch the things.

(I dare you not to giggle in Titus)

Craig said...

Well, (a) not true--I'm devoted to the plays in performance; saw Two Gentlemen last month, in fact, at an American univesity (Crab stole the show); and (b) how can you argue against the plays as literary objects, too, in the face of Heminge and Condell's cheerfully mercantile exhortation to "read him...and again, and again;" and furthermore (c) I saw an absolutely breathtaking Titus last year in Washington--it has certain infelicities, but can be immensely powerful if handled correctly.

My answer to whether Shakespeare should be read or watched is an emphatic "YES."

Alan K.Farrar said...

words words words

I feel a post moving on on the reading issue.

(Although I refer you to the Intelligence post as a starting point.)

What is it Doctor Jonson said - never read a book in his life?

And why did Shakes not publish - clear as anything else, he wanted his plays watched.

Recommend 10:1 (not allowed to read a play once 'til seen 10 times first).