1000 Books In 10 Years; Vol. 204: The Two Gentlemen Of Veron, supposedly by William Shakespeare

Bill Shakespeare

Bill Shakespeare

Ah… The Two Gentlemen of Verona!  The Elizabethan Bromance.  The Two Gentlemen of Verona is one of the many plays attributed to Shakespeare, and it is perhaps the earliest work of those titles, though this is disputed of course.  Wikipedia is also eager to point out that it “is commonly regarded as one of his weakest plays”.  How nice of them to point out. No?  They are right though.  It is horrendous!  The play follows two men, Valentine and Proteus who share an intense bromance.  Valentine is moving away for a time and they are bummed up.  Proteus though cheers himself up with Julia, to whom he professes his love.  Eventually though, he follows Valentine and the two are reunited.  Valentine has fallen in love, and Proteus, being ever the douche bag that he is, forgets his love of Julia and falls in lust for Silvia, Valentine’s love interest.  Proteus betrays his friend and get him banished from court and then tries to hit up on Silvia who refuses him because he is a douche bag, and she pretty much tells him as much.  Valentine joins a band of forest renegades (who are also gentlemen expelled from court for various reasons).  Silvia follows after her love, and Proteus follows after her, and just as he announces that he is about to rape her, Valentine enters the scene and saves her.  Proteus makes a very compelling apology though: “My shame and guilt confounds me.  Forgive me Valentine.”  Valentine of course accepts the apology and then offers his true love Silvia to Proteus: “All that was mine in Silvia I give thee.”  I’m sure Silvia really appreciates the man she sees as her soul mate offering her to her would-be rapist!  Such a thoughtful boyfriend is Valentine.  Bros before hoes as the saying goes!  Alas, we know not what Silvia’s response wouldst have been for Shakespeare saw no need to give her and further lines after her boyfriend offers her up to the would-be rapist!  I suppose it is as the saying goes; Women are to be seen and not heard.  Oh, Shakespeare, you are such a feminist!

 

The attempted rape, after which Valentine offers his love to her would-be rapist. Isn't love grand? Seriously though, bros before hoes.

The attempted rape, after which Valentine offers his love to her would-be rapist. Isn’t love grand? Seriously though, bros before hoes.

Reading this in the context of a eco-criticism class, I feel it is interesting to point out a couple of things.  One, the interesting parallel of friendship in the play.  Proteus’s servant, we’ll call him Lance, though there seems to be some debate over that (Lance, Launce, what’s the difference).  Lance, it seems, has a pet dog (we do not know the breed, but we do know that he is ten times the size of a lap dog, and therefore, according to Lance’s reasoning, ten times the gift that a lap dog would be), and this dog just loves pissing on people and eating food of off people’s plates, for which people would generally have the dog whipped, but Lance, being the true friend to man’s best friend, insists that HE is the one who has done the pissing and eating off of the table, and so he gets whipped in his dog’s place.  There is also a great passage in Act II, Scene III when Lance speaks of his relationship with his dog and says; “I am the dog:- no, the dog is himself, and I am the dog,- O, the dog is me, and I am myself”.  It reminds me of the Norman Russell poem, ‘Message of the Rain’: “when i was a child/ i was a squirrel an bluejay a fox”.  There is a oneness with nature.  We see a call for such oneness in the essay Articulating The Cyborg: An Impure Model for Environmental Revolution, by Louis H. Palmer III, where it is written that “species and cultures can no loner be seen as other”.  Shakespeare seems to be ahead of the curve on this one, at least Lance does, specifically in respect to species though, and NOT in respect to cultures as Lance is more than happy to let fly two anti-Semitic comments during the play, which I will not reprint here.  It is also interesting to note, from an ecocritical perspective that the problems that arise in the play arise within the context of the court, where humanity’s socially constructed rules get in the way, and the problems are ultimately resolved in the context of the forest.  Also interesting, from an eco-feminist perspective, is the fact that when the first two women of the play are introduced, they are talkign with each other in a garden, a stark contrast to the city streets in which the men speak in.

Rambler About Rambler

Jason John Horn is a writer and critic who recently completed his Master's in English Literature at the University of Windsor. He has composed a play, a novella and a number of short stories and satirical essays.

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