Remember last month’s Love’s Labor’s Lost, and the almost interminable last scene? The Russian disguise… the return of the men… the show of the Worthies… the arrival of news of the French King’s death… the unsatisfactory conclusion… all in a 900+ line scene (the longest last scene in the Canon).
Compare that to this month’s The Two Gentlemen of Verona and its last Act: at 260 lines, the shortest in the Canon. In fewer lines than it would take to compose just 19 sonnets:
- Silvia begins her escape into the woods,
- the Duke learns of her flight and begins a pursuit with both Thurio and Proteus,
- the outlaws capture Silvia,
- Proteus rescues Silvia (though, admittedly, this is off-stage),
- Proteus demands her love then threatens rape,
- Valentine stops him and reprimands Proteus for his treachery,
- Proteus repents,
- Valentine forgives,
- Sebastian is revealed to be Julia,
- Julia and Proteus are reunited,
- the Duke arrives and gives his consent for Silvia’s marriage to Valentine, and
- the couples head off to their single wedding day.
That’s a ridiculous amount to take place in just 260 lines. It just seems rushed.
The pacing pushes to the point of breaking, and the character changes happen so quickly that they go BEYOND the breaking point (to where Silvia doesn’t even speak for the last 114 lines of the play).
This rush to the end seems like the work of an immature writer, one who has yet to fully grasp theatrical pacing or character development. And while a director can mitigate some of the blur of changes (as Michael Langham did in his 1956 production, in which Proteus puts a gun to his own head following Valentine’s reprimand… thus prompting a quicker forgiving by Valentine), we really need to ask ourselves if this is the work of a writer who had already seen the explosion of language in Love’s Labor’s Lost…
More on that tomorrow…