Back at the beginning of all this, I had to map out a roadmap for the syllabus. I threw together a very rough assemblage of a chronology.
a rough assemblage? yeah, there are some pretty interesting divergences in opinion between the various editors and critics, so I did the best I could… so sue me… I did make some changes, like losing some of the “Fletcher” plays and massaging the order of some of the histories (so that within the tetralogies, we could keep them in “true” historical order as well)
As we noted earlier in the week, the existence of The Two Gentlemen of Verona was known before 1598 (as it appeared in a list of Shakespearean plays in that year in Palladis Tamia by Francis Meres, which includes a survey of the works of contemporary English poets). The text of the play, however, did not appear during Shakespeare’s lifetime, published for the first time as part the First Folio in 1623.
But now looking back at it, the play just seems so weak that I find it hard to believe that it was written by the same writer around the same time as said writer wrote Love’s Labor’s Lost.
I know what you’re thinking… but, Bill, you didn’t even LIKE LLL… well, that’s true, but its wide variety of language and characters makes it a superior play to 2Gents, at the very least in terms of style…
The rushed pace and the much-too-quick character shifts, are coupled with a seeming inability to handle more than two or three characters in a scene. Compare the final scenes of our last two plays: LLL has just about everyone on stage and interacting; 2Gents doesn’t have three of its more comic characters–Speed, Launce, and Lucetta–and even then the playwright can’t give everyone their due in dialogue (I hate to keep harping on this, but Silvia–the center of attraction–doesn’t utter a single word in the last 114 lines of a 260 line final act). It all seems to, in the words of Shakespeare critic, and Oxford Shakespeare editor, Stanley Wells, “betray an uncertainty of technique suggestive of inexperience.” In other words, he was just starting off when he wrote it.
So I got it wrong. Hindsight being 20-20, as they say, I should have put 2Gents nearer the beginning of the project… maybe even first up, but definitely before the histories. That would better explain Shakespeare’s toying with concepts he would more fully explore later in his career…an idea we discussed in yesterday’s blog entry.
Live and learn, people, live (and read) and learn…