Who Knew “from Verona to Milan” was the Roadmap for the Future?

It’s amazing all the little things in The Two Gentlemen of Verona that crop up later in the Canon:


Speed and Launce — we’ve talked about this before

plus, a couple of days from now, we’ll take a look at something that might make those examples moot…

Sure, the Dromios from The Comedy of Errors were clownish… but still not clowns.  And Costard and Armado from Love’s Labor’s Lost are clowns, but they don’t break the fourth wall the way Launce does (yeah, I know there’s a moment near the end of Act One, where Armado is left alone on stage, but he doesn’t interact with the audience).

More importantly, Launce begins a tradition of fools that comment more wryly on the action (flash-forward to Lear‘s Fool).

a father choosing the spouse for his daughter…

The Duke of Milan chooses Thurio for Silvia.  (Yes, Baptista chooses for Bianca, but it doesn’t feel as autocratic)  In the future, we’ve got more coming: Midsummer, Merchant… and you can imagine Desdemona and Ophelia’s fathers doing the same).

… causing her to flee

Silvia flees into woods in search of the banished Valentine.  Uh, can you say A Midsummer Night’s Dream?


Julia takes on the male disguise of Sebastian.

OK, so it’s time broach THAT subject: So what’s with all the cross-dressing in the Canon? (The Merchant of Venice–Portia dresses as a man in court; Twelfth Night–Viola disguises herself as Cesario; As You Like It–Rosalind dresses as Ganymede).  Well, the short answer is that law prevented theaters employing female actors so men had to play all the roles.  Younger males, as part of their apprenticeships–before their voices would break–could take on the female roles, as well as accomplished male actors.

You’ll notice that the casts of characters are very male-heavy (I’ve done a quick — and I mean quick [20 min tops] — perusal of the lists and I estimate that there’s about 1160 single characters listed, and only about 155 are female).  If you have a female character dressing as a man, you can use those boys whose voices are changing; it allows you more flexibility.

band of men in the woods

Valentine meets a group of outlaws in the woods outside Milan.

Think of Duke Senior and his men in the Forest in As You Like It

oh, yeah… two last bits of foreshadowing:

Valentine attempts to use a corded ladder to ascend to his love’s window.  In Romeo and Juliet, Romeo does the same (only more successfully).

A Friar Lawrence appears in dialogue in Act Five, Scene Three; it is supposed that the fleeing daughter was to meet with him in the woods for safe conduct.  In Romeo and Juliet, Friar Lawrence’s plan is to safely transport Juliet (after her faked death) to her husband Romeo.

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