Two Down for “All of Shakespeare Before the 450th”

With my commitment to read all of Shakespeare’s works by April 2014, I finished “Two Gentlemen of Verona” a week ago. Before I give you my five-cent comment on the play, I should tell you that I am reading all these plays and sonnets from “William Shakespeare: The Complete Works” from Gramercy Books in New York, copyright 1975 by Random House. Everything’s crammed into 1229 pages. So the print is small—that’s ok, I have reading glasses. The type is sometimes squeezed into a line without spaces between the words—not so ok, but I’m getting used to it. If they still have too much type for a line, they put a bracket in front of the word and put it at the end of the line above or below (whichever line has the most space I suppose)–not ok at all, it breaks you concentration as you try to figure out which line it goes with. You have to wonder how anyone approved this publication, unless they assumed no one would ever notice (i.e., never read it). They were almost right. It’s been sitting on the shelf, virtually unread for decades. At any rate, I’m reading the plays in the order they appear in the book.

Back to Verona: Definitely a comedy. Somewhat entertaining, but I could live my life without ever having seen or read it. Words that came to mind as I read it: Superficial love, false friends, puns, intentional misunderstandings, selfishness, betrayal, treachery, ingratitude, easy repentance, easy forgiveness, inconstancy contrasted with constancy. I had the thought after I finished it that if Shakespeare had written only The Tempest and Two Gentlemen of Verona (the two read so far in this effort) he would have left the impression that forgiveness was the easiest of virtues.

Two Gentlemen of Verona earns one lowly Bard:




Quotes that appealed to me (for various reasons):

Speed: Ay, sir; I, a lost mutton, gave your letter to her, a laced mutton; and she, a laced mutton, gave me, a lost mutton, nothing for my labour!

Antonio: I have consider’d well his loss of time, and how he cannot be a perfect man, not being tried and tutor’d in the world: experience is by industry achieved and perfected by the swift course of time.

Speed: If you love her, you cannot see her…. Because love is blind.

Julia: Seal the bargain with a holy kiss.

Julia: What! Gone without a word?Ay; so true love should do: it cannot speak; for truth hath better deeds than words to grace it.

Launce: I reckon this always—that a man is never undone till he be hanged….

Proteus: A sea of melting pearl, which some call tears.

Speed: How now, Signior Launce? What news with your mastership?     Launce: With my master’s ship? why, it is at sea.     Speed: Well, your old vice still; mistake the word. What news, then, in your paper?     Launce: The blackest news that ever thou heard’st.     Speed: Why, man, how black?     Launce: Why, as black as ink.

Julia: I am my master’s true confirmed love, but cannot be true servant to my master unless I prove false traitor to myself.

Silvia: A thousand more mischances than this one have learn’d me how to brook this patiently.

Silvia to Proteus: Thou hast no faith left now, unless thou hadst two and that’s far worse than none; better have none than plural faith, which is too much by one….

Valentine: The private wound is deepest….

Valentine: Who by repentance is not satisfied is nor of heaven or earth; for these are pleased; by penitence the Eternal’s wrath’s appease’d….

Proteus: O heaven! Were man but constant, he were perfect; that one error fills him with faults; makes him run through all th’ sins: inconstancy falls off ere it begins….

Valentine: One feast, one house, one mutual happiness.




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2 Responses to “Two Down for “All of Shakespeare Before the 450th””

  1. Herbert Says:

    In my personal quest to read all of Shakespeare, I read all the tragedies first simply because those seemed most appealing to me. Now, however, for the comedies and histories, I’m going to read them in roughly chronological order of composition, which mean Two Gentlement of Verona is first.

    I have to admit, I have little experience with Shakespearean comedies. The only other one I’ve read is Twelfth Night (and this was a while ago, before my current attempt to read them all) so I didn’t really know what to expect, but some parts of it did make me laugh somewhat. Launce and Crab were definitely highlights, and Speed’s bits on the ‘muttons’ which I liked, although that might just be because I find the word ‘mutton’ very satisfying to say.

    However, it definitely falls into the trap of very unrealistic characters. Valentine’s easy forgiveness of Proteus is strange and unbelievable, especially after Proteus tries to rape or otherwise assault Silvia (I assume that’s what “I’ll force thee yield to my desire” means). Admittedly, I did look at the The Tempest many years ago at school (although I definitely need to revisit it) and, if I recall correctly, Prospero does initially plan on vengeance, not forgiveness, so it might be more believable. Moreover, he has had years to calm down, compared to the days (or maybe weeks?) Valentine has had in the woods with the bandits.

    Overall, entertaining, although not as good as Twelfth Night, the only comedy to which I can properly compare it. I generally agree with your conclusions that it was fun in places, but not a masterpiece like some of his works.

    As an aside, I notice you removed my surname from my previous posts. In all honesty, my surname might be one of my greatest problems in life. Facebook has deleted my account before, and job applications have gone ignored, I suspect, because of my name. Fie, what a trouble ’tis to have Polish grandparents! I’ve honestly considered changing it.

  2. admin Says:

    It’s great that you’re reading all the Bard’s plays and especially that you have Two Gentlemen from Verona behind you. Overall, I personally don’t appreciate the comedies as much as the tragedies and histories, including several comedies that are highly esteemed by others. But there are some that I like, and almost all of them are, from my perspective, more enjoyable than the Verona tale.

    As to your aside. It is hard to know, especially on the faceless and impersonal internet, whether it’s meant as a statement or is merely surname by birth. Because out of context, a reader can’t determine which, I decided that I wouldn’t highlight it. I hope my decision is not offensive to you.

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