Explanatory notes for Act 1, Scene 3
From The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Ed. Israel Gollancz. New York: University Society.
8-10. Some to the wars, etc.: - This passage is all alive with the
spirit of Shakespeare's own time, when enterprise, adventure, and
study were everywhere the order of the day, and all ranks were
stirred with noble agitations; the mind's life being then no longer
exhausted in domestic broils, nor as yet stifled by a passion for
gain. And, to say nothing of foreign discoveries, where wonder
and curiosity were ever finding new stores of food, and still grew
hungry by what they fed on; or of Flemish campaigns, where
chivalrous honour and mental accomplishment "kissed each
other;" what a tremendous perturbation must have run through
the national mind, what a noble fury must have enriched the
nation's brain, to make it effervesce in such a flood as has rolled
down to us in the works of Spenser, Hooker, Shakespeare, and
27. the emperor: - "Some of the first German emperors," says
Steevens, "were crowned kings of Italy at Milan before they
received the imperial crown at Rome. Nor has the Poet fallen
into any contradiction by giving a duke to Milan at the same time
that the emperor held his court there. The first dukes of that
and all the other great cities in Italy were not sovereign princes,
as they afterwards became, but were merely governors, or viceroys, under the emperors, and removable at their pleasure."
30. et seq. Here again the Poet is alluding to the practices of his
own time. At an earlier period, when war was expressly conducted by the laws of knighthood, "the tournay, with all its
magnificence, its minstrels, and heralds, and damosels in lofty
towers, had its hard blows, its wounds, and sometimes its deaths."
But the tournaments of Shakespeare's time, and such as Proteus
was sent to practice, were "the tournaments of gay pennons and
pointless lances;" as magnificent indeed as the old knightly encounters, but "as harmless to the combatants as those between
other less noble actors, the heroes of the stage." The Poet had no doubt witnessed some of these "courtly pastimes," as held by
her Majesty in the tiltyard at Westminster, or by proud Leicester in the tiltyard at Kenilworth.
44. break with him: - This use of break for broach or open (the
matter to him) is one of many instances showing how much the use of prepositions has changed. To break with a person, now
wears a very different meaning.
84-87. O, how this spring, etc.: - Note with what accuracy and
vividness the Poet here paints the manners of April. The play was written in his youth, when he was more at home with external nature than with man, his mind not having yet climbed the height of this latter argument. The fine ecstasy with which, in
his earlier plays, as in his poems, he dwells on the movements and aspects of nature may well send one's thoughts to a passage of
Wordsworth, describing his youthful self: -
"For nature then
To me was all in all. I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me
An appetite; a feeling and a love."
How to cite the explanatory notes:
Shakespeare, William. The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Ed. Israel Gollancz. New York: University Society, 1901. Shakespeare Online. 10 Aug. 2010. (date when you accessed the information) < http://www.shakespeare-online.com/plays/two_1_3.html >.