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The Problem with The Two Gentlemen of Verona Act 5, Scene 4

From The Two Gentlemen of Verona Ed. Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. Cambridge: University Press.

This scene, a 'damned spot,' as it stands, upon Shakespeare's dramatic reputation, has long been suspected of serious corruption. Cf. Introd. pp. xiii-xix. After the foregoing analysis of the text as a whole, the reader will, we hope, be prepared to agree that the matter has passed beyond conjecture into certainty. Distinct scenes in Shakespeare's original, we believe, went to the manufacture of this, the adapter's masterpiece. Dramatically and metrically it falls into three sections: (i) Valentine's soliloquy, followed by Proteus' attempted violence upon Silvia which is interrupted by Valentine. All this, though not free from 'cuts,' is in the simple end-stopped verse which we associate with the youthful Shakespeare. (ii) The repentance of Proteus, Valentine's strange surrender of Silvia, and the incident of Julia's swoon and the ring. This section is in quite another style, marked by enjambment, strong medial pauses and - strange combination! - a riot of rhymed couplets, mingled with scraps of prose, in one of which (v. note 1. 89) we find a fossil line of blank-verse. Further it contains passages which approach perilously near to nonsense, e.g. ll. 71-2, 107-10, 113-16.

From the remarkable silence of Silvia, while events so vital to her happiness were proceeding (v. p. xviii), we may suppose that the adapter was here availing himself of hints from a Shakespearean scene between Valentine, Proteus and Julia, at which Silvia was not present. But, if so, they were hints only, for we can hardly doubt that the section as it has reached us is virtually his own composition. (iii) In the third section, which begins with the entry of the Duke and Thurio, we return to the style of the young Shakespeare. This section may have been taken from a later portion of the scene which commenced in section (i). On the other hand, it may have been located in Verona (v. note 1. 130). We cannot tell. One of the minor problems of the scene is the fate of Speed, who was captured with Valentine in 4.1. but does not appear here.

How to cite this article:
Shakespeare, William. The Two Gentlemen of Verona. Eds. Arthur Quiller-Couch and John Dover Wilson. Cambridge: University Press, 1921. Shakespeare Online. 2 Aug. 2011. (date when you accessed the information) < >.

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