The Two Gentlemen of Verona
- Shakespeare's first and least successful attempt at romanticcomedy, written at an unknown date between 1590 and 1594; the first recordedperformance was in 1672. The plot, which is derived mainly from Jorge deMontemayor's romance Diana, involves two friends, Valentine and Proteus(the gentlemen of the title). Their friendship is severely testedwhen they both fall for Silvia, daughter of the Duke of Milan. Inorder to further his own suit, the deceitful Proteus betrays Valentineto the Duke, who banishes him. Meanwhile, Proteus's former love, Julia,disguises herself as a boy and becomes his page, even carrying hislove messages to Silvia. After a series of highly implausible adventures - including Silvia's capture by a group of bandits led by Valentine,and Proteus's bungling attempt to rape her (for which he is immediatelyforgiven) - the friends are reconciled. Valentine weds Silvia,and Proteus weds Julia. It is the Bard's only play to feature a dog(named Crab).
In most modern productions of the play the serious romanticplot is played mainly for laughs. The Royal Shakespeare Company chosePeter Hall's production as their first offering in 1960. A modern-dressversion presented in 1975 at Stratford featured actresses in bikinisbeside a swimming pool. There was a musical adaptation in 1927 calledTwo Gentlemen of Soho, while Joseph Papp later produceda Broadway musical version that won the Tony Award for 1971.