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The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1983)

TV Movie  -   -  Comedy  -  27 December 1983 (UK)
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In 16th century Italy, two inseparable friends suddenly become rivals for the love of a noblewoman.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frank Barrie ...
Hetta Charnley ...
Tyler Butterworth ...
John Hudson ...
Nicholas Kaby ...
John Woodnutt ...
Joanne Pearce ...
Bella ...
David Collings ...
Paul Daneman ...
Duke of Milan
Daniel Flynn ...
Charlotte Richardson ...


Valentine and Proteus have been friends since childhood. The two are sad when Valentine must leave to work for a count, but Proteus is not too bothered since he is seeing the lovely Julia. Proteus' father, not liking the idea of the match, sends his son away to work with Valentine at the count's court. When Proteus is reunited with his friend again, Valentine introduces him to the beautiful and intelligent noblewoman Silvia. He confesses the two of them are in love and plan to elope. Unfortunately, Proteus becomes infatuated with Silvia upon first sight, forgetting all about Julia, and plans to betray his friend and his love to win Silvia for himself. Written by cupcakes

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Release Date:

27 December 1983 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

The Complete Dramatic Works of William Shakespeare: The Two Gentlemen of Verona  »

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User Reviews

A fascinating look into the mind and heart of the author
23 November 2009 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Though most critics fall over backwards to parrot Harold Bloom's characterization of William Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona as "the weakest of all Shakespeare's comedies," I found it to be a very entertaining effort, especially as performed by the BBC-Time-Life ensemble in its 1983 performance. Accolades should go to Joanne Pearce as Sylvia, Tessa Peake-Jones as Julia, John Hudson as Valentine, Paul Daneman as the Duke of Milan, and especially to young Nicholas Kaby as the clownish Speed. Cited among Shakespeare's works in 1598 by Francis Meres but not printed until the First Folio of 1623, the most accepted date for the work is the early 1590s but there are no documented performances. Perhaps, for stylistic reasons, it is often thought of as Shakespeare's earliest comedy.

Shakespeare commentators consider the story to be taken from a Spanish play by Jorge de Montemayor, Diana Enamorada and it was performed in an anonymous English version at court by the Queen's Men in 1585 as The History of Felix and Philomena. Other influences may have been the commedia dell' arte of the Italian playwright Flaminio Scala. Although the work may not be as weak as some have said, it is generally not well thought of because of the unsavory nature of its characters, particularly the cruel betrayal of Julia by Proteus and the disturbing offer made by Valentine to Proteus in the last act.

The play indeed is mystifying unless one looks at it as a fascinating look into the mind and heart of the author whose "two gentlemen" may be (as in Measure for Measure) two sides of his own personality, the trusting, open-hearted and the false-malignant. Like Measure for Measure, it is a self appraisal in which the author does not escape indictment. The story is set in Northern Italy in Verona, Milan, and Mantua and the controversy about its reference to traveling by sea from Verona to Milan and the possibility of shipwrecks has given carte blanche to all those whose goal in life is to prove how little geography Shakespeare actually knew. Although the possibility of shipwrecks does seem rather remote and Shakespeare may have written the play before he was sure of its setting, during the 16th century an extensive canal system did stretch across the Po Valley from Venice, west of Milan, and the Lombard Plain as far as Turin.

While some use this play to denigrate Shakespeare, others make the case that the writer showed an astoundingly detailed and accurate knowledge of Italy, demonstrating extensive familiarity with Milanese landmarks such as the Abbey of Saint Ambrose, the Well of St. Gregory, and the Lazaretto. Whether the author visited Italy or not, he makes the audience feel as if everything is coming from rich personal experience. Two Gentlemen is the tale of two friends living in Verona, Valentine and Proteus, whose interests in women lead to complications, none of which are handled very well. Both interestingly enough are known as writers and, when Valentine's lover Sylvia (daughter of a powerful duke) asks him to write poems for her, he discovers that he is writing not for his lover's contentment but for his own satisfaction.

Both Valentine and Proteus are sent to Milan, Valentine to gain worldly experience as he asserts, "Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits", and Proteus on a mission from his father. When Proteus arrives, he discovers that Valentine has fallen in love with Sylvia. Turning his back on Julia to whom he had offered undying devotion, he begins to court Sylvia, even while knowing that she loves Valentine and, has been pledged to Thurio by her father. Treachery, plotting, and cruelty abound throughout the play and in the final scene, as Proteus threatens Sylvia who is betrothed to Valentine …woo you like a soldier, at arms' And love you 'gainst the nature of love – force ye.

As Valentine rushes in to save his lady, Proteus puts his sins behind him:

O heaven, were man But constant, he were perfect! That one error Fills him with faults, makes him run through all th' sins.

To which Valentine responds incongruously:

Then I am paid; And once again do I receive thee honest. And, that my love may appear plain and free, All that was mine in Silvia I give thee.

It is an offer that, under the circumstances of a threatened assault, is unfathomable if addressed to another person, but conceivable if addressed to oneself and inaudible to their object. As in Measure for Measure, however, all dishonor is forgiven and the perpetrator, after exposing his faults for all the world to see, is let off the hook with a large measure of unearned compassion. If these events are not the substance of the dramatist's life, they make no sense whatsoever. To paraphrase author Elisabeth Sears, it is clear that in dealing in his plays with the themes that tormented him in real life as a means of exorcising his troubles, Shakespeare was able to transform his anguish into artistic creativity of the highest order.

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