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Mr. Steevens conjectures that some of the incidents of this play were taken by Shakspeare from the Arcadia, book i. chap. 6. where Pyrocles consents to head the Helots; to which tale the adventures of Valentine with the outlaws, in this drama, bear a striking resemblance. But however this question may be disposed of, there can be little doubt that the episode of Felismena, in the Diana of George of Montemayor, a romance translated from the Spanish, and published in the year 1598, was the source whence the principal part of the plot of the Two Gentlemen of Verona has been derived. The story of Proteus and Julia, in this play, closely corresponds with its prototype; and in several passages the dramatist has copied the very language of the pastoral.

The authenticity of this drama has been disputed by Hanmer, Theobald, and Upton, who condemn it as a very inferior production: but Dr. Johnson, in ascribing it to the pen of Shakspeare, asks, if it be taken from him, to whom shall it be given?' justly remarking, that it will be found more credible that Shakspeare might sometimes sink below his highest flights, than that any other should rise up to his lowest.' 'It is observable,' says Pope, that the style of this comedy is less figurative, and more natural and unaffected,

than the greater part of this author's, though supposed to be one of the first he wrote.'

Dr. Johnson remarks, that 'in this play there is a strange mixture of knowlege and ignorance, of care and negligence. The versification is often excellent, the allusions are learned and just; but the author conveys his heroes by sea from one inland town to another in the same country; he places the emperor at Milan, and sends his young men to attend him, but never mentions him more: he makes Proteus, after an interview with Silvia, say he has only seen her picture; and, if we may credit the old copies, he has, by mistaking places, left his scenery inextricable. The reason of all this confusion seems to be, that he took his story from a novel, which he sometimes followed and sometimes forsook, sometimes remembered and sometimes forgot.'—' When I read this play,' adds the same writer, I cannot but think that I find, both in the serious and ludicrous scenes the language and sentiments of Shakspeare. It is not, indeed, one of his most powerful effusions; it has neither many diversities of character, nor striking delineations of life; but it abounds in yvwμai beyond most of his plays; and few have more lines or passages which, singly considered, are eminently beautiful.'

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A young gentleman of Verona, named Valentine, after taking leave of his friend Proteus, visits the court of Milan, where he becomes captivated by the charms of Silvia, the duke's daughter, who secretly favors his addresses, in preference to those of a rich suitor provided by her father. In the mean time, Proteus, who had become enamored of Julia, a Veronese lady, successfully prosecutes his suit, and obtains from his mistress assurances of mutual regard. The satisfaction of these lovers is soon interrupted by the young gentleman's father, who, ignorant of his son's attachment, is anxious to send him to Milan, where Valentine still resides. After quitting Julia with professions of unalterable constancy, Proteus joins his friend, who receives him with the utmost tenderness; confides to him the secret of his love; and, having introduced him into the presence of Silvia, informs him of his intended elopement with her: but he has soon reason to repent his misplaced confidence; for Proteus, who by this time had forgotten his former vows, and was resolved to supplant Valentine, treacherously informs the duke of his daughter's purposed flight, which procures the banishment of Valentine and the imprisonment of Silvia. During this period, Julia, unable to endure the absence of her lover, travels to Milan in the disguise of a youth, and contrives to hire herself as a page to Proteus, whose perfidy she soon discovers. Silvia soon after effects her escape from confinement, but is overtaken in a forest by Proteus, who endeavors to obtain her consent by threats of violence, when she is unexpectedly rescued by Valentine, whose life had recently been spared by a band of outlaws settled here, on condition of becoming their leader. The remonstrances of Valentine awaken the remorse of Proteus be entreats forgiveness, which is readily granted him; and Julia, having discovered herself, is united to her lover; while the duke, after pardoning the outlaws and recalling them from exile, willingly consents to the nuptials of his daughter with Valentine.


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ANTONIO, father to Proteus.

THURIO, a foolish rival to Valentine.
EGLAMOUR, agent for Silvia in her escape.

SPEED, a clownish servant to Valentine.

LAUNCE, servant to Proteus.

PANTHINO, servant to Antonio.

HOST, where Julia lodges in Milan.


JULIA, a lady of Verona, beloved by Proteus.

SILVIA, the duke's daughter, beloved by Valentine.

LUCETTA, waiting-woman to Julia.

Servants, Musicians.

SCENE, Sometimes in Verona; sometimes in Milan; and on the frontiers of Mantua.




An open place in Verona.


Val. Cease to persuade, my loving Proteus; Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits: Were 't not, affection chains thy tender days To the sweet glances of thy honor'd love, I rather would entreat thy company, To see the wonders of the world abroad, Than, living dully sluggardized at home, Wear out thy youth with shapeless idleness.1 But, since thou lovest, love still, and thrive therein, Even as I would, when I to love begin.

Pro. Wilt thou be gone? Sweet Valentine,

adieu !

Think on thy Proteus, when thou haply seest
Some rare note-worthy object in thy travel:
Wish me partaker in thy happiness,

When thou dost meet good hap; and, in thy danger,

1 Idleness, which prevents the giving any form or character to the manners.

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