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have differed as much from themselves as from any other; and I have been told, that there is little resemblance between the first works of Raphael and the last. The same variation may be expected in writers; and, if it be true, as it seems, that they are less subject to habit, the difference between their works may be yet greater.”
“ But by the internal marks of composition we may discover the author with probability, though
seldom with certainty. When I read this play, 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 delineation of life, but it abounds in yrouar beyond most of his plays, and few have more lines or passages which, singly considered, are eminently beautiful. I am yet inclined to believe that it was not very successful, and suspect that it has escaped corruption, only because, being seldom played, it was less exposed to the hazards of transcription."
Pope has set what he calls a mark of reprobation upon the low and trifiing conceits which are to be found in this play. It is true that the familiar scenes abound with quibbles and conceits; but the poet must not be condemned for adopting a mode of writing admired by his contemporaries; they were not considered low and trifling in Shakspeare's age, but, on the contrary, were very generally admired and allowed for pure and genuine wit. Yet some of these scenes have much farcical drollery and invention: that of Launce with his dog in the fourth act is an instance, and surely "Specd's mode of proving his master to be in love is neither deficient in wit or sense.”
“The tender scenes in this play, though not so highly wrought as in some others, have often much sweetness of sentiment and expression." Schlegel says, “It is as if the world was obliged to accommodate itself to a transient youthful caprice, called love." Julia may be considered a light sketch of the lovely characters of Viola and Imogen. Her answer to Lucetta's advice against following her lover in disguise has been pointed out as a beautiful and highly-poetical passage.
“That it should ever have been a question whether this comedy were the genuine and entire composition of Shakspeare appears to me very extraordinary,” says Malone. “Hanmer and Upton never seem to have considered whether it were his first or one of his latest pieces. Is no allowance to be made for the first flights of a young poet? nothing for the imitation of a preceding celebrated dramatist,* which in some of the lower dialogues of this comedy (and these only) may, I think, be traced ? But even these, as well as the other parts of the play, are perfectly Shakspearean (I do not say as finished and beautiful as any of his other pieces); and the same judgment must, I conceive, be pronounced concerning the Comedy of Errors and Love's Labor's Lost, by every person who is intimately acquainted with his manner of writing and thinking."
Sir William Blackstone observes, “ that one of the great faults of the Two Gentlemen of Verona is the hastening too abruptly, and without preparation, to the dénovëment, which shows that it was one of Shakspeare's very early performances." Dr. Johnson, in his concluding observations, has remarked upon the geographical errors. They cannot be defended by attributing them to his youthful inexperience, for one of his latest productions is also liable to the same objection. To which Malone replies: * The truth, I believe, is, that as he neglected to observe the rules of the drama with respect to the unities, though before he began to write they had been enforced by Sidney in a treatise which doubtless he had read;
• Malone points at Lilly, whose comedies were performed with great success and admlration previous to Shakspeare's commencement of his dramatic career.
so he seems to have thought that the whole terraqueous globe was at his command; and as he brought in a child at the beginning of a play, who in the fourth act appears as a woman, so he seems to have set geography at defiance, and to have considered countries as inland or maritime, just as it suited his fancy or convenience.”
Some of the incidents in this play may be supposed to have been taken from The Arcadia, book 1. ch. vi., where Pyrocles consents to head the Helots. The Arcadia was entered on the Stationers' books in 1588. The love adventure of Julia resembles that of Viola in Twelfth Night, and is indeed common to inany of the ancient novels.
Mrs. Lennox informs us, that the story of Proteus and Julia might be taken from a similar one in “The Diana" of Montemayor. This pastoral romance was translated from the Spanish in Shakspeare's time, by Bartholomew Young, and published in 1598. It does not appear that it was previously published, though it was translated two or three years before by one Thomas Wilson. Perhaps some parts of it may have been made public, or Shakspeare may have found the tale elsewhere. It has before been observed that Meres mentions the Two Gentlemen of Verona in his book, published in 1598. Malone conjectures that this play was the first that Shakspeare wrote, and places the date of its composition in the
Julia, a Lady of Verona, beloved by Proteus.
SCENE. Sometimes in VERONA; sometimes in Milan; and on the
frontiers of Mantua.
TWO GENTLEMEN OF VERONA.
SCENE I. An open Place in Verona
Enter VALENTINE and PROTEUS.
entreat thy company,
Pro. Wilt thou begone? Sweet Valentine, adieu
my success. Pro. Upon some book I love, I'll pray for thee.
Val. That's on some shallow story of deep love, How young Leander crossed the Hellespont.
Pro. That's a deep story of a deeper love; For he was more than over shoes in love.
1 The allusion is to Marlow's poem of Hero and Leander.
Val. 'Tis true; for you are over boots in love,
Pro. Over the boots ? nay, give me not the boots.
What ? Val. To be in love, where scorn is bought with
groans; Coy looks, with heart-sore sighs; one fading moment's
Pro. So by your circumstance, you call me fool
Val. Love is your master, for he masters you:
Pro. Yet writers say, As in the sweetest bud
Val. And writers say, As the most forward bud
Pro. And thither will I bring thee, Valentine.
1 A proverbial expression, now disused, signifying, “Don't make a laughing-stock of me."
2 Circumstance here means conduct; in the preceding line, circumstantial deduction.