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Two Gentlemen of Verona

It is observable (I know not for what cause) that the stile 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. [Pope.] To this observation of Mr. Pope, which is very just, Mr. Theobald has added, that this is one of Shakespeare's worst plays, and is less corrupted than any other. Mr. Upton peremptorily determines, that if any proof can be drawn from manner and stile, this play must be sent packing, and seek for its parent elsewhere. How otherwise, says he, do painters distinguish copies from originals, and have not authors their peculiar stile and manner from which a true critic can form as unerring judgment as a painter? I am afraid this illustration of a critic's science will not prove what is desired. A painter knows a copy from an original by rules somewhat resembling these by which critics know a translation, which if it be literal, and literal it must be to resemble the copy of a picture, will be easily distinguished. Copies are known from originals, even when the painter copies his own picture; so if an author should literally translate his work, he would lose the manner of an original.

Mr. Upton confounds the copy of a picture with the imitation of a painter's manner. Copies are easily known, but good imitations are not detected with equal certainty, and are, by the best judges, often mistaken. Nor is it true that the writer has always peculiarities equally distinguishable with those of the painter. The peculiar manner of each arises from the desire, natural to every performer, of facilitating his subsequent works by recurrence to his former ideas; this recurrence produces that repetition which is called habit. The painter, whose work is partly intellectual and partly manual, has habits of the mind, the eye and the hand, the writer has only habits of the mind. Yet, some painters 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 a 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 Shakespeare. 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 [Greek: gnomahi] 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.

I.i.34 (108,6)

[However, but a folly bought with wit; Or else a wit by folly vanquished]

This love will end in a foolish action, to produce which you are long to spend your wit, or it will end in the loss of your wit, which will be overpowered by the folly of love.

I.i.69 (109,7) [Made wit with musing weak] For made read make. Thou, Julia, hast made me war with good counsel, and make wit weak with muting.

I.i.70 (109,8) [Enter Speed] [Pope found this scene low and full of "trifling conceits" and suggested it was possibly an interpolation by the actors.] That this, like many other scenes, is mean and vulgar, will be universally allowed; but that it was interpolated by the players seems advanced without any proof, only to give a greater licence to criticism.

I.i.153 (112,4) [you have testern'd me] You have gratified me with a tester, testern, or testen, that is, with a sixpence.

I.ii.41 (114,5) [a goodly broker!] A broker was used for matchmaker, sometimes for a procuress.

I.ii.68 (115,6) [stomach on your meat] Stomach was used for passion or obstinacy.

I.ii.137 (117,8) [I see you have a month's mind to them] [A month's mind was an anniversary in times of popery. Gray.] A month's mind, in the ritual sense, signifies not desire or inclination, but remonstrance; yet I suppose this is the true original of the expression. (1773) I.iii.1 (118,9) [what sad talk] Sad is the same as grave or serious.

I.iii.26 (119,2) [Valentine, Attends the emperor in his royal court] [Theobald had tried to straighten out an historical error.] Mr. Theobald discovers not any great skill in history. Vienna is not the court of the emperor as emperor, nor has Milan been always without its princes since the days of Charlemaigne; but the note has its use.

I.iii.44 (120,3) [in good time] In good time was the old expression when something happened which suited the thing in hand, as the French say, a propos.

I.iii.84 (121,4) [Oh, how this spring of love resembleth] At the end of this verse there is wanting a syllable, for the speech apparently ends in a quatrain. I find nothing that will rhyme to sun, and therefore shall leave it to some happier critic. But I suspect that the author might write thus:

Oh, how this spring of love resembleth right, The uncertain glory of an April day; Which now shews all the glory of the light, And, by and by, a cloud takes all away.

Light was either by negligence or affectation changed to sun, which, considered without the rhyme, is indeed better. The next transcriber, finding that the word right did not rhyme to sun, supposed it erroneously written, and left it out.

II.i.27 (123,1) [Hallowmas] That is, about the feast of All-Saints, when winter begins, and the life of a vagrant becomes less comfortable.

II.i.39 (123,2) [without you were so simple, none else would] None else would be so simple.

II.i.148 (127,5) [reasoning with yourself?] That is, discoursing, talking. An Italianism.

II.iii.22 (129,2) [I am the dog] This passage is much confused, and of confusion the present reading makes no end. Sir T. Hammer reads, I am the dog, no, the dog is himself and I am me, the dog is the dog, and I am myself. This certainly is more reasonable, but I know not how much reason the author intended to bestow on Launce's soliloquy.

II.iv.57 (133,1) [not without desert] And not dignified with so much reputation without proportionate merit.

II.iv.115 (134,2) [No: that you are worthless] I have inserted the particle no to fill up the measure.

II.iv.129 (135,4)

[I have done penance for contemning love; Whose high imperious thoughts have punish'd me With bitter fasts, with penitential groans]

For whose I read those. I have contemned love and am punished. Those high thoughts by which I exalted myself above human passions or frailties have brought upon me fasts and groans.

II.iv.138 (136,5) [no woe to his correction] No misery that can be compared to the punishment inflicted by love. Herbert called for the prayers of the liturgy a little before his death, saying, None to them, none to them.

II.iv.152 (136,6) [a principality] The first or principal of women. So the old writers use state. She is a lady, a great state. Latymer. This look is called in states warlie, in others otherwise. Sir T. More.

II.iv.167 (137,8) [She is alone] She stands by herself. There is none to be compared to her.

II.iv.207 (138,1) [with more advice] With more prudence, with more discretion.

II.iv.209 (138,2) ['Tis but her picture I have yet beheld] This is evidently a slip of attention, for he had seen her in the last scene, and in high terms offered her his service.

II.v.28 (139,4) [My staff understands me] This equivocation, miserable as it is, has been admitted by Milton in his great poem. B. VI.

"----The terms we sent were terms of weight, "Such as we may perceive, amaz'd them all, "And stagger'd many who receives them right, "Had need from head to foot well understand, "Not understood, this gift they have besides, "To shew us when our foes stand not upright." (141,5) [Enter Protheus] It is to be observed, that in the first folio edition, the only edition of authority, there are no directions concerning the scenes; they have been added by the later editors, and may therefore be changed by any reader that can give more consistency or regularity to the drama by such alterations. I make this remark in this place, because I know not whether the following soliloquy of Protheus is so proper in the street. (141,6) [O sweet-suggesting love] To suggest is to tempt in our author's language. So again:

"Knowing that tender youth is soon suggested."

The sense is, O tempting love, if thou hast influenced me to sin, teach me to excuse it. Dr. Warburton reads, if I have sinn'd; but, I think, not only without necessity, but with less elegance. (142,7) [Myself in counsel, his competitor] Myself, who am his competitor or rival, being admitted to his counsel. (142,8) [pretended flight] We may read intended flight. (142,9) [Love, lend me wings to make my purpose swift, As thou hast lent me wit to plot this drift!] I suspect that the author concluded the act with this couplet, and that the next scene should begin the third act; but the change, as it will add nothing to the probability of the action, is of no great importance.

III.i.45 (146,1) [be not aimed at] Be not guessed.

III.i.47 (147,2) [of this pretence] Of this claim made to your daughter.

III.i.86 (148,4) [the fashion of the time] The modes of courtship, the acts by which men recommended themselves to ladies.

III.i.148 (150,5) [for they are sent by me] For is the same as for that, since.

III.i.153 (150,6) [why, Phaeton (for thou art Merops' son)] Thou art Phaeton in thy rashness, but without his pretensions; thou art not the son of a divinity, but a terrae filius, a low born wretch; Merops is thy true father, with whom Phaeton was falsely reproached.

III.i.185 (151,7) [I fly not death, to fly his deadly doom] To fly his doom, used for by flying, or in flying, is a gallicism. The sense is, By avoiding the execution of his sentence I shall not escape death. If I stay here, I suffer myself to be destroyed; if I go away, I destroy myself.

III.i.261 (153,8) [Laun. I am but a fool, look you; and yet I have the wit to think my master is a kind of a knave: but that's all one, if he be but one knave] [W: but one kind] This alteration is acute and specious, yet I know not whether, in Shakespeare's language, one knave may not signify a knave on only one occasion, a single knave. We still use a double villain for a villain beyond the common rate of guilt.

III.i.265 (154,9) [a team of horse shall not pluck] I see how Valentine suffers for telling his love-secrets, therefore I will keep mine close.

III.i.330 (156,4) [Speed. Item, she hath a. sweet mouth] This I take to be the same with what is now vulgarly called a sweet tooth, a luxurious desire of dainties and sweetmeats.

III.i.351 (157,5) [Speed. Item, she will often praise her liquor] That is, shew how well she likes it by drinking often.

III.i.355 (157,6) [Speed. Item, she is too liberal] Liberal, is licentious and gross in language. So in Othello, "Is he not a profane and very liberal counsellor."

III.ii.7 (158,8) [Trenched in ice] Cut, carved in ice. Trencher, to cut, French.

III.ii.36 (159,9) [with circumstance] With the addition of such incidental particulars as may induce belief.

III.ii.51 (160,1)

[Therefore as you unwind her love from him, Lest it should ravel, and be good to none, You must provide to bottom it on me]

As you wind off her love from him, make me the bottom on which you wind it. The housewife's term for a ball of thread wound upon a central body, is a bottom of thread.

III.ii.68 (160,2) [lime] That is, birdlime.

III.ii.98 (161,4) [Duke. Even now about it. I will pardon you] I will excuse you from waiting.

IV.i.36 (163,2) [By the bare scalp of Robin Hood's fat friar] Robin Hood was captain of a band of robbers, and was much inclined to rob churchmen.

IV.i.46 (163,3) [awful men] Reverend, worshipful, such as magistrates, and other principal members of civil communities.

IV.ii.12 (165,1) [sudden quips] That is, hasty passionate reproaches and scoffs. So Macbeth is in a kindred sense said to be sudden; that is, irascible and impetuous.

IV.ii.45 (166,2) [For beauty lives with kindness] Beauty without kindness dies unenjoyed, and undelighting.

IV.ii.93 (168,4) [You have your wish; my will is even this] The word will is here ambiguous. He wishes to gain her will; she tells him, if he wants her will he has it.

IV.ii.130 (169,5) [But, since your falsehood shall become you well] This is hardly sense. We may read, with very little alteration, But since you're false, it shall become you well.

IV.iii.37 (171,2) [Madam, I pity much your grievances] Sorrows, sorrowful affections.

IV.iv.13 (172,1) [I would have, as one should say, one that takes upon him to be a dog indeed, to be, as it were, a dog at all things] I believe we should read, I would have. &c. one that takes upon him to be a dog, to be a dog indeed, to be, &c.

IV.iv.79 (174,3) [It seems, you lov'd not her, to leave her token] Protheus does not properly leave his lady's token, he gives it away. The old edition has it,

It seems you lov'd her not, not leave her token.

I should correct it thus,

It seems you lov'd her not, nor love her token.

IV.iv.106 (175,4) [To carry that which I would have refus'd] The sense is, To go and present that which I wish to be not accepted, to praise him whom I wish to be dispraised.

IV.iv.159 (176,5)

[The air hath starv'd the roses in her cheeks, And pinch'd the lily-tincture of her face. That now she is become as black as I]

[W: And pitch'd] This is no emendation; none ever heard of a face being pitched by the weather. The colour of a part pinched, is livid, as it is commonly termed, black and blue. The weather may therefore be justly said to pinch when it produces the same visible effect. I believe this is the reason why the cold is said to pinch.

IV.iv.198 (179,2) [her forehead's low] A high forehead was in our author's time accounted a feature eminently beautiful. So in The History of Guy of Warwick, Felice his lady is said to have the same high forehead as Venus.

IV.iv.206 (179,3) [My substance should be statue in thy stead] [W: statued] Statued is, I am afraid, a new word, and that it should be received, is not quite evident.

V.i.12 (180,4) [sure enough] Sure is safe, out of danger.

V.iv.71 (185,1) [The private wound is deepest. Oh time, most curst!] I have a little mended the measure. The old edition, and all but Sir T. Hammer, read,

The private wound is deepest, oh time most accurst.

V.iv.106 (187,4) [if shame live In a disguise of love] That is, if it be any shame to wear a disguise for the purposes of love.

V.iv.126 (187,5) [Come not within the measure of my wrath] The length of my sword, the reach of my anger.


General Observation (189,8) In this play there is a strange mixture of knowledge 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 Protheus, 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.

That this play is rightly attributed to Shakespeare, I have little doubt. If it be taken from him, to whom shall it be given? This question may be asked of all the disputed plays, except Titus Andronicus; and it will be found more credible, that Shakespeare might sometimes sink below his highest flights, than that any other should rise up to his lowest. (see 1765, I,259,5)

Samuel Johnson