The Two Gentlemen of Verona (1589~1593) by William Shakespeare

I agree with the broad consensus that this is one of Shakespeare’s weakest plays. Still, it’s far from unenjoyable.

The conflict between friendship and romantic love is pretty timeless. “Crab” the dog is amusing, and one of the more memorable and unique parts of the play. I liked how much of the play was devoted to the servants and their points of view; it made for interesting contrasts with the “noble” protagonists.

The play is just so thin though. Anything particularly interesting has so little time devoted to it that it fails to really make a mark. The gender-bending component was done much better in later plays. So was focusing on servants of the powerful, instead of just the powerful themselves. The idea of the legitimacy (well, lack thereof) of highly performative love was explored quite well but again, in so little time and more thinly than it could have been. The attempted rape near the end of the play also feels very glossed over. I don’t think I’m expecting too much of a comedy, because some of Shakespeare’s later comedies do a great job of exploring interesting issues and themes while also telling compelling stories with relatable characters, all in a reasonable timeframe.

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It’s not a bad play, but it is a weak one compared to Shakespeare’s later works. That said, for all my complaints, there is plenty to like here – the servant characters are amusing, Crab is memorable, the critique of highly performative love us fascinating. I give it three outlaws, and a crabby dog.

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