This comedy may have been Shakespeare’s first play. It was likely written between 1589 and 1591. (See Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor in The Oxford Shakespeare: The Complete Works (2nd edition, 2005).)
The play follows the adventures (and misadventures) in love of Valentine and Proteus, the titular two gentlemen from Verona. While visiting Milan, both men fall in love with Silvia, the Duke of Milan’s daughter, despite Proteus having previously pledged his love to Julia back in Verona. Silvia returns Valentine’s love, but scorns Proteus for his fickleness. By the play’s end, however, Julia and Proteus are reunited, and the Duke consents to Silvia marrying Valentine.
Textual References to Dance
Text excerpts and their act, scene, and line numbers follow Folger Digital Texts unless otherwise noted.
In-text dance references are highlighted in red.
Act II, scene 7, lines 9-13
JULIA: A true-devoted pilgrim is not weary
To measure kingdoms with his feeble steps;
Much less shall she that hath Love’s wings to fly,
And when the flight is made to one so dear,
Of such divine perfection, as Sir Proteus.
Act III, scene 2, lines 66-87
PROTEUS: As much as I can do I will effect.—
But you, Sir Thurio, are not sharp enough.
You must lay lime to tangle her desires
By wailful sonnets, whose composèd rhymes
Should be full-fraught with serviceable vows.
DUKE: Ay, much is the force of heaven-bred poesy.
PROTEUS: Say that upon the altar of her beauty
You sacrifice your tears, your sighs, your heart.
Write till your ink be dry, and with your tears
Moist it again, and frame some feeling line
That may discover such integrity.
For Orpheus’ lute was strung with poets’ sinews,
Whose golden touch could soften steel and stones,
Make tigers tame, and huge leviathans
Forsake unsounded deeps to dance on sands.
After your dire-lamenting elegies,
Visit by night your lady’s chamber window
With some sweet consort; to their instruments
Tune a deploring dump; the night’s dead silence
Will well become such sweet complaining
This, or else nothing, will inherit her.
Dance References in Two Gentlemen of Verona
Note: Kenneth MacMillan’s ballet Images of Love (1964) explores nine Shakespeare quotations on love, including two from The Two Gentlemen of Verona. (See Parsons.)
Winerock, Emily. “Dance References in Two Gentlemen of Verona.” The Shakespeare and Dance Project, edited by Linda McJannet, Amy Rodgers, and Emily Winerock, 25 Mar. 2020, shakespeareandance.com/plays/two-gentlemen-of-verona. Accessed [date].
Brissenden, Alan. “The Comedies I.” In Shakespeare and the Dance, pp. 34-48. Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1981, 2001.
Parsons, Elinor. “‘Therefore ha’ done with words’: Shakespeare and Innovative British Ballets. In The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare and Dance, edited by Lynsey McCulloch and Brandon Shaw, pp. 387-404. Oxford University Press, 2019.
Updated March 25, 2020.
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