Sunday, November 1, 2009

2 Acts of 2 Gents and a Model Tree Kit

I did most of this reading on the balcony at the Barnes and Noble at the Americana at Brand in Glendale while they were setting up the Christmas tree. It was a real tree, but what they did was hoist up the bare tree trunk like the frame of an Amish farm house and then some guy in a cherry picker hammered each of the individual branches into place. Like a piece of semi-disposable Swedish furniture. Never seen that before.

Two Gentlemen of Verona is Shakespeare’s first romantic comedy. You will probably remember some bits of it from the movie Shakespeare in Love. The soliloquy which Gwyneth Paltrow uses in her audition for the role of Romeo is from Two Gentlemen. And the play that’s being performed for the queen early on is also Two Gentlemen. “Love and a bit with a dog.” I believe that was also the Farrelly brothers philosophy when they wrote There’s Something About Mary.

The Two Gentlemen are Valentine and Proteus. Valentine is headed to Milan to learn to be a gentleman. He tells his buddy Proteus that he’s whipped by his beloved Julia and he should get out there and see the world too. Valentine arrives in Milan and falls in love with the beautiful Sylvia. Proteus gets sent to Milan against his wishes and he falls in love with Sylvia too, despite the fact that he has promised to marry Julia. Proteus plots to betray Valentine and steal Sylvia away. And Julia, believing Proteus’s love sincere, disguises herself as a boy and goes after him in Milan. That’s Act One and Two.

There’re anti-Semitic remarks throughout, there are bad puns and wise-cracking servants, but it is Shakespeare and it's obviously poetic and lovely. Lucetta thusly describes the virtues of Proteus’s love, which he does not oft express: “Fire that’s closest kept burns most of all.” (1:2).

Sylvia plays a neat little game on Valentine. She knows that he loves her, and she asks him to write a letter for her to give to the object of her affection. He is tortured about it, but when he presents her the letter, she gives it back to him, since he is the object of her affection. Hurrah!

If I had a nickel for every time a girl has solicited some romantic speech or trail of compliments from my heart to hers I’d have at least… well, maybe fifty cents. But girls are mysterious and elevated. I know the things I adore about them and I could go on and on in flirtatious metaphor. If I were ever asked to do what Valentine had to do and describe for a girl what she loves about me, well, I think I would fail miserably.

I don’t know how men earn the love of women. Even the girls I’ve been in love with in my life I assume loved me somehow by accident or through some folly in judgment. (At this point they would probably say the same thing). If I had to guess I would say that most girls love the men they do because they seem somehow less offensive than the other options in the moment. And because they’re loyal. I imagine loyalty is an essential quality as well... because men are dogs.

So far I like the play. Proteus is getting ready to take action and hurt all of his friends, which should make for some entertaining speech-making and skullduggery. Proteus says: “Love bade me swear, and love bids me foreswear.” (2:6) He’s too susceptible to the whims of love, which are always irrational and too often hypocritical.

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