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The Two Gentlemen of Verona On Screen

Film and TV adaptations of Shakespeare's early comedy

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Thought by some scholars to be Shakespeare's very first play, though others date it at 1594-95 (i.e. after The Comedy of Errors and The Taming of the Shrew), The Two Gentlemen of Verona was based on Jorge de Montemayor's Spanish romance The Seven Books of the Diana (1559), with additional material sourced from Thomas Elyot's The Boke Named the Governour (1531).

It is one of Shakespeare's least-known plays as far as general audiences are concerned. Rarely performed on stage, it has only had one complete production for television, inevitably as part of the BBC Television Shakespeare project. Broadcast on 27 December 1983, it was directed by Don Taylor, starred Tyler Butterworth, John Hudson and Tessa Peake-Jones, and comprised a straightforward, no-frills adaptation that focused on a clear presentation of the text. A 25-minute scene- and theme-setting documentary in the accompanying Shakespeare in Perspective series was presented by Russell Davies and broadcast the day before.

There have been no cinema adaptations, though scenes from the play were featured in the highly successful Shakespeare in Love (US, d. John Madden, 1998), shown as being greatly enjoyed by both Gwyneth Paltrow's Viola de Lesseps and Judi Dench's fearsome Queen Elizabeth I. The performance of Crab the dog comes in for particular praise, to the extent that Philip Henslowe (Geoffrey Rush), the Rose theatre manager, criticises Romeo and Juliet (the play Shakespeare is thought to have written shortly afterwards) for its lack of similar canine action.


BBC Television Shakespeare, BBC2, tx. 27/12/1983, d. Don Taylor

Shakespeare in Perspective, BBC2, tx. 26/12/1983 , p. Russell Davies

Other References
Shakespeare in Love, US/UK, 1998, d. John Madden

Michael Brooke

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