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The Two Gentlemen of Verona /

An Introduction to This Text: The Two Gentlemen of Verona

By Barbara Mowat and Paul Werstine
Editors of the Folger Shakespeare Library Editions

The Two Gentlemen of Verona was first printed in the 1623 collection of Shakespeare’s plays now known as the First Folio. The present edition is based directly upon that printing.1 For the convenience of the reader, we have modernized the punctuation and the spelling of the Folio. Sometimes we go so far as to modernize certain old forms of words; for example, usually when a means he, we change it to he; we change mo to more, and ye to you. But it is not our practice in editing any of the plays to modernize words that sound distinctly different from modern forms. For example, when the early printed texts read sith or apricocks or porpentine, we have not modernized to since, apricots, porcupine. When the forms an, and, or and if appear instead of the modern form if, we have reduced and to an but have not changed any of these forms to their modern equivalent, if. We also modernize and, where necessary, correct passages in foreign languages, unless an error in the early printed text can be reasonably explained as a joke.

Whenever we change the wording of the First Folio or add anything to its stage directions, we mark the change by enclosing it in superior half-brackets ( ). We want our readers to be immediately aware when we have intervened. (Only when we correct an obvious typographical error in the First Folio does the change not get marked.) Whenever we change either the First Folio’s wording or its punctuation so that meaning changes, we list the change in the textual notes, even if all we have done is fix an obvious error.

We regularize the spellings of a number of the proper names, as is becoming the usual practice in editions of the play. For example, for the Folio’s spelling “Launce” we use “Lance”; for “Panthino,” “Pantino”; for “Protheus,” “Proteus”; for “Siluia,” “Sylvia.”

This edition differs from many earlier ones in its efforts to aid the reader in imagining the play as a performance rather than as a series of actual events. Thus, stage directions and speech prefixes are written with reference to the stage. For example, when one goes to a modern production of Two Gentlemen of Verona, one is always aware, after the actor playing Julia has donned her disguise, that she no longer looks like the gentlewoman that she first impersonated. Instead, the actor playing Julia looks like a page, and is given the name “Sebastian.” In an effort to reproduce in our edition what an audience experiences, we have added her “disguise name” to the speech prefix JULIA whenever Julia is in dialogue with characters who address her as the page Sebastian. With the addition of such a direction to the speech prefix, we hope to help our readers stage the play in their own imaginations in a way that more closely approximates an experience in the theater.

For the same reason, whenever it is reasonably certain, in our view, that a speech is accompanied by a particular action, we provide a stage direction describing the action, setting the added direction in brackets to signal that it is not found in the Folio. (Occasional exceptions to this rule occur when the action is so obvious that to add a stage direction would insult the reader.) Stage directions for the entrance of a character in mid-scene are, with rare exceptions, placed so that they immediately precede the character’s participation in the scene, even though these entrances may appear somewhat earlier in the early printed texts. In Two Gentlemen of Verona, we, like other editors of the play, are therefore required to intervene rather more strenuously than usual in placing stage directions. The First Folio text of Two Gentlemen of Verona lists at the beginning of each of its scenes all the characters who are to enter in the course of the scene, even though, in some cases, characters listed in a scene’s opening entrance direction are not required onstage until many lines into the scene. Textual critics term such entrance directions as we find in Two Gentlemen of Verona “massed entries” and associate them with a particular scribe who is known to have copied out plays performed by Shakespeare’s acting company. This scribe is called Ralph Crane, and many scholars believe that signs of his penmanship, including his characteristic spellings and lavish use of punctuation, are still legible in the First Folio’s text of Two Gentlemen of Verona. Whenever we alter the position or content of stage directions, we record this change in the textual notes. Latin stage directions (e.g., Exeunt) are translated into English (e.g., They exit).

We expand the often severely abbreviated forms of names used as speech headings in early printed texts into the full names of the characters. We also regularize the speakers’ names in speech headings, using only a single designation for each character, even though the early printed texts sometimes use a variety of designations. Variations in the speech headings of the early printed texts are recorded in the textual notes.

In the present edition, as well, we mark with a dash any change of address within a speech, unless a stage direction intervenes. When the -ed ending of a word is to be pronounced, we mark it with an accent. like editors for the past two centuries, we display metrically linked lines in the following way:

 Sir, your glove.
VALENTINE  Not mine. My gloves are on.


However, when there are a number of short verse-lines that can be linked in more than one way, we do not, with rare exceptions, indent any of them.

  1. We have also consulted the computerized text of the First Folio provided by the Text Archive of the Oxford University Computing Centre, to which we are grateful.