Article Title

Wherefore Verona in The Two Gentlemen of Verona?


This essay contends that Two Gentlemen of Verona has an inappropriate title, based on a faulty location. The only text of the play appears in the 1623 Folio, where it has this title, whether Shakespeare’s or not. The play refers to Verona only four times, and two of those may be textual errors; no references occur in Act 1, the act usually located in Verona by editors. The likely sources for the play do not name Verona at all. On the other hand, Shakespeare is very specific about Milan and Mantua, but he remains reticent about Verona. Not so in, say, Romeo and Juliet, located in Verona and so identified some nine times in the play.

As a sign of the playwright’s reluctance or failure to name Verona in Two Gentlemen, I cite several instances in which indicating Verona would be both logical and natural. Comparing this play to other early comedies, we find a radical departure; in most of the early comedies Shakespeare is quite specific about precise location, for example, Taming of the Shrew, obviously located in Padua. Petruchio hails from Verona, however, as he makes clear several times. I conclude that Two Gentlemen is the story of a playwright who has not made up his mind. I think that Shakespeare included Verona in the title because he had not yet decided what to call the city from which the characters move. “Verona,” in other words, became a convenient stopgap measure, something to which Shakespeare could return and tidy up and be more precise. I postulate that Shakespeare failed to come back to this play and “correct” its title.

Comparative Drama is carried by JSTOR and Project MUSE.