The Two Gentlemen of Verona
Society and Class Theme
While some earlier sixteenth-century plays portray servants as shadows of the main characters (minor characters and servants often mimicked their masters' behaviors), Shakespeare does something relatively new in Two Gentlemen of Verona. In the play, the servants' attitudes towards marriage, love, loyalty, and social standing often call attention to the foibles of their masters. Shakespeare, then, is probably the first playwright to portray servants who are capable of defining the main characters. For example, Lance's devotion to his dog Crab draws our attention to Proteus's disloyalty to Julia and Valentine. The servants in Two Gentlemen are more than mere sounding boards and offer much more than mere comic relief.
Questions About Society and Class
- How would you characterize Julia's relationship with Lucetta? What about Valentine's relationship to his servant, Speed? Proteus's relationship with Lance?
- How does Antonio respond to Panthino's advice to send Proteus abroad?
- Why does Shakespeare go out of his way to dramatize Lance's devotion to his dog, Crab? What's the effect when Lance asks questions like "How many masters would do this for his servant" (4.4.1)?
- What's the difference between Lance's love for the unnamed woman he falls for in Act 3, Scene 1 and Valentine's love for Silvia?
Chew on This
In Two Gentlemen of Verona, the servants offer much more than comic relief – they function as foils to their masters.
The actions and speeches of Lance, Speed, and Lucetta reveal the foolishness and folly of the main characters.