SHAKESPEARE ALOUD

Two Gents Act 2, Scene 6 – inside Notre Dame!

Ok so this was the coolest moment in the whole thing so far, by far. Talk about serendipity. I’m traveling with my family and am not especially choosing great places to read – we are seeing the big sights and I am trying to do at least once scene everywhere we go along the way.

So that I get to an entire scene that has one character to the audience, in this case Proteus, confiding in us about his deepest guilt, in one of the most stunning Catholic cathedrals ever erected, is awe some.

It made me of course wish I had prepared the speech a little more. I wasn’t familiar with Two Gents before starting this journey, and even though I prepare the script before reading it, that doesn’t mean I’m going to be extremely familiar with all of its twists and turns.

I was obviously a little afraid to film in here – we sure didn’t ask anyone. But there are tourists taking pictures and people praying in equal measure, and there was a little holy bustle about the place, so I thought we could get through to the end without being told to leave.

You don’t see that much of the main area – we’re on the side of the main hall – the south side – where the dozens of gorgeous mini-alters and candle-lighting places are set up for the saints and some irreplaceable pieces of art.

THE SCENE

Doing the scene here, in awe of the building, in fear of being stopped, confessing deeply disconcerting thoughts out loud within earshot of so many people, really brought out the drama of this play for me. Experientially, much of this energy is no doubt shared by Proteus in this scene. Maybe a key to remember is the fear of confession, the torture of hearing your own sleeping dragons aired aloud – if only for yourself.

The one musical point I’ll use this speech to make is that this is an excellent example of clear meter in the verse indicating clarity of thought, and more awkward irregularities stuck in lines where the character is confused or in the midst of working out the problem. Look at this middle section:

14 Fie, fie, unreverend tongue! to call her bad,

15 Whose sovereignty so oft thou hast preferr’d

16 With twenty thousand soul-confirming oaths.

17 I cannot leave to love, and yet I do;

18 But there I leave to love where I should love.

19 Julia I lose and Valentine I lose:

20 If I keep them, I needs must lose myself;

21 If I lose them, thus find I by their loss

22 For Valentine myself, for Julia Silvia.

23 I to myself am dearer than a friend,

24 For love is still most precious in itself;

25 And Silvia–witness Heaven, that made her fair!–

26 Shows Julia but a swarthy Ethiope.

27 I will forget that Julia is alive,

28 Remembering that my love to her is dead;

29 And Valentine I’ll hold an enemy,

30 Aiming at Silvia as a sweeter friend.

Lines 14-17 are typical of this speech and of Proteus in general – mostly regular meter and passionate. Then starting on 18: ‘But there I leave to love where I should love’ and continuing to 26, the meter is noticeably gnarlier to read for musiclarity. Suddenly we have 27: “I will forget that Juila is alive,’ and from thenceforth we have a Proteus who has made up his mind, and a meter that is gaining steam with each line toward a tell-all rhyming couplet:

Love, lend me wings to make my purpose swift,

As thou hast lent me wit to plot this drift.

And sadly, you could put Protean man in the most holy place in the world, and yet the devil will out.

BB

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