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I learnt more about the language in 'Caesar' than I did in 'Two Gents'. I think thatís quite simply because Julius Caesar is a much better written play. I always thought it was one of the great plays but I really do think itís a phenomenal piece of writing.
The Two Gentlemen of Verona doesnít have that. It doesnít have that sense of a line being somewhere specifically so that it can be referred to later on. Thereís a great scene of 'Caesar' outside the Senate where no line is out of place. The whole thing is a chess game Ė itís manouvering pieces towards a checkmate. With The Two Gentlemen of Verona itís much more up to the director and the actors to make sense of how to interpret. The language is not overly rich in classical allusions. Itís actually quite simple which is great, but when you read it the outlaw scene comes across as being very juvenile, and I think there are a lot of problem lines in that scene, which weíve managed to, or Fiona has managed to, walk over, because the whole play doesnít allow the weakness of that scene to shine through. In a lesser production it would, it would completely shatter everything youíve done before. So you can get away with lines like ĎBecause youíre beautified with goodly shapeí or Ďprovided you do no outrages on silly womení. I think in Shakespeareís day these jokes would have been probably played for laughs. I think the whole play would have been played a lot more for laughs than we are. Thatís quite a nice challenge; to make these unintelligible lines for an audience intelligible. They may not understand what weíre saying but they do understand why weíre saying it and how weíre saying it.
If youíre going to talk about the language and the lines you have to talk about one of the last lines in the play, which for Valentine is the challenge, one of the reasons you take the part. Itís the line that just does not work nowadays, ĎAll that was mine in Sylvia I give thee. You have to build the entire production up to that moment, so that the actor can make sense of it. I think we do that. Thatís a classic situation of a line in Shakespeare meaning something completely different. I genuinely think that when he wrote that line there would have been no problem for the actor saying it. The audience would have understood Ė there would not have been a problem, but with a modern-day audience you cannot get away with that line...it was written for an audience that not only was full of men that were happy to have a laugh at a womanís expense, but equally women who will not be offended by that. Thatís a reflection of their status. No one would be offended by that remark.
Equally I think itís at a time when the love between two men is a greater love for some reason. There seems to be a sense from what Iíve read that the function of a male/female relationship is purely for the family and to procreate, to have a family. But a love between two men is something that you choose. You have arranged marriages, and I suppose what Iím saying is that a friendship between two men is created by the desires and wills of those two men, whereas a relationship between a man and a girl is actually probably constructed completely peripheral to whatever the feelings of the said boy and girl are. That line becomes difficult because effectively I think what he is saying is quite genuinely Ďeverything I have in Sylvia is yoursí i.e. I love you not only as much as I love Sylvia but more. A modern-day audience wonít understand that. Itís not because itís a homosexual relationship. Itís just that they wonít understand the values of male friendships in the same way that sixteenth century England valued them. Thatís why the line sticks out. However, if youíre going to put on Shakespeare you donít cut lines because you canít get away with it. I think itís a challenge and you should see if you can make it work.