The Arden Shakespeare Third Series

Plays

The Two Gentlemen of Verona

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

The Two Gentlemen of Verona is a comedy with a controversial ending, built around the interruption of male friendship by heterosexual love and the confusion sparked by a cross-dressed heroine. The play probes the early modern discourse of idealised male friendship, explores metamorphosis, constancy and the boundaries of gender identity – and features the only animal role in Shakespeare, the scapegrace dog Crab.

The play was written no later than 1594. It first appears in print in the 1623 First Folio, on which this text is based – no quarto edition is known to have existed.

In his introduction to the current edition, editor William C. Carroll writes ‘Like all of Shakespeare’s plays, Two Gentlemen has attracted the attention, if not the unfailing admiration, of the greatest editors and actors of the past four centuries and its stage history proves surprisingly rich. However, many readers and audiences have judged Two Gentlemen, as one of Shakespeare’s earliest plays, to be aesthetically inferior to most of his others: ‘early’ comes to connote ‘immature’, hence relatively incompetent, in contrast to a play written later, which is more ‘mature’ (how could it not be?) and (almost by definition) therefore more successful . . I aim to break this critical cycle, not by mounting a new (and doomed) argument about the play’s aesthetic perfections, but by enlisting and, if possible, augmenting some stimulating recent critical and theoretical work on the early modern period and also related texts to cast light on Shakespeare’s dramatic strategies in Two Gentlemen . . . I hope that this edition, in exploring the early modern discourse of male friendship, will show how Shakespeare’s use of the tradition is more complicated and indeed more searching than what has sometimes been seen as a rather immature, incompetent appropriation of it.’

The Two Noble Kinsmen

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Shakespeare and Fletcher rewrite Chaucer’s A Knight’s Tale as a tragicomedy of the limits of chivalry and friendship. Other than discussing the mechanics of the collaboration, critics have examined the play’s treatment of heroism and chivalry, its attitudes to courtly love and sex, its use of Chaucer, and its abrupt reversals and generic ambivalence.

The play is generally dated to 1613-14. This text is based on the 1634 Quarto – the play was not included in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s works.

In Athens, the wedding of King Theseus and Hippolyta is interrupted by three queens, who beg Theseus to make war on Thebes’s ruler Creon, who will not allow them to bury their husbands who were killed in battle. The Theban cousins Palamon and Arcite are resolved to fight for Thebes, despite their hatred of Creon. They are both wounded in the battle, which Theseus wins; they are captured by the Athenians.

From their prison, they see Emilia walking in a garden, and both fall in love with her. Arcite is released and banished by Theseus; he disguises himself and triumphs at a sporting competition, allowing him to meet Emilia. Palamon is released by the Jailer’s Daughter, who has fallen deeply in love with him; he hears Arcite boasting of his meeting with Emilia and they agree to a duel. Theseus, coming across them, declares a tournament instead, at which the winner will marry Emilia and the loser will be executed. Arcite is victorious, but is thrown from his horse, and Theseus declares that Palamon will marry Emilia instead.

The Daughter, who has been driven mad by her love for Palamon, appears to be cured when her devoted Wooer dresses up as him.

The Winter's Tale (Arden Shakespeare Third Series)

Bloomsbury Publishing
Type: Text

Composed between 1609 and 1611, towards the end of Shakespeare’s career, The Winter’s Tale was recorded by Elizabethan playgoer and astrologer, Simon Forman, as having been performed at the Globe in 1611. The play is not seen in print, however, until the 1623 First Folio.

Leontes, King of Sicilia, and his wife, Hermione, are expecting their second child. Leontes’ childhood friend, Polixenes, King of Bohemia, has come to pay a visit, during which, Leontes grows increasingly suspicious of his old friend and his wife. Polixenes flees, and Hermione is imprisoned, where she gives birth to a daughter; during her trial, Hermione hears of the death of her son, Mamillus, faints and is pronounced dead. The baby princess, Perdita, is taken from Sicilia and left with a shepherd and his son. Sixteen years pass, and Perdita is being wooed by the disguised Prince of Bohemia, Florizel, son of Polixenes. Eloping to Sicily, away from the wrath of Polixenes, Perdita’s true paternity is revealed. A lifelike statue of Hermione is unveiled by her perpetual friend Paulina, and, as if by magic, the queen comes to life to be with her husband and daughter once again.

The Winter’s Tale is variously described as a late play, a problem play, a romance, a pastoral, and a tragicomedy. ‘Tragicomedy’ as a genre was relatively new to the English theatre, following the arrival of Guarini’s Il Pastor Fido in England (c.1600), whereas pastoral romance was established, even outdated, by Shakespeare’s time of writing. The play’s first three Acts teeter on the tragic, with the second two encompassing an ending – happy marriages – most commonly seen in Shakespearean comedies. The incorporation of the pastoral romance genre allows the play’s tragic endings to be sublimated into a Golden World setting, and eventually subverted through fantasy and belief in the supernatural.

Shakespeare drew on Robert Greene’s prose work, Pandosto (1588), for the plot of his play, rewriting the deaths of Pandosto (Greene’s Leontes) and Hermione. Scholars have argued that, as with his usage of the resurrected wife trope in Much Ado About Nothing, the impetus for Hermione’s revivification came from Euripides’ Alcestis. In another classical source, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, we find the basis for the image of the beloved wife as statue.

Twentieth-century criticism of the play has seen focus shift to the psychological drama behind Leontes’ actions, in particular Freudian discussions of wish-fulfilment and childhood sexuality. The latter became the backdrop for Trevor Nunn’s 1969 RSC production, which saw the play performed in an oversized nursery. A turn back to early modern psychology has led to discussions of Leontes’ ‘affection’ or affectio, the deranged mind. Feminist criticism has explored the trope of the ‘women who won’t die’ in Shakespeare’s late plays, and the unusual protagonism of Perdita in the pastoral setting, where it is more common for the pastoral shepherd to be the focus.

General Editors: Richard Proudfoot, Ann Thompson, David Scott Kastan and H.R. Woudhuysen

The Arden Shakespeare has long set the gold standard in annotated, scholarly editions of Shakespeare's plays. Each Arden edition in the Third Series offers a modernized text with comprehensive commentary notes glossing meanings, discussing staging issues and explaining literary allusions, together with a lengthy, illustrated introduction by a leading scholar exploring the play's critical, theatrical and historical contexts. The Arden editions thus offer readers an authoritative modernized text with on-screen pop up Commentary and textual notes to aid understanding, complemented by a comprehensive critical and contextual introduction.