Of Flowers and Weeds. Veering Towards Comedy in Benjamin Victor’s Adaptation of 'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' (1762)
No record of performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona during Shakespeare’s lifetime exists and the play was apparently ignored by Restoration playwrights too; its first known staging is Benjamin Victor’s adaptation, which premiered at Drury Lane Theatre in 1762. Victor presented the play as Shakespeare’s, although announcing the introduction of a few «alterations and additions». These were meant primarily at straightening out the plot and at polishing up the script. Nevertheless, the «addition» of a few lines and short scenes throughout the play and some limited, but significant excisions, including Valentine’s (in)famous offer of his fiancée to his friend, produce a rather momentous swerve of the play’s conceptual route towards a more decidedly comedic track. Indeed, Victor’s adaptation appears to match perfectly Northrop Frye’s inclusion of The Two Gentlemen into the «drama of the green world» category, in which the «green world», typically a forest, is where conflicts are resolved and characters undergo some kind of metamorphosis, which bears in Victor an interestingly original and historically suggestive capacity.