The Two Gentlemen of Verona is not a play many people have read. Though were they to read it, they might think they have, because it reads like an anthology of Shakespeare in the 1590s. Sheldrake takes the opportunity to hold the mirror up to comedy by reading in parallel with Romeo and Juliet, Love’s Labour’s Lost and As You Like It, along the way outlining some rules of the Shakespearean world.
Shakespeare nicked stuff from everywhere; prose narratives, history books, other plays. Sheldrake rattles through a few of the old chestnuts and a few of the lesser-known borrowings, showing Shakespeare as a great adapter of stories.
Form is almost absent from the modern critical radar, which has put Love’s Labour’s Lost on the back burner. In a courageous rear-guard action, Sheldrake tries to demonstrate the formal beauty of Love’s Labour’s Lost, and explains why that formal beauty matters.