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In this play there is a strange mixture of knowledge and ignorance, of care and negligence. The versification is often excellent, the allusions are learned and just; but the author conveys his heroes by sea from one inland town to another in the same country; he places the Emperour at Milan and sends his young men to attend him, but never mentions him more; he makes Protheus, after an interview with Silvia, say he has only seen her picture, and, if we may credit the old copies, he has by mistaking places, left his scenery inextricable. The reason of all this confusion seems to be, that he took his story from a novel which he sometimes followed, and sometimes forsook, sometimes remembered, and sometimes forgot.
Samuel Johnson (1765)
Slight and swift in execution as it is, few and simple as are the chords here struck of character and emotion, every shade of drawing and every note of sound is at one with the whole scheme of form and music. Here too is the first dawn of that higher and more tender humour which was never given in such perfection to any man as ultimately to Shakespeare.
Algernon Charles Swinburne (1880)
[It] disgusted me more than ever in the final scene where Valentine, on Proteus’s mere begging pardon when he has no longer any hope of gaining his ends, says: “All that was mine in Silvia I give thee”!—Silvia standing by.
George Eliot (1855)
One’s impulse, upon [Valentine’s] declaration, is to remark that there are, by this time, no gentlemen in Verona.
Warwick R. Bond (1955)
In Two Gentlemen, Shakespeare first opens the vein he worked so richly afterwards—the vein of crossed love; of flight and exile under the escort of the generous sentiments; of disguised heroines, and sufferings endured and virtues exhibited under their disguise; and of the Providence, kinder than life, that annuls the errors and forgives the sin.
Clifford Leech (1966)
The sphere of human experience in The Two Gentlemen of Verona is not only narrow—excluding alike birth, copulation, and death—but it is so restricted by remote codes and patterned by an artificial language that we tend to feel it represents a world to which Shakespeare was not much committed. […] Most discussions conclude either that Shakespeare was preoccupied with form at the expense of truth to human feeling, or that he was laughing at the feelings embodied in courtly convention, or both.
Inga-Stina Ewbank (1972)