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Edwin Austin Abbey / Shakespeare | Who is Sylvia? What is She...





Who is Sylvia - What is she, that all the swains commend her by Edwin Austin Abbey (1899)

The "Two Gentlemen of Verona" is a comedy by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written between 1589-1593.
It is considered by some to be Shakespeare's first play, and is often seen as showing his first tentative steps in laying out some of the themes and motifs with which he would later deal in more detail; for example, it is the first of his plays in which a heroine dresses as a boy.
The play deals with the themes of friendship and infidelity, the conflict between friendship and love, and the foolish behaviour of people in love.
The highlight of the play is considered by some to be Launce, the clownish servant of Proteus, and his dog Crab, to whom "the most scene-stealing non-speaking role in the canon" has been attributed.
Two Gentlemen is often regarded as one of Shakespeare's weakest plays. It has the smallest named cast of any play by Shakespeare.

"Who is Silvia? what is she,
That all our swains commend her?
Holy, fair and wise is she;
The heaven such grace did lend her,
That she might admired be.

Silvia by Charles Edward Perugini, 1888


Is she kind as she is fair?
For beauty lives with kindness.

Love doth to her eyes repair,
To help him of his blindness,
And, being help'd, inhabits there.
Then to Silvia let us sing,
That Silvia is excelling;
She excels each mortal thing
Upon the dull earth dwelling:
To her let us garlands bring".

The musician sings in The "Two Gentlemen of Verona" by Sir-John-Gilbert, 1865


"I due gentiluomini di Verona"
Commedia di William Shakespeare, Atto IV

Trama
"I due gentiluomini" del titolo sono Valentino e Proteo. Valentino lascia Verona per recarsi a Milano (il contesto spesso non è chiaro), dove scopre ben presto di essersi innamorato di Silvia, una dama aristocratica che non è per nulla contraria ai suoi favori.
Proteo più tardi visita Valentino, lasciando la sua fidanzata, Giulia, a Verona, e anche lui si innamora di Silvia.
Il classico triangolo amoroso si complica quando Giulia, travestita da uomo, giunge inaspettatamente.
La commedia si conclude con un teso confronto in una foresta, dove Proteo cerca di rapire Silvia. Valentino la salva, ma poi la 'concede' a Proteo in nome della loro amicizia. Proteo rifiuta e torna da Giulia, da cui il lieto fine, almeno in apparenza.
Nella trama comica secondaria, anche il servo trova l'amore, in una ragazza di umili origini della quale, come espone in un comico panegirico, "i difetti superano di numero i capelli".

Chi mai è Silvia? chi è costei
Cui s’inchina ogni pastore?
Bella e saggia, e santa sei,
E al tuo viso ed al tuo cuore
Le sue grazie il ciel versò.
Tu sei buona al par che bella,
Ché saggezza a leggiadria
S’accompagna; e amor novella
Luce a chiederti venìa:
Ne’ tuoi sguardi amor brillò.
Così a te risuoni il canto
Non mortal, divina cosa!
Sovra ogni altra ha Silvia il vanto;
E la terra, ov’ella posa
De’ suoi fior la coronò.

Valentine Rescuing Silvia from Proteus by William Holman Hunt (1851).

Early 20th-century Henry James Haley illustration of Act 2, Scene 1 (Silvia refusing Valentine's letter)