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Sources of the Play

Although a considerable number of literary origins have been proposed for one part or another of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, the source of the main action is represented best, so far as we now know, by the story of Felix and Felismena in Diana Enamorada, a pastoral romance of adventurous incidents written in Spanish by Jorge de Montemayor, and first printed in 1542. This story, we may assume, was accessible to Shakespeare in other forms than the Spanish. Bartholomew Yonge's English translation of Diana was not published until 1598; but he tells us that it had been in manuscript for sixteen years, and we know that before 1598 two other English translations of parts of Montemayor's work existed in unpublished form. A French translation of relevant parts of Diana was printed in 1578 and 1587. It is possible also that the lost play Felix and Philiomena, acted at Greenwich in 1584, treated the same fiction.

Directly or indirectly, then, the main plot of Shakespeare's play seems to derive from Montemayor's story; and although we cannot be sure as to contributions from intermediate sources, a comparison of the play and the Spanish romance probably discloses fairly enough at least the general nature of Shakespeare's indebtedness to predecessors, and the direction of his originality. Among the chief matters in which the play resembles the narrative are the following: Proteus' employing Julia's maid as intermediary, and Julia's exhibition of coyness in receiving his letter (I. ii); the breach in the intimacy of the lovers caused by the sending of Proteus to court; the pursuit of Proteus by Julia in disguise; Julia's lodging at an