Heterotopia and early modern friendship within Shakespeare's "Two Gentlemen of Verona"
Critics and scholars alike have often overlooked the role of the forest within Shakespeare's The Two Gentlemen of Verona in reinforcing the play's focus on homosocial bonds. Viewing this setting according to Michel Foucault's concept of heterotopia, though, establishes the forest as a transformative space which rivals the nature of Shakespeare's latter sylvan settings in complexity. In Two Gents' forest scenes, the protagonists' actions and social statures are realigned through the representation, inversion, and contestation of the spatial and social relationships presented earlier in the play. Although Valentine and Proteus begin the play as equals, by the time they enter the forest Valentine has been banished and lost his social standing (although he still acts like a gentlemen), while Proteus is only a gentleman in name. The forest acts as a space where the social hierarchy can flip, giving Valentine the power to bar Proteus from their friendship, just as he was banished from the Duke's court, and then to forgive Proteus, foreshadowing his own reinstatement into the Duke's court. The protagonists' social relationship is defined by their spatial one, or, in other words, how their friendship hinges on equality, since they are one soul in two bodies. The forest, as a heterotopic space, allows the protagonists to regain equal stature, and thus, reinforces the play's emphasis on homosocial bonds.