I have to agree with Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom in his assessment of this play as “the weakest of all Shakespeare’s comedies.” Though in Will’s defense, it’s likely his first – a practice play if you will, as you can see many flashes of plays yet to be written in this one… a woman disguised as a man, some hanky panky and questionable behavior in the woods, even teens triumphing over their controlling parents. Even with all of that, I couldn’t even find a decent production of it. I read it, but I didn’t enjoy it. Even the discussions in my FB Group were lacking any reason to like it. The characters are flat, to two dimensional, and the contrived medieval social norms are downright offensive. I frankly can’t find any redeeming value in it.
There are apparently references borrowed from this play in the film Shakespeare In Love; such as this is the play that is being performed for Queen Elizabeth at the beginning of the movie where Viola is so completely smitten by plays and poetry. Frankly, I don’t see her infatuation. When Theatre Manager Phillip Henslow suggests that The Bard add “a bit with a dog” to Ethel The Pirate’s Daughter/Romeo & Juliet, he’s referencing the Two Gents play where Launce, the comedic servant of Proteus, has a dog named Crab who was said to be the hit of the play!
Even that doesn’t give this play any more credit in my opinion.