The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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Course Hero, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide," December 11, 2017, accessed September 26, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Two-Gentlemen-of-Verona/.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Act 1, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

The lady Julia appears with her attendant Lucetta. Julia goes through a list of the names of gentlemen who have wooed her recently, asking Lucetta for her opinion of each. Lucetta finds fault with all suitors except "the gentle Proteus," whom Julia claims to find unimpressive. Lucetta, however, believes "he of all the rest I think best loves you." Proteus, Julia points out, has shown few signs of affection, so his love for Julia is likely "small" at best. Lucetta disagrees, saying, "Fire that's closest kept burns most of all" and delivers a letter from Proteus, the one Speed was sent to deliver in Scene 1, which Lucetta intercepted and which Julia has not seen.

Julia scoffs at the love letter without even reading it, then rudely orders Lucetta to take the paper away. As soon as Lucetta departs, however, Julia mocks her own indecisiveness, complaining of the "wayward" and "foolish" feelings love has stirred up in her. She calls to Lucetta, who returns with the letter in hand. As she reenters Lucetta lets the paper drop, then stoops to pick it up, leading to a quarrel in which Julia tears the letter into pieces. After Lucetta has left the stage once more, Julia chides herself again for her rash behavior and tries to put the pieces back together. As expected, the letter is from Proteus and describes his love and longing. Lucetta calls her mistress to dinner, and the two exit.

Analysis

Julia, it becomes clear, is in love with Proteus after all. Her soliloquy in the middle of the scene includes a provocative remark: "[M]aids in modesty say 'no' to that / Which they would have the profferer construe 'ay'!" In other words Julia suggests, sometimes "no" means "yes." Although these lines have troubling implications when it comes to consent, they reveal something important about Julia: her love for Proteus is built on a foundation of inner conflict and indecision. For whatever reason, she is saying no to the mere idea of letting him woo her, even as she wants to say yes. Later she will say yes even when external factors—Proteus's callous infidelity, his interest in another woman—seem to demand the opposite.

Lucetta, meanwhile, is shrewder than her mistress. Perhaps this understanding accounts for her high-handed treatment of Speed in the previous scene as she has him think she is Julia and indicates little interest in Proteus's courtship. She understands Julia's mixed emotions better than Julia herself does: "I see things, too," she declares, "although you judge I wink." This will be a recurring theme throughout the play: servants will see what their masters and mistresses fail to notice, particularly in matters of the heart. Julia, to be fair, is not a gifted liar, and her overreactions give her away to the audience even before she confesses her love in a speech. This behavior forms a point of contrast with the smooth, courtly Sylvia, who will be introduced in Act 2.

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