The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Act 1, Scene 3 | Summary



Antonio, Proteus's father, is conferring with his servant Pantino at his estate in Verona. Pantino has been to see Antonio's brother, who is worried about Proteus. "He wondered," says Pantino, "that your Lordship / Would suffer [Proteus] to spend his youth at home" instead of sending him to university or allowing him to gain experience as a soldier or sailor. Antonio has been pondering this same problem and, as he now tells Pantino, has decided to send Proteus to Milan, where he will develop the skills and accomplishments suitable to a young courtier.

Proteus enters, reading a love letter from Julia. Worried his father will not allow him to marry her, Proteus lies and says the letter is "a word or two" from Valentine. Antonio swallows the lie and announces good news: Proteus will join Valentine immediately at the imperial court in Milan. Proteus is caught off guard by his father's decision—even more so when he learns he must leave the next day. Antonio and Pantino leave the stage, and Proteus laments his plan has backfired. Love, he says, is like "the uncertain glory of an April day": one moment the sun may be shining, but the weather can turn cloudy in the blink of an eye.


When Proteus compares love to inconstant April weather, he speaks truer than he knows. His own love for Julia, so poignantly expressed in Act 1, Scene 2, will not survive his voyage to Milan. Like the clouds covering the sun, a desire for the inaccessible Sylvia will overtake him, blotting out feelings he previously had for Julia. By Act 4, in fact, he will have all but forgotten Julia, giving away her love tokens to another woman. At one point he will even pretend to have received news of her death to underscore his status as a free man. His anguish at having to part from Julia in this scene is thus a dramatic foil to his later display of heartlessness.

Antonio, who gets very little stage time, is a well-intentioned but otherwise unremarkable Shakespearean father. In contrast to the borderline tyrannical Duke of Milan, who first appears in Act 2, Antonio has perhaps been too lenient in bringing up his son. His decision to send Proteus to Milan is an attempt to make up for this neglect—a bit like a modern father signing his child up for a sport or piano lessons. Proteus, he recognizes, "cannot be a perfect man" unless he is "tried and tutored in the world" instead of lounging about the ancestral villa and reading love poetry. In an optimistic reading of the play, Antonio's plan succeeds, and Proteus's experiences at the Milanese court make him a wiser, more self-aware man. A more cynical critic, however, might argue that Proteus frustrates his father's plan by acting dishonorably and betraying his closest friend.

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