The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Act 2, Scene 5 | Summary



Lance and his dog, Crab, have just arrived in Milan and are welcomed to town by Speed. (Actually Speed erroneously welcomes them to Padua, an Italian city about 150 miles east of Milan. It's unclear whether this is Speed's error or Shakespeare's.) After offering to buy Lance a beer, Speed asks about Julia and whether she and Proteus are likely to marry. Lance's answer is ambiguous, buried in a series of off-color puns and riddles. Speed announces another startling development: Valentine "is become a notable lover." Lance accepts this news nonchalantly and repeats his invitation to the alehouse.


This scene is more than anything else a crowd-pleaser, full of racy humor but relatively devoid of plot. The information about Julia, Proteus, and Valentine is old news to those in the audience, who have seen these events dramatized on stage rather than merely reported. The retelling here is mainly a way for Lance to make puns about staffs and tails. His joke about Jews, however, stands out as distasteful and even offensive to modern ears as it implies Christians have a monopoly on friendliness and fun. Yet it would have been less surprising to Shakespeare's English audiences who encountered much stronger anti-Semitic themes in Christopher Marlowe's The Jew of Malta (1590) and Shakespeare's own The Merchant of Venice (1600).

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