The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Act 3, Scene 2 | Summary

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Summary

Later at the ducal palace Thurio and the Duke are conferring about Sylvia, who has not stopped pining for her banished lover Valentine. The Duke assures Thurio, his prospective choice for a son-in-law, that Sylvia is going through a phase. Eventually she will snap out of it and become more amenable to Thurio's advances.

When Proteus enters to announce Valentine's departure from Milan, the Duke asks him for advice on making Sylvia "forget / The love of Valentine, and love Sir Thurio." The best way to proceed, Proteus counsels, "is to slander Valentine / With falsehood, cowardice, and poor descent, / Three things that women highly hold in hate." At the same time, Thurio must be praised. To avoid any suspicion of jealousy the slander should come from someone who seems to be Valentine's friend. Initially Proteus pretends to be unwilling to play this role but eventually allows the Duke to persuade him. He even offers to help Thurio come up with music and love poetry to impress Sylvia. The Duke, delighted, orders the two men to go about their task immediately.

Analysis

Apart from illustrating Proteus's increasingly caddish behavior, this scene shows the emotional disconnect between the Duke and his daughter. Whether through wishful thinking or mere ignorance, the Duke regards Sylvia's love for Valentine as "trenchèd in ice" and liable to "dissolve" quickly in his absence. "A little time," he argues, "will melt her frozen thoughts, / And worthless Valentine shall be forgot." In other words he sees his daughter as malleable and easily persuaded, two qualities she certainly has not demonstrated and will not demonstrate to the audience. Indeed the strong-willed Sylvia will remain true to Valentine.

Also notable is the Duke's presumption he can simply make Sylvia love whomever he pleases—if only he can find the right tactic for persuading her. Rather than accepting Sylvia's wishes or simply forcing her to marry Thurio on the spot, the Duke wants to have the best of both worlds by tricking, cajoling, or brainwashing his daughter into choosing Thurio for herself. Proteus preys on the Duke's arrogance (and Thurio's naïveté) by positioning himself as a sort of "daughter whisperer" who knows what young women want. Indeed, the actions of the men in this scene—the Duke, Proteus, and Thurio—reflect the power of the man's world in that they presume to exert force even in a subtle way.

Thurio, meanwhile, will continue plodding along with the task of wooing Sylvia, foolishly optimistic despite her constant refusals. Although his efforts are doomed to failure, he will remain important as a point of comparison to the two Veronese suitors—sometimes as a mirror and sometimes as a foil. His lack of wit, for example, makes both Valentine and Proteus look better than they otherwise might. Moreover, Thurio's wealth paves the way for a "love conquers all" ending by inviting a comparison between his net worth and Valentine's personal merit. Unlike Valentine—but much like Proteus—Thurio is obstinate in the pursuit of a woman who does not love him. In Thurio this fault leads to comic awkwardness, but in Proteus the same defect of judgment nearly results in tragedy.

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