The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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The Two Gentlemen of Verona | Plot Summary

See Plot Diagram


Act 1

Valentine, a young Veronese gentleman, is taking leave of his childhood friend Proteus. Headed for Milan, Valentine is to join the court of the Duke. Proteus is happy to stay in Verona because he has been courting the lady Julia—though so far without success. Valentine chides Proteus for allowing love to make a fool of him. On his way out of town, Valentine's servant, Speed, tells Proteus his latest love letter to Julia has been delivered, but she seems uninterested. In fact Julia's indecisiveness over whether to open the letter suggests she harbors feelings for Proteus. She complains of the same lovesickness that has taken hold of Proteus and asks her maid Lucetta for advice. Eventually Julia writes to Proteus and confesses her love for him, but soon after the letter arrives, Proteus's father, Antonio, orders him to join Valentine at the Milanese court. Proteus laments the brevity of his courtship.

Act 2

In Milan Valentine has fallen in love with the Duke's daughter, Sylvia. Initially it seems the feeling is not mutual: Sylvia calls Valentine a "servant" and orders him to perform various courtly errands. Speed reassures his master that Sylvia secretly loves him more than she is letting on. Valentine's main rival, Thurio, is the Duke's preferred suitor because of his wealth, but Sylvia has no interest in Thurio, finding him boring and unappealing.

In Verona Proteus says goodbye to Julia, exchanging rings with her as a sign of enduring love. When he arrives in Milan, however, he finds himself immediately smitten with Sylvia, who by this time is as taken with Valentine as he is with her. Learning of Valentine and Sylvia's plan to elope, Proteus forgets his former friendship and tells the Duke of the arrangement. Doing so, he reasons, will not only curry favor with the Duke but also will get Valentine banished, thus removing a romantic rival. Julia, no longer willing to wait for Proteus's return, makes up her mind to go to Milan in disguise.

Act 3

Things begin to heat up as Proteus reveals the elopement plan to the Duke, leading him to banish Valentine. As his former friend is leaving town, Proteus feigns shock at his exile and promises to help him communicate with Sylvia via secret letters. Sylvia, understandably, is no more amenable to a marriage with Thurio than she was before Valentine's banishment. If anything she is galvanized in her refusal to marry anyone but Valentine. Frustrated, the Duke and Thurio seek the assistance of Proteus, who pledges to help Thurio woo Sylvia with music, poetry, and flattering speeches. Thurio, not the brightest member of the Duke's court, readily accepts Proteus's self-serving and deceitful offer.

Act 4

Wandering through the woods in exile, Valentine is accosted by a group of outlaws who, rather than kill or rob him, invite him to become their leader. He accepts the role. Meanwhile, Proteus attempts to woo Sylvia under the pretense of helping Thurio do the same. His efforts to ply Sylvia with music and pretty speeches are watched by a newcomer to Milan: Julia, now disguised as a page named Sebastian.

Sylvia—lovelorn, resentful, and dreading the prospect of a marriage to Thurio—makes plans to flee Milan and reunite with Valentine. Before she can leave town, however, she receives a visit from Julia who, as Sebastian, has been hired by Proteus to deliver a ring and a love letter to her. The ring, as it happens, is the one Proteus received in Act 2 as a memento of Julia's undying love. Sylvia refuses to take the ring because of its origins. Proteus's callousness in giving the ring away saddens and angers Julia, especially when Proteus comments she is dead, but such faithlessness fails to diminish her feelings for him.

Act 5

Escorted by the knight Eglamour, Sylvia leaves Milan in secret and makes her way to the woods where Valentine lives. The Duke soon learns of her escape and enlists Proteus and Thurio to help retrieve her. Julia, still disguised as Sebastian, accompanies them as well. Soon after Sylvia reaches the woods, she is captured by Valentine's outlaws, but Proteus rescues her before she can be taken to the bandit camp. Demanding some acknowledgment for his brave deed, Proteus then attempts to force himself on Sylvia. Valentine appears and stops him. Guilt stricken, Proteus proceeds to beg for forgiveness. Julia reveals her identity and, after chiding Proteus for his boorish conduct, reunites with her former sweetheart.

Thurio and the Duke arrive, but Valentine threatens to kill Thurio if he lays a hand on Sylvia. Thurio's cold and cowardly reply leads the Duke to disown him as a potential son-in-law. Instead he finally assents to the marriage between Sylvia and Valentine after observing Valentine's bravery and strength of character. The play concludes with the now-reconciled friends and lovers headed back to Milan for a celebratory feast.

The Two Gentlemen of Verona Plot Diagram

123456789101112131415ClimaxResolutionIntroductionRising ActionFalling Action


1 Valentine leaves Verona for Milan.

Rising Action

2 Proteus and Julia exchange love letters and rings.

3 Valentine falls in love with and courts Sylvia.

4 Proteus joins Valentine in Milan.

5 Forgetting Julia, Proteus falls for Sylvia instead.

6 Proteus reveals Sylvia and Valentine's plan to elope.

7 Valentine is banished and becomes an outlaw.

8 Disguised as a page boy, Julia travels to Milan.

9 Proteus vainly attempts to woo Sylvia for himself.

10 Sylvia flees Milan and seeks out Valentine.


11 Outlaws capture Sylvia.

Falling Action

12 Valentine confronts Proteus, who apologizes for his deceit.

13 Julia reveals her identity and continued love for Proteus.

14 The Duke acknowledges Valentine's noble character.


15 All is forgiven, and the two pairs of lovers are reunited.

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