Course Hero. "The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide." Course Hero. 11 Dec. 2017. Web. 20 Nov. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Two-Gentlemen-of-Verona/>.
Course Hero. (2017, December 11). The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved November 20, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Two-Gentlemen-of-Verona/
(Course Hero, 2017)
Course Hero. "The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide." December 11, 2017. Accessed November 20, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Two-Gentlemen-of-Verona/.
Course Hero, "The Two Gentlemen of Verona Study Guide," December 11, 2017, accessed November 20, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/The-Two-Gentlemen-of-Verona/.
Love is your master, for he masters you; / And he that is so yokèd by a fool / Methinks should not be chronicled for wise.
The play begins with a friendly quarrel about the benefits and drawbacks of being in love. Proteus defends himself by claiming that although Love (in the sense of "Cupid") may be foolish, Proteus himself—the lover—is not necessarily a fool. To Valentine, however, this argument is nonsense because Proteus is allowing himself to be led, or "yokèd" by his amorous feelings. As long as he allows Love to occupy the driver's seat, Proteus has little choice but to act foolishly. Valentine's objection will be validated by Proteus's erratic behavior throughout the play.
Servants in Shakespeare plays have to put up with a lot. One of the toughest parts of the job is dealing with the smug obliviousness of their privileged employers. Here Lucetta reminds Julia she's not as sneaky and clever as she might think: although Julia has tried to conceal her love for Proteus, Lucetta easily picks up on her mistress's feelings.
O, how this spring of love resembleth / The uncertain glory of an April day, / Which now shows all the beauty of the sun, / And by and by a cloud takes all away.
On the surface this is a touching lament about the vagaries of love. Julia has finally graced Proteus with a reply, and the two previous scenes have shown how enamored they are of each other. Yet almost as soon as Proteus learns of Julia's love for him, he learns he must leave Verona indefinitely. At the same time there is an undercurrent of dramatic irony here because Proteus currently believes himself faithfully devoted to Julia—not inconstant like the spring weather. In subsequent acts, however, Proteus will reveal himself just as changeable and capricious as the clouds.
This scene is a tearful goodbye between Proteus and Julia before he departs for Milan. He gives her a ring as a sign of his devotion and takes her hand in a pledge of "true constancy." Proteus's "constancy," it soon turns out, is not worth much, for he drops Julia as soon as he is introduced to Sylvia.
He is complete in feature and in mind, / With all good grace to grace a gentleman.
Valentine, loyal to a fault, somewhat oversells Proteus to the Duke, who is interested in learning about the newcomer to the Milanese court. In fact Valentine's grand claims about Proteus's accomplishments seem more than a little dishonest when compared to his earlier, more candid criticism of his friend. In Act 1, Scene 1 Valentine accuses Proteus of being "sluggardized," or made lazy, by spending too much time at home in "shapeless idleness." Now he does an about-face, calling himself a slacker and praising Proteus as an overachiever.
This, in a nutshell, is the main difference between Proteus and Valentine. After some minimal soul-searching Proteus finds himself ready to betray his best friend to give himself even a slim chance of courting Sylvia. Valentine, in contrast, is so deeply loyal to Proteus he forgives his unfaithful friend on the spot at the end of the play. For Valentine, to judge by his actions, nobody is "dearer than a friend."
Here, as elsewhere, Lucetta "sees things" more clearly than her mistress Julia. When Julia reports the flattery and exaggerations Proteus has written in his letters to her, Lucetta correctly senses something amiss. Julia may, on some level, share Lucetta's misgivings, but she won't admit them aloud: instead she urges Lucetta not to speak ill of Proteus.
Tarry I here, I but attend on death, / But fly I hence, I fly away from life.
This histrionic remark shows how deeply affected Valentine is by the news of his banishment. In the first moments after his sentence is pronounced, he considers simply staying in Milan and surrendering himself to execution rather than going away from Sylvia. By the end of the scene, however, Valentine will come to his senses and leave Milan after all—partly because Proteus promises to convey his love letters to Sylvia.
This weak impress of love is as a figure / Trenchèd in ice, which with an hour's heat / Dissolves to water and doth lose his form.
This glib simile shows how little the Duke understands his daughter. By likening her to a chunk of ice that can be melted and refrozen to suit, the Duke betrays his own wishful thinking rather than insight into Sylvia's character. If he knew his daughter as well as the audience does by this point, he'd realize her dislike of Thurio is much more deeply "trenchèd" than the ice imagery suggests. Even if she were to stop loving Valentine, she would be unlikely to develop a sudden fondness for the unimpressive Thurio.
Longer than I prove loyal to your Grace / Let me not live to look upon your Grace.
Proteus, as the earlier acts of the play have shown, is a great one for loyalty oaths. He promises to think of Julia at least once every hour (Act 2, Scene 2) and then unilaterally drops her. He promises to keep Valentine in his prayers (Act 1, Scene 1) and then betrays him. The Duke, however, has already shown his own shortcomings as a judge of character, so there's no reason to suspect he will see through Proteus. On the contrary, he comes to rely on Proteus as a sort of "wooing consultant" to help Thurio win Sylvia's love.
But Sylvia is too fair, too true, too holy / To be corrupted with my worthless gifts.
At this point Proteus correctly discerns Sylvia's lack of interest in him. His scheme, he recognizes, has backfired: by betraying his friend he has made himself repellent to the "fair, true, holy" woman he hopes to woo. His efforts at winning her affection now cross from wishful thinking—"With Valentine gone, maybe Sylvia will love me"—into full-blown desperation.
With the possible exception of the ring scene, Act 4, Scene 4, this is Proteus's cruelest moment in the play. Not content merely to abandon Julia, he thinks up this heartless little lie to help him win Sylvia's affection. However, the deception fails to convince Sylvia and shows Proteus's broader failure to understand her. What repels her is not merely Proteus's unfaithfulness to Julia back in Verona but his broader lack of loyalty to his friends. She is, as he admits earlier in this scene, "too fair, too true, too holy" to associate with a man who double-crosses those closest to him.
Alas, poor Proteus, thou hast entertained / A fox to be the shepherd of thy lambs.
With this boldly assertive line, Julia suggests she has some grand scheme in mind: she is the predator and Proteus or perhaps Sylvia the prey. Having been hired by the unwitting Proteus to deliver his love messages, Julia is no doubt well positioned to spy on both Proteus and Sylvia and to thwart his attempts at courtship. However, she has little opportunity to take advantage of her new role before Sylvia flees the city, forcing the play toward its conclusion.
Living in the Mantuan woods with the outlaws, Valentine discovers what many of Shakespeare's protagonists discover in later plays: life in the forest isn't so bad once you get used to it. Originally reluctant to leave Milan or, more to the point, reluctant to leave Sylvia, Valentine has now made his peace with life in exile. He may still miss Sylvia, but the metaphor of crumbling, vacant buildings suggests he is no longer grieving her loss acutely. When he does think of her, he uses the suitably woodsy imagery to describe their relationship.
O, 'tis the curse in love, and still approved / When women cannot love where they're beloved.
At this late point Proteus still doesn't seem to get it. He blames Sylvia for not reciprocating his love, ignoring the hypocrisy of his remark: if it's wrong for her not to "love where she's beloved," it's equally wrong for him to seek a new mistress and abandon Julia, who loves him. Sylvia quickly sets him straight by reminding him of the "thousand oaths" he made to Julia, his "first best love." To break those oaths, she insists, makes Proteus a perjurer and a "counterfeit."