Two Gentlemen of Verona By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act II: Scenes 2-3

Summary

Julia gives Proteus a ring to remember her by as he prepares to depart by ship for Milan. Forcing back tears, they say goodbye:

Proteus: The tide is now — nay, not thy tide of tears;
That tide will stay me longer than I should. (14–15)

Proteus's servant, Launce, also suffers an emotional separation too — from his ungrateful dog, Crab. Launce's sentimentality is congenital, it seems: "all the kind of the Launces have this very fault." This makes him all the more upset at his dog's stiff upper lip:

My mother weeping, my father wailing,
my sister crying, our maid howling, our
cat wringing her hands, and all our house in
a great perplexity, yet did not this cruel-hearted
cur shed one tear. (6–10)

Analysis

Shakespeare's genius in his greatest plays resides in his ability to straddle the range of human experience like some colossus. In sharply contrasting scenes, he evokes the complexity of life and love and death and hate. When Hamlet is on the way to his inevitable demise, Shakespeare introduces a clownish/wise gravedigger who jauntily philosophizes, unearthed skull in hand. Nothing approaching the same effect is achieved in The Two Gentlemen of Verona; however, the simple technique of juxtaposing contrasting moods within a single human experience (leave-taking) is comparable, and typical of Shakespearean playwriting. Launce's hilarious bellowing acts as a gloss on the bittersweet parting of Julia and Proteus.

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At the end of the play, who does Julia meet and characterize as “A virtuous gentlewoman, mild and beautiful!”



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