Two Gentlemen of Verona By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act IV: Scenes 3-4

Summary

Silvia entreats Eglamour to accompany her to Mantua, where Valentine is currently living. Eglamour has suffered a loss in love himself (his "true love died"), so he is touched when Silvia bids him "think upon my grief, a lady's grief." They are to meet in the evening at Friar Patrick's cell, where Silvia "intend[s] holy confession," and whence they shall depart.

Launce berates his dog, Crab, for ungentlemanly behavior. Crab stole a capon's leg from Lady Silvia's plate, then he relieved himself unashamedly under the Duke's table. To save his dog's hide, Launce took the blame, and the whipping:

If I had not had more wit than he, to take a
fault upon me that he did, I think verily
he had been hanged for it. (14–16)

"How many masters would do this for his servant?" Launce asks his dog. Certainly not Proteus, as we now learn. He scolds Launce for making the absurd mistake of offering his own dog as a gift to Silvia after the one Proteus meant for her had been stolen. From the sound of it, Launce seems to have substituted a Great Dane for a small poodle on the logical grounds that his dog is "as big as ten of yours, and therefore [is] the gift the greater."

Proteus has taken on a page (Julia in disguise) to help him pursue Silvia. He tells her to deliver a ring in exchange for the promised picture, whereupon Julia is hard put to contain her feelings. Queried about her reaction, she says of the absent mistress (really herself):

She dreams on him that hath forgot her love;
You dote on her that cares not for your love.
'Tis pity love should be so contrary;
And thinking on it makes me cry, "Alas!" (86–89)

In the last part of the scene, Julia delivers the ring (in fact, the one Julia had given Proteus as a keepsake) to Silvia, who is appalled at the gift.

For I have heard him say a thousand times
His Julia gave it him at his departure. (139–40)

Julia nearly reveals herself under the pressure.

Silvia: Dost thou know her?
Julia: Almost as well as I do know myself.
To think upon her woes, I do protest
That I have wept a hundred several times. (147–50)

Left with the picture of her sympathetic rival, Julia laments the absurdity of her situation. She envies the "senseless form" (inert picture) that shall "be worshipped, kissed, loved, and adored."

Analysis

In these scenes, we have two instances of behavior in counterpoint to Proteus's, one serious and one comic. Eglamour is not so much a character in his own right as he is a means to further the plot and to represent an example of noble, selfless behavior. Launce is, of course, the comic equivalent of this altruism, a true friend to his dog:

I have set in the stocks for puddings [sausages]
he hath stol'n; otherwise he had been executed.
I have stood on the pillory for geese he hath killed;
otherwise he had suffered for it. (33–36)

In the scenes between Julia (as page) and Proteus, then Julia and Silvia, Shakespeare comes as close as he does anywhere in The Two Gentlemen of Verona to creating the dramatic intensity which his later romantic comedies are noted for. The disguise motif functions here similarly to its later uses — in As You Like It or Twelfth Night, the difference being the poetic fabric is not quite of the same quality. Note the tension as Proteus unknowingly insults his lover to her face:

Proteus: . . . go presently, and take this ring with thee;
Deliver it to Madam Silvia.
She loved me well delivered it to me.
Julia: It seems you loved not her, to leave her token.
She is dead, belike?
Proteus: Not so; I think she lives.
Julia: Alas! Proteus: Why dost thou cry "alas"?
Julia: I cannot choose But pity her. (76–85)

Julia's conundrum worsens as she meets her arch-rival and finds her not at all unpleasant: "A virtuous gentlewoman, mild and beautiful!" There is special poignance in the concluding monologue, as Julia contemplates the image of her rival, by turns mildly disparaging her qualities ("and yet the painter flattered her a little") and venting her inner anger:

I'll use thee [the picture] kindly for thy mistress' sake,
That used me so; or else, by Jove I vow,
I should have scratched out your unseeing eyes,
To make my master out of love with thee! (207–10)

The idea of giving Julia the stage property image to address in her moment of despair adds concreteness to the scene. Note the different ways in which the actress playing Julia might handle the portrait.

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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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