Two Gentlemen of Verona By William Shakespeare Summary and Analysis Act V: Scene 4

Summary

A solitary Valentine muses on his present condition:

Here can I sit alone, unseen of any,
And to the nightingale's complaining notes
Tune my distresses and record my woes. (4–6)

Abruptly interrupted by the spectacle of his friend Proteus in hot pursuit of Silvia, Valentine doubts his very senses: "How like a dream is this I see and hear!" Valentine remains mute until the moment when Proteus threatens violence.

Proteus: In love,
Who respects friend?
Silvia: All men but Proteus.
Proteus: Nay, if the gentle spirit of moving words
Can no way change you to a milder form,
I'll woo you like a soldier, at arms' end,
And love you 'gainst the nature of
love, — force ye.
Silvia: O heaven!
Proteus: I'll force thee yield to my desire.
Valentine: Ruffian, let go that rude uncivil touch,
Thou friend of an ill fashion! (53–63)

Confronted by his friend, Proteus apologizes and is forgiven at once by Valentine. Silvia remains silent. When Julia faints, trying to cover up her emotional turmoil by telling Proteus that she (as page) was upset at not delivering the ring to Silvia as promised, it is discovered that she is indeed Proteus's former lover. She hands him the wrong ring, the one he had given her as a keepsake. The two reconcile.

When Thurio is confronted by an angry Valentine, he gives up claim to Silvia, causing the Duke to change heart:

I do applaud thy spirit, Valentine,
And think thee worthy of an empress' love. (140–41)

Valentine accepts and asks the Duke to "grant one boon," a general amnesty for the band of gentlemen-thieves he has been leading these past months, That done, all retire to soothe the bad feelings "with triumphs, mirth, and rare solemnity."

Analysis

In terms of plausibility, the last scene of The Two Gentlemen of Verona leaves much to be desired. The rapid movement from pastoral melancholy to high melodrama to festive comedy, ending in a pair of marriages needs to be accepted in the spirit of a fairy tale, where logic and consistent human motivation are irrelevant. Consider Silvia. She is nearly raped, then instants later, she sees her husband-to-be embracing her attacker as an eternal friend. No questions are asked, and significantly she has not a single line after her desperate line, "O heaven!" And Julia's easy acceptance of the perfidious Proteus seems almost as odd at the end of this comedy. The conventions of romance prevail, as the thieves gain pardons and a marriage banquet is announced. Valentine's proposed "punishment" for Proteus, at the end of the scene, seems feeble:

Come Proteus; 'tis your penance but to hear
The story of your loves discovered. (170–71)

In some of Shakespeare's later comedies there are "dark" moments, as we find here (e.g., the intrigue and punishment of Malvolio in Twelfth Night), but they are integrated more fully into the main action, and not, as one gets the impression in The Two Gentlemen of Verona, "dashed off" to complete the plot.

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