Summary and Analysis
Julia asks her "waiting woman," Lucetta, if she "counsels" her "to fall in love," after which the servant appraises the eligible suitors named by her mistress. Sir Eglamour is "well-spoken, neat, and fine," Mercatio is wealthy, but Proteus is most favored. Asked to explain why, Lucetta responds:
I have no other but a woman's reason:
I think him so because I think him so. (23–24)
Julia apparently grows angry with Lucetta when she learns of Proteus's letter:
Dare you presume to harbour wanton lines?
To whisper and conspire against my youth? (42–43)
But with Lucetta out of the room, she has second thoughts, and she calls after her to return with the letter. The scene ends as Julia tears the letter to shreds, only desperately to try piecing it together again. The servant wryly tells her mistress that she knows exactly what is going on: "I see things too, although you judge I wink" [have my eyes shut].
The scene is structured around Julia's two solo passages on stage. In the first, she wrestles with her feelings in the after-flush of excitement, having learned that the man who most occupies her thoughts has just sent his regards through a messenger. Lucetta, who certainly timed her revelation to achieve full shock effect on the tender Julia, must secretly be amused at her mistress's wild overreaction. The "real" feelings emerge when Julia is alone: "Inward joy enforced my heart to smile."
Shakespeare has crafted the scene in such a way to allow maximum pleasure for the audience — at Julia's pleasant/unpleasant consternation. Notice the way she pulls herself together, playing the part (not very well) of perfect indifference when she bids Lucetta. to return. "What would your ladyship?" asks the servant, holding back her amusement. Julia tries small talk: "Is it near dinnertime?" she asks, but Lucetta is not fooled. When Julia tears up the letter, it is with much the same frustration (and false indifference) that Proteus showed in the previous scene.
Alone on stage a second time, Julia gushes with emotion, toying with the scraps of shredded paper as if they were doll-like representatives of herself and her lover: "Poor forlorn Proteus," she reads, "passionate Proteus,/To the sweet Julia!':
That I'll tear away. —
And yet I will not, sith so prettily
He couples it to his complaining names.
Thus will I fold them one upon another.
Now kiss, embrace, contend, do what you will. (125–29)
In this short scene, one gets a glimpse of the type of heroine Shakespeare was to enhance in charm and complexity in his future comedies.