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Royal Shakespeare Company, 1991

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Synopsis and plot overview of Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona

TL;DR (may contain spoilers): Valentine and Proteus are best friends, except Proteus is disloyal to his girlfriend in pursuit of Valentine's fiance. There's a dog. Everyone gets married in the end, though.

Two Gentlemen of Verona Summary

Two best friends, Proteus and Valentine, travel to Milan where they both fall in love with Silvia. Silvia loves Valentine, but Proteus pursues her despite the fact he has a girlfriend at home. After an apology, Proteus and Valentine reconcile, Proteus loves his girlfriend again, and both couples marry. 

More detail: 2 minute read

Act I

Young friends Valentine and Proteus say farewell to one another as Valentine resolves to travel. Proteus will not leave Verona, where his beloved Julia lives. Meanwhile, Julia's maid, Lucetta, gives her a letter from Proteus. Julia treasures it despite her outward show of carelessness for the love it conveys.

They do not love that do not show their love

— Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 1 Scene 2

Act II

Later, Antonio, Proteus's father, sends his son to Milan, much to the sorrow of Julia. Proteus and Julia part with words of love to one another. Proteus is joined by Lance, his servant, and Lance's dog Crabb. While at the Duke's court, Proteus finds that Valentine has fallen in love with Silvia, daughter of the Duke. Speed, Valentine's quick-witted page, helps Valentine realise that his love is reciprocated. Proteus, who had earnestly exchanged rings and vows of faithfulness with Julia before leaving Verona, sees Silvia and immediately changes his allegiance.

The musician plays a mandolin, with a small crowd behind him while the young lover rests his left elbow on a balustrade and his chin in his left hand, and stares longingly at the pillars of the doorway to the house.
"The musician sings in The Two Gentlemen of Verona", Two Gentlemen of Verona, Gilbert, 1865


As the Duke plans for the foolish Thurio to marry Silvia, Valentine decides to elope with her. However, the jealous Proteus reveals Valentine's plot to the Duke, and Valentine is discovered while carrying a rope ladder. Valentine is banished for his scheming and leaves the court with Speed as his companion. In his absence, Proteus woos Silvia, but she scorns his speeches and music, urging him to remember Julia. In contrast with all this courtly love, Lance considers the virtues and vices of the milkmaid he wishes to marry.

At first I did adore a twinkling star But now I worship a celestial sun

— Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 2 Scene 6

Act IV

In Verona, Lucetta has helped Julia to get a disguise as a pageboy. She calls herself Sebastian to find Proteus. Unrecognised in Milan, she does indeed find Proteus, and he sends her to collect a portrait promised by Silvia. Silvia, meanwhile, remains devoted to her memory of Valentine. Silvia persuades Sir Eglamour, a knight, to accompany her in a search of Valentine in Mantua. 

Julia in a modern dress sits on a chaise longue looking unhappy. Behind to her left Proteus in a suit (but not wearing a jacket) is twisting a ring on his finger. Behind Julia on the other side stands her maid, dressed in black with a white apron.
Two Gentlemen of Verona, RSC, 2004

Act V

The banished Valentine is captured by a band of noble outlaws who make him their captain. Silvia is also captured by the outlaws while Sir Eglamour escapes. The Duke and Thurio take Proteus (followed by Julia/Sebastian) in pursuit of Silvia. When they find her with the outlaws, Proteus rescues her. Despite Silvia's protests, Proteus attempts to force himself on her, but Valentine stops him, as leader of the outlaws. 

Julia overhears the young men's argument and their eventual reconciliation. Mistaking Valentine's apparent wish to give Silvia to Proteus, Julia faints in front of them. Proteus recognises the ring she carries as the one he gave to Julia. She reveals her identity, and Proteus's love for Julia is revived. The outlaws arrive with their captives, the Duke and Thurio. Thurio denies Silvia in response to threats from Valentine. Valentine's attachment to Silvia is rewarded by the Duke's approval. The two pairs of lovers agree to share a wedding day. The play ends as the Duke gives a free pardon to the outlaws at Valentine's request.

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