DUKE OF MILAN
Duke of Milan is the
father of Silvia and the ruler of the court where the main action of the
play takes place. Informed by Proteus that Silvia plans to elope with
Valentine, the Duke banishes Valentine from the realm. In the final scene,
the Duke appears, as ruler and as father of the future bride, to approve
the final happy outcome.
Valentine is the
lover of Silvia, whom his disloyal friend Proteus attempts to steal.
Valentine is both a romantic leading man and an object of fun. At first
resistant to love, he then becomes an inept suitor. Once Silvia has given
him her affection, he naively brags of it to Proteus, whose plotting
quickly sends Valentine into exile. Later, after he rescues Silvia from an
attempted rape by Proteus, only Julia’s intervention prevents him from
inanely giving away his beloved to the man from whom he has just saved
||Proteus is one
of the title characters and the villain who simultaneously betrays his
lover, Julia, and his friend, Valentine by pursuing Valentine's lover,
Silvia. Proteus initially presents himself as wholly in love with Julia.
His father Antonio, forces him to attend the court, for such a sojourn is
proper for a young gentleman, and he bids farewell to his beloved,
pledging to be faithful. Once a court, however, he falls in love with
Silvia, who is already secretly betrothed to Valentine. Proteus knows his
love is disloyal, but he is prepared to forsake both Valentine and Julia.
Proteus plots against Valentine and even attempts to rape Silvia, but
Valentine thwarts and forgives him. Reunited with Julia, who has followed
him, Proteus vows renewed fidelity, and the play ends with the planning of
a double wedding Shakespeare took this character's name from Homer .,
Odyssey, in which Proteus is a sea god who can change his shape at will.
The Proteus of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, whose attitudes towards
others change with his appetites, is thus fittingly named.
Antonio is the father
of Proteus. Antonio appears only once, in 1.3, to make the decision that
he will send his son to join Valentine at court, which results in Proteus'
encounter with Silvia and its subsequent complications.
Thurio is a suitor of
Silvia. Thurio is inveigled by Proteus into hiring a group of musicians to
serenade Silvia, but Proteus takes credit with the lady. At the close of
the play, Thurio claims Silvia's hand, but beats a cowardly retreat when
challenged by Valentine.
Eglamour is the gentleman who helps Silvia
flee her father's court in search of Valentine in 5.1. In selecting
Eglamour as her confidant and guide, Silvia acclaims him 'valiant, wise, .
. . well-accomplished' (4.3.13) and is certain she can rely on his honor
and courage. Yet, when Silvia is captured by the Outlaws, he is reported
to have fled ignominiously, 'being nimble-footed' (5.3.6). This unlikely
inconsistency, along with the fact that one of Julia’s suitors is also
named Eglamour (1.2.9), has sparked some debate. This may simply be one of
the many instances of Shakespeare's carelessness in matters of detail, or
it may reflect the former existence of two versions of the play. Also, it
may be that a jocularly presented instance of cowardice is intended to
undercut the seriousness of the romantic ideals that the play
simultaneously depends on and laughs at.
Julia, disguised as a
boy, converses with the Host in 4.2, having arrived at court to see her
lover, Proteus. While she observes the infidelity of Proteus, the Host
falls asleep, subtly isolating the heroine at this crucial moment.
Speed is the page of
Valentine, is saucy and impertinent, teasing his master about his
infatuation with Silvia and engaging in witty exchanges with Launce. He
is an example of a character type frequently used by early Elizabethan
dramatists, especially by John Lyly, whose comedies influenced the young
The three Outlaws
capture Valentine and Speed in 4.1. They are recognizable romantic types,
gentlemen whose youthful hot-bloodedness has resulted in their exile. They
are also comic figures to some extent, as is shown by their prompt
election of Valentine as their chieftain because he is a handsome
gentleman who is versed in foreign languages.
Launce (Lance) is a
Clown, the servant of Proteus. Launce is not involved with the plot of the
play. However, the comparison of his jocular common sense with the
absurdly rhetorical fancies of the protagonists helps to parody them, thus
contributing to the play's tone. Launce's great speeches are his two
prose monologues (in 2.3 and 4.4) about his dog, Crab. In the first he
bemoans the dog's lack of sympathy with his misfortune in having to leave
his family to travel with Proteus. In the second, he recounts various
canine offences that Crab has committed, such as urinating under the
Duke's table and on Silvia’s dress. Launce himself has taken punishment
for them to spare the dog. He also engages in two humorous dialogues with
Speed, one of which is preceded by Launce's soliloquy on his love life.
Launce prefigures later, more consequential Shakespearean clowns, such as
Launcelot Gobbo in The Merchant of Venice, Dogberry, in Much Ado
About Nothing, and Bottom in A Midsummer Night's Dream.
Panthino is the
servant of Antonio. Panthino helps his master arrive at his fateful
decision to send his son Proteus to court. Later, at the close of two
successive scenes (2.2, 2.3), he furthers the action, appearing in order
to hasten the departures of Proteus and Launce respectively.
Julia is the betrayed
lover of Proteus. Julia disguises herself as a boy and follows Proteus to
court, where he has fallen in love with Silvia. Learning of his
infidelity, Julia nonetheless remains true to Proteus, serving, in her
disguise, as his messenger to her rival. She is present in the final
scene, when Valentine offers Silvia to Proteus, and her quick wit tells
her to swoon, interrupting the transaction. She reveals herself, her
presence restores Proteus to his original loyalty, and he vows his love
for her anew. Julia is an early instance of a type of young woman
Shakespeare clearly admired—independent, active, and capable of pursuing a
man, even if he is unworthy other. Other instances include Helena in
All's Well That Ends Well and Viola in Twelfth Night.
Silvia is Valentine’s
lover, also loved by Proteus. Proteus betrays both Valentine and his own
lover, Julia, for Silvia's sake. She has the good sense to recognize the
rogue in Proteus and reject him, and Julia, disguised as a page, is
pleased with the sympathy Silvia expresses for Proteus' abandoned lover.
After Valentine's banishment, Silvia bravely resolves to follow him.
Captured by the Outlaws whom Valentine now leads, she is rescued first by
Proteus, who attempts to rape her, and then by Valentine. However, her
lover, in a rapturous gesture of forgiveness to his friend, presents her
to Proteus as a gift. Julia's intervention forestalls this development,
and at the play's end, Silvia is betrothed to Valentine. Silvia is chiefly
a conventional figure, intended only as the focus of the actions of the
two men. Nevertheless, she anticipates later, more humanly interesting
Shakespearean women in her forthrightness and pluck.
Lucetta is the
waiting-woman to Julia. Like the other servants in the play, Speed and
Launce, Lucetta seems at least as alert and intelligent as her employer.
She is aware other mistress' love for Proteus before Julia is willing to
admit it to herself, and she suspects Proteus of disloyalty when Julia is
all too trusting.
Musicians are players
hired by Thurio to assist him in wooing Silvia by performing a Song in her
To view other Two
Gentlemen of Verona sections:
Page Play Text
Scene by Scene Synopsis
To view the other Plays
To view other
Shakespeare Library sections: