Two Gentleman of Verona





In Webster’s Dictionary, loyalty is defined as the quality or state or an instance of being loyal and loyal is defined as an unswerving in allegiance. In Elizabethan England, loyalty was believed to be the ultimate test of a gentleman’s character, that only those who passed this test could be considered the perfect Elizabethan gentleman. Shakespeare believed this too. In, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, loyalty is a very prevalent theme throughout the comedy.
In Act I, the friendship of Proteus and Valentine is quickly established. Valentine is leaving Verona to continue his education in the court of the Duke of Milan, leaving his friend behind. Proteus’ passion for Julia has caused him to be stationary, a virtual prisoner of love. Before departing, Valentine observed, “Love is your master, for he masters you” (Act I. Scene I. Line 42). He is, in essence, warning Proteus that he should love, but love wisely, and not abandon all else in his pursuit of passion. It is established that the bond between the two men is strong and Valentine exhibits genuine concern for his friend. It is also apparent that Proteus is deeply in love with Julia, and when his father, Antonio, suggests that he join his friend Valentine by going to Milan, Proteus is genuinely distressed about being separated from his beloved Julia. However, he does as he’s told, demonstrating loyalty to his father. Meanwhile, in Milan, Valentine has fallen in love with Silvia, the Duke of Milan’s daughter. Like Proteus for Julia, Valentine is utterly love-struck, and suddenly, he understands what it means to be ruled by one’s heart, rather than one’s head. Silvia returns Valentine’s affections, but unfortunately, the Duke has other ideas. He prefers Thurio as a more suitable match for his daughter.
In Act II, with Proteus’ arrival just round the corner, the Duke inquires as to his character, and Valentine glowingly describes Proteus as, “His years but young, but his experience old; His head unmellowed, but his judgment ripe; And in a word, - for far behind his worth Come all the praises that I now bestow, - He is complete in feature and in mind, With all good grace to grace a gentleman” (Act II. Scene IV. Lines 69-74).In this Valentine has demonstrated his unconditional loyalty to Proteus. Unfortunately, loyalty does not seem to mean the same to Proteus. When he first sees Silvia, Proteus falls immediately in love. His dual disloyalty is revealed when he express, “She is [Silvia] fair; and so is Julia that I love, - That I did love, for now my love is thawed, Which, like a waxen image ‘gainst a fire, Bears no impression of the thing it was. Methinks my zeal to Valentine is cold, And that I love him not as I was wont. O, but I love his lady too too much; And that’s the reason I love him so little” (Act II. Scene IV. Lines 209-216).
Loyalty to others, for Proteus, seems to be little more than a shallow emotion, which he manipulates for the sake of appearances. Clearly, the only loyalty, which sufficiently motivates Proteus, is to himself.
Unaware of Proteus’ desire for Silvia, Valentine confides to him that because the Duke will not sanction their marriage, the two lovers have decided to elope. Rather than honor his friendship, Proteus chooses to inform the Duke of the planned elopement, concluding, “And Valentine I’ll hold an enemy, Aiming at Silvia as a sweeter friend. I cannot now prove constant to myself, Without some treachery used to Valentine” (Act II. Scene VI. Lines 29-32). It quickly becomes apparent that with friends like Proteus, there is no need for enemies. He is a man ruled only by his passions, completely oblivious to characteristics like honor and loyalty. Meanwhile, Julia cannot bear to be apart from Proteus any longer. She tells her lady in waiting, Lucetta, that she intends to leave for Milan, disguising herself as a page, in order to be closer to her lover. Lucetta has long been suspicious of Proteus, but she demonstrates her loyalty to Julia by assisting with her disguise.
Blissfully unaware of Julia’s intention, Proteus proceeds with his manufactured back-stabbing of Valentine. He confronts the Duke of Milan, and, again, gives himself false