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The Two Gentlemen of Verona opens with two male friends who are parting ways. Valentine, in pursuit of travel to see the wonders of the world, is leaving for the Duke's palace in Milan. His friend, Proteus, is determined to remain behind and pursue the love of Julia. Unfortunately, his dreams of courting Julia are interrupted by his father, who persuades Proteus to join Valentine at the Duke's palace in order to educate himself in the ways of the world. Before he departs, Julia admits her love for Proteus, and the couple makes a passionate avowal of constancy in their love for one another.
The scene shifts to the Duke's palace in Milan where Valentine has been completely smitten with the Duke's daughter, Silvia. At first, Valentine is passive in his love for Silvia, and Thurio, another suitor of Silvia, wins the Duke's approval for his daughter's hand. Valentine engages in verbal battles with Thurio in order to ridicule him and to entertain Silvia, who is much amused to see Thurio flustered. Soon Silvia and Valentine fall in love and plan to elope in order to prevent Silvia's marriage to Thurio.
Proteus arrives at the Duke's palace, and Valentine embraces him wholeheartedly. Soon, however, Proteus also falls in love with Silvia and tries to win her affection. The irony is that as soon as Proteus has decided to abandon Julia for Silvia, Julia undertakes an adventurous trip to follow Proteus to Milan, for she misses him greatly.
Valentine flees to the frontier of Mantua, where he is nabbed by outlaws in a forest; in the end, he wins their sympathy because, like them, he is a banished man. He agrees to become the outlaws' captain in order to save himself from being killed by them.
Julia, in disguise as a page, arrives in Milan and learns of Proteus' courtship of Silvia. In order to spy on Proteus, she begins working as his page and calls herself Sebastian. Through the disguised Julia, Proteus sends a ring to Silvia in exchange for a picture of her. When Julia delivers the ring, she is relieved to learn that Silvia has rejected the suit of Proteus. Julia, however, is still faced with the misfortune of having to carry back to Proteus the picture he will adore.
Silvia begs honorable Sir Eglamour to accompany her to Mantua so she may be rejoined with Valentine. Sir Eglamour understands perfectly well Silvia's desperation because he himself has lost his true love. He assures her that he will not fail her. True to his word, Sir Eglamour plans the journey and soon departs with Silvia for Mantua. When the Duke learns of Silvia's escape, he determines to find her and departs for Mantua himself, along with Proteus, Thurio, and Julia, who is still disguised as Sebastian.
In the forest, the outlaws capture Silvia. While the outlaws make their way to deliver her to their captain Valentine, Proteus stops them and captures Silvia for himself. Proteus attempts to attack her sexually, but Valentine comes to her rescue. Proteus begs his friend for forgiveness, and Valentine, in a fit of generous male friendship, pardons his best friend and offers Silvia's hand to the betrayer. Julia, who is still disguised as Sebastian, is a silent witness to all of this and swoons. When she regains consciousness and presents Proteus' engagement ring, Proteus realizes that Sebastian is none other than his beloved Julia. When the Duke and Thurio arrive on the scene, Valentine wards off Thurio when he tries to approach Silvia. The Duke is impressed with Valentine's valiant actions and consents to his marriage to Silvia.