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Scene Summaries With Notes
Act I, Scene 1
The scene opens in Verona with the focus on two well-bred comrades, Valentine and Proteus. Proteus is depicted as a lover, who has deeply fallen for the fair Julia. He is determined to stay in Verona to woo his true love. Valentine seeks adventure and plans to travel in his pursuit of love. He has come to say good-bye to Proteus before leaving for the Duke's palace in Milan. Proteus tries to persuade his friend to remain in Verona, but Valentine does not yield. Instead, he entreats Proteus to travel with him to see the wonders of the world.
The two friends discuss the passion of love, a topic on which they do not agree. Unlike his friend Proteus, who is a devotee of love, Valentine presently prefers his freedom to the anxieties caused by love. After their discussion, the two friends part to go their separate ways, one to pursue love and one to pursue a life abroad. They both, however, express their feelings of deep friendship for one another.
When Speed, Valentine's servant, makes his appearance, Proteus inquires whether he has delivered his love letter to Julia. Speed states that he has done the job, but he is irritated with Julia. He regards her a lady as "hard as steel" and entreats Proteus to carry his own letters to her in the future.
In the opening scene of the play, the two major characters are introduced, compared, and contrasted. Both Valentine and Proteus are young men from well-to-do families; they both have the advantage of leisure time to pursue their interests. Their interests, however, are quite different. Proteus is hopelessly in love and, as a result, is rooted to Verona. Valentine, who loves his freedom, is much more adventurous. He loves to travel, seeking the wonders of the world; presently he is setting off to Milan. Proteus tries to convince Valentine to stay in Verona, and Valentine tries to convince Proteus to travel with him. Neither friend is willing to change his mind. Through this friendly antagonism between them, Shakespeare foreshadows the later conflict that will exist between the two friends when they both fall in love with Silvia.
After Valentine takes his leave, Speed, one of the truly comic characters of the play, enters and is addressed by Proteus. He wants to know if Speed has delivered his love letter to Julia and to hear if she has responded. Proteus' tone of desperation to find out about Julia from Speed indicates the impatience of a forlorn lover. He also worries about appearances and thinks that Julia might refuse to accept his letter from "such a worthless post" like Speed. Speed tells him that he thinks Julia is unkind and banters with Proteus, who calls the servant a sheep. Speed responds by saying that Proteus "will make me cry 'baa'". Such humor will be continued throughout the play.